Informa Generates New Opportunities with Existing Customers

Jon Beer, Director of Technology Architecture

Informa Business Information

Informa provides up-to-the-minute information and data insight to customers in over 40 countries.

A big part of the way we sell data is through analyst insight. Our analysts are experts in the field, and Tableau allows them to put their opinion on top of the data we provide.

Informa supplies high quality, proprietary business-to-business knowledge through some of the longest-standing brands in the world of publishing, conferences, exhibitions and training. Their bloodline dates back to 1734 when the first issue of the maritime publication Lloyd’s List was published. At the 2012 European Tableau Customer Conference, director of technology architecture Jon Beer shared how his team delivers information from databases, real-time news, and research to customers with the added-value of analyst insight using Tableau. The impact is offering new, interactive offerings to customers.

Tableau: Can you describe Informa’s business model?
Jon: Informa’s a very large company with about £1 billion in revenue. We’re the largest events and conferences business in the world. Informa Business Information (IBI), the division where I work, represents about 30 percent of Informa. Through our collection of well established brands, we deliver in-depth proprietary market intelligence, real-time news content and analysis, bespoke consulting services, industry events and specialist online training in nine industry sectors. We also publish titles like Lloyd’s List, a daily shipping newspaper that’s one of the oldest in the world.
Tableau: What has the impact of Tableau been on your business?
Jon: It's been quite revolutionary actually. Everyone in the company is excited about it because it really unleashes our data. Up until now, we've not really had a way of getting data from spreadsheets and databases to the customer easily or cost effectively. Being able to get data to a customer easily in a matter of days is quite incredible.

It’s also had a big impact on how customers interact with us. In the past people would come to one of our sites, read an article quickly and move on. When we provide interactive data, the stickiness has changed dramatically. They’ll come to a page with a dashboard and spend five or maybe 10 minutes interacting with the dashboard.

Tableau: What do people at IBI think when they see it?
Jon: Everyone from techies and developers right up to the CEO has loved it. It works at all levels really. PhDs can see the power in it as well—they can see that it's a useful tool to do complex analysis as an expert.
Tableau: What sort of finding would a PhD get from Tableau?
Jon: That's an interesting question. Previously, they would use Excel. But I think Tableau 7’s statistical analysis with things like standard deviation is going to help them use more sophisticated stats models more easily.
Tableau: What’s the added-value of providing customers data in Tableau?
Jon: A big, big part of it is the interactivity. It’s effectively given us new products to sell. In the past we delivered slides and spreadsheets. Customers would take the data and build their own reports out of it. But one of the things our customers value most is our analysts’ expert insight. With Tableau we can now provide that insight with interactive dashboards and customers can interact directly with the information. In a lot of cases, customers didn’t even realize how much data we had that they could leverage.
Tableau: Are there any use cases that were a surprise to you?
Jon: In some cases, our titles are actually quite small and have relatively low revenue. With Tableau we’re able to create great interactive options for data in a cost effective manner. It’s breathing new opportunities into these smaller titles.
Tableau: Can you give me an example of one of your offerings that leverages Tableau?
Jon: Sure. About 50 to 60 percent of our business is health care and pharmaceutical related. We wanted to figure out how to provide forecasts for pharmaceutical drugs coming into the market. We had lots of data and the analysts who generate that data were working at how they could better generate forecast data.

Tableau was a clear, clear winner in terms of helping us not only generate the data but deliver it to our customers. We mapped all sorts of events during the drug lifecycle and basically built dashboards that allow our customers to understand what the drugs are doing and the impact the drug will likely have on the market.

Tableau: Tell us about your data landscape.
Jon: Our business has got a lot of data. It’s in a variety of spreadsheets, SQL Server, and Oracle databases. Our shipping data is big data, real-time GPS coordinates tracking of commercial ships. When it comes to that kind of data, we keep it in Oracle.
Tableau: What was your implementation like?
Jon: Our implementation really originated with the business people – they’ve been heavily involved in driving it. Since editors, publishers, and analysts were so keen on using it they’ve been involved in helping me implement it. So it doesn’t feel like IT is forcing something on them and it’s been quite easy.

It’s been pretty straightforward to get people on board. The software does sell itself, and we got lots of support from Tableau to come in and really showcase what it can do. So, the internal sales process went quite smoothly. And the roll out is fairly straightforward for an IT project.

Tableau: If you weren’t using Tableau, what would you be using?
Jon: Looking at alternative solutions, they tend to be much harder to build out. You need specific skills and very high-skilled technology staff. Without Tableau, I think we'd probably still be stuck in a world of sending spreadsheets to customers.

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