Allergan prescribes Tableau treatment for data woes

The world is moving slowly along this big data paradigm and we're waking up to the power of what we've got in our databases. Up to now, we didn't have the ability to mine that properly. Now with Tableau, we’re much more focused on the data.

Founded in 1948, Allergan is a multi-specialty healthcare company that employs more than 11,000 people worldwide. Allergan operates in more than 100 countries, providing treatment options for patients in eye care, neurosciences, obesity intervention, medical aesthetics, medical dermatology and urologics.

Joe Madigan is the Director of Customer Services for Allergan within the region comprising Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA). Employees of the 12 customer service sites within EMEA ensure that orders for Allergan products—received from healthcare providers via fax, email and phone—are entered into the system within 24 hours. They also respond to customer queries and complaints.

“We Had Almost No Visibility”

Allergan in EMEA generates roughly 1.5 million transaction lines a year across its 12 locations. While much of the company’s data is stored in an enterprise SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, each site had implemented a different contact center technology.

“We strove to gain monthly insight into our customer service levels—and we struggled with that,” Madigan says. “We had almost no visibility of what was going on.”

Madigan requested monthly reports, run by the site’s local IT teams. When reporting failed, Madigan’s team would have to submit fix requests, creating even more delays.

This posed a risk to the company’s sales numbers. If service levels were not met, orders could be cancelled and providers would move to other treatments. This was a particular true for elective medical aesthetics procedures.

Business users tried to get around this by emailing static reports.

“We were sending out these Excel or .pdf reports, but business owners within the company would come back with questions because they can’t interact with the data themselves,” says Madigan.

“You Could Sit There for Two Hours, Waiting”

“I needed to create dashboards in a way that would let us talk more about the data and less about the creation of it,” says Madigan. “We were expending so much energy just redoing charts and graphs that we often were losing sight of what the data was saying to us.”

How much energy? “The data analyst I hired spent his time doing nothing else—that is one full-time head. And I spent a day or two each month fully dedicated to working on dashboards and charts in preparation for my monthly meetings,” he says. And when urgent, ad hoc requests occurred, they would impact other tasks by days or even weeks.

Madigan also spent a great deal of time pulling and preparing data for his own reports and dashboards. For example, a compliance report Madigan completed every month required six hours simply to access and prepare the data.

“The data set wasn't readily available. For our SAP database, you could sit there for two hours, waiting for a report to run. And a lot of the time, the first running of the report would bomb out,” explains Madigan.

Transforming the Data Environment

In 2011, Allergan in EMEA made two changes that would transform how Madigan and his team see and understand their data. Allergan started a project to standardize all 12 customer service centers on a new contact solution, Genesys, which tracks voice, fax and email contacts with Allergan customers. And Madigan purchased Tableau for his data analyst.

From a single Tableau Desktop license in 2009, Allergan in EMEA has grown to 20 Tableau Desktop and Desktop Professional licenses for authoring. Madigan’s team most often works with extracts; a typical data extract comprises approximately 10 million rows.

“We blend different data extracts as needed,” says Madigan. “For SAP, I've got one big data extract on my transactions. I've got another one on my transaction lines. And then I've got another one, again, on my source of orders. I will blend all those quite frequently.”

Visualizations are uploaded to Tableau Server, and the team is teaching people to drill down into the data to answer their own questions.

Madigan also has automated the production of his monthly compliance report, connecting Tableau to data on Box, the cloud storage solution.

Near–Live Access into Customer Service Data

“One instance of Genesys sits over all of our locations; Tableau sits on top of the two Genesys databases—SQL Server and Oracle. Tableau pulls that data and then blends it to provide nearly live service-level reporting,” says Madigan. Allergan refreshes its Genesys data extract every 15 minutes.

“Some people said that Tableau wouldn't possibly be able to handle the complexity of the Oracle and SQL databases,” Madigan recalls. “I insisted that it would work fine—and it has.”

Some users are interacting with Tableau visualizations on mobile devices. Madigan anticipates that number to increase once he and his team have addressed an internal VPN process that is slowing access.

Today, nearly 200 people across Allergan in EMEA are regularly turning to Tableau visualizations for insight.

For authentication, Allergan uses a combination of Trusted Ticket and Okta. Madigan’s team uses Tableau to visualize data from Google Analytics and Salesforce; they are looking into using the Salesforce direct connector.

In terms of ROI, Madigan says “The value is certainly returned in a month, probably even less than that. I don’t even hesitate to say ‘yes.’”

Expansion throughout Allergan

Over the last year, Madigan has sparked interest in Tableau in several other departments at Allergan.

“As I’ve been out in the various offices responding to queries and being able to produce answers very, very quickly—people are seeing that and becoming interested in Tableau as well,” he says.

The data quality team, based in London, recently purchased 20 licenses for Tableau Desktop; the ophthalmology finance team recently moved from QlikView to Tableau. Madigan will be demonstrating Tableau to the medical aesthetics finance team in the near future.

“It’s one of those tools—Tableau goes across all business lines. It’s not business-line specific or function-specific. It just goes across all,” he says.

“For me to receive requests from other directors or even VPs saying, ‘Can you show me? Can you demo it?’ —that has certainly never happened with any other tool,” says Madigan.

Supporting 50% Transaction Volume Increase with No Additional Headcount

Madigan says that the improved insight into the data means that his team can respond to the rapidly-growing business more effectively.

“Our revenue is growing double digits as a region. For our mature countries, we've grown our transaction volume by 50 percent with no incremental head count,” he says. “If we hadn't been able to see what was going on, we would have erred on the safe side and added more resources—at least ten heads—to cope with our growing business. So having this ability to get into the data and pull it all together means that we're much more in control of what's going on."

Eliminate the Queue, Improve Responses

“We don't have a queue of requests anymore, so our data analyst is able to respond more quickly to ad hoc queries and to more value-add requests,” says Madigan.
Madigan shares the example of a recent, urgent request for data to support a tax audit in a particular region.

“Previously this would have had a negative impact on all the other things our analyst was doing, but we don’t have that anymore. There might be a slight delay but not in terms of days or weeks as there would have been in the past,” says Madigan. “There’s an availability of data and an ability to respond quickly to requests that just wasn’t there before.

Reports More than 5 Hours Faster

“The compliance report has gone from six hours of work once a month is down to 30 minutes now. That’s every month—and that’s just one report. If you were to look at all the various compliance things that we've got to do just on a monthly basis to stay on top of things, you can see where there's been a big benefit.”

Madigan is able to answer questions much faster now, too. “A question will come up and I'll be able to answer it in ten seconds, instead of having to go and ask for a report and having the answer a day or two later.”

Madigan has also enjoyed a bit of a professional reputation for being “the man with the answers” thanks to Tableau.

“For me, as the Director for Customer Services, instead of having to ask someone for data, I’ve got it right there. And I hear the feedback: ‘Oh, Joe knows the answer. He’s got the data.’”

“I literally use Tableau every day. There is not a day that goes by that I don't use Tableau,” Madigan says. “I still think we're only scratching the surface in terms of what we can do.”