Embedded Analytics: Should you build or buy?

The biggest decision when integrating an embedded analytics offering is to build in-house or buy.

Embedding analytics is a way we can help our customers make smarter decisions and achieve greater success. Seamlessly integrating dashboards, visualizations, and reports into end users’ products, apps, and web portals expedites decision-making by putting data and insights where people are already working. Companies that provide customers with these fast and easy-to-access insights can create revenue growth opportunities, more loyal customers, and a competitive edge. When creating an embedded analytics offering, the biggest decision is whether to build an in-house solution or purchase a turnkey solution.  

At first glance, tasking your engineering teams with building a custom solution may seem like the best way to maintain control throughout the construction and maintenance phases. However, building in-house is a time-consuming, manual process that’s hard to scale and even more challenging to keep up to date. If you don’t have the right devs on your team, it will require considerable investment in training and development just to produce the desired solution. Furthermore, developing a solution that grows alongside your business and evolves with user needs will require ongoing maintenance. Buying, on the other hand, offers rapid development of data and analytics, scalability, and a quick time-to-market turnaround. It removes the risk of human error and automates the time-consuming tasks of building your own solution. Maybe most valuable, when you buy an embedded solution, you reap the innovation and improvements that come with the software. 

Rather than in-house team members racing to innovate and stay agile, your embedded provider takes care of the innovation and provides updated features and functionality. With Tableau, buying isn’t a one-time transaction—it’s an ongoing partnership. To see how the offering comes to life, let’s look at how American Family Insurance (AmFam) transformed its business with Embedded Analytics. You can hear AmFam’s full transformation story shared at the 2022 Tableau Conference (TC22) here.

Creating data-driven processes at American Family Insurance

Founded in 1927 in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance (AmFam) operates in 19 states across the US and offers vehicle, property, personal, and commercial insurance services. In addition to its corporate staff, AmFam also employs 2,400 exclusive agents who operate as independent contractors. AmFam’s journey with Embedded Analytics began in 2016 upon realizing it lacked a way to deliver the data and analytics its agents needed reliably. The company realized it couldn’t expect agents to run their own business without metrics and business results. Before AmFam started evaluating options, they identified a handful of key considerations to ensure they chose the embedded analytics solution best suited to their needs and eventually developed a self-service analytics web portal called myDashboard. 

#1 Timely, accurate, dynamic data that’s easy to use 

Before AmFam had Embedded Analytics, real-time data and reports were not readily available to agents. Instead, they saw occasional reports from their managers at select times of the year. The data they did have access to was disparate, static, and unreliable. Calculations were conducted by hand, leading to inconsistencies, meaning they lacked a single source of truth. 

Working through the disorganized and unreliable data required time that agency owners couldn’t afford to lose. To avoid more disruption, AmFam needed an intuitive platform that entailed minimal training. They wanted to empower their agents—who have multiple tasks to juggle—to make their work easier, not harder. As Susan Malack, business analytics manager, explained at their Tableau Conference session, “while everyone agreed the current solution wasn’t working, everyone was used to it.” 

Embedded Analytics can be customized to different environments enabling AmFam to quickly build its web portal to resemble the look and feel of its brand. The branded colors and language work together to create a user interface that agents feel comfortable working in. Because the users of myDashboard do not require a Tableau license, anyone with company permissions can access the insights provided by AmFam directly in their workflow. Knowing that most agents are non-technical experts, AmFam built numerous pre-made dashboards and filters to look at things like revenue, premiums, new business, and retention. Additionally, the custom-designed search bar at the top of the home page enables users to easily search for the dashboards they need. 

The myDashboard landing page displaying a summary performance

The portal’s landing page provides a dashboard with a performance summary. Source: American Family Insurance, Reimagining Business Intelligence Through Embedded Analytics, Tableau Conference 2022.

#2 Governance and personalized security checks

When AmFam began its data transformation in 2016, it started by digitizing all of its data. From there, they set up Tableau’s single sign-on technology, enabling users to view reports and dashboards powered by Tableau without leaving the myDashboard application. All data exchanges in the application are secure and respect user access levels. 

In addition, while AmFam recognized the power of data, Malack noted how too much data in too many hands runs the risk of being misused. Using Tableau’s row-level security feature, AmFam created different viewing permissions based on employee roles. Corporate users, agency owners, and agency staff have different access levels, meaning the pre-made dashboards available to employees differ by position. Lastly, AmFam decided to disable Tableau’s feature for data exports, customizing Embedded Analytics to the parameters of their business demands. 

#3 Managing costs—time and money 

A final consideration for AmFam was ensuring the analytics team could manage the solution in-house at a price that wouldn’t break the bank. AmFam found the most cost-effective option was to purchase an embedded analytics offering. 

As of 2021, AmFam had $10,000,000+ of realized savings thanks to the integrated analytics in myDashboard. The realized savings are largely due to the human resourcing allocated towards growing the business rather than sorting through disparate data and trying to find customer insights. AmFam also learned that when agents have real-time data, they sell more business because they can anticipate their client’s needs. The access that agents have to dashboards and insights empower them to work more productively because they have continual proof of how close they are to meeting or exceeding their goals. 

Evolving analytics at AmFam

From 2016 through 2021, AmFam went from eight dashboards to 130. Embedded Analytics allowed the company to sunset legacy systems and consolidate and automate reporting. It boosted agent morale, improved customer relations, and, in turn, increased revenue.

One of the most significant benefits of buying an embedded analytics offering is that you reap the continued innovations and improvements. As Derek Alsup, analytics analyst IV, said during the TC22 session, “myDashboard has grown in terms of content, usage, and features, but it’s never a finished product.” Since its inception, the AmFam analytics team is always looking for opportunities to improve features for flexibility, expand the user base beyond core agents, and improve stability and run time. One of AmFam’s most recent enhancements was creating a subscription program that allows users to enroll and have dashboards sent directly to their emails. They’ve also pushed the row-level security a step further and established functionality to create permissions for individual employees. Potentially most exciting is the move from Tableau Server to Tableau Cloud. Developers will have access to new tools that update regularly. And because they won’t have to manage the on-prem environment, they can refocus their efforts on other tools and services of the AmFam business. 

A dropdown menu in myDashboard displays available dashboards managers can select to share with their employees.

Agents can select staff members to have access to specific dashboards.

By partnering with Tableau, AmFam integrated analytics into thousands of employees’ workflows, empowering them with the insights they need to do what they do best—build deeper customer relationships, provide more tailored services, and ultimately sell policies. Embedded Analytics delivers a seamless, self-service experience that allows AmFam to embed visualizations and insights directly into the flow of their agent’s work, quickly, securely, and at scale. While AmFam takes care of its policyholders, Tableau continues to innovate on analytics functionality to ensure they can create unique, customer-centric, revenue-generating offerings. 

If you’re interested in learning more or partnering with the leader in visual analytics, check out our resources on our Embedded Analytics page.