Elsevier ‘unleashes the power of data’ with Tableau, creating a data driven culture across 20+ departments


‘Viral’ adoption of Tableau creates new data driven culture
Centralising data cuts costs and improves consistency for over 1,300 employees
Embedded analytics in Salesforce boosts sales performance

Elsevier is an information analytics company and one of the world's major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information. Originally founded in 1880 it publishes more than 470,000 articles annually in 2,500 journals and has an annual turnover in excess of £2.5 billion (2018). Elsevier began using Tableau as its primary visualisation and analytics platform in 2017 to create a single data source across the business and eliminate unnecessary licensing costs for numerous other tools. Since implementation Tableau usage has grown significantly, with over 20 different business departments now self-serving their data analytics needs through it every day. There are currently over 1,300 employees using Tableau throughout Elsevier to inform decision making, deliver fast, accurate reporting, and enable a more proactive approach to key business functions including marketing and sales. In turn, it provides insights and efficiencies that help these teams better serve their customers.

By centralising our data through Tableau, not only have we been able to create a more consistent approach to reporting and analytics across the company, we’re driving insights that help us better serve customers, and we’ve made significant savings in our operational costs.

Centralised approach to data cuts licensing costs and improves consistency

Elsevier is an information analytics company that specialises in helping health, technology and science professionals make better decisions through its wide range of published works and intelligence services. However, as the company grew over time, the data sources and tools being used internally were becoming increasingly fragmented, which was having a detrimental effect on data consistency and business efficiency.

"We had a lot of people in our organisation using different types of tools," recalls Tom Perry, Senior Director Data, Insights & Integration at Elsevier. "So in 2017 we did a major analysis to understand what tools best fitted where we wanted to be as an organisation. Early on we found a lot of people in our organisation loved using Tableau and really embraced it, so we chose it as the visualisation tool for our entire organisation.”

As a result, Elsevier has been able to centralise all of its data through one single platform, creating a single source of truth and improving data consistency across the whole company.

“Within Elsevier we have a lot of legacy relational data warehouses like Oracle and Postgres alongside our more modern data lake in Amazon S3,” says Tom. “Using Tableau we can view and analyse data from all these sources in a single location, helping to break down internal silos and ensure employees from across the organisation are working off the same data at all times.”

Elsevier has also been able to eliminate a lot of unnecessary licensing costs associated with numerous other reporting and analytics tools previously being used throughout the company.

“By centralising our data through Tableau, not only have we been able to create a more consistent approach to reporting and analytics across the company, we're driving insights that help us better serve customers, and we’ve made significant savings in our operational costs,” adds Tom.

The one thing that caught us by surprise was the scale and the speed that Tableau took off. It was like a viral effect. We thought we’d have to do a lot of selling to gain that initial traction and momentum but as soon as the first users started to get on it, everybody started accelerating, everybody wanted to use it.

‘Viral’ adoption of Tableau creates data driven culture throughout company

Since the beginning of the rollout, Tableau usage within Elsevier has grown at an exponential rate.

“The one thing that caught us by surprise was the scale and the speed that Tableau took off. It was like a viral effect,” says Tom. “We thought we’d have to do a lot of selling to gain that initial traction and momentum but as soon as the first users started to get on it, everybody wanted to use it. We went from a few Tableau Desktop users to over 200 within 6 to 9 months.”

The company now has over 20 sites within Tableau, each representing a different department, and more than 1,300 interactors on Tableau Server. User numbers continue to grow all the time, in all corners of the business.

“We have a lot of Tableau users in Sales, while Marketing uses it for customer segmentation. Finance does its reporting in Tableau and we recently rolled out some CFO dashboards, which allows our CFO to make key business decisions,” says Tom. “We’re also using it in HR within the people analytics space, we use it in Technology to manage our software development life-cycle, plus multiple other areas of the business. The list goes on and on."

This growth has helped foster a powerful new culture of self-service analytics within the company, as more and more people realise the information they need is rarely more than a few clicks away in Tableau.

“When we first implemented Tableau a lot of people embraced it immediately, but some said ‘you guys in tech have always done our reports and analytics for us so can’t you just continue to do that?’. But as we worked through our journey and showed people how easy it was to get those kinds of insights themselves, the real eureka moments came out,” says Tom.

“Now we can take a step back and support them in their own journeys rather than having to do everything centrally. So it's good to see successes across the business, people taking ownership and actually getting a lot of that gratification from it. I think that’s a big win.”

Tableau is seen as a business change programme, to change the culture and way of thinking about data and decision making.

Embedded Tableau analytics in Salesforce enables a more proactive approach to sales

One of the departments to benefit most from the implementation of Tableau in Elsevier is the sales team.

"We recently went through a major transformation programme, moving from our legacy sales technology systems to a much more modern approach that’s built around Salesforce and incorporates embedded analytics from Tableau," explains Tom.

Previously, at the end of the month, sales staff received a few reports and then determined whether or not they had achieved their goals. Only then could countermeasures be taken if necessary.

Now, Tableau dashboards embedded directly into Salesforce show employees up-to-date figures on business development at any time, meaning they can take immediate corrective action in the event of deviations.

"With Tableau embedded in Salesforce, our sales team can be much more proactive in its approach now, rather than being reactive as it was before,” says Tom. "It also takes away a lot of the manual side of reporting that often left room for errors, and overall leads to a better experience for the people and organisations we partner with.”

With Tableau embedded in Salesforce, our sales team can be much more proactive in its approach now, rather than being reactive as it was before.