Bellevue University: "Turnkey" analytics with Tableau Online


Bellevue University’s analytics team uses Tableau Desktop to connect to multiple data sources including student registration, survey, customer relationship management (CRM), and Google Analytics data. The team shares reports with other departments using Tableau Online.

In video 1, Brian Bunce, Senior Director of Research & Analysis, explains how with Tableau Online, he doesn’t have to maintain servers or hire a data administrator—freeing up time to resolve student challenges.

In video 2, Brian shares how reports that used to take weeks now take just a couple of days. With faster access to data, the university favors data-driven decisions over intuition.

BU’s Tableau deployment continues to grow as more departments find value in their data. For example, the marketing department now spots trends in web traffic that they couldn't see with Google Analytics alone.


Tableau: What was most important to you in choosing a Business Intelligence (BI) solution?
Brian Bunce, Senior Director, Research & Analysis: What we considered when looking for a BI tool was something that was very easy to use, easy to understand, easy to set up, and something that our end users could comprehend without having to go through multiple training sessions on it. Something that we could say: “It's turnkey. Guys, here it is, have fun with it. We can help, but guess what? It's intuitive enough that you can roll with it yourselves.”

So the difference for us between [Tableau] Online and the on-premise Tableau [Server] literally was back to that turnkey analogy I talked about earlier, which was the fact that we could automatically just turn it on. We had it. It was good to go. We didn't have anybody that had to learn how to be a data administrator.

Tableau: Can you please tell us about your current data environment?
Brian: Our data sits in multiple different systems. We do use a transactional system, which houses all of the classes they've [students] registered for, all of their official grades. We can get their persistence and graduation information out of there.

But then if we want to look at what the students’ thoughts are, responding to us through surveys or questions we've asked, that's in an entirely different system. And so we have to attach to that system along with our transactional system, along with our customer relationship management system (CRM).

And then we have the Google Analytics that we have to pull in for website information on who's visiting, where they are going, what we are doing right, what we are needing to improve on. And that leads us into certain aspects of what else can we do.

The difference for us between [Tableau] Online and the on-premise Tableau [Server] was back to that turnkey analogy...We could automatically just turn it on. We had it. It was good to go. We didn't have anybody that had to learn how to be a data administrator.

Tableau: What key data insights does Tableau help you find?
Brian: We can look at the data and help predict where those pain points are for the students so that we can reach out to them before they get there. So that predictive piece is really what's sitting in the data that we try to extract to make sure that we can help out as best as possible.

Tableau: How do you feel about the way you’re able to analyze your data in Tableau?
Brian: It's super exciting what we're able to do. It's something that when we see the spark, we see them light up, we know, ‘hey, this isn't just a fun tool out there, this is literally answering questions that not only we had, but it's answering questions we didn't know we had, too.’

Executive reports in days, not weeks

Tableau: Who are your biggest end-users of Tableau and why is Tableau important to them?
Brian: Our biggest end users right now are actually the executive team. The executives take our information we provide to them, and they roll it down layer by layer.

Because, ultimately, our goal is to be there to assist students so that they can succeed. We want them to walk out with the skill sets necessary to be successful in their careers. And so what we do is we focus everything on how can we help these students be successful.

And so it's, first, understanding where we may find pain points. And we roll those out and we show the executives where we could change a few processes, or we could update processes, or we could keep processes that are working and say, “This is what we need in order to help our students.”

When the executives really start digging in, looking at the data, they would ask for more and more things from us…We would respond to them in weeks with what we had. Now we've cut that down to days with Tableau.

Tableau: What about Tableau excites your executives?
Brian: What really excites our executives is when they look at what capabilities this system [Tableau] has, they start to say, "Wait a minute, how long is it going to take you to build that?" And we can say, "A couple of days." No longer does it take weeks.

So when the executives really start digging in, looking at the data, they would ask for more and more things from us. And that, in the past, with the other tools we used to use, used to take weeks.

We would respond to them in weeks with what we had. Now we've cut that down to days with Tableau Software.

Tableau: What wider changes has Tableau helped spark at your university?
Brian: In the past, a lot of corporations, including our own, used intuition to say this is what we should do—used past experiences—and there's nothing wrong with that. But when we have data at our fingertips that can lead us into a direction and say, “These are data-driven decisions, this is fact, there's no intuition about it. This is fact, this is the trend, this is what's going to happen.”

That has helped us tremendously to make decisions. We have moved from intuition-based to data-driven-based.

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