Take Back 80% of Your Day by Automating Stories in Your Dashboards
By: Shawn Parks
Challenges Abound for Today’s Analytics Teams
Enough was enough.
The divisional head of the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) group of a Fortune 100 insurance corporation was fed up with the administrative work being done by her team. Over the years it took to assemble the group, challenges were prevalent. With demand for analysts and data scientists far outweighing the supply, most of her issues were in staffing the roles. When a candidate was found, after making a business case (and sometimes begging and pleading), the individuals either knew the industry or how to build dashboards, but rarely both. Eventually, she had the right team.
Once established, the typical day for the life and retirement team consisted of 75 to 80 percent of their time manually writing commentary explaining dashboards and the remaining 20 to 25 percent of the time answering ad-hoc questions about the dashboards. On their best days, the team was able to do some actual analysis. Her hard-fought efforts were now being squandered on wasted time producing shallow analysis. Beyond the primary issue of time concerns, the status quo prevented uniformity of dashboards, diluted salient points, and obstructed information from external sources.
Commit to Telling Stories with Dashboards
Concurrently, there were also rumblings of a “no more slides” mantra within the company. She took up the torch for this initiative in hopes of shifting away from the default tool for everything from routine communication to financial reporting. It provided her the opportunity to push for true business intelligence (BI). So, this director decided it was time to provide “actionable insight at everyone’s hands” and began her quest for a new approach.
She learned a lot can be done in an hour—with the right tools. Instead of the team manually writing summaries and answering never-ending questions from colleagues, she found that technology could do it for them. In the case of this team, based in central U.S., all it took was an hour session to transform their data into stories. Sixty short minutes in a workshop was enough time for four dashboard builders to present and share their examples of automated commentary in Tableau. There was even time to fine-tune the output to get the builders to the ideal narrative.
“With the extension from Narrative Science, we are able to completely refocus efforts from explaining dashboards to digging in on deeper analysis.” – Head of FP&A, Life and Retirement, Fortune 100 Insurance Corporation
This exercise would dramatically improve the workflow of the 60-person team. By using a natively built extension for Tableau, they plan to automate most (if not all) commentary generation, reducing the time for explanation and freeing up their time to spend digging into the analytics.
Deeper Insight or Three-day Weekends?
This FP&A leader now has some decisions to make. The success of the project spread like wildfire, including a request to present at a companywide lunch-and-learn to share details on the initial project. From there, additional use cases in other divisions and departments have been identified. With the initial purchase starting with 300 licenses, the near-term goal is to ensure they are all adopted.
As for the longer term, she is going to have to start explaining to her boss what her team will do with their newfound free time.