Earlier this year, Tableau hosted a webinar featuring Neil Weiss, CIO for the Cleveland Indians. The webinar focused primarily on how the Indians have incorporated Tableau into their everyday operations, after the initial rollout in 2012. Weiss provided a great snapshot of the software’s role, and how smaller operations can leverage data visualization.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Indians’ usage is the way they distribute “power” as it were over Tableau across the organization. The company owns 97 publisher licenses, which allows the users to view Tableau output, while only owning 15 server/editing licenses. When questioned on these numbers, Weiss explained that the job of sourcing data and making workbooks readily available falls heavily on the IT team, whereas departments are responsible for taking that data, using it in their everyday workflow, and communicating with the IT team to ensure that dashboards meet their needs. Additionally, he revealed that really only two data sourcing specialists are fully using their editing licenses and creating the massive workbooks utilized daily by the club. This has enabled the organization to thrive, without instituting complex data governance policies and procedures. Departments with specific needs communicate with these point people, and the workbooks are created and edited by these architects as needed. Seeing a successful organization like the Indians make large progress with Tableau without the huge costs and headaches of creating and communicating formal protocols and channels should be encouraging to every small company contemplating the leap to investing in a data visualization software.

Additionally, Weiss pointed out that in the initial rollout of Tableau the company did not invest in large scale, formal training programs for users. He said that users in the organization learned through each other and collaboration. Again, although many small companies may think that training is necessary and are intimidated by the expense, it is possible to use a much more informal approach. As the Indians did, implement the software in a program that can fit your organization. You do not have to operate like IBM; informal can work well for a smaller organization!

Even with this informal approach, the Indians have seen major success with the implementation of Tableau. Weiss explains that they use custom built Tableau dashboards to monitor paraphernalia sold through the charity they partner with, monitor ticket sale prices, ballpark entry and ballpark operations. The dashboards have live connections to their databases and can be updated hourly, so that the company can adjust ticket prices for upcoming games or understand the probable staffing needs for tomorrow night. There are also predictive algorithms built into the workbooks, specifically for tickets sold. These algorithms factor in items such as weather, time of game, team standings, historical information and park attendance. These are updated in Tableau for each game and incorporated into gate openings and closings, staff schedules and vendor inventory. Anyone viewing the workbook can see the data and make decisions based on the complex algorithms. The team can then go back and evaluate the accuracy of these predictions over time, easily in Tableau, and tweak the algorithm as necessary.

Incorporating this simple, user-friendly data visualization tool has allowed the team to provide information to the C-suite in a more effective and efficient manner, with less guesswork than before. Weiss emphasized how helpful Tableau has been to the organization, specifically because of its intuitive nature. Employees can pick up how to use the tool and incorporate it into their jobs with ease, and buy in has been widespread and simple because of the intuitive nature and high speed of development. The Cleveland Indians are sold on data visualization and analytics and are looking forward to the future where it can be incorporated in even more aspects of the organization’s operations.

View the webinar here.

By: Sarah Wright

Editor: Vanja Djuric