Irish Life chooses Tableau to deliver business intelligence dashboards

14 Feb 2012

Gerry Hassett, CEO of Irish Life Retail, and Graham Mulhern, director, MXI Software

Irish Life has invested in a business intelligence tool for managers to create interactive graphical data about its financial products.

The rollout is part of the pensions and life assurance provider’s company-wide business intelligence strategy. The first apps went live last October and Irish Life will use the BI tool to improve sales and customer service management and increase business retention.

The deal covered the purchase of the tool from BI vendor Tableau Software and implementation services from MXI Ireland, which worked with the Irish Life development team to deliver the new platform and initial wave of applications to 300 senior staff at the firm, including business executives, account managers and the CEO.

Paul Egan, business intelligence IT manager at Irish Life, told that the company had been using older BI technology before turning to Tableau Software.

“Historically, a lot of the tools were only IT tools and only IT people could use them, but we could never keep up with the appetite the business had for this,” Egan said. After evaluating its existing software and offerings from other major BI vendors, Irish Life sought detailed advice from consultants Gartner before making its choice, and Tableau Software won out for ease of use and cost effectiveness.

The tool can grab data from the close of the previous business day and present it in a visual and graphical manner. Egan said Tableau’s strength is in allowing non-IT professionals to build their own dashboards which can then be published on the internet or distributed on mobile devices running Android or iOS.

“Anyone can give you a database but getting insights out of that data is where the market is going. Business power users can look at all of the data enabled for consumption by Tableau, and the actuaries and accountants can use that,” he said.

“Managers can come up with their own dashboards based on the numbers they know they need. There’s less work for IT in the front end: IT now only have to worry about the data warehouse, which is where we can add value. We don’t have to worry about the visuals as much,” added Egan.

Irish Life will use the information extracted from its data warehouse to monitor a range of different aspects of business performance, such as sales margins, costs, the value of new business and head count to maximise efficiencies wherever possible.

Graphical presentations at work

While Irish Life has “always been a numbers-based business”, Egan said graphical presentations now make it easier to spot historical trends instead of just comparing year-on-year figures at a given point in time. “It’s a far better way to see the patterns and trends in data than looking at columns and numbers,” he said.  

Insights from the BI tool have already led to Irish Life moving its management team’s focus in certain cases to product lines or customer accounts that needed closer attention. “It will make a difference in how effectively we manage the business,” Egan said.

While the current round of BI work is concentrated on in-house analysis, Irish Life currently has a number of apps in development that focus on customer service. Its Tableau licence covers publishing for the web, so this could mean letting clients log in to see charts detailing fund performance, for example.

Graham Mulhern, director at MXI Ireland, said the Tableau dashboard was providing business executives and sales managers with insights into the business information, allowing them to capitalise on opportunities.

Irish Life claims the move will also enhance customer service by its ability to maintain a deeper level of reporting and by tracking the number of contacts that have been made online, via telephone or by paper to identify areas that can be streamlined to promise a better customer experience.

Gerry Hassett, CEO at Irish Life Retail, said in a statement that his dashboards took “a few weeks” to implement and that it had been “a seamless operation”. He added: “We can now see what is happening on the day-to-day and week-to-week basis, which means we can develop our business accordingly and further enhance our competitive edge.”

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic