When your company has 14.5 million customers ranging from businesses to individual consumers, you are accustomed to wrangling quite a lot of data. Enabling your product managers, business users, data scientists, and other professionals inside your company to gain insights and value from that data can be a challenging task.
That's Sharon Graves' job at GoDaddy -- to make it easier for all company users who need to make use of data. Domain registrar and web hosting giant GoDaddy has been helping companies and individuals register their domains and host their web sites almost since the World Wide Web went mainstream in the mid to late 1990s. Founded in 1997, the company had 20% of the world's domains registered as of Sept. 30, 2015, according the company's most recent 10-K report which cites Verisign's Domain Name Industry Brief.
Graves has served as BI Tools Evangelist for Enterprise Data at GoDaddy for 6 and a half years. In that time Graves has helped move GoDaddy away from being a place where many product managers and business users relied on standard Excel for many of their data analytics needs. Graves has established a few newer platforms at GoDaddy, enabling these users to easily tap into the company's published data sources, find what they need, and find the answers to their own questions without help from a more technical team member.
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Specifically, users were looking for business intelligence tools that could enable data exploration to identify trends and to create reports and visualizations. Users needed answers to pretty standard questions, Graves told InformationWeek in an interview. "Standard KPIs, orders, web site visits, anything really. What our end users want is to get better at meeting our customers' needs," Graves said.
For instance, are customers activating the products that they are purchasing? In the order process, is there a place where customers are stumbling? By looking at data around these behaviors, GoDaddy can figure out problems with its ecommerce sales processes.
"Maybe we defined something incorrectly, or maybe it's confusing," she said. The data can provide product owners with information about what's wrong so they can then fix it.
So enabling user self-service was an important part of the evolving BI strategy at GoDaddy.
The company settled on data visualization technology provider Tableau to help make it easy for users to accomplish these tasks, and then also added Alation, a data catalog platform designed to enable collaboration among users.
These new tools fit into GoDaddy's existing data analytics stack, which includes Hadoop Hive, Microsoft SQL, and Teradata. Of course, many users still rely on Microsoft Excel.
In the last year Graves' organization has ramped up 900 users on Tableau and about 200 on Alation. She anticipates an expansion of those Alation users as GoDaddy moves to the new edition of the data catalog and data governance tool because it adds more ties to Tableau, enabling simpler data discovery.
With the existing version of Alation, Graves said, GoDaddy's users could query the workbooks within Tableau.
"But another piece of data that our end users need are the Tableau-published data sources, so we publish packaged data sources out on Tableau and now Alation's new release will query that."
Alation's collaboration tools also enable users to comment on particular data sources, effectively annotating data sources to identify what is most useful and guide other users. This is especially useful for the 80% of GoDaddy's internal BI users who aren't technologists or data experts. They are just looking for the answers they need to make their products better.
The other 20% of users are diving deeper for more complex queries. For instance, they may be investigating the causes of a huge data spike that happened at 11 pm on a specific date. Additionally, data scientists may be using tools to look at behavioral data such as why a customer goes down one sales funnel, and how can to get that customer to go down a different one.
GoDaddy has also used Alation to create a data dictionary, and the new version will extend that function to Tableau, too. Tableau and Alation are both deployed on-premises at GoDaddy, Graves said. Tableau is deployed on Windows Server and Alation is on Linux.
Graves said GoDaddy also considered Microsoft's Power BI when it was looking at new platforms, but found that it was not as intuitive to use.
Analysts and business users at GoDaddy are pleased with the upgrade, Graves said.
"Before they were just using Excel. 'Here's my chart. I'll put a lot of words in the email around my chart to describe it,'" Graves said.
"With Tableau, you actually can have a lot more interactivity. Now users are starting to get into the more complex side. They are asking themselves, 'How can I make it better?'"