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Elsevier: Richer sales insights with Tableau and Salesforce

At a glance

Elsevier wanted to empower 1,200 salespeople all over the world with timely insights to make better decisions every day. We used AWS and Talend to design a solution that integrates data from multiple systems, and served it up through Tableau visualisations, embedded in Salesforce. We also trained more than 80 Elsevier employees to dig deeper with Tableau and accelerate a modern culture of data at Elsevier.

What we did

  • Data mart design with Amazon Redshift and Amazon S3
  • Tableau Server implementation support
  • Tableau dashboards embedded in Salesforce
  • Data literacy training and team enablement
  • KPI creation for sales performance measurement

From publisher to data company

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science, and improve performance for the benefit of humanity.

Founded in 1880, Elsevier started out as an academic publisher, known for prestigious scientific and medical publications like The Lancet and Cell. Today, more than 80% of the company's revenue comes from digital product sales. 

“We’re bringing together all the data and research we have acquired over the years and building platforms on top of that to give better insights and help scientists, clinicians, doctors, and nurses make better decisions,” says Tom Perry, Elsevier’s senior director of data, insights, and integration.

To support this evolution, Elsevier embarked on a journey to reimagine its global sales organisation and better serve customers with a Salesforce transformation. However, after evaluating Salesforce’s built-in reporting capabilities, the Elsevier team decided they wanted a more robust visual analytics solution, with the potential to integrate other data sources.

Nearly two years before Salesforce’s game-changing acquisition of Tableau, Elsevier made the decision to purchase Tableau and embed Tableau dashboards in Salesforce. Slalom signed on to help implement the solution and upskill Elsevier employees to make the most of Tableau.

Our vision is to put good quality data and great analytics at the heart of all decision-making.

More data, more insights

Slalom and Elsevier quickly realised that the rich insights salespeople needed would require more than just Salesforce data. They needed additional data from several other systems, including historical sales data, sales compensation data, and territory management data.

Slalom designed and helped implement a data mart that uses Talend, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon S3 to combine multiple data sources in a single data model. This consolidated data source feeds into Tableau Server and refreshes daily. Once the data was on tap, it was time to build dashboards that would be easy for salespeople to understand and use on a daily basis.

“We spent a lot of time with the Elsevier sales teams, especially in Amsterdam, trying to understand how they worked and what they needed from a reporting perspective,” says Richard Fayers, who leads data and analytics for Slalom in the UK. “We wanted to really bring the data to life and help them focus in the right areas.

Today, data-driven insights are part of the daily workflow for every Elsevier salesperson and sales leader. Instead of waiting for monthly reports to be laboriously produced in Excel, they can browse visually appealing Tableau dashboards, seamlessly embedded in Salesforce and automatically updated every night. These dashboards provide a comprehensive view of sales performance, opportunity pipeline, Salesforce activities, and sales forecasts.

“You log into Salesforce in the morning and you can see exactly where you stand and make better decisions earlier,” says Perry. “A lot of companies can pull reports, but the biggest value comes when you embed insights into a person’s day-to-day way of working. If they don’t have to go out of their way and they’ve got the insights right in front of them, it really helps with adoption and getting people to use data the right way.”

A lot of companies can pull reports, but the biggest value comes when you embed insights into a person’s day-to-day way of working.

Building a culture of data

“It was an exciting time at Elsevier, as they were on a path to becoming a very modern and data savvy organisation,” says Andrew Herman, a Slalom data and analytics consultant who designed some of the Tableau dashboards and spent a lot of time upskilling Elsevier employees. “It was exciting to be at the very centre of that change.”

Slalom trained over 20 Elsevier power users, moving them from intermediate to expert level through week-long workshops in New York and Amsterdam, as well as follow-up sessions and on-demand resources. We also conducted day-long workshops focused on teaching small groups of employees to interact with Tableau around their specific needs—empowering dozens more employees.

“I loved seeing people go from being absolute beginners to being able to use Tableau and build their own dashboards to solve their own problems,” says Herman. “When we walked out the door, they were ready to take it on and run with it.

Beyond the sales organisation, Slalom partnered with Tableau to facilitate a hackathon for over 60 Elsevier employees. Working in teams, attendees used data visualisation to unlock hidden insights across finance, GDPR compliance, IT, and other product areas.

New frontiers

Slalom is now working with Elsevier to extend a modern culture of data across the organisation, expanding data sets, building dashboards, and training employees in finance, HR, marketing, and other functions. We’re also helping them create central sources of truth with an enterprise customer data hub and an enterprise data hub.

“We’ve come a long way towards being self-sufficient, but we need that extra flex and capacity,” says Perry. “Slalom works with us to help us be successful, rather than just selling services. That builds up a proper trusted relationship, where it’s not just transactional.”

Perry’s team is now leaping ahead on Elsevier’s data maturity journey by developing use cases for artificial intelligence, such as advanced customer matching algorithms and customer sentiment analysis. Slalom's Richard Fayers is excited about the future for Elsevier. “As the business continues to transform, AI will give Elsevier with smarter ways of looking at its data. It will deliver better understanding of customers' needs and help them develop more personalised ways of engaging with customers."

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