A User-Friendly Data Experience Drives Accountability at Intuit, Thanks to Embedded Analytics
We live in a society where everyone expects everything to be quick and easy to use. The same should apply to data. If a Business Intelligence (BI) tool has a bunch of different dashboards and a user has to jump from one layout to the next, it’s too great a cognitive load. Users shouldn’t have to jump through hoops for the picture-perfect presentation of information. Instead, our goal should be to enable simpler experiences. When users have easy access to quality data, that drives accountability.
It’s hard to create simple experiences, though, when dealing with a complex data picture like we have at . Intuit is a global technology platform that helps consumers and small businesses overcome their most important financial challenges. Our 14,200 employees serve more than 100 million customers worldwide through products like , , , and .
I’ve worked within the finance team at Intuit for almost nine years now. I started as a business systems analyst, becoming a technical data analyst, and now I’m the Group Manager, Business Intelligence and Visualization. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but one of the most impactful transformations has come from building an online portal drawing together company-wide metrics for all of Intuit.
Using Real-Time Data to Hit Our Business Goals
Why did we want to build an online portal? Before, company directors used to present from PowerPoint decks for meetings. It was a time-consuming process to put each one of those decks together, and they never contained real-time, up-to-date data. Part of the issue came down to the scale of the company. We have a number of different data sources, some housed in our data lake, some not. There are companies Intuit had acquired that were still using inconsistent metrics from those and other data sources. When it comes down to the presentation of information, we had more than 4,000 dashboards, which made it even harder for senior leaders to navigate this landscape.
Intuit had also received consultation from the , an advisory services, management consulting, and leadership development firm. They advised Intuit that the best way to share information would be a monthly company-wide directors’ meeting, which in Intuit’s case is 300–400 people, to talk about goals and the focus of the company. From that, they were to create company-wide metrics to track the success of these goals. This would allow the company to move faster and more effectively, but it also required us to pull these newly defined company-wide metrics in such a way that the information would always be up to date.
To host all these metrics in one place, the Intuit finance team created a one-of-a-kind experience, the One Intuit Portal, for our internal customers and senior leaders using .
Building a One-of-a-Kind BI Portal with Embedded Analytics
I started using Qlik for internal reporting during my days as an analyst at a renewable energy company, and it was the finance department who brought Qlik to Intuit. It soon became our enterprise BI tool, and we started with a single QlikView dashboard. It was hitting the upper limits of what it could do, so we migrated to , and that migration was when I started to explore its API capabilities and developing my web technology platform skillset.
We ended up moving from our single QlikView application to a web-based framework backed by Qlik Sense APIs that could host the data across multiple applications and deliver a modern web experience with amazingly fast performance. We branded it the "One Intuit Portal".
All of our data sources, whether they stream through Qlik or third-party services like AWS, now flow through to our One Intuit Portal, which starts with the Qlik Sense API integrations. Users then consume the data via a single-page application on the React framework. Having created this framework, we were able to focus on providing a completely different user experience from where we had started, without the ’90s look shared by many other BI tools.
None of this would have been possible without Qlik Sense’s APIs and embedded analytics. The complete set of open APIs enables us to fully customize analytics solutions, rapidly develop new custom apps, visualizations, and extensions, and embed fully interactive analytics within the applications people use every day.
Embedded analytics seamlessly integrate analytic content into these business applications, products, websites, and portals. It lets users quickly access relevant data and insights into daily workflows without slowing down or switching to a separate analytics application. This creates a single source of truth for metrics and visualizations, which can then be reused across multiple platforms.
Embedded analytics helps organizations empower employees with the information they need, right where they need it. Compiling everything into a single web platform is something no other BI tool could do.
Ease of Use Drives Adoption
Being data-driven is about more than just showing and presenting data. You could have 50 different data visualizations for the same thing, all leading users in different directions. Being data-driven is about centralizing the data, making it more usable and presentable to everyone, including leadership teams. When done right, it helps improve consistency and accountability.
At Intuit, each one of our offerings has a target for us to hit by year-end, and each one of those targets has a leader accountable for those results. We track these metrics as red, yellow, or green, and leaders are strongly encouraged to provide commentary on their results. If they are underperforming on a given metric, then why? What needs to change to get back on track? So not only does the portal provide data, it drives action. A PowerPoint deck can’t facilitate that data-driven culture in the same way.
One of the key benefits we noticed during our journey was the need to create reusable components. These are in-concept modular visualization components, otherwise known as React Components, built as Qlik extensions and directly integrated into the website. They enable a near “no code” implementation for developers—they can customize and create dashboards with the same look and feel without having to write all the code from scratch. This has proven to be a huge benefit, as it cuts down on the learning curve and increases our development velocity.
We started using these core building blocks to the portal with no expectation of what a hit they would be, but people loved the reusability of these UI components and how they could use them in different dashboards. That ease of use helped drive adoption. If you build something cool, people want to start using it. Once people saw the ease and the consistency of the UI and UX, it took off. Our executives started to say, “I want to make my dashboard look like that dashboard.”
We have seen a lot of growth just in the website and the monthly active use. We now have 1,300 monthly active users, but they don’t care about the data infrastructure; they care about having a single tool that they can quickly and easily navigate. The API and embedded analytics have changed the experience for most of Intuit’s business intelligence and leadership team, who now look through a different lens on our guided analytics. The real-time, interactive data from the One Intuit Portal is much more compelling than previous PowerPoint slide decks, and they can now holistically view, report on, and hold people accountable for our critical KPIs—a big accomplishment for our business.
Metrics Drive Outcomes, Thanks to Qlik
We now use Qlik to collect data, set targets, and bring data together from all business units to report on company-level metrics. This is in support of Intuit’s alignment triangle for how we plan to deliver for our customers. At the top of this triangle is our mission: to power prosperity around the world. Supporting that mission are our values: courage, stronger together, customer obsession, integrity without compromise, and we care and give back.
We live our mission and values through our True North goals, which we’ve broken down into four stakeholder groups. For employees, we empower the world’s top talent to do their best work. We delight customers by solving the problems that matter most. We make a difference in the communities we serve. And we drive long-term growth for shareholders, increasing shareholder value. At the very base of the pyramid, supporting it all, are the metrics we use to define and track success.
Qlik Sense has enabled Intuit to be more data-driven by centralizing the data and making it actionable through modern web technology. For me, the most important element of the One Intuit Portal is the way it helps guide our business to meet their deliverables. It’s all about the bottom line, whether you’re hitting it and, if not, what you need to do to hit it. Creating a strategic dashboard means we can drive outcomes, make things measurable, and provide a simple UI for people to use along the way.