Building a Collaborative Analytics Space


Without an open environment for collaborative analytics, people can’t access and act on data. Data holds insights that spark innovation, and if one team holds the keys to the kingdom, too many great ideas stay trapped behind unnecessary gates. Instead, we need collaborative spaces that move beyond silos, allowing information to move quickly to the right people at the right time.

We have a clear vision for analytics at JBS USA: to allow our business a lot of autonomy—with proper restraints. Too often, the IT department sits in charge of analytics, which restricts business units. JBS USA wants to empower our teams with every technology possible, allowing them to ask and answer questions that can move our business forward. 

Without an open environment for collaborative analytics, everyone loses the ability to access and act on data, which is necessary to reach business goals.

JBS is a global food company with operations in the United States, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Europe, Mexico, New Zealand,, and the UK. The company employes over 270,000 employees worldwide and delivers more than 206 million servings of protein to global families. JBS USA has over 70,000 employees in many different business units—and all of them should have access to the data they need to do their best work.

Build a Tech Stack to Match the Environment

Every great analytics culture starts with a great tech stack. But your environment should inform the tools you acquire. JBS USA is very fortunate to have a senior management team that wants to continue growing and innovating, and that involves exploring new technologies.

A tech stack should always help the business be more agile and facilitate innovation. Qlik has been the crux of our analytics team for years, and our company has used the platform to develop hundreds of critical apps company wide. Qlik is the only analytics tool JBS USA uses. Qlik was created to be a self-service platform that is constantly innovating, allowing this platform to be a perfect match for JBS USA. Qlik has informed every business decision and data point that our company has made over the last few years. The user-friendly experience helped our company’s self-service environment and expanded our reach into data science.

Our company recently adopted Snowflake to further our data science initiatives. JBS USA is a big SAP shop, and our systems, like SQL, are extremely busy with incoming plant data. You can’t constantly question them, so we needed a solution to access data without interfering with the production systems. Snowflake solved that problem and allowed our company to explore and ingest more data. JBS USA uses Qlik Replicate to take the data from those systems and write it into Snowflake without touching the other systems. This allows our business units to play with that data. JBS USA has solution-minded management: solving a problem through a solution that offers something for everyone, and this platform has exceeded these expectations.

Embed Security into Data Organization

With a data stack in place, the next step is data organization.

Every organization should focus on data security, but not at the expense of access to that data. JBS USA has a shared file server where we write all the data for all the different business units in the QVD files—from finance to HR. Our company then gives different units access in Qlik, alongside the proper security guardrails. By establishing strict security and access controls, our company is able to balance both freedom and risk in BI.

By establishing strict security and access controls, we can balance both freedom and risk in BI.

Rather than constantly worrying about problematic activity, we should start asking questions about how to mitigate it instead. Collaboration isn’t always about preventing something. Sometimes, it’s figuring out how to safely allow mistakes. It’s like watching a toddler learn how to walk—you can’t stop them from doing it (nor should you want to!), so you have to teach them to be conscious of sharp edges.

A best practice is to designate an intermediary between IT and the business units to relay any concerns from each side. They can also explain the reasons behind security protocols, which can foster and empower a culture of collaboration while keeping security as tight as possible.

Create Opportunities for Two-Way Conversations—and Make It Fun!

Building data-driven communities is ongoing work. JBS USA is well into our journey, and we keep building on it in a few different ways:

  • JBS USA has a Microsoft Teams channel accessible to all business unit developers. There, employees share tips and tricks, and openly communicate with each other. The IT team also shares targeted news and updates with employees.
  • JBS USA offers dedicated collaboration hours, allowing developers to collaborate with top analytics professionals on their projects. Additional Vizlib Collaboration Sessions are available every six weeks, which many of our developers love.
  • JBS USA IT also provides on-demand training and In House Training. The Advanced Qlik Sense Training teaches our developers basic and advanced concepts of application development and design. This offers a balance between hands-on intensive training and on-demand training. Hands-on training is great for new and experienced Qlik developers since it sharpens their skills and helps them master development best practices. On-demand training allows for self-paced education, so beginner and intermediate developers can take courses at their own speed.
  • Our IT team at JBS goes deep into data literacy Our team wants to help them learn about data in a fun and interesting way, which further cultivates our mission for collaboration.

JBS USA has also turned our mission of collaboration into fun competitions. During the company's annual BI Bash, for example, we celebrate our wins and awaken everyone’s competitive spirit with company leaderboards and awards.

By constantly devising new ideas to encourage more buy-in, your analytics teams can engage and empower everyone across the organization. Promote it, set it up, and make it fun. I promise, it will start to take on a culture of its own.

Start Small, Dream Big

JBS USA knows what happens if you don’t have a collaborative analytics environment: Data remains inaccessible and stuck in silos, preventing the organization from fulfilling its potential.

But what happens if you do?

You can prove the value of a collaborative analytics space by auditing the value of apps in each business unit and ensuring all apps are useful. JBS USA has thousands of apps across multiple units that do anything from measuring the amount of meat that comes off a chicken bone to checking the temperature of pork. JBS USA checks usage for each app to focus on the ones providing the most engagement and collaboration. Our overall usage continues to grow each year.

JBS USA wants data to propel people forward, not hold them back. Analytics teams should always ask our business units, “How can we work with you? What do you need to accomplish your goals?” Building a collaborative space takes effort, but you’ll see positive changes in your data culture, leading to smarter decision-making and more innovation.