As Southwest grew, acquiring AirTran, adding to its fleet, and expanding internationally, they needed to shift to self-service analytics and customized business intelligence that scaled with the business and allowed them to react more quickly to growing data sets. Business groups needed an immediate and accurate understanding of the trips customers booked and flew and whether they arrived on schedule to ensure optimized on-time performance (OTP) and customer satisfaction. Without an enterprise-wide view of their data captured in real-time, Southwest couldn’t see how different parts of operations were performing to asses if they could do better for customers or keep up with competition, growth and change.
Previously, to understand their fleet performance, Southwest’s IT team manually pulled data from legacy systems and various sources, including Access, Excel, Oracle, SQL Server, and Teradata, its enterprise data warehouse. With 28 different departments generating and analyzing different data, information was fractured, making it difficult to get a complete picture of their performance. To complicate matters, not everyone had access to the same data, triggering different perspectives and confusion at times.
Tom Laney, business consultant with the Data Science Center team noted, “Our enterprise data was siloed all over the place. It was disparate, complex, some varying degrees of messy and clean; it was found in remote areas all over the company.” To connect it all, IT relied on SQL queries, which were difficult to update, maintain, and share. As a result, business groups had trouble integrating, cleansing, analyzing, and consuming the data.
With increased demands, Southwest approached Tableau to adapt from centralized data management to self-service analytics at scale. Three users began with Tableau Desktop and published reports to Tableau Server. They socialized their experience and organically grew adoption to more than 2,900 active users on Tableau Server in four years and 400 Tableau Desktop licenses.
“As soon as we started demoing Tableau, anyone who had analytically-savvy minds just had to see it,” explained Tom. The effects on the business were significant; faster time-to-insights helped Southwest quickly spot new opportunities, drive greater efficiencies, and increase time and cost savings.
IT supported the development of mini production areas, empowering people to ask and answer their questions through analysis. With Tableau now capturing data from disparate sources and generating dashboards that are automatically refreshed, analysts no longer spent days manually piecing together the data for reports and presentations that were hard to update, maintain, and share with others. The Operational Performance Department that is in charge of tracking OTP is now able to offer a near real-time, company-wide OTP every 15 minutes, tracking performance against historical activity.