User Adoption and Acceptance – How to Get the Business Excited about Data Visualization

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Ever had tacos at Jack in the Box? Ever wonder what goes into every decision of how to source, price, prepare, and deliver that taco to you? There’s a lot of data that feeds those questions. Jack in the Box sells more than a million tacos a day, so we’re also talking big transactional data. In late 2017, operators, marketers, and sales analysts at this quick-serve giant struggled with these decisions. Their outdated enterprise data architecture couldn’t support the volumes of transactions flowing through the system, nor keep up with the rapidly changing industry environment as new digital channels like delivery and mobile gained prevalence. Through careful coordination of more than 30 agile sprints, we transformed business intelligence at Jack in the Box with a move to AWS Redshift and Tableau in the cloud and learned a lot about agile data transformations along the way!

One of the key success metrics for this project was user adoption. We knew that putting the data out there wasn’t enough. Getting users at the corporate office bought in wasn’t enough. We needed to get usable data into the hands of the people at JIB locations as well, to support the smart local decision making that drives business success.

Understand Your Stakeholders

We looked at our stakeholder population and realized that in addition to the internal Sales Analytics use case for analyzing transactions, the other biggest consumers of enterprise data were Operations and the field, including Franchisees who own locations and the hierarchy of employees that work for them. This audience wasn’t necessarily looking for anything fancy. They were used to tables of data, but they wanted their reports on time and distributed to them in a way that seamlessly integrated into their day-to-day process. Back then, if you asked one of the franchisees what they wanted, they would ask for a table with a ton of columns included. Because they hadn’t been exposed to the world of what’s possible with visual analytics, they didn’t know the power that transforming a table with hundreds of cells into a stacked bar could have in driving a fast insight. An interesting facet of the world of franchise ownership is that you can’t really tell these people what to do, outside of your legal brand agreements with the operators. For many things, we could really only inspire them to do the right thing based on making that right decision obvious in the data. So, while we knew we had a big change management challenge ahead of us, we knew we also had a very lucrative opportunity to transform the way most users thought about and consumed information. What’s the value of a well-curated schema that provides better information for decision-making? Hopefully, at minimum, the micro-operational decisions happening every day at the store improved, like how much labor should I schedule to optimize my margin for a given hour? In aggregate, looking across every location, every time of day, for every product across multiple years, the brand can also scale insights that influence the customer experience of tomorrow.

Build Stakeholder Happiness Into the Plan

In early sprints, we were aiming to decommission legacy platforms as quickly as possible, so we were just working to replicate legacy views into the new environment (think lots of tables). This worked well to start, because we knew we had to give users what they were accustomed to, having used the old system for the last ten years. But what value is there for a user if you’re giving them the same old view with just a different looking user interface? We learned after some of our very first demo sessions to friendly pilot users that we couldn’t just give them the same set of tables we had before, we had to also delight them with sprinkles of new visualizations that could show the potential of the new platform, and make it worth them learning something new. Part of this was easy, because we were using Tableau, and there are tons of out-of-the-box features that wouldn’t require additional development on our part, but would delight the users, like the ability to subscribe to views (you don’t even have to log in to get your data!)

I realize I could write a book on how to approach adoption on a huge project like this. The most important lesson I can convey is to consider adoption from DAY ONE. Even if you have flawless development execution on a migration, if your users aren’t going to like the new environment, the project won’t be successful. We did this through a couple of ways:

  • Get immediate access to utilization data of the legacy environments so that you can prioritize both your heavy users and your most important views to be migrated first.
  • Compile a master user library and get to know the attributes of every user of your system so that you can group them into cohorts.
  • Don’t wait for a perfect data warehouse to start showing views to users. We actually developed the entire set of initial dashboards from our legacy Oracle data sources, so that we could get users bought in to the capabilities of Tableau. They didn’t actually care or know where the data was coming from, but doing this allowed us to get a hefty proportion of users on the new platform before we even had one Redshift data source live in production.

Involve Stakeholders in the Planning

The other part about stakeholder adoption, more for our internal teams than the franchisees, is you will likely need to coach your business partners on what it means to be agile. All too often we would get hit with requests like, “I need this view, can you give it to me by <insert unrealistically soon date here>.” We started to teach them about our sprint schedules, and how in order for us to deliver a view successfully, we would need to go through an iterative lifecycle of elicitation, design, and development before we could release something to them. By the end of the project, it was a delight to hear stakeholders referring to requests by saying, “I know you probably can’t get this in to the current sprint, but do you think we could slot this in to Sprint X?” Deeply understand the business decision a stakeholder is trying to make before designing a dashboard for them; we found the use of visualization white papers to be helpful in this regard—not necessarily to create the paper itself, but to create a pattern of thinking processes that facilitates empathy with the user’s data needs.

Measure User Adoption

We figured out that tracking user adoption was a really effective way of measuring our success against plan. The following example from one of our weekly status meetings illustrates how we visualized success in Product Management (% of adopted users), Data Capacity (% of migrated data sources) and Visualization Capacity (% of utilized views migrated). Just making the data and views available wasn’t enough; adding usage data gave us a much clearer picture.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Think about adoption from day one and consider it your most important deliverable. Get value into the hands of users from the front-end to vet the experience before investing in full end-to-end development. The power of agile product development is that it gives you the ability to evaluate and adjust, so take full advantage of that.
  • Coach your stakeholders on what it means to be agile, how they can contribute to the iterative delivery process, and that every request will require a lifecycle of analysis, design, and delivery. Involved and empowered stakeholders become engaged users and champions of the new data analytics tools.

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