Roche adopts self-service analytics in ‘a perfect storm’

Late last June, I had the opportunity to attend a ThoughtSpot User Group session in London and share how ThoughtSpot has impacted global procurement at Roche—notably how it’s helped my team not become a dashboard factory for the rest of our business.

For 125 years, Roche has been making a difference in the lives of millions. Based out of Basel, Switzerland, we’re a multinational healthcare company with 100,000 plus employees that operates worldwide under two divisions: Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. In Diagnostics, we build some of the industry’s most reliable Covid testing kits and machines. All this makes us one of the largest biotech companies in the world; in fact, the combined annual sales of our two global divisions is more than 63 billion Swiss francs.

Unsurprisingly, a company as big and complex as we are needs to operate at scale. In my division alone—Global Procurement—we  support 15.5 billion CHF of spend with more than 55k suppliers translating into 610k purchase orders.

The role of Global Procurement at Roche

Global Procurement helps make sense of all that, as well as the other analytics we want to perform on a wide range of analytics on our savings, from our WorkDay employee system, and recently, travel applications, where sustainability is becoming a growing priority. We have to manage the recent surge in business travel closely because of our Co2 emission targets and our sustainability goals.

How Roche implemented a self-service analytics solution

About nine months ago, our whole function went through a sizable reorganization. As part of the reorg, we established a small team of business analytics partners to support stakeholders across our Procurement teams: Customer Excellence, Delivery and Insights & Enablement. Building this out wasn’t easy, as it fundamentally changed our focus to be more customer centric. ThoughtSpot came along at the perfect time to make this new team work, ‘a perfect storm.’

Our drivers were to find the best tool for us to use in this new way of working with the business, and foster as much collaboration and speed of operation as possible. We also really wanted to encourage more self-service analytics. But as many people know, the problem there can be trying to get business users engaged to do self-service and also to understand the tools and the data and where they can now use it to help themselves.

From dashboard factory to productive insights and collaboration in three steps:

Drill-down customizations: ThoughtSpot became a kind of lifeboat for this perfect storm. First and foremost, it really fueled collaboration. We had started to turn into a “dashboard factory,” often providing users with just minor customizations of existing assets. With ThoughtSpot, we can sit down with a colleague or a team, find out what they need and often customize something with them right then and there on-the-fly. That’s a big, big win for us.

On-the-fly training: We also position ThoughtSpot as a kind of analytics jamboard to support collaboration and discussion. So if someone gives us an idea of what kind of insights they need, we can build it live in a session and it’s ready to go. This helped us get quick buy-in for ThoughtSpot because people could immediately see the value. One thing people particularly liked is being able to get insights from different datasets in the same Liveboards with filtering across those Liveboards being seamless.

Validating a single source of truth: Another productivity benefit is single refresh. Since all our data is coming from the same source, there’s only one data set to refresh. Before, for example, we might have ten dashboards all drawing on our spend dataset, and we’d have to manually refresh every single one. Operationally, that was hard and resource-intensive. Now there is less temptation for people to pull data out to analyze in Excel.

Achieving self-service analytics delivers business impact, fast

ThoughtSpot’s search and AI really support our aims to have more users serving themselves. After only a few months in, we already have 200 plus regular users, 10 or 15 of whom are analytics power users’ and are starting to build things themselves without our help. The platform is both intuitive enough for them to type their questions into the search bar like Google, and smart enough to recommend insights for them when they don’t know what to ask.

The fact that my team has seen such massively reduced dashboard requests has been very significant. We couldn’t keep spending all our time just building dashboards for five people at a time. Introducing ThoughtSpot saved me from having to hire two more developers, which is obviously a direct bottom line benefit.

These quick wins for Roche Procurement certainly bode well for the future. Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on growing self-service analytics adoption. The ThoughtSpot ‘buzz’ is starting to spread virally to other parts of the organization. I’m certainly planning to remain active in the ThoughtSpot user community to stay on top of all the exciting new developments I know will help us continue to make big gains in collaboration and productivity.