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Powering self-service analytics at MercadoLibre

MercadoLibre hosts the largest online commerce platform in Latin America with 3.3 million sellers and 267 million users. The e-commerce giant leverages Tableau and the Alation Data Catalog to create a seamless process of data discovery and analysis with the goal of enabling all of its 7,500+ employees with self-service analytics.

MercadoLibre’s journey to democratizing data began five years ago. At the time, MercadoLibre had a traditional BI model where users would make a request of the BI team and then wait to get an answer—whether hours, days, or even weeks. This model simply couldn’t scale. Business users needed greater agility to drive the business.

By leveraging Tableau and Alation together, business analysts at MercadoLibre can start an analysis with a query in Alation and seamlessly continue the analysis in Tableau. All of MercadoLibre’s data is connected through Alation—including Teradata, Hive, and Presto—giving business users a great deal of freedom. This allows business analysts to find insights without being tied to the BI team for every request. The integrated solution gives MercadoLibre users the confidence to find data they need for analysis—even if it lives outside Tableau Server—and understand how to best apply it to their analysis. Endorsements, warnings, and depreciations are surfaced directly in the Tableau experience, so users can quickly assess whether the data is right for the analysis at hand.

MercadoLibre attributes the growth of its self-service success to a few key pillars of its approach. First, they formulated training programs to properly educate users on the company’s resources and processes, which have been critical for the sustainability of the analytics practice. Secondly, a key users program brought folks from outside of the BI division to work alongside analysts as consultants. Finally, a decentralized model placed BI cells throughout the organization to help departments with their analytics, including hiring the right people for the job. And the thread running through all of this is the company’s strategic approach to governance.

Governance that enables collaboration and scale

MercadoLibre offers a feature that allows customers to use QR codes to pay for things in physical stores. The Business Intelligence team created the primary Tableau dashboards for the initiative with a handful of certified queries available in Alation. After that, the business analysts were able to self-serve discovery and analysis—including using the certified queries to generate new analyses.

Business analysts could now analyze which markets and marketing activities lead to higher QR code adoption, without having to depend on the BI team. With that freedom, of course, comes the fear that analysts may use the data incorrectly or use the wrong data assets for their analysis. With more than 4,000 business analysts generating over 3 million queries a day, MercadoLibre needed to ensure that analysts are leveraging the right for their decision-making.

To balance the freedom of self-service, MercadoLibre practices “controlled freedom” through their governance practices. This includes different levels of permissions based on expertise and custom sandboxes for analysts to work in, which helps users focus. At the same time, business analysts are given recommendations as they write queries in the Alation query tool. For instance, if a query contains an outdated asset, it appears highlighted in red with a warning, instantly letting the user know that their query has an issue.

From there, it’s easy for MercadoLibre’s business analysts to copy the code generated in Alation directly into Tableau. With data in Tableau, the user can continue their analysis, creating analytical content to publish in MercadoLibre’s Tableau Server environment where others can access it and collaborate.

With this approach to self-service analytics and the combination of Alation and Tableau, MercadoLibre has been able to empower business users to ask questions and find answers on their own. Today, MercadoLibre supports more than 3 million queries daily, including more than 4,500 Tableau dashboards and 3,800 Tableau extracts from more than 30 data sources. The tools encourage a culture of sharing, and ensure accuracy at a scale that traditional BI processes simply couldn’t match.

Want to hear more?

MercadoLibre’s Business Intelligence Director Adrián Quilis presented at Tableau Conference Europe 2019. Watch his session recording to learn more about how MercadoLibre uses Alation and Tableau to enable governed, self-service analytics at scale.


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