Zach Sippl, Director of Business Intelligence at Chipotle, and Neil Sharma, Sr. BI Analyst, had an incredible talk about how they managed to refresh a struggling business with the power of data and analytics.


Zach Sippl said that only one year ago, Business Intelligence was in a unique spot. They had hundreds of reports, but they all looked “kinda the same”. The first thing the analytics team did was to start updating the reporting and unify it under a common tool, so that you could actually get insights from the data, rather than get lost.


The crisis


In 2015 Chipotle had to close down some restaurants because some customers fell sick. However, they tried to make the best of the situation and the analytics team saw this as an unwanted opportunity to transform the business. The impact of the crisis was so deep that the company was in difficulty, both financially and as an image.


“Never let a good crisis go to waste. We have to use data to change the way we think”, said Zach Sippl. “I knew Tableau was a tool i was going to use, but we didn’t have any people that were good with data. They could for sure make a burrito, but they weren’t data experts”.


Do good with data


So Chipotle decided on two things. First of all, they had to bring in some data experts, and secondly, they had to transition their reports to a better visualization tool, to be able to get non- analysts to understand the data.

“We took the one metric that the company needed more than anything. We took a prototype in Tableau to our C level executives. We developed it in 40 hours  and it was focused on guided experience with dynamic reporting, a super user intuitive and enjoyable experience, one stop shop instead of 20+, plus speed to delivery”.

Unsurprisingly, the management they said yes.

“We had to change the way we thought about Tableau. We had to come with some very good standards, so we created them, and we developed a series of dashboards meant to solve a lot of our problems.”

Chipotle made it their mission that whenever someone will look at the dashboard, he will understand 80% of what’s there.

Next steps were to set up the server and tech infrastructure. “We started with one little dashboard, ‘Chip Dash’. Rather than going to 20 places, we were just going to this place. We only gave top leaders access to this data. We incrementally added deep dive dashboards for each foundational 2017 measure for success. Each dashboard followed standard format. We were committed to monthly releases.”

Next, Chipotle had to establish an Executive Advisory committee. They identified key stakeholders and included them through the development process. They also had monthly dashboard releases in alignment with the company’s most important priorities.

“Over 3 months, we went from zero desktop licences or servers to 800 users with up to 80+ concurrent.”

Neil Sharma Sr. Business Intelligence Analyst, said that before, their users were used to multiple sources of reports, multiple dashboards, which wasn’t easy. “When we introduced Tableau, it was huge: giving 800 people all this information about their metrics. It just clicked!”

His advice to companies and analysts is that “you have to have constant and open feedback from key stakeholders. You need to ensure you communicate the right insights. As a developer you need consistency. You have to have a structured delivery life cycle for the company.”

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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