The Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, branded as Nexus, administers funds on behalf of the North East Combined Authority. The organisation in its current form started in 1968 and is responsible for running the Tyne and Wear Metro, ferry services, and the provisioning of supported bus service and infrastructure. From these services, they monitor customer satisfaction, asset management, organisational procedures and performance against key performance indicators.
Perfect Image was first approached by Nexus in 2010 to provide a robust BI solution. Their previous solution was clunky, time-consuming, laborious and difficult to use. Nexus decided upon a combination of Perfect Image’s services and Qlik software. Initially, Qlik was used to meet their basic BI reporting needs, but it has since been developed to provide each department with increasingly in-depth dashboards for more valuable insights, in less time.
Alex Finkel, Business Intelligence Manager at Nexus, says, “Because Qlik has been with us for a while, it’s expanded. What started off as a tool that allowed us to do what we needed to do, phase two was much more about the self-serve capabilities and pushing dashboards out, and as that’s happened you get other departments that want to get involved. What that means is Qlik connects to a lot more data than we, as a BI team, ever used before.”
For each department, Qlik had to meet their wide-ranging needs, such as:
The HR dashboard began as an easy way for HR to log in each week and with just a few clicks, they can track sickness, absences and return to work interviews, much more efficiently than they could previously.
The dashboard was used mostly for sickness but Nexus want to extend that to also monitor more general HR reporting, as Alex explains: “They want to be able to tell employees how much value they get from the company. The next idea for HR is to package up everybody’s salary, pension, travel pass, and gateway reward scheme and turn that into something they can send out every year, and say, “This is what working here is worth for you.” It will be an interesting one to do.”
Previously, the BI team were spending a lot of time collating ticket sales data and being asked for basic requests for information that took up a lot of their time. Now, Qlik does most of the hard work for them, allowing them to analyse the data.
Alex says, “That’s part and parcel of what Qlik is; in the background it’s doing a lot of processing… the whole data load process takes 5 hours so that gives you an idea of what it’s doing. However, from an end user’s point of view, it is quite simple to view by day or date, and it will show what we’ve sold.”
Daniel Richardson, Acceptance Supervisor at Nexus, says, “We have stored travel rights (PAYG travel) on the Metro system, very similar to the London Oyster card, and Qlik stores all the data for our passengers. The Qlik dashboard tells us everybody’s journey records, where they tapped in, where they tapped out, what fares have been deducted from their card.”
For end users, discovering much deeper insights into what would normally be extremely complicated ticket sales information is now effortless and is used to inform management decisions.
Daniel continues, “It tells us all this information and translates a lot of complicated data into an easy to use system for us. We can click on a name, click on a station and it’s all there – all the information you want is in front of you.”
Qlik has saved the BI team’s time by removing the need for them to extract data from many different systems and manually cleanse, format and merge it.
Alex says, “My predecessor did analysis on how much time it had saved our department. The thing we won’t have is how much time it has saved everywhere else, and I don’t want to underestimate that. The self-serve capability allows us to get on and perform more meaningful analysis to generate insight from the data, but actually it’s allowing those departments to do more as well.”
Previously the team were reluctant to add new datasets and data sources due to the time it would take.
“Before Qlik, we were at a point where we would have potentially ignored new data streams new data sources, whereas now we actively find them. As soon as we find out there’s a new potential data stream or data source we just get it because it’s easy.”
They have recently added a connection into their online sales and card registrations so that when someone registers their POP card (a travel card that passengers top up and use, similar to London’s Oyster card) the BI team can see important details of their demographics. This gives Nexus a better and more fully formed understanding of the passenger and how they use public transport.
The BI team have a socioeconomic dashboard that brings in lots of data from different sources, such as up to date weather information from Met Office data and house prices. It pulls it all together in a comparable way to quickly and easily discover correlations.
Alex says, “We created it in Qlik, and it’s been an absolute dream. You pick the timeframe you’re interested in, two of the variables that are sitting in the spreadsheet, and there’s your answer in terms of whether they’re related. That’s identified a couple of different things.”
This has encouraged analysts to seek out more data, which helps Nexus to make informed decisions about where and how to focus its resources.
An unexpected correlation found was between Metro patronage and business confidence. For example, as confidence increases, people appear more willing to travel by Metro.
Alex explains: “If you just look at Metro patronage and business confidence, there’s not a strong correlation at all, but if you see it on a chart, the pattern is nearly identical. That was identified in Excel but because of the way it needs to do its correlation, the process was cumbersome. Qlik allows us to very quickly test 20 different variables against Metro patronage in minutes. We’re able to do this far, far easier.”
Alex says, “In terms of correlations, a lot of it is trying to explain why. At the moment, we’re going through a period of decline of Metro ridership. We’re asked, “Why?” You don’t necessarily always know the answer, but the ability to test different things out means that’s a lot easier.”
Understanding issues, whether actionable or just for context, assists Nexus with moving forwards: “If it was something along the lines of less ridership because there are fewer jobs, that helps us as an organisation understand why things are happening and helps make informed business decisions.”
Another example was a long-term issue the public had with ticket machines that Nexus discovered from analysing their research data. Due to this, Nexus fixed the machines and modified them to be more in line with what customers wanted.
“In Qlik because we have a Metro satisfaction dashboard we spend much more of our time looking underneath the data as opposed to just getting it and sending it to whoever wanted it.”
In the early stages of BI implementation, Perfect Image created all of Nexus’s dashboards. Now, the team have been skilled up and supported by Perfect Image to build their own.
Alex explains: “I found the relationship to be a very supportive one. You do genuinely feel as though Perfect Image is there to help, support and advise. When we first got Qlik, Perfect Image helped us, advising us about where we weren’t using it to its full potential.”
Of the partnership with Perfect Image that has grown from strength to strength for nearly a full decade, Alex says, “I see it very much as a partnership. I have contracts with other parties too, and you get a sense of how different it can be. Rather than feeling like I’m just a client and Perfect Image is the provider, it feels much more of a collaboration.”
Qlik has made it easy for end users to understand their massive amounts of data in a clear, visual and easy-to-understand way, as Alex explains: “Scrolling through reams of spreadsheets and columns and rows, it’s just numbers. You get number blind. That’s where Qlik’s user interface comes into its own and allows you to present that in a meaningful way.”
Due to this ease of use, Alex says, “The self-serve capability is where we’re at now with it – that’s its biggest benefit. It’s interactive, it makes people feel as though they’re in control, and it makes you want to look more.”
The ease and speed of discovering insights with Qlik means Nexus is able to make data-driven decisions that will positively impact the organisation now and in the future.