Ron Powell, independent analyst and industry expert for the BeyeNETWORK and executive producer of The World Transformed FastForward Series, interviews Adrian Quilis, Director of Business Intelligence at MercadoLibre. This article is based on a podcast with Adrian.
Adrian, I understand MercadoLibre is Latin America’s most popular ecommerce site by number of visitors. Can you tell us more about the company, the markets it serves, and your role within the organization?
Adrian Quilis: Well, we are not only the most popular ecommerce site in Latin America, but we are also the largest online commerce and payment ecosystem in Latin America. We are present in 19 countries, and in each of the major countries where we are present, we are market leaders. We have more than 7,000 employees. Our ecosystem is not only a marketplace. We have Mercado Pago that is our payment gateway, and Mercado Envios is our delivery unit that we offer our sellers that ship with us.
What are your goals for MercadoLibre around data and what tools do you have in your environment to accomplish your goals?
Adrian Quilis: We want to democratize the ecommerce and payments around Latin America. So for BI, our goals are to democratize information all around the company. For that, we are using tools like Alation, Tableau and MicroStrategy. And we try to spread all the information around the company.
So what business value does Alation bring to the table for your business users and what areas within MercadoLibre use Alation?
Adrian Quilis: Alation gives us the ability to give the users access to the information, the access to the data that is in our warehouse. They are able to look for whatever they want. And, then, if they need to run a query, they can choose the query that is certified, for example, from the BI team, and then they can continue their analysis through Tableau to obtain their own insights.
Do the business users work directly with the data without IT involvement?
Adrian Quilis: We try to run the company utilizing the right tools. For example, for business units, they are using MicroStrategy and, in many cases, Tableau too. But in each of the business units, some key users are trained by the BI team, and they have the knowledge to run queries. So in these cases, they can use Alation because they will be comfortable running queries. But all IT people are able to use Alation because you know everybody from IT wants to run a query, and Alation is really great for that.
What is it about Alation that is most important to you, and how will that assist you in your efforts to continuously improve MercadoLibre?
Adrian Quilis: Alation is a user friendly tool that allows us to give users an easy way to access the data, and it is also a collaborative tool. So now everybody in the IT team and in the business units that are using Alation can not only run a query, but also can share the queries, the knowledge and some insight that they obtained. So this is really important for us to improve our knowledge base all around the company. Also, Alation provides us the governance that we had lost once we started giving the analysts complete independence using Tableau.
At your presentation at Teradata Analytics Universe, you talked about data governance and certification of data. Could you elaborate about how you’re doing that?
Adrian Quilis: Our philosophy is to give the users controlled freedom. We want them to be independent from the BI team, but we need them to access the right information and the right data. And, in this case, we are working with certified data that they are publishing in Tableau, for example, and with Alation they can easily identify which data and which queries are certified by our team. So it’s the best thing. They can go immediately to this certified data or queries and use them.
Do you have some specific examples of how this is bringing value to the business?
Adrian Quilis: Well, as you saw in our presentation, recently we launched in-payment QR codes, and that is for payments outside of MercadoLibre. It’s in our off-platform. So once we launched this new feature, we published the tables on some queries and on the principal dashboard for this new initiative. And every analyst in Mercado Pago that wanted to know how the business was going, could go immediately to Alation and obtain this information and continue their data analysis.
So from a BI perspective, you’ve really taken self-service to a whole new level with Alation?
Adrian Quilis: Yes, we are determined to have self-service BI in our company, and for us it’s important how Alation is helping us to reach this objective.
Also in your presentation, you identified the self-service pillars, which included intensive training, key user programs, and BI cells throughout the company. Can you talk a little about the key user program?
Adrian Quilis: When we decided to develop this self-service strategy, we knew that we should stop preparing reports. And this will be a task for the business units. So we start with the business unit training with the analysts that have this passion for the data. We give them the ability to access the information, and we are training them in all of the tools that we have for the business units. And now these key users are like a nexus between BI corp and the business units. And they have all the knowledge about BI tools, but also they are involved in the needs of the business units. So these key users started spreading all their knowledge in their areas. So now it’s like a knowledge layer for BI.
The other point that you made in your presentation was that you created a community where all of this information is shared and people collaborate and work together. How did you make that happen?
Adrian Quilis: For that we are using Workplace – it’s a tool from Facebook. And for our company it was easy to start using this tool. There are a lot of groups. In our group, the analytic community, once someone discovers an insight, it’s immediately published in this group or in their own group. It’s the way that we are improving all of this analysis. We also have quarterly meetings with these key users where we try to share experiences, learn what they are doing, and try to work together.
Adrian, what you’re doing is truly leading edge, and a lot of companies today would love to have their business users collaborate and be able to work with the data and take the burden off of IT. Thank you.