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Metabase at Usabilla

  • Before Metabase, self-service BI at Usabilla was rigid and not especially user-friendly.
  • Metabase has helped Usabilla discover hidden patterns in their data and given them a sense of clarity about what is going on.
  • They’re seeing great time-saving gains in using Metabase to fulfill internal requests for data and reports.
  • Out of the roughly 80 people at Usabilla using Metabase, almost half have created their own explorations using the graphical query builder.

About Usabilla

Usabilla helps empower brands like KLM, Tommy Hilfiger, and Toyota to become more customer-centric by improving digital experiences on websites, apps, and emails. Through targeted surveys and embedded feedback options, enterprises capture the voice of their customers, collect quantitative and qualitative data, and turn insights into actions that drive success.

Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Usabilla has offices around the world, including New York, London, Berlin, and Sydney. Usabilla employees more than 135 individuals, about 20 of whom are engineers.

The search for better BI

Since Usabilla provides solutions to gather and analyze user feedback, it’s no surprise that they had an in-house self-service solution to visualize and analyze their own customer data. But this solution was rigid and not especially user-friendly, and so the folks at Usabilla, including developer George Visniuc, began looking for better solutions.

After exploring a number of possibilities, they chose Metabase. George said that other solutions explored at the time, were “Difficult to use as self-service, and not very user-friendly. Metabase is more user-friendly and has a better permission system. It also enables quick data exploration.”

Their data

They now use Metabase to look at interaction data to better understand how they can optimize their customers’ journey and use of their tools. They’ve also integrated some third-party data from marketing analytics and CRMs to understand income seasonality like MRR and GRR. (George actually found it easier to calculate MRR in Metabase than in the original CRM where the data came from.) They’re also looking at CRM data in Metabase to find opportunities to be more proactive with their customers.

As George and his team began rolling out Metabase, they performed a series of internal research interviews to understand who their stakeholders were, and what data needs they had. Using these results, they began assembling dashboards in Metabase, and then continued to improve them as they discovered additional features like dashboard filters and multi-series charts.

How Metabase spread throughout Usabilla

These initial dashboards were built by a business intelligence engineer. But after Usabilla conducted some internal workshops on how to use Metabase, different teams throughout the company picked up the concepts very quickly and began building their own dashboards as well.

The Customer Satisfaction, Sales, and Reporting teams, in particular, have gotten lots of use out of Metabase. George says he was surprised at “how easily they learned and adjusted, and gained the ability to see the big picture with regards to how data is connected.” He gives a lot of credit to Metabase’s ease of use: “I would say the majority of the users were pleasantly surprised by the availability of the grouping and filtering options along with the autocomplete for field and value names. Compared to other solutions, they felt like they didn’t have to be a developer or technical person to know how to use Metabase.”

Each team decided to have a group of editors to help keep things tidy and to handle internal team requests. These requests could be creating new dashboards, answering questions, or helping to interpret results. Each team uses Metabase differently to meet their needs. Some teams focus heavily on dialing in visualizations, taking care to pick the right chart type, colors, and labels. Other teams focus purely on acquiring the raw data and exporting the results to CSV or XLSX. George has also seen some teams create template questions, which can be filtered by time period or customer. George says that these kinds of template questions, along with the variables you can create with SQL questions and the filter widgets you can add to dashboards “allow questions to become extremely flexible in terms of filtering and can be repurposed and reused easily.”

Out of the roughly 80 folks at Usabilla using Metabase, almost half have created their own explorations using the graphical query builder. George says that the field and value search and autocomplete features in the graphical builder are especially helpful for these users. Features like the ability to create new custom columns with formula also help users from needing to resort to SQL. But the SQL editor is still a useful tool when more advanced users need to make use of variables, or complex filters or multi-table joins.

Gaining a sense of clarity

Beyond the clear benefits of getting data into the hands of more people throughout Usabilla, George has found a number of other ways that Metabase has improved things. “I think the most important moment for me is when I realized how much less time I would spend writing custom queries.” Metabase’s ease of use has enabled more and more individuals to explore the data on their own, and to create charts and dashboards to meet their needs.

Metabase is also helping save time throughout Usabilla. George says, “We have some very good initial results regarding the time spent on tickets requesting data or reports. It is almost instant now, and a lot of people feel like they are spending time doing more quality work rather than manual labor type of tasks (digging through spreadsheets, etc.). So yes, definitely the time saved for the entire company is increasing greatly I would say.”

George also says that getting their data into Metabase created a palpable sense of clarity. “The real ‘aha’ moment was visualizing the results and realizing the distribution of our data and our customers in various segments. That gave us an immediate sense of clarity with regards to where we should put more effort in.” Usabilla’s CEO, Marc van Agteren, adds, “Metabase helps us to bring direct business insights to all layers of the organization.”

George’s advice for others

Having a good strategy for organizing your charts and dashboards in Metabase from the beginning can pay dividends down the line. George has a number of recommendations:

Create a dedicated collection for each department

  • This decision was made once we realized that people were storing the questions in the ‘shared collections’ or their personal collections that would not allow easy sharing, and led to duplication of questions.
  • Another problem was regarding content and domain, where we would have questions that were essentially the same but in different collections.
  • Ideally, groups are departments that have some sort of overlap (like Development + Product) to prevent having very granular groups and permissions.
  • Our collections are currently constructed around the objective and not the source of data (Alerting, Monitoring, Analysis, etc.).

Adopt a naming convention for your dashboards and saved questions early on

  • First, check if the question or dashboard already exists. (The easy way to do this is to use Metabase’s search bar.)
  • Be very specific (name the entities/tables in the title for example)
  • Always add a description