Business Intelligence



Based in Melbourne, Australia, Transurban is one of the largest toll-road operators in the world. Their mission is to get people where they want to go, as quickly and safely as possible.

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If you live on the Eastern Coast of Australia, or even in certain parts of the U.S. and Canada, there’s a good chance you’ve driven on a Transurban toll road. Transurban is one of the largest toll-road operators in the world, averaging over two million daily trips on their roads. Of course, they’re more than just an operator – Transurban is also deeply involved in researching and developing innovative transportation technology designed to make travel safer, easier and more environmentally sound. Put simply, their business is connection.

A History with Data and Tableau

Given the sheer volume of transactions that occur on their toll roads each day, Transurban is no stranger to data. In fact, they work with rows of data numbering in the tens-of-billions. Data is the lifeblood of their operations. Always seeking better answers and better methodologies, Transurban discovered an incredibly useful visual analytics platform called Tableau in 2016. At the time, their Data, AI and ML practice was only two people deep, but they recognised the unique advantage Tableau brought in regard to self-service analytics. Feature-rich, flexible and easy to use, Tableau was the key to leveling up data initiatives across the organisation. As Transurban bought into Tableau, they soon began achieving just that.

“Transurban is an innovative company with a strong appetite for data and Tableau has been the perfect tool to feed this appetite.”

 – Michael Spence, Lead Analyst, Transurban

Not only did Tableau help them find answers to the questions they already had in their heads, but a welcome surprise was also that, as users began utilising Tableau even more, they found themselves asking new questions and uncovering new insights they hadn’t expected. Big developments included the addition of real-time information, enabling them to respond to equipment and technical issues much more quickly. Tableau also greatly aided them in the year-on-year analysis of traffic flow, giving them the ability to zoom in any segment of road to see its usage statistics.

As an example, the visualisation below shows the change in rear-end accidents on the Bolte Bridge over a three-year period. In late 2017, Transurban made changes to their road signage and have seen a significant reduction in accidents as a result. Tableau was instrumental in helping to identify these hotspots and is now allowing Transurban to continue to monitor the impact of road changes.

Above: Transurban’s Bolte Bridge visualisation

Immediate Tableau Benefits

  • Rapid deployment of self-service analytics throughout the org
  • Uncovered new questions and unexpected insights
  • Aided real-time traffic flow analysis

Several more benefits from the early days of Tableau use at Transurban are well documented in an earlier case study with Tableau, as well as a detailed session from TC19. Transurban is also so transparent in their methodologies that their own Michael Spence wrote a blog on how to get buy-in on data initiatives across an organisation.

The thing with Tableau, as mentioned earlier, is that there’s always something new to discover or a new mountain to climb. In the world of data, the journey never really ends. The resources we just shared focus on how Tableau provided immediate value in the early days, but what happens once you’ve already proven that value? What happens when Tableau is in such high demand that a team like the Data, AI and ML team at Transurban is completely flooded with various requests and people wanting a piece of the Tableau pie? Those are new challenges entirely, but they’re ones that Transurban rose to meet with the help of their friends at InterWorks.

The Shift to Organisation-Wide Excellence in Tableau

Transurban’s analytics goals have evolved and continue to evolve as they become more data-literate as an organisation. Their initial goal was to put a tool in the hands of their most data-inquisitive people and let them explore their known data sources. In parallel, they knew they had a lot of data that was under-utilised, so through small proofs of concept, they explored these data sources and were able to demonstrate the true analytical capabilities of Tableau.

As Transurban racked up these victories, their data culture matured, resulting in more and more people delving into Tableau. Creating a culture of self-service analytics was always a goal for Transurban, but getting those users into a place of independence is a process – one that requires time, resources and the right people to guide them along that path. The Data, AI and ML team was certainly doing a great job at this – as the center of Tableau knowledge at Transurban, they had become the de facto help desk – but the sheer volume of requests was overwhelming their small team. The adoption of Tableau happened much quicker than anticipated, and their ability to educate and support their analysts became a challenge. As much as they wanted to provide individual care for each request, they had to balance that with pursuing goals and initiatives of their own.

This was compounded by the amount of content being published to Tableau Server, which was becoming increasingly difficult to manage. This meant upgrade cycles were limited, and users were building visualisations without necessarily using best practice techniques. Additionally, Tableau Server was largely running without any expert knowledge or support. Nearly half of their organisation accesses Tableau Server, including top-level executives, and they really needed someone they could trust to ensure the platform remained stable and current. That’s where InterWorks came in.

Key Support Services

  • Extensive Tableau user support with Assist by InterWorks
  • Tableau Server management with ServerCare by InterWorks
  • Numerous internal workshops, hackathons and resources

Key Solutions to Help Meet Demand

Transurban and InterWorks already had a relationship as InterWorks had previously helped them upskill their users with Tableau training and implement best practices on their Tableau Server. Leaning on that rapport, Transurban first asked InterWorks to assist with their most pressing need: providing Tableau support to their userbase.

Enter the Assist by InterWorks solution. Assist gives users direct on-demand support from InterWorks consultants for Tableau Desktop, Prep, Server and a host of other platforms that InterWorks supports (like Snowflake and Matillion). With the introduction of Assist as an on-demand resource, Transurban Tableau users could now direct their questions to InterWorks instead of the Data, AI and ML team. This was convenient for several reasons, chief among them that users could leverage the extensive Tableau experience of the InterWorks team. Regardless of department or use case – be it financial, operations or HR – the InterWorks team knows how to work with their data structures and guide users through building relevant and engaging dashboards. Broken calculations, visual best practices, dynamic dates and SharePoint integration are just some of the common challenges Assist has helped solve. Transurban continues to integrate Assist in their onboarding and trainings, and it’s become a vital tool in helping progress their users’ Tableau skills, as well as freeing up the Data, AI and ML team to focus more on strategic objectives.

“Assist by InterWorks has significantly uplifted our ability to support our analysts. This is providing best-practice knowledge to our analysts so that they are getting even more value out of the product and has freed up internal resources to focus on promoting data literacy within the organisation.”

– Michael Spence, Lead Analyst, Transurban

Beyond providing on-demand help, the Assist team also works with Transurban on identifying trends and skill gaps among their users, reporting that back to their Center of Excellence group, and proactively addressing issues with regular customised enablement workshops. These events regularly have 50+ attendees and help Transurban access tailored content that reflects their needs, from visual best practices and designing for mobile to dashboard templates and an end-of-year Hackathon. Transurban’s high attendance and engagement – at these and a host of public InterWorks events – is a testament to their constant drive for learning.

These weren’t the only InterWorks services helping Transurban. Transurban also utilised ServerCare by InterWorks to help manage their rapidly growing Tableau Server instance. Where Assist aids individual Tableau users, and enablement workshops improve user skills en masse, ServerCare oversees the management of Transurban’s Tableau Server. That means the Data, AI and ML need not worry about performance tuning, updates, upgrades, downtime or routine maintenance – it’s all taken care of by the InterWorks team. This gives the Data, AI and ML team more leeway to focus on things like user experience and content administration, which is vital as users are only creating more and more content.

“InterWorks are also providing support and guidance on the technical aspects of Tableau Server, which was completely missing prior to the engagement. This is giving us comfort that if things go wrong, we have a team available to support us.”

– Michael Spence, Lead Analyst, Transurban

User Experience Gets a Major Upgrade

Speaking of user experience, with Tableau Server officially in good hands and Tableau usage rapidly expanding throughout their organisation, Transurban wanted a more accessible and cohesive dashboard-consumption experience. Enter Curator by InterWorks. Curator is a unique platform that allows organisations to bring all their analytics into one place. It integrates directly with Tableau Server with the added bonuses of completely customisable design, advanced functionality and more control over things like access and security. In short, it allows organisations to customise analytics on their own terms.

This was key for Transurban as their growing Tableau practice had begun serving different groups across the organisation, as well as external partners. Curator is just getting started in Transurban but will provide customised user experiences and content. Though part of the same organization, different teams have different needs and different looks to the materials they produce; Curator will provide a platform that looks and feels personal to a group from New South Wales or Victoria, while also aligning with Transurban as whole. On top of it all, Curator simply makes consuming data easier for everyone from frontline analysts to Transurban executives.

Upcoming Data Goals

  • Managing more content within Curator by InterWorks
  • Streamlining data pipelines
  • Exploration of Snowflake

The Next Data Frontier

Transurban has already taken two huge steps in advancing the way their organisation utilises analytics. The first was making the decision to begin in Tableau, laying the groundwork for a true self-service model of analytics. The second was working with InterWorks to accommodate a rapidly growing user base and establish a culture of learning and excellence. Those achievements put them far ahead in terms of data maturity, but as we stated at the beginning of this case study, there’s always a new frontier in the world of data. The next frontier for Transurban? Managing their content through Curator and streamlining how data gets into Tableau in the first place.

“Our goals have now evolved into building teams of analysts within most of our business units who are now responsible for analysing and reporting on their unique datasets. We have set up a successful Tableau Community of Practice that supports these analysts from a Tableau perspective, but going forward, we’re looking at introducing more data governance processes to promote similar knowledge-sharing from a data perspective.”

– Michael Spence, Lead Analyst, Transurban

Upcoming Strategy, Vision and Roadmapping (SVR) sessions with InterWorks will cover how better data pipelines can help bolster the impact of analytics, how data is managed and how it’s curated and presented. Through Assist, InterWorks had already helped Transurban with many queries surrounding Tableau Prep, which focuses on properly preparing data for analysis in Tableau Desktop. But what if that data could be in a more optimal state before reaching Tableau Prep, and what if those preparation tasks could take significantly less effort? This is prompting conversations with InterWorks on potentially migrating from Amazon Redshift to Snowflake. It’s early days yet, but InterWorks is already helping them migrate one consumer database to Snowflake as a start. The key advantage Snowflake brings to the mix is its ability to handle billions of rows of data – something Transurban has – and load them into Tableau in a matter of seconds. As near-real-time analytics are essential at Transurban, the ability to load data ready for analysis faster and with less data engineering effort is massively appealing.

The Final Word … for Now

It’s easy to understate the progress made at Transurban over the past few years. Beyond growing user adoption with Tableau, integrating powerful new platforms to improve user experience or streamlining data flow from source to insight, the real progress at Transurban is their ability to continually inform decision making using accurate and timely data. At the end of the day, that’s what all this is about. It started with their vision and motivation to innovate their work, and the results have paid off. Not only are insights coming to them expediently and efficiently, a culture of data-driven decision making has become contagious at Transurban. Having the right tools and relationships helps, but having the right attitude is just as important. Transurban possesses all of these. As a result, they’ll be able handle any challenge – be it transportation, research or data – with their trademark innovation and excellence.

“We still have a long way to go, but now with the InterWorks partnership, we are excited and confident that the path to even greater maturity and better insights will be more controlled and measured. I continually receive positive comments from our analysts about the InterWorks team and their ability to respond quickly and provide value above answering the direct question. As the Tableau product continues to provide more features, it’s exciting to have a partnership with experts within InterWorks to share these features with our analysts to continue to derive more insights.”

– Michael Spence, Lead Analyst, Transurban

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