AWS Professional Services scales by improving performance and democratizing data with Amazon QuickSight

Estimated read time 8 min read

The AWS Professional Services (ProServe) Insights team builds global operational data products that serve over 8,000 users within Amazon. Our team was formed in 2019 as an informal group of four analysts who supported ad hoc analysis for a division of ProServe consultants. ProServe is responsible for assisting enterprises as they shift to the cloud by incorporating Amazon Web Services (AWS) into their overall architecture. In recent years, the demand for domain expertise (ProServe) grew as various industries and organizations accelerated the move to the cloud.

We work hand in hand with customer teams and AWS partners to provide deep expertise in the architecture, design, development, and implementation of cloud computing initiatives that result in real business outcomes.

As our organization grew rapidly, we built new tools to scale analytical insights into our customers’ sales and delivery mechanisms. We were frustrated by the limitations of our previous business intelligence (BI) solution, which was holding us back from our vision to accelerate data sharing, team collaboration, and security within Amazon. To scale and continue innovating, we developed a secure Amazon QuickSight environment for our internal customers.

In this post, we discuss how QuickSight has helped us improve our performance, democratize our data, and provide insights to our internal customers at scale.

Enabling teams to build their own analyses at scale

The Insights team builds dashboards and supports thousands of internal consultants and hundreds of analysts and engineers across the globe who drive local products and insights. As a team of engineers focused on building a single source of truth within Amazon, we wanted a BI tool that was cost-effective, secure, and integrated seamlessly with the other AWS services we use. ProServe team members need to make strategic decisions on behalf of customers, and we play a key role by providing the tools they need to make the right decisions. We’ve made a big impact with QuickSight because it doesn’t require in-depth knowledge about data visualizations to build dashboards and provide insights, empowering our users to build what they need.

Our QuickSight instance is secure and tailored to use the Amazon active directory framework. We also helped 13 Amazon teams to set up their own instances. The teams we serve have benefited from our switch to QuickSight. For example, AWS Professional Services launched Financial Insights Tool (FIT) 2 years ago, a QuickSight dashboard that reports project financials, project revenue leakage, and margin erosion by evaluating actuals and forecasts at any granularity. FIT saves 30 minutes per project per Engagement Manager (EM) per week, and securely centralizes project financials into a scalable tool. This empowers EMs to avoid building disparate local reporting that creates logic inconsistencies and data security issues.

One of our ProServe teams has 19 dashboards on QuickSight, including Catalog, Trend and Analysis, KPI Monitoring, Business Management, and Quality Control. In 2022, one of the KPI Monitoring dashboards helped save at least 5,600 hours in total across 230 managers and 2,000 consultants. Last year, this team also reported over 29,600 distinct views on their 19 dashboards.

Additionally, we launched the first iteration of a hygiene dashboard in February 2022. This dashboard helps our operations team and end customers improve the data quality of key attribution and reduce manual intervention. The hygiene dashboard makes sure all the checks are enabled to safely promote customer outcomes with better planning and forecasting capabilities. The adoption of the dashboard led to a 73% reduction in hygiene issues from February 2022 to February 2023. We attribute this reduction to better inspection from weekly business reviews, and with this dashboard as an inspection tool delivered via email subscription to our stakeholders.

Improved performance and flexibility

To onboard a new reader or author on our previous BI tool, we had to provide a new license each time. This manual process was time-consuming and costly. The QuickSight usage-based pricing model makes sure that we can provide analytics and insights to all users without the need to pay ahead for user-specific licenses. QuickSight guarantees that we can provide everyone access by default, enabling data democratization in ways we couldn’t before. Since moving to QuickSight, we have scaled from 1,400 licenses to over 8,000 unique viewers, thanks to its auto scaling capability. QuickSight is fully managed, serverless, and can automatically scale to tens of thousands of users without any infrastructure to manage or capacity to plan for.

We used to have to track our dashboard loading times on our previous tool, but QuickSight has made that a thing of the past. With QuickSight SPICE (Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory Calculation Engine), our dashboards load in seconds, not minutes. Our high impact dashboards for ProServe weekly business reviews, utilization and time card deep dive, and impact points use the powerful SPICE functionality, which has support for up to 1 billion rows.

The Weekly Business Review (WBR) Backlog Summary dashboard that replaced the complex scorecards with interactive QuickSight visuals:

Implementing the FAIRS data sharing framework

QuickSight improves the ability to securely Find, Access, Interoperate, and Reuse (FAIRS) the data across ProServe, AWS, and Amazon. This framework can be described as follows:

  • Findable – Metadata and data should be easy to find for both humans and computers. All datasets and dashboards in the same account provide us an opportunity to see the big picture. This streamlines the reports’ and dashboards’ dictionary-building process for ProServe. Automatic discovery of datasets, reports, and dashboards improves the analytical community’s efficiency and productivity.
  • Accessible – Users need to be able to access the data they need easily and securely. In our case, we can control the access using appropriate roles, groups, and highly secure authentication methods not only for users but also for our data sources, datasets, and dashboards using Amazon Active Directory Connected Groups.
  • Interoperable – As the worldwide central team across 10 geographies and over 2,000 practices, our data needs to interoperate with applications or workflows for analysis, storage, and processing. This allows many different parts of the organization to collaborate as a cohesive unit.
  • Reusable – The ultimate goal of FAIRS is to optimize the reuse of data. To achieve this, metadata and data should be well-described so that they can be replicated or combined in different settings. This way, we can save time and focus our analysis on diving deeper into the insights.
  • Security – Security is job Zero. We believe that everyone should have secure data access to make data-driven decisions. At ProServe, we use Amazon Active Directory, column-level security (CLS), and row-level security (RLS) to maintain the high bar in data security.

QuickSight has brought us closer to achieving FAIRS than we could get with our previous BI solution. Dashboards are easily searchable, highly collaborative, and secure.

The User Activities Tracking dashboard created by ProServe’s QuickSight administrators:

Seamless AWS Integration

QuickSight integrates seamlessly with other AWS services such as Amazon SageMaker to use machine learning insights within a low code or no code environment. Our users can simply connect to any of the QuickSight supported data sources—including Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Athena, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and Amazon Redshift—and select the SageMaker model they want to use for prediction. QuickSight has also made it possible for dashboard development from non-analyst roles.

QuickSight is constantly evolving. Eighty-four features were added in 2022. One of those features is asset management, which has made it easier for us to transfer assets from one group to another to onboard new employees. With QuickSight, we have reached over 9,200 distinct viewers and over 500,000 total views at Amazon with 485 dashboards.

The Skills dashboard representing the percentage match of top 100 skills entered by each specialization:

QuickSight has enabled us to scale with the growth of our team without sacrificing our performance. Instead, we improved our performance and democratized our data, thanks to great capabilities such as SPICE, the flexibility of the product, and its seamless integration with the other AWS services. We look forward to continuing to provide solutions to our internal customers by exploring other QuickSight capabilities such as Amazon QuickSight Q, embedded analytics, and more.

To learn more about how QuickSight can help your business with dashboards, reports, and more, visit Amazon QuickSight.


About the Authors

Ameya Agavekar is a results-driven, highly skilled data strategist. Ameya leads the data engineering and data science function for AWS Professional Services World-Wide Business Insights & Analytics team. Outside of work, Ameya is a professional pilot. He enjoys serving community by applying his unique flying skills with the US Airforce auxiliary Civil Air Patrol.

Tucker Shouse leads the AWS Professional Services World-Wide Business Insights & Analytics team. Prior to AWS, Tucker worked with financial services, retail, healthcare, and non-profit clients to develop digital and data products and strategies as a Manager at Alvarez & Marsal Corporate Performance Improvement. Outside of work, Tucker enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter enjoying the outdoors and music.

Source: https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/aws-professional-services-scales-by-improving-performance-and-democratizing-data-with-amazon-quicksight/

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