Customer Story

Nielsen Reboots Its BI Process with Alteryx and AWS


Nielsen Key Stats

Industry: Media

Data Stack: AWS, Alteryx and Tableau

Region: North America


processes automated


self-service business end users


associates and leaders across the org empowered with data insights

A Business Built on Data Insights

If you’ve heard of TV ratings, you’ve heard of Nielsen. As a pioneer in market research and a global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics, Nielsen is the definition of a data-driven company.

Today, Nielsen uses AWS and Alteryx together to democratize data insights across the entire organization. But this wasn’t always the case. Let’s start this episode from the beginning.



The Rewind: Starting With an End-Of-Life BI Process

Looking back to 2017, Nielsen had a BI process that was not well-organized. As Wayne McClure, solution architect at Nielsen, described, their team as having many small, independent groups rather than clearly defined silos.

To make things even more complicated, an existing BI platform was built to run on an aging BI solution. The subscription had ended years ago, and the tool had been running silently in the background for nearly a decade. Legacy tools work until they don’t — and it’s only a matter of time before they shut off without warning.

The system was unsustainable, and Wayne knew they would eventually need to fix it. But it wasn’t urgent or critical to change anything. Until, of course, it was.

The Forcing Function: BI Reports for Encoder Verification Solutions

Nielsen uses patented encoding technology across radio and television to enhance audience measurement. Nielsen’s encoding verification solutions (EVS) department helps preserve, maintain and document the accuracy of that encoding technology.

One team in EVS focuses specifically on radio transmission across the United States. This team relies on next-day BI reports that track the encoding process and ensures that radio stations are broadcasting and encoding correctly across all available markets.

As it turned out, the next-day reporting process was built on the very BI tool that was on its way out. And Wayne’s team suddenly found out that they had under 90 days before the tool was scheduled to be turned off.

Wayne begin to investigate the available information. He found that there was one  whitepaper and a final UI requirement doc, but no additional documentation or transparency into the pipeline.

“That original BI tool that was used to aggregate all of the data, create all the metrics, and push all the essential reports out to everybody was a big ole black box. All the features and capabilities that were used to build the original system were locked behind a very long-forgotten SAAS subscription, which of course we no longer paid for,” Wayne said.



The Reboot: AWS + Alteryx

Wayne needed a solution and needed it fast.

Nielsen had already chosen AWS as its cloud infrastructure for its scalability and powerful computing engine. Wayne saw an opportunity to find a self-service analytics tool that would integrate well with AWS while empowering business users across the organization to handle analytics.

“We were looking for a tool that would empower not only our seasoned analysts but also business users to create a more inclusive use of our data. To allow each org to handle their analytics, and take information and questions and even challenges we hadn’t seen before, and rapidly iterate this across hundreds and thousands of people,” said Wayne.

The team could house data in AWS, analyze the data in Designer, and schedule and automate workflows with Server, which Nielsen deployed on AWS. Users can also easily pop the data into Tableau for visualization.


Utilizing Alteryx on the AWS platform, Wayne’s team was able to go into a rapid-fire testing process to get an end output. The team removed several redundant systems and cleaned up SQL queries. Using Alteryx, the team ended up with daily completed reports in a 4-minute process instead of 4 hours.

From there, Nielsen has populated Alteryx across the org. When Wayne’s team first started the transition, they had a handful of users. A few years later, there are over 250 self-service Alteryx users generating thousands of automated reports, processes, and tools for multiple thousands of end-users.



The Finale: Putting Together a Cloud Ecosystem to Enable Business-Wide Access

At the start of the BI overhaul, Nielsen had already implemented AWS as its house cloud platform. But the company didn’t stop there. Instead of treating the cloud like a one-and-done IT deployment, Nielsen recognized how to bring the cloud to different parts of the business, and had been using AWS across departments.

Wayne compares putting together solutions to conducting a symphony: It’s not just about the individual instruments, but about the entire process from end to end – and the solutions that work best for the organization as a whole have both the ability to scale, and ease of use.

Wayne plans to continue building the data ecosystem around Alteryx since it makes it possible for everyone at Nielsen to contribute their unique domain knowledge to the data lifecycle.

“We wanted to allow for citizen data scientists. We have so many Nielsen members whose job is to understand the data. Wrangling and organizing it should not be a full-time job. It should be a tool like Alteryx.”


3 Reasons Nielsen Chose AWS + Alteryx


Scalability and iterable nature: Wayne describes Alteryx as an “iterative powerhouse.” AWS and Alteryx make it easy to adjust to exactly what you need on the fly.


Self-service: Thousands of employees across the business can access data insights by accessing data from AWS and analyzing it in Alteryx.


Fast time to value: Alteryx was easy to implement, which is how Nielsen was able to get the new BI process in place so quickly.


Recommended Resources

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