09 May 2019 | Case Study

MindMax Automates ETL, Sees Benefits of a Modern Data Stack

Ciara Rafferty
Ciara Rafferty
MindMax Automates ETL, Sees Benefits of a Modern Data Stack
With Fivetran + Sisense, MindMax frees up 50% of its BI team’s time, eliminates ETL problems and creates useful dashboards for its clients.

Key Takeaways

  • With Sisense handling BI and Fivetran handling ETL, MindMax finds that its data pipelines no longer break and its BI is more robust.
  • MindMax can use its data connectors to create multiple social media and marketing automation systems insights — critical for a marketing and enrollment services company with many clients.
  • Fivetran has freed up at least 50% of the BI team’s time.
  • MindMax plans on connecting additional marketing automation systems and student information systems.

Data Stack

MindMax partners with universities to help increase enrollment, particularly among continuing education and adult learners returning to school. The company provides marketing services to improve traffic generation and lead generation and also helps to manage enrollment and guide potential students through the application and registration processes.

Bogged Down by Manual Data Extraction

To illustrate the value of its service for potential clients, MindMax needs to be able to measure and track processes from the top of the funnel all the way to enrollment. This involves centralizing data from different sources, including marketing automation, CRM, Google Analytics, and often a student information system. Before Fivetran and Sisense, MindMax did most of this work manually, through Excel.

“It was really difficult to create reports and dashboards that were both meaningful to clients and incorporated data from all these different sources of information,” says Brian DiScipio, VP of Technology at MindMax. “So we started looking for tools and Sisense was the best fit for us.”

The Sisense Solution

Kiersten Warendorf, the Senior Business Analyst at MindMax, approved of the addition of Sisense. “It gave me the ability to pull in data from different sources, manipulate all of that data in one place, and present it really simply in one chart or graph,” she says. “It’s really cool and powerful.”

MindMax chose Sisense not only for its functionality but also for its price point and ability to serve multiple clients through a white-label portal.

While happy with Sisense as a BI tool, MindMax was struggling to access marketing automation data with API limitations. Warendorf spent a lot of time working with Sisense to try and pull in the data, but the systems often broke. “It was a lot of time spent on data connectors and away from analysis,” she says.

Leaving the ETL to Fivetran

Realizing its expertise was in BI, Sisense decided to focus all of its internal efforts on perfecting that end of its business, and it dropped API development. Sisense suggested that MindMax try Fivetran for data pipelines, and the partnership between Sisense and Fivetran was a huge turning point for MindMax.

Setting up Fivetran and BigQuery was quick and easy, and it instantly freed up a tremendous amount of Warendorf’s time, which she could dedicate to conducting analyses and generating insights. “Bringing Fivetran on was life-changing for me and my job,” she says. “Trying to figure out why ETL was breaking down, how to fix it, and how to bring historical data through was frustrating. The difference now is night and day.”

Partnering with Fivetran allowed Sisense to focus on supporting and optimizing dashboards and analytics, while Fivetran focuses on supporting MindMax’s data connectors. Warendorf finds that the two teams work well together, and quickly resolve any overlapping issues. “Knowing that we have someone that is totally focused on keeping the data connectors working through this partnership is a huge benefit,” she says.

Benefits of a Modern Data Stack

The Sisense-Fivetran data stack has delivered a number of benefits for MindMax, including:

  • Multiple marketing automation connectors and Facebook Ad account connectors. MindMax can use different instances on Pardot and Facebook Ads for each customer, keeping the data siloed and enabling it to pull in data for specific customers. Currently, Warendorf is doing internal data analysis for four clients with Facebook Ad accounts. Two of the clients have access to dashboards with simple real-time analysis.
  • Legitimate BI. Before Sisense, MindMax didn’t have any BI and wasn’t producing reports. Now about half of the staff are actively using Sisense reporting capabilities across multiple departments, including marketing and project managers.
  • Saved time. Warendorf estimates that Fivetran has freed up at least 50% of her time.
  • The ability to add new sources quickly and easily. In addition to Salesforce, Google Analytics and Pardot, the company is adding social platforms, marketing automation systems and student information systems. Colleges and universities tend to have different software systems and technologies, so being able to connect student information APIs provides a huge advantage.
  • Up-to-date connectors. “Social media channels change pretty regularly and it's great to have a resource dedicated to understanding those changes, making the changes to the API, and ensuring our data comes in,” DiScipio says. “It’s really valuable.”

A Positive Cultural Shift

MindMax is definitely making progress towards adopting a data-driven culture. “We use our data multiple times a day to make decisions for clients, such as modifying marketing spend and modifying audiences we target,” DiScipio says.

Warendorf adds that she's been able to create dashboards for her clients that focus on the metrics that drive their businesses, such as enrollments and the application funnel, which helps them become more data-driven as well.

About Fivetran: Our standardized technology delivers data into your warehouse the right way. Shaped by the real-world needs of data analysts, Fivetran technology supports agile analytics, enabling data-backed decisions across organizations. After a five-minute setup, Fivetran replicates all your applications, databases, events and files into a high-performance data warehouse. Our standardized cloud pipelines are fully managed and zero-maintenance.

About BigQuery: BigQuery is Google’s serverless and highly scalable enterprise data warehouse, designed to make your data analysts productive at an unmatched price-performance.

About Sisense: The Sisense business analytics platform empowers developers, data engineers, and business analysts to easily simplify complex data and transform it into powerful analytics apps.

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