Menu Request Demo

Case Study: Canadian National Railway Company

The Canadian National Railway Company (CN), headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, serves Canada and the Midwestern and Southern United States. The company is the largest railway in Canada, in terms of both revenue and the physical size of its rail network. WhereScape talked with Business Intelligence Manager Alain Bond about the revamp of CN’s BI strategy to better and faster serve its vast and diverse user community.

Going from waterfall to agile is one thing, but using WhereScape’s rapid, iterative prototyping capabilities with agile is really a quantum leap forward - from evolutionary to revolutionary, if you will.  

Alain Bond, Business Intelligence Manager Canadian National Railway Company

CN recently reshaped its IT organization. What is new?

CN IT is currently in the midst of a huge transformation where the ultimate goal is to plan and build a solid foundation that will support the railway’s evolution. To keep pace with the company’s strategic agenda we are in the process of improving how we work as an IT function. As part of that, we redefined our BI Strategy, within which we strongly highlighted the need to have the ability to serve data much faster for analysis, ad-hoc or discovery purposes, without jeopardizing our long term enterprise informational ecosystem.

To aid in delivering its BI initiatives, CN introduced automated and iterative rapid prototyping capabilities from WhereScape within its agile methodology which enabled a revolutionary game changing approach to our development. Classic ETL development as we know it is dead.

What have been your experiences and results with WhereScape?

It is very difficult to define requirements early on – but with WhereScape we spec out requirements much quicker and earlier. In addition, our sandbox environment is very easy to evolve and change – our overall development lifecycle is managed more quickly overall and more efficiently.

In one of our initiatives, after using WhereScape RED for just one week, we had integrated multiple data sources, had Tableau working on top of it, and were showing business users a demo with actual CN data in a very iterative development approach. The ability to iterate – delivering close to what the business is looking for, delivering the findings and then iterate again, engages everybody in IT and the business and enables us to react very quickly and respond to the business exponentially faster.

During one working session, a business user asked for data that we found required a 10 million row abstract. Once we got that data extract, we provided the new iteration the next day – we just simply changed the model, hit the ‘big red’ button, and WhereScape regenerated the data structures and populated it. The ability to meet with the business and provide an update version for review the next day is a game changer for us and has helped us regain the trust of our business users as well as react very quickly and respond to changing business conditions. On one recent project, we had five cycles – or iterations – in one day. WhereScape RED enables us to get our sandbox and prototyping solutions right very early in the development process. ‘Good enough’ is not good enough anymore.

Final thoughts

The prototype and iterate approach using WhereScape’s data warehouse automation platform is working incredibly well at CN, dramatically aiding and increasing the delivery velocity and clarity in the early phases of our agile process. Our approach is to prototype first, get it right, then build the enterprise solution with the specs and documentation WhereScape provides. Going from waterfall to agile is one thing, but using WhereScape’s rapid, iterative prototyping capabilities with agile is really a quantum leap forward – from evolutionary to revolutionary, if you will. This more timely access to data will enable CN to further improve customer service and safety.


Alain Bond - Canadian National Railway Company