Life Time Fitness: Business Results with Hybrid Analytics

Hybrid AnalyticsWe’re seeing a big uptick in our on-premise customers who are moving to hybrid analytics deployments that mix on-premise and cloud. They’re seeking speed to value, moving from a world in which it can take six months to stand up a data warehouse to the one where they can use Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) to stand it up in a day. When IT organizations are working to meet demanding timelines, the cloud speed of deployment  advantage is a very useful tool to have.  At the same time, hybrid deployments make data management for complex for IT.

A great recent success in this regard is Life Time Fitness. Based near Minneapolis, Life Time has more than 118 fitness centers in the USA and Canada, most of them open 24 hours a day. In addition to the standard racks of weights and exercise machines, each club offers classes, personal training, nutrition services and more—a holistic approach to wellness.

Life Time focuses on helping members achieve their health goals, and that requires a high level of “customer intimacy” that only great data can provide. They want to know what services members are using, and how often, their goals, and more—all to make sure they offer the right mix of services so that each member can achieve maximum success.

The technological approach to customer intimacy

Like many organizations, Life Time has a mix of on-premise and cloud applications, but the company takes a cloud-first approach. Their starting point for any new technology effort is to look to the cloud first as they evaluate where it makes sense to deploy a new project.

As part of a more general modernization of their applications, they decided to rebuild their data warehouse—and to build the new one in the cloud usingMicrosoft Azure DB and Data Warehouse.

Informatica fit into their plans because as they moved various on-premise databases into a single cloud warehouse, they also had to take on the challenges of connecting, integrating and cleaning a wide variety of data, both in the cloud and on-premise. It can be a challenge to manage cloud and on-premise data, and Life Time needed a single management interface, one console to manage data wherever it resides. The benefits of smart, cloud-based planning have included:

  • The ability to handle the intricacies of matching member health and fitness activity to Life Time’s best recommendations and advice.
  • The ability to handle periodic surges of activity, such as when company-wide payroll processing peaks.
  • The ability to quickly stand up new applications.
  • The flexibility and scalability of the cloud environment.
  • The ability to use the same skills across a hybrid environment, saving time and increasing productivity.

The hybrid analytics future

My take on this model is that we’ll be seeing hybrid environments for the foreseeable future. Large organizations will generally take longer to move to cloud—and that means they’ll be hybrid environments during the transition. They may start by connecting up cloud applications such as Salesforce, Workday or Marketo. Next, they may start launching new projects—a database or data warehouse—in the cloud. Some organizations will make the transition from on-premise to cloud as they modernize to support a business initiative.

The point here is that you need to plan your data management carefully. Organizations are going to the cloud for the benefit of faster business value delivery. If they set up a lot of cloud applications or analytics without a plan to integrate them and manage data quality on an ongoing basis, they risk creating new (cloud) silos that will actually slow down delivery for data and new business initiatives.

In an upcoming post, I plan to talk more about a thoughtful approach to a data management architecture for hybrid analytics. There are ways to leverage the benefits of cloud without adding complexity that will haunt you later. But in the meantime, check out the Life Time Fitness case study.