Opower Unlocks Customer Engagement with Big Data Discovery

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Last week, Cloudera participated in a webinar with Opower and Platfora to talk about how Opower uses big data discovery to unlock its customer engagement. Today, we are happy to have Brian Denker, Senior Director, Field Services at Platfora to talk to us more in depth about how Platfora enables fast and easy big data discovery on Cloudera.


“Describe your customer to me.” Every organization should be able to answer this question with ease. They should be able to talk at length about their various customer segments, their core attributes, and what factors influence them to make a purchase decision. But it’s challenging to gather all these customer insights when you’re struggling to make sense of the data that is coming from disparate sources i.e. web data, click stream data, etc.

This challenge has made it difficult for organizations to embrace a data-driven model where employees can extract insights from their data in Hadoop to create a holistic picture of their customer segments, their buying patterns, and unique engagement rates. That said, with the right tools and expertise, data can easily be turned into an asset. Our customer, Opower were able to leverage its data in Hadoop and quickly and easily unlock customer engagement insights using Cloudera and Platfora. Opower’s engagement platform and solution suite enables utility companies to involve their customers in programs that support energy efficiency goals, smart grid and new rate structures, and brand loyalty at a lower cost of service. My recent webinar with Cloudera and Opower discusses how Opower empowers its non-technical engagement team to filter customer data and uncover core insights that have helped its clients drive better business decisions.

Opower’s success is based on the advent of a new trend called Data Discovery. Sean Anderson, the Product Marketing expert for IT Solutions at Cloudera, explained in the webinar that “Modern Data Discovery requires a new approach to building an analytic database in order to deliver on the promise of self-service BI and advanced analytics.” This trend, which I call Big Data Discovery, is the result of a fusion of methods which include data discovery and behavioral analysis on big data. Big Data Discovery makes data at scale accessible, analysis iterative, and is guided by machine learning and advanced analytics – all pieces that Platfora provides for its data-driven customers like Opower.

Data discovery disrupts the former processes around extracting and analyzing data insights. In the past, organizations depended on siloed self-service BI tools combined with a reliance on their data scientists to perform advanced analytics and model building in order to generate a customer insight. But the limited tooling capabilities, constrained resources, scarce availability of data scientists, and the restricted access to data makes these traditional solutions challenging to use in this agile world. Additionally, by the time the data extraction processes is completed, organizations are looking at stale data and outdated insights, which leads to poor decision-making within the company.   

Cloudera Enterprise has transformed the data access experience by offering a unified data access platform that has all an organization’s unlimited data in one place. In fact, the enterprise platform has made it easy for Opower to access its data quickly while still securely managing the data to avoid a breach of its clients’ sensitive customer data. Opower has embraced Cloudera’s data architecture to pave the path for Data Discovery. Cloudera Impala’s robust analytics database for Hadoop along with Cloudera Search has enabled Opower to engage in an exploratory analysis of structured and unstructured data. The result: Opower extracts rich insights from its data in Hadoop to understand customer patterns and relationships all within a single data hub architecture.

Beyond just extracting these insights, Opower has leveraged Platfora to answer questions like: “How much of my client’s customer’s usage is coming from heating or cooling or lighting?” or “What does the load shape look like?” Platfora sits on top of Cloudera’s platform to facilitate fast and iterative insights from the raw data in Hadoop. Opower uses Platfora’s integration with Spark and its advanced analytics to dive into further inspection of its clients’ customer data. Opower combines the web activity with other datasets like meter usage to produce a robust customer profile. With Platfora’s modern data prep technology, Opower samples tens of thousands of records of its clients’ customer data behind the scenes and in real-time, provides them with visual interpretations of the data. Opower’s line of business users extract these details using Platfora’s analysis templates and vizboards to uncover insights in minutes. As a result, Opower has done analysis like splitting its data by owners versus renters and comparing the difference in frequency of website visits for each segment. Knowing this information is crucial, because it enables Opower to tell its clients which customer segments to target.

Platfora facilitates Opower’s big data discovery by helping the company save time on data preparation and spend more time on customer segment analysis for its clients with ease and limited overhead.

With Platfora and Cloudera, Opower is able to dive deep into its data and ask iterative questions to identify and act upon customer data patterns and insights. The webinar that I did, highlights additional details around how Opower unlocks its customer engagement with big data discovery. Learn how your organization can achieve this kind of success by watching the webinar.


Brian Denker, Senior Director, Field Services, Platfora

Brian has spent almost his entire career immersed in information technology and entrepreneurial business. Brian founded Professional Innovations in 2001, and in 2008 helped lead the strategic acquisition by Greenplum. EMC went on to acquire Greenplum in 2010, where Brian built the channel delivery team of global partners delivering 20M in revenue and focusing on Big Data, Analytics and Hadoop. Brian is a graduate of Iowa State University.


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