The analytics team knew they could mine true business value from GameFly’s big data—if only they could find more time to analyze it.
After implementing a “magic solution” of Tableau Software and Cloudera Impala on a Hadoop data warehouse—the team is saving more than 100 hours each week and accelerating insight by weeks. Even better, the team’s near real-time, multichannel insight into customer behavior has led to strategic insights leading to improvements including a 5x increase in new membership trial participation.
“A pretty big time sink”
After a company-wide reorganization in February 2013, the GameFly analytics team found itself inundated with new reporting responsibilities.
“After the reorganization, our team became responsible for both analytics and reporting—we inherited all of the reporting from the rest of the company,” says Andy Calver, Director of Business Analytics for GameFly.
Calver estimates that the team spent 80 percent of its time—or 128 hours each week among the four-person team— simply running reports for users.
Most of those hours were spent on the mechanics of gathering data, with very little time left for analysis.
“We probably spent five percent of our time looking at the data before we had to send it off and deal with the next request,” he says.
The team began to investigate how to provide GameFly users with real-time insight into the company’s large volume of data. They envisioned a solution that also would allow them to spend more time analyzing the data for business advantages, rather than simply running queries and delivering reports.
They decided that their answer would be a data warehouse that would function as the company’s business intelligence repository. On top of that, they envisioned a data visualization tool that would connect directly to the data warehouse and provide fast, intuitive data visualizations directly to business users.
"It worked out of the box"
The analytics team decided on Cloudera distribution of Hadoop (CDH) for its data warehouse. The next step was to find the business intelligence solution to sit on top.
The team considered Tableau 7.0 but assumed it would not work with Hadoop. They were deep into testing other solutions when they gave Tableau a second look.
“We were working with another vendor and kept waiting for them to come up with a solution to connect to Hadoop,” says Calver. “On a whim, I went back to the website and found the new release—Tableau 8.0.”
This release included a number of new native connectors, including Cloudera Impala, Apache Hadoop, Hortonworks, and more. The team downloaded a free trial of Tableau Desktop.
“It worked right out of the box,” says Tom Jankowski, Software Engineer for Data Analytics at GameFly. He recalls that a technical question during the trial period turned into a positive experience for the team.
“We submitted a technical support ticket on the second day of our two-week trial period. And we had our answer within 24 hours. We thought, ‘Well, these guys are obviously going to support us going forward.’ That was a big, big part of our decision to choose Tableau,” says Jankowski.
The team watched free training videos from the website to learn how to use Tableau.
“It's really easy to get started. There were so many resources—you can learn the whole program within a week,” says Rich Ung, Analyst for Gamefly.
Today, all four members of the analytics team are authoring visualizations using Tableau Desktop. They use Tableau Server to publish their interactive data visualizations. The group uses both data extracts and live data connections for its visualizations.
“We are using Tableau with Hadoop via Impala to analyze hundreds of millions of records in a matter of seconds. It’s so fast,” says Calver.
“Using Tableau to connect Impala has allowed us to have live connections on big data sources. It’s cutting-edge,” Jankowski adds.
“That's the direction we believe everything is going to go. I would consider us early adopters of that kind of architecture,” says Calver.