Update: “Your Data Team Should Be Your Company's Conscience” — Forbes Technology Council
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ezCater

Feeding the Need for Instant Data Access

ezCater

Feeding the Need for Instant Data Access

Employees
Industry
Technology
Customer Since
2016
Case Studies

ezCater is an online marketplace that connects business people with 62,000+ catering partners who provide and deliver food. As the only nationwide option for business catering, ezCater has doubled its business year-over-year for seven years in a row to meet the high demand for its services.  

  • Industry: Technology
  • Customer Since: 2016
  • Problem: As they searched for an analytics and BI provider, ezCater prioritized the ability to share data quickly with every decision maker, including non-technical users.  
  • Action: ezCater identified Periscope Data as the data platform with the smoothest process for quickly analyzing data and sharing it with key stakeholders around the company.
  • Solution: ezCater is a very data-driven company. A dedicated data team using SQL in Periscope Data drives the analysis process, and nearly the entire company engages with data via Periscope Data dashboards.

Supporting Company-Wide Data Insights

When Josh Zalinger arrived at ezCater in 2016, Periscope Data had just recently been implemented but was only being used actively by one marketing analyst. A year and a half later, he became one of the first members of the data team and the first data scientist. Since then, the company has skyrocketed from around 120 employees to more than 700 across multiple offices, and its data team has grown to eleven full-time analysts and data scientists. Periscope Data initially served as just a tool to measure marketing data but has proven to be the best tool to support data analysis across every department.

“From sales to marketing to product to finance, Periscope is really impacting the entire company today,” said Zalinger. “We’re supporting the entire company to use data to drive all of the decisions that we’re making. If something seems off, we’re going to use Periscope to dig into the data and see exactly what’s going on there. And if something’s going really well, we’re going to do the same thing to analyze it deeply and see how we can take advantage of it further.”

For example, ezCater’s finance team tracks hiring projections in Periscope Data to map out future employee count and what the long-term costs will be. For ezCater’s customer success team, Periscope Data helps discover opportunities for their catering partners to be more successful, like decreasing order minimums or expanding the delivery radius to land more customers. 

“ezCater is incredibly transparent, and really anyone in the company can access all kinds of powerful data tools that we’ve built for them. The power users of Periscope are definitely the data team, in terms of building dashboards and advanced visualizations,” said Zalinger.“But there are plenty of other users across the company who modify existing charts or use Periscope’s filters to grab information.”

The ezCater data team reserves much of its time to work on large-scale projects like machine learning models or measuring causal impact of major marketing initiatives. But on a day-to-day basis, it also handles ad hoc requests. When a manager on any team wants to understand what actionable data is available on any topic, Zalinger’s team jumps into action building charts and dashboards to support anyone’s needs.

“One of the great things about Periscope is it just gets out of the way when I need to focus and just lets me work,”said Zalinger. “It’s fast and it’s easy. In real time in the middle of a meeting, I can write some quick SQL and the results are right there on the same screen. The speed and ease of sharing is just incredibly handy.”

Simplicity and Speed

Each week, ezCater’s data team leads an executive-tier meeting by walking through high-level dashboards about the overall health of the company and issues on the horizon. Periscope Data's ability to combine multiple data sources into one place means the data team can quickly get answers for executives, live in the meeting.

“We start by reviewing high-level dashboards in that meeting, and inevitably we’ll have specific questions like ‘Oh, that number is interesting, can you tell me more?’ and three seconds later, I have a more detailed dashboard up on the screen ready to go,” said Zalinger. “You can scroll through a dashboard with 60 charts on it and have them appear in real-time with the most recent data – that rapid iteration is incredibly helpful at every step of the process.”  

One of the most powerful features ezCater leverages in Periscope Data is SQL snippets, which lets users create a simple string of SQL that can be reused in as many charts as desired. Snippets are one of several features that minimize the number of steps needed to explore data in more depth.  

“I can really just dive right in,” said Zalinger. When I grab a set of data and select a bar chart, it’s instantly got the X and Y axes at the right scale with a good color scheme. I don’t have to spend 10 more minutes transforming it – I can finish getting the data and 30 seconds later be showing it to someone in a finished and polished form.”

Scaling Up with Snowflake

The Periscope Data and Snowflake combination definitely gives us the most speed. Running a query and having to wait an hour for the results isn’t helpful for anyone. That doesn’t keep your work flowing, but we’ve fixed that with Periscope Data and Snowflake.
Josh Zalinger, Data Scientist at ezCater

ezCater recently made a transition to pair Periscope Data analytics platform with a warehouse from Snowflake Computing. With Snowflake on board as their data warehouse, ezCater was able to separate compute and storage costs, then scale their deployment on demand of each.  

“Switching to Snowflake gave us a big advantage by letting us throw a lot of CPU power at major data problems without prematurely optimizing them,” said Zalinger. “That was really useful for us for handling the bigger, more difficult queries we’re running in Periscope.”

Zalinger says the transition to Snowflake has helped them more quickly process powerful queries.

“The Periscope and Snowflake combination definitely gives us the most speed,” said Zalinger. “Running a query and having to wait an hour for the results isn’t helpful for anyone. That doesn’t keep your work flowing, but we’ve fixed that with Periscope and Snowflake.”  

As ezCater’s rapid growth continues, its data team expects to continue scaling up. Zalinger’s data team is considering adding more data analysis tools, including Periscope’s Data Discovery functionality to scale data exploration efforts for non-technical users across the whole company, and Periscope’s R and Python integration.

“There’s always more demand for data and data specialists,” said Zalinger. “We just want to continue making sure every individual contributor, every customer service agent and every manager has access to properly measure their KPIs and goals and have all the data they need to succeed at their jobs.”