Supporting Rapid Growth with Agile Analytics
Supporting Rapid Growth with Agile Analytics
Service Express is a leader in delivering flexible support solutions for on-site data center maintenance. For 25 years, they’ve been helping IT professionals reduce costs for post-warranty support solutions with top-of-the-line, user-friendly service.
Service Express has a long track record of double-digit growth and recently experienced a sharp increase in its employee count. A major acquisition in 2017 pushed the company above $100 million in annual revenue. As their pace of growth continued to speed up, they needed to find data solutions that could scale with that growth and turned to Periscope Data for their analytics platform to help further expand their business.
The Right Platform for the Job
Until early 2017, Service Express had a one-person analytics department. BI Analyst Chad Botbyl was a one-stop shop for analytics across the company, using an internal financing budgeting software and Excel to handle basic reporting functions. Since then, they’ve made a push to ramp up analytics efforts throughout the organization to mirror the company’s growth, hiring additional analysts and seeking out solutions to manage and understand data.
“We had buy-in from our senior leadership to start using whatever tools were necessary to empower our employees to make the best decisions possible,” said Botbyl. “We recognized that with Periscope Data, we’d have a good platform to manage our analytics quickly and accurately, no matter how big we got.”
With the rollout of Periscope Data and its integration with Amazon Web Services beginning in the summer of 2017, Service Express found that they had a quicker, more agile approach to BI that fueled more interest across the company to be data-driven. That led to a near-constant stream of requests to build more dashboards to support different business initiatives.
“Employee feedback was overwhelmingly positive after the rollout. For us to finally get a visualization tool with a direct link to our database, and to be able to work in Python or R or whatever we needed to for analysis and visualize it immediately, that saves us immensely,” said Jim Carson, Senior Business Intelligence Analyst at Service Express. “It just works. It’s slick and quick and the interface is very easy to work with.”
"We knew that with Periscope Data, we’d have a good platform to manage our analytics quickly and accurately, no matter how big we got.”
The first major project that needed attention was departmental scorecards. With a wide range of key performance indicators in the scorecards companywide, Service Express needed a better way to track how all their metrics were performing over time. Tracking with its financial software had been far too challenging and awkward to do successfully.
“If we had to upgrade our scorecards with our previous software, it would have taken 10 times as long to do it correctly,” said Carson. “Now, with Periscope Data, the development has been way quicker. And it’s not just this one-time savings – it's a continuous, incremental improvement that will keep adding up and saving us time and effort as we continue iterating.”
Today, the company is pulling data from a wide variety of sources and tools, including Salesforce Analytics Studio for its sales team, R for predictive and statistical modeling work, and SQL Server Reporting Studio for some presentation functions. And Periscope Data serves as its single source of truth, bringing all that information together in one common location to ensure the data is accurate and up-to-date.
“It’s just so easy for us to engineer things with Periscope’s powerful back-end,” says Carson. “When we drop in a query, the data instantly appears when you run it and then you just format your visualizations. The connections are already there, so there are no middle steps between the data and getting an insightful output.”
"With our previous software, it would have taken 10 times as long to do it correctly. Now, with Periscope Data, the development has been way quicker. And it’s not just this one-time savings – it’s a continuous, incremental improvement that will keep adding up and saving us time and effort as we continue iterating.”
Building Predictive Models with R
Recently, Botbyl’s team was looking to build a predictive analytics model that would help them determine when customers were going to remove equipment off their coverage contracts. Service Express’ core business is restoring uptime to down servers, storage and network equipment. Over time, customers regularly add and remove equipment from their contracts. Equipment removals are called “deletions” and can often come as a surprise.
“We anticipate getting revenue for this equipment for anywhere from 12 to 36 months in the future, but for any number of reasons, customers may decide to remove equipment from our contract, which can negatively impact our projections for future income,” said Carson. “We really needed a way to predict when those deletions were going to happen.”
To tackle this problem, the team started with mathematical work in R, then created the data output work in Periscope Data. From there, they were able to create a slew of visualizations within Periscope Data to illustrate the predictive model and tell the story of how deletions would change over time. The leadership team now has access to that dashboard to understand the data in real-time and see how business changes impact deletions.
With the recent addition of R and Python to Periscope’s Unified Data Platform, Carson says they are excited to dramatically simplify that workflow.
“Moving forward, that will just cut out the need to have two separate development environments,” says Carson. “Instead of creating something in R and then replicating it to get into my database, doing that all directly in Periscope Data will be great.”
Simple Rollout & Expansion
Periscope Data offered another key advantage that made a world of difference for the Service Express team: the availability of great help resources to get the team up to speed. From the product guides on PeriscopeData.com to the reliable chat support, Service Express’s data team knows they are able to ask questions and get assistance in real-time.
“Many analytics solutions we’ve seen really require you to do some digging, and there’s no one there to give you a quick answer,” said Botbyl. “That’s not the case with Periscope – the support team is always available if we have an issue, and answers have been instantaneous, friendly and helpful. That’s huge for us as we ramp up on a new piece of software.”
Moving forward, the Service Express data team expects to expand its use of Periscope Data to share externally with its customers.
“Once we got into it, we saw how easy it was for us to work and that led us to imagine way more possibilities,” says Carson. “We can embed these charts in our website, we can give our customers access to them. I expect that a year from now we’ll be using Periscope Data for all sorts of reasons internally and externally.”