Vpon accesses big data 120 times faster with Tableau

Vpon provides big data processing and analysis capabilities, along with insights services to marketers. Using their proprietary technology, the company specializes in helping customers with targeted advertising programs for mobile devices.

Vpon’s mobile advertising platform is growing rapidly, with over 450 million unique devices in Asia. The company’s client base includes over 1,500 renowned brands like Citibank, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's. Currently Vpon operates in over 750 cities across mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.

Vpon recently deployed Tableau, allowing the team to significantly quicken speed to insights, especially when working with large datasets. With Tableau, the team is also able to visually present their analysis and allow end users to interact with the information and find answers to their own questions.

Up to six weeks to data insight

Meiyen Chen, PhD, is a senior data scientist at Vpon. Meiyen and her team and engineers work with more than 1 billion rows of data every day. In addition to a large amount of raw data stored in JSON format in Hadoop, her team looks at data stored in Google Analytics, Microsoft SQL Server, and more.

“We found that it required a long time whenever we needed to produce a quarterly report that required us to query three months’ worth of data directly from our Hadoop system,” Dr. Chen explained.

“The team actually aggregated and extracted part of the data, those that users commonly access for key metrics, in a Teradata data warehouse to quicken the process,” she added.

Also, they found additional challenges when presenting the reports to end users. She said, “We would place the analytical findings in Excel spreadsheets and send them across to end users. The problem was that end users would not be able to extract information from external datasets for comparison when they are accessing information in the spreadsheets. They would often come back to my team to clarify certain parts or make additional requests.”

Furthermore, some end users needed access to updated data insights while outside of the office. They were frustrated with trying to review Excel spreadsheets from a phone or tablet computer.

This process of extracting and analyzing the data, generating the reports and working with end users to resolve issues could easily take up to six weeks, according to Dr. Chen.

The team would receive more than 10 request tickets asking for ad hoc data queries each week.

We now get about 120 times improvement in time saving using Tableau compared to querying data directly from Hadoop.

Drag and drop analytics with no programming

Dr. Chen and her team set out to find a tool that could help enhance productivity. They tested several data analytics and visualization tools before deciding on Tableau.

“Except for Tableau, the other analytics tools require us to do quite a bit of coding or recoding, especially if we need interactive elements, and we did not want to invest too much time into programming,” she further commented.

“We also wanted a tool that provides varying application program interfaces (API) that allow us to connect to multiple data sources,” she added. The team was pleased to see that Tableau offered a number of APIs.

Additionally, Dr. Chen’s team wanted to deliver visual analytics to their end users. “End users can better make use of the information with data visualization. Tableau came across as a natural choice,” she also said.

120 times improvement in time-to-insights with Tableau

Currently, Dr. Chen’s team use Tableau Desktop to analyze data and create reports or visualizations using the software. Staff from business units like account servicing, finance, and business development situated across Taiwan access the reports to gain insights for their work. For instance, the account servicing team manages campaign operation data using Tableau and the business development team uses the software to visualize inventory data for display advertisement.

Tableau adoption has gone so smoothly in Taiwan that Dr. Chen plans to have her team extend their services to business units at Vpon offices in Hong Kong, China and Japan by end of the year.

Dr Chen commented: “Tableau has shortened our time to insights tremendously. We are able to aggregate the frequently asked questions into the Tableau dashboards so users can easily go to them and find their own answers. Our analysts can also synchronize their progress, update data automatically, and evaluate their own findings with the same dashboards. This has reduced the number of request tickets to the team by 80 percent, leaving us with more time for product development and other value-added services.”

“Our engineers also found that we now get about 120 times improvement in time saving using Tableau compared to querying data directly from Hadoop, which we often need to do, like when they are working on the quarterly reports,” she added.

Many of the end users at Vpon also access the Tableau dashboards using mobile devices such as tablets. This allows them to conveniently look up important information, even when on the road.

Bigger plans for big data analytics

The team’s data management platform has inspired a positive transformation in how staff at Vpon are leveraging and thinking about data. Dr. Chen is also looking forward to turning the internal success into product prototypes that may deliver similar benefits for Vpon clients.

Lastly, she shared that she plans to join a Tableau user group to share knowledge and learn about best practices from other users. “There are many big data communities out there where people get together to discuss algorithm, data infrastructure, or programming language for analyzing data, but a Tableau group would be different as the focus is on conveying data visually to the audience,” she concluded.