Far EasTone empowers business users with data visualization software

Far EasTone Telecommunications is a leading telecommunication and digital application services provider in Taiwan. Established in 1997, FET currently employs more than 5,000 people. The company, which is well known for its innovation and adoption of cutting-edge technologies, serves both consumers and enterprise customers offering 2, 3, and 4G services, Wi-Fi and Wi-Max connection, as well as enterprise cloud services targeted at the business community.

FET recently adopted the rapid-fire business intelligence software Tableau to provide business users with fast and easy visual analytics. The company’s information technology (IT) department not only deployed the software to various business units, but also took on a consulting role to guide business users to the full potential of this dynamic visual analytic tool.

In addition to using Tableau with internal data, Bruce Hsiao visualizes publicly available data using Tableau Public.

Telecommunication in Taiwan

Taiwan has one of the most advanced telecommunication infrastructures in the Asia Pacific region. A high-technology center well known for its computer products, Taiwan has an extremely high mobile penetration rate of 125 percent and robust fixed-line telephone sector with 55 percent penetration. Its modern telecommunication network also features high broadband accessibility and lightning fast Internet connection speed.

Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) is one of the leading service providers operating in the competitive Taiwan telecommunication market. The company needs to continue to innovate and leverage technologies to keep ahead of the competition, and one of the ways it does this is through the use of big data.

The role of IT

FET staff used to have to raise a service request with the information technology (IT) department when they need to generate reports tapping on the data stored in the company’s data warehouse. They would indicate what data or information was required, and IT would extract the right datasets from the data warehouse—which has about 20 terabytes worth of data—using a programming language. IT would then deliver the findings in text files, and data analysis was usually done using simple spreadsheet software.

According to Bruce Hsiao, Manager of Information Technology, Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence at FET, the indirect approach of working through IT for any data access was tedious and time consuming. Although the company’s management was aware of the need for more business user ‘self service’, most of the users were not equipped with the programming skills required to access data directly.

Strategic Tableau deployment

Bruce, and his team of 16 data intelligence engineers including 3 dedicated Tableau experts, spent the last two years systematically deploying Tableau across FET. There are now 50 active Tableau users who use Tableau every day. Approximately 200 more access Tableau Server to view and interact with the reports using an Internet browser.

Tableau is now used in FET’s Call Center, Finance, Sales and Marketing, and other departments. Call Center staff uses the software to track call frequency and quality. It is used for financial analysis such as revenue and cost measurement in Finance. Sales and Marketing teams keep track of the performance of over 1,000 retail outlets and about 2,000 frontline staff with the software, generating performance reports for sales planning. Marketing uses it to gain insights into subscriber behavior, market trends, etc. to better understand customer preferences.

The success of the Tableau roll-out was not achieved overnight. Bruce’s team conducted more than 150 roadshows at various FET offices across Taiwan to help users familiarize with the software. This was an in-depth program that involved hands-on training and workshops. To date, about 500 users have gone through the training.

“IT departments need to drive Tableau implementation to make it successful in an enterprise environment,” commented Bruce, who oversees big data and data intelligence adoption at FET.

“IT needs to play an internal consultant role to make the deployment successful, and not just install the software and leave it to users to figure it out,” he continued.

Bruce added that it is important that IT be available when users need help. Instead of attending to analytics requests and generating reports, his team has now put the power of business intelligence into the hands of the business users. The team also mans an internal helpdesk so that users can reach them when they run into obstacles using the software.

Time from data to insights has dramatically shortened by about 50 to 60 percent using Tableau.

Analyzing big data

Bruce explained that datasets from the data warehouse are now available for data analysis in Tableau. The team regularly uses Tableau to access and analyze data stored in the data warehouse. One of the largest datasets that they have worked with had almost 500 million rows.

He believes that Tableau has brought incredible time savings to business users at FET. “Time from data to insights has dramatically shortened by about 50 to 60 percent using Tableau,” explained Bruce.

“Besides this, much of the savings is also in how users are presenting their reports in a visual business dashboard format that offers great interactivity. Users can now act on additional queries immediately and find new answers on the interactive dashboards in real-time, instead of going back to the datasets and generating a new report, which can mean making a new request with IT, like in the past.”

According to Bruce, users at FET are especially pleased with Tableau’s performance when responding to large amount of data. They also really appreciate how Tableau’s data blending capabilities allows them to easily work with data from multiples sources.

Additionally, users like how Tableau allows for the grouping of data, or combining several dimension members into a single member—which is very effective for grouping various data into a higher level category.

Tableau users at FET have also begun sharing reports on dashboards via Tableau Server. This allows authorized users to access and interact with information on the dashboards anytime, anywhere using mobile devices such as tablets.