Every company is becoming a data company. In Data-Powered Businesses, we dive into the ways that companies of all kinds are digitally transforming to make smarter data-driven decisions, monetize their data, and create companies that will thrive in our current era of Big Data.
Streamlining data management across high-volume transactions
Profectus is an international technology and services company that provides leading technologies for rebate and deal management, contract compliance and accounts payable audits. Founded 20 years ago and with offices in Australia, NZ, USA and The UK, their solutions are leveraged by 100 ASX listed companies, including Westpac and HSBC, Coca Cola Amatil, Vodafone, Coles, Kmart, JP Morgan, and Rio Tinto, just to name a few.
For Profectus, data is absolutely everything. From accounts payable data coming in as direct feeds from ERP finance systems, to hundreds of thousands of invoices Profectus’ solutions ingest on behalf of its customers, along with any agreement data that their customers have with their suppliers.
“We crunch enormous Accounts Payable data files, and thousands of rebate agreements, and invoices,” Profectus’ Chief Technology Officer, Mark Webster told attendees. “In the retail sector, for one of our biggest customers, we have 4TB of data that we crunch through every few months. That’s billions and billions of rows of data that we go through to find the different variances in order to find the best value for our customers.”
Part of Profectus’ suite of services is ensuring that every transaction is aligned with a particular deal. But Mark revealed that despite the data-rich services the company provides, a lot of teams still use Excel spreadsheets.
“These have their limitations due to their size and data sets,” he explained. “And when you become a large organization, spreadsheets just aren’t going to cut it for you anymore.”
According to Mark, Profectus found that on average, somewhere between 3.5-4 transactions per 10k transactions contained an error. This number may seem relatively insignificant, but when repeated across millions or even billions of transactions, these errors add up.
“With our solutions, we’re able to save millions of dollars for our clients, simply because we are able to find the details of these transactions buried deep in the data,” Mark explained. “And the reason why we’re able to do that is because we really pride ourselves on focusing on the detail and accuracy of our data analysis. We don’t use aggregate data, we don’t use rollups. We use full detail — and that’s where we find the full value.”
Leveraging smarter data tools to unlock deeper insights
Profectus does a lot of processing, with around 90 people in their office busy “crunching” through row by row of data. But with the company growing fast, the challenge is finding a better way to boost the productivity, efficiency, and accuracy of processing these vast volumes of data at scale.
“Our COO was wondering, how could we possibly bring on more customers and then try to grow the team?” Mark said. “If a customer signs up, well sales are doing their jobs properly. But as they bring all these extra customers on, who can service them? Our business is growing, but our cost base is growing with it, because we just have to hire more and more people to trawl through more and more spreadsheets — that can’t be the sustainable way to do it.”
Profectus began looking for technology to take over and find a solution to automate the process of extracting extremely large volumes of data.
“We wanted to have algorithms, ‘visualization stations’, that actually tease out the differences in the data in a lot more automated way, so that we’re not just throwing more and more human capital at it, but actually leveraging smarter technology,” he added. “Spreadsheets just die at a certain size, and communicating the results becomes extremely difficult.”
“Think about the resources taken for teams to carefully handcraft and curate large spreadsheets, then attach them into an email. Then the customer comes back with various edits and more attachments. Trying to merge all the edits and figure out which version is the right one just gets out of control. And this whole process just breaks down at scale.”
Discovering the “single source of truth” with Sisense
For Profectus, having a streamlined, automated online system, where there’s a single source of truth was their “holy grail” solution.
“We did a very thorough and rigorous examination of the BI space and we put all of the different platforms through the ringer, but Sisense came out as the leading BI solution on the market,” Mark said. “With Sisense, not only is the data stored safely and securely, but we can extract the full value from our data and we can get the consistent repeatable and scalable answers our business needs.
“We also are using embedded analytics, with a portal that our customers can log in to and see easily for a more unified customer experience — and Sisense allows us to do this far more easily.”
Importantly, it was the sheer scalable power of Sisense’s solution that Profectus found was unmatched in the market.
Unlocking data in Snowflake to deliver insights through Sisense
With a high-powered data warehouse in place, Profectus needed a tool to unlock data that answered critical business questions. Through a combined pairing of Sisense and Snowflake, the Profectus team is now able to unlock the data in Snowflake with datasets they provide, including CSVs, spreadsheets, and third-party API integrations. Snowflake’s speed supports the live connections, ensuring Profectus sees the freshest data in its warehouse whenever up-to-date metrics are needed.
“My team now relies on Sisense and Snowflake to simplify a variety of recurring data aggregation workflows, from reports to spend analysis. Anything that used to require manually aggregating and merging spreadsheets can be pulled out of Sisense.”
“As an example, we ran a representative data set that we had in our Snowflake data warehouse through a competing solution, but we killed the process at 20 minutes because that was already unacceptable both from a customer experience and cost perspective,” Mark explained. “With Sisense, we ran the same data set, and it processed the query within 20 seconds! That was our aha moment.”
“This sort of data efficiency gain is a big deal for us, because it helps us to achieve the scale we need to serve our customers and grow as an organization.”
The data-driven vision for the future
Moving forward, Profectus is excited to reap the benefits of its new “project Delta,” which involves leveraging Sisense’s solution as part of a revolutionary shift towards smarter data-driven decision making.
“Project Delta for us is all about leveraging the right technology solutions to instigate new and exciting change,” Mark explained. “We want to enable behavior change in our customers, and for our customers to be able to optimize their business decisions, transform the way they do business with their suppliers, and help them enjoy much greater value. We’re confidently shifting towards automating a lot of our processing, taking the problem away from all the 90 people who have to manually check line after line of data, and actually getting the computer to do the job.”
“Importantly, we’re putting the right visualizations online to solve our communications problems, so our customers, their suppliers, and our own analysts can all log into the same solution and look at the same source of data treatment. They can all actually see the same story at the same time consistently, with full version control and no errors.”
Ultimately, Profectus wasn’t just looking for a “software vendor,” but a technology and business partner to work together, to help bring these great solutions to market.
“This is where Sisense really shines for us, because they have very much the same vision that we have around how to unlock insights from data and then take powerful actions based on those insights,” Mark added. “Sisense has a very compelling vision, which fits perfectly with what we’re trying to achieve.”
David Huynh is a Customer Success Manager with Sisense. He holds a degree in Business Information Systems and has spent the last 9 years in a variety of fields including sales and project management. David is passionate about helping businesses leverage data and technology to succeed. When not in the office, he enjoys cooking, travelling, and working on cars.