Viet Thai International: Reducing time-to-insights by 60% with Holistics
How VTI keeps data consistent across all brands and helps business users create reports on their own, using Holistics data modeling layer and self-service capabilities.
About Viet Thai International
Since 1998, Viet Thai International JSC (VTI) has been on a mission to “bring the best of Vietnam to the world, and the best of the world to Vietnam”. One might not know about VTI as a brand, but almost everyone knows at least one of the brands that VTI owns like Highlands Coffee, Pho24, Aldo, or Hard Rock. No wonder VTI has been crowned one of the largest consumer marketing and multi-unit retail operators in Vietnam.
Holistics & Viet Thai Data Team at a regular sync-up meeting at Viet Thai Headquarters in District 2, HCMC.
The data challenge at a multi-brand corporate
Having various brands under the same roof poses a challenge to VTI: How to keep transactional data consistent and transparent across all brands up to the corporate level. As VTI operates in the fast-paced FMCG market, its leaders are always hungry for the most updated data to make timely decisions in response to market trends.
One of the biggest challenges in the early days was that VTI did not have a data team. The engineering team was in charge of building an internal reporting tool in the hope of answering all business questions. The process began with ad-hoc requests-and-answers between the business and engineering teams. As the number of requests and reports created quickly escalated, the engineering/data team found it increasingly challenging to meet deadlines, manage overlapping reports, and keep data consistent from reports to reports.
That’s why in 2018, VTI’s leadership decided to overhaul the entire data-handling process, starting with establishing a dedicated data team led by Hoa - Data Manager. The data team decided to adopt a new Business Intelligence tool that would allow them to fasten the process and centralize their data across different brands.
The company had considered other BI tools, including one that was trusted by thousands of corporations worldwide, but it ultimately landed on Holistics, mainly because of its data modeling layer as a single source of truth, self-service, and user management capabilities.
Before using Holistics, we had used a wide range of tools, even coding techniques to extract, transform, and visualize raw data to complete business reports. Nevertheless, thanks to Holistics, we are able to optimize ETL time and data modeling to finalize each report/dashboard to meet business requirements.
– Buu Gia, Data Engineer Team Leader
Moving towards a centralized source of truth
Switching from the old process to a new one has never been smooth sailing. After consistently comparing financial reports prepared manually by the finance team and that by Holistics, and seeing a perfect match in the numbers, the leadership team finally felt resolved to officially partner with Holistics.
Hoa took the first initiative to connect VTI’s data to Holistics, then created new data models to define and centralize all the business logic. She started making sales and revenue reports for the board of directors. Later on, she started training people from different departments (i.e., sales, marketing) and store managers to use Holistics to explore and analyze insights on their own.
I just need to build a few models, write descriptions, and people from different departments have been using them to build reports throughout the years without having to ask me or the IT team.
– Hoa, Data Manager
Now all the dashboards in VTI use the same data models, which means everyone is looking at the same results. So whenever there are unexpected changes in the numbers (compared to that of last year or month), the team can easily trace back to which channel of distribution was down, then which store and which product. The marketing team can respond almost immediately to push the numbers up via relevant campaigns.
Removing bottleneck at the IT team
Before Holistics, everyone must ask the IT team to build reports, and it was a pain in the neck. It typically took around 5 days for a single report to be created. The internal tool was not designed to cater to all departments’ needs because it had fixed templates. Consequently, when the requirements changed, the templates must change accordingly which took the engineering team a couple more weeks to finalize the reports. When the data were double-checked and turned out to be wrong, it could take another 7 days or up to 1 month for the IT team to fix and produce the final dashboard. At that time they had already missed the market trend.
The adoption of Holistics brought about a change in the internal workflow. Now members of the data team could build new dashboards or explore data from sharable links to answer their own questions. What traditionally took them a whole week of work now only takes less than 24 hours (2 days for complicated reports).
The drag-and-drop interface makes it a breeze for non-technical users to use Holistics without much training. Customer-facing executives can also access data via the web version at any time without the on-premise application. Meanwhile, the SQL-based data transformation gives the technical analysts familiarity and flexibility to manipulate their data.
Now anyone can create data transformation automatically and independently. If a person who created that transform resigns, anyone with basic SQL knowledge can take over and understand his work immediately.
– Hoa, Data Manager
Keeping data secure as the company scales
As the number of people having access to data increases, Hoa faces the challenge of managing which data a certain department can see, and what types of actions they can take with it. The scope of data access will narrow down from the leadership team to internal departments, then Area Manager, District Manager to Store Manager.
For example, a District Manager in District 1 can only view the data of all stores he manages in District 1, while an Area Manager can view the data of all stores in the Southern of Vietnam (including District 1 and other Districts). The leadership team, however, will need to see data of all the stores in Vietnam (including data of all regions) to have a bird eye’s view of what’s happening.
When the team was small, Hoa leveraged the shareable link feature to manage permission for each stakeholder. In particular, every department will have its own link with a dedicated password. This method worked effectively until her team scales up. As more people come and go, Hoa has to change passwords for many links every now and then (for fear of security issues) and update everyone again. The administration process ate up her time which otherwise could have been spent on training or analyzing dashboards.
A larger team required Hoa to change the approach to Holistics Row-level Permission. She can group the viewers to control how each user retrieves data when viewing or exploring data Holistics. With Users, Jobs Monitoring, and Activity Logs, she can easily manage how many users she created, how much data they can access, and what action they took with the reports/dashboards. There’s no need for passwords anymore.
With our previous traditional database, first I had to create user access to database schema (write or update), then I created tables and dimensions. Lastly, I had to grant different permissions for different engineers to access different databases of each brand. But now I can do that pretty easily in Holistics.
– Hoa, Data Manager
Future of data at VTI
In a mission to gain a competitive edge in the market, VTI is looking to leverage data more aggressively in the upcoming years. The team plans to leverage machine learning and compute vision to gain advantage in the market. They are also gathering geospatial data of the Southern region to figure out the most strategic place for their new business. This calls for advanced visualization capabilities, which Holistics has been working hard to improve.