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Activision partnered with TEKsystems® to improve the performance of its business intelligence (BI) reports using Oracle Exalytics.
Activision Blizzard Inc. is a worldwide online, personal computer, console, handheld and mobile game publisher of interactive entertainment. Through one of its three operating segments, Activision Publishing Inc., it is a leading international publisher of interactive software products and content. Activision has partnered with TEKsystems since 2010.
Business intelligence (BI) performance (i.e., accessing accurate analytics quickly) is becoming a targeted area of improvement for organizations’ business analysis groups. Companies who have made the investment in BI technology want to ensure they are benefiting from its true value, which hangs on the difference between just collecting data and actually utilizing it to make informed, real-time decisions.
When it comes to the holiday shopping season, pressure for BI performance increases greatly for gaming companies; it is the time of year when they make their most significant gains in revenue. It is critical for these companies to analyze the take of the game, identify areas of improvement, assess impact of promotional activities and take corrective measures, if necessary. In a high-pressure, short season, timeliness is everything.
Companies who want to make the most of their BI investment during the holiday shopping season want to ensure they have a fast‑reporting BI technology already in place. Having an established—and thoroughly adopted—BI environment will enable a company to better navigate the hectic season and make smart business decisions off of accurate, real-time information. This insight can help companies have a successful season and ultimately drive the bottom line.
Global interactive entertainment publisher Activision was actively using BI to collect and analyze information about its business. TEKsystems' Analytics Services practice had previously installed Oracle Demand Signal Repository (DSR) for monitoring the client’s various games, including the popular series Call of Duty®. The dashboard collected and centralized data from different retailers (i.e., gaming specialty stores, electronics stores, department stores), stored it in Oracle Database, and ran reports that showed who is buying their products, which products they are buying, and when and where they are making their purchases.
The company continued to grow—significantly. The sheer volume of data its systems were collecting was slowing the performance of the reports and the client wasn’t able to deliver with the speed their senior management wanted. They required live data—reports that didn’t take any longer than 15 seconds to retrieve; anything over 15 seconds was useless.
Activision saw room for improvement in the speed of its reports from its DecisionPoint System (DPS) and key DSR sales reports, including a critical weekly sales report and an operations expense report. The slowness of the reports was impacting the user adoption of the client’s Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) environment. If the client did not find a solution that could scale OBIEE with its growing data volume, then its users would be unable to leverage the data to impact business decisions, and thus its BI organization would not be meeting the growing company’s needs.
Activision knew it wanted to make improvements to its BI structure before the upcoming holiday season. They needed an overall better performing, faster BI infrastructure; but most importantly the client wanted to reduce the rendering time of its most critical reports—the top 100 DPS and top 10 DSR reports—to less than 15 seconds each for their top three levels.
Oracle recommended Oracle Exalytics and suggested bringing in TEKsystems to support the implementation. This technology was relatively new; in fact, Activision’s BI enhancement would be one of the earliest end-to-end Exalytics implementations for TEKsystems, as well as Oracle.
The unique features of Exalytics—an advanced product that has in-memory analytics, full-stake optimization and memory-optimized hardware—help companies leverage their BI organization to gain actionable insight from vast amounts of data. Information from Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), DPS and DSR would go through Oracle Exadata and into Exalytics.
We would create summaries on Exalytics for the top three levels of drill downs across product, customer and sales hierarchies. The weekly sales report would be tuned for all levels with a hybrid approach and would display results at all levels in less than 15 seconds. The top three level drill downs would come from aggregates and the lower levels from Exadata base tables. The top 10 DSR reports would be based on user tracking, and would include the weekly sales report. We would also validate and improve performance to the agreed level (i.e., all reports running under 15 seconds) for the top 100 DPS reports. We would also ensure all of the reports provide accurate data and perform at least to the current level (i.e., no increase in runtime); it was imperative that although more data points would be added, the total data load time was not extended.
We would migrate RPD, catalog, security (i.e., user access), custom write backs and customizations (e.g., skins, custom images, top 100 scripts, etc.) to Exalytics and upgrade them to the latest versions. We would use our proprietary BI accelerator, BI Assurer, to speed up migration testing.
Prior to the launch, we would perform user acceptance testing (UAT) to resolve any issues and ensure all 340 reports (including the 100 DPS user-created reports), DSR reports and 15 dashboards performed at the same speed or better. We would document any reporting issues and their resolution. Finally, we would provide three weeks of post-production user support to resolve any issues related to user-created reports.
Activision first asked us to complete a smaller engagement involving a four- to five-week commitment where we worked on their worst performing reports. We were able to enhance the speed of those reports to less than five seconds—improving speed by up to 600 percent. Based on these successful results, as well as our in-depth BI expertise, our relationship with Oracle and previous track record delivering high-quality results for Activision, they chose to partner with us to implement the full solution.
Over the six-month project, we improved the speed of several reports while also staying within budget and completing the project before the holiday season. Most of the reports started rendering significantly faster; reports that previously took several minutes started rendering in just a couple of seconds.
Here is an overview of key performance metrics:
|Overall performance of DPS reports||Increased speed by 90 percent|
|Overall performance of DSR reports||Increased speed by 100 percent|
|DSR reports with store-level reporting||Increased speed by 30 percent|
|Weekly sales dashboard||Decreased time to delivery from 15 minutes to 15 seconds|
|Operational expenses report||Decreased time to delivery from one minute to four seconds|
|Reports with heavy front-end calculations||Increased speed by 30 percent|
|General ledger analysis monthly report||Decreased time to delivery from two minutes to five seconds|
The significant improvement in its overall BI performance helped the Activision IT team gain buy-in from their business users and increase adoption of OBIEE. In addition to speed, we also achieved two other critical requirements for Activision:
We engineered a very robust system that will be able to accommodate Activision’s growing volume and changing needs. Exalytics leverages the latest in-memory analytics to provide high‑speed, real‑time reporting. Plus, it is optimized to work with Exadata, making use of an existing investment already made by Activision.
As this was one of the earliest end-to-end Exalytics projects for TEKsystems, we took a very strategic approach to the implementation. We first identified all of the critical tasks during the initial phase of the project. Then worked on bottlenecks (i.e., space constraints, new aggregate creation) and identified solutions or raised issues with Oracle on product-related issues. We used our BI Assurer to test over 8,000 reports after environment testing—speeding the testing time to only a week and a half. We also provided an alternate solution to the client to bypass critical issues and hence the end goal was met. Throughout the process we held regular reviews with key client stakeholders and provided clear technical and functional documentation of every stage of the implementation.
Satisfied with our performance, Activision decided to extend the project to load online digital sales data to DSR as well as to Oracle Retail Customer Analytics using Big Data techniques.