Sedex and OpenCredo use Google Compute Engine to Sustain a World-Class CSR Database

Background

Sustainability has become an accepted part of the corporate management paradigm. Practices in areas like social justice, environmental protection, and accountability are now par for the course for large organizations.

Just as corporations need data to track profit growth, data is also needed to track corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals and support ethical auditing requests. Enter Sedex, a nonprofit membership organization that manages an ethical-data exchange for 16,000 companies and 37,000 suppliers operating across the globe. With this exchange, Sedex helps reduce the burden on suppliers who are repeatedly asked to meet sustainability requests.

Challenge

Sedex’s existing system faced some fundamental problems due to the skyrocketing number of suppliers using its data exchange. Built on a third party platform (BI reporting applications running on Rackspace), the system was inflexible and difficult to amend, and as a result was unable to cope with the volume of data it needed to process.

Sedex also had ambitions to upgrade its data platform to include additional sources of information and provide greater insights to its clients. For example, Sedex wanted to share relevant news articles with suppliers, and at the same time improve its ability to scrutinize these multiple sources of data to better analyze trends.

“Since we’re a data platform provider, it’s essential that we’re perceived as best in class for CSR and compliance. Average will never be good enough,” said José Copovi-King, Director of Products and Services at Sedex. “We wanted to move to the next level and offer Big Data services.”

Solution

Sedex asked OpenCredo to devise and create a data-processing platform that used a range of open source technologies and was capable of meeting all of its requirements: managing, storing, analyzing and disseminating huge volumes of data while being failure resilient.

OpenCredo’s solution combined Google Compute Engine, Cloud Load Balances, and Cloud DNS with Hortonworks Data Platform, a completely open-source technology. Google Cloud Platform offered the most cost-effective option, with more reliability and more broadband per pound. And Hortonworks made it easy to scale the data storage and computation needs to address increasing demands.

In addition, to meet the expected level of performance for self-service data analysis and reporting by non-development users, a pipeline was built using Hive. Results of the Hive queries would be stored in a PostgreSQL database for access by existing reporting technologies.

During a four-month period of collaboration, OpenCredo and Sedex refined and amended system requirements using Agile software development methods. OpenCredo’s consultants also engaged in a skills- transfer process, empowering Sedex employees to operate the reporting system independently.opencredo-sedex-image

Results

Sedex now possesses a sophisticated, industry leading data processing platform, one that can evolve to meet the company’s requirements over time. Sedex is able to manage multiple datasets, design its own reports and handle made to order requests on demand. These capabilities have given the company a clear competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The new Sedex solution can quickly produce (within milliseconds) complex yet digestible reports that compare data from a variety of sources, such as audit reports and self-assessment forms. Similar reports would have taken hours to produce previously, if they were possible at all. Overall, Sedex has experienced a 40% cost savings over their previous system. sedexsaves-image

“We have the ability to produce large data sets very quickly and there are huge retailers in the U.S. who could very well become clients just because of that,” said José Copovi-King. “This is a huge step change for retailers and we’re now out in front of the competition in the CSR environment.”

Industry leaders

The new Sedex solution can quickly produce complex reports and compare data from a variety of sources, such as audit reports and self-assessment forms. Reports of this nature would have taken hours to produce previously, or may not have been possible at all. The new platform can, however, generate this data in a digestible format within milliseconds.

“We have the ability to produce large data sets very quickly and there are huge retailers in the US who could very well become clients just because of that,” said José. “We have been running workshops to show off the new capabilities and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. This is a huge step change for retailers and we are now out in front of the competition in the CSR environment.”

Flexible reporting

The flexibility of the system allows Sedex to fulfil bespoke requests at short notice and has increased the value of the organisation to its clients. Sedex can also produce industry reports, which hold their own commercial worth.

“If a client has a specific requirement, we can rapidly meet that demand,” said José. “We had a request for a data security questionnaire and were able to carry this out very quickly by collecting data online. We can also design and sell our own reports – if we want to produce trend reports or benchmark companies against their peers we can now do so.”

Transparent development

Sedex ensured that the platform fulfilled all its requirements by closely working with OpenCredo using Agile development methods. This approach allowed Sedex to constantly review and make amendments as the criteria changed.

“With OpenCredo we had complete confidence in the development process,” said José. “We knew on a day to day basis how the project was performing – the management of reporting was very impressive and it has been a pleasure to work with them. If we needed to amend the criteria, it was clear what the impact would be and OpenCredo was able to accommodate that without any drama. They do Agile very, very well.”