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CUSTOMER STORY

Finding new ways to deliver moments of goodness

$Millions

Saved in cost avoidance and risk mitigation by enhancing data capabilities

Thousands

Hours saved from automating previously manual reports

2,000+

Empowered business and IT users across multiple departments

Hershey
PLATFORM USE CASE: Delta Lake,Databricks SQL
CLOUD: Azure
Databricks Advancing Analytics

“Our business leaders are not here to be data engineers and database engineers on top of their day jobs. Our Commercial Data Store, built on Databricks, puts near-real-time data at their fingertips so they can focus on driving our continued growth.”

— Jordan Donmoyer, Manager, Customer Data Solutions, Hershey

More than a century ago, The Hershey Company made chocolate accessible to everyone. Today, the company continues to find new ways to delight consumers. To gather and analyze more of the data they need to stay in front of changing human behavior, Hershey recently planned to build a data store to broaden access to data for all stakeholders across the company. Hershey chose Databricks Data Intelligence Platform as the foundation of their data store and implemented it with the assistance of Advancing Analytics. After replacing manually developed spreadsheets with fully automated dashboards, Hershey now automatically receives complete, accurate data feeds from their largest retail customer. Across Hershey, business leaders are embracing analytics and partnering with the data team to uncover insights that will help Hershey extend their industry leadership.

Disconnected data sources prevent a single version of the truth

Since their founding in 1894, Hershey has worked to provide people with moments of goodness in the form of delicious sweets and snacks. Hershey reached $10 billion in revenue in 2022 for the first time ever, but that hasn’t stopped the snacking powerhouse from thinking about growth. The company aims to continue delivering more of what consumers want — but needed a clear, consistent view of their data to make decisions faster and stay ahead of market changes.

“Until recently, we had many slow, disconnected, tribal data resources,” explained Chad Doremus, Senior Manager of Commercial Data Strategy at Hershey. “People were using external hard drives and email to try to collaborate and stitch together reports. They were beefing up their laptops to speed up data processing. The same data sets were living in multiple places, which meant there were multiple versions of the truth.”

Seeking to overcome these challenges and power data-driven decision-making, Hershey announced plans to build the Commercial Data Store (CDS) — a single source of truth for commercial data for the entire company. Hershey aimed to speed up the process of delivering insights to executives and data and analytics to their field sales team.

“When it comes to analysis, real-time insights are key for Hershey,” said Doremus. “It’s hard for our field sales staff to act on a product that has been out of stock for a week. The key for us is to be able to bring different data sets together so that people can easily share and analyze them. That was hard for us to do when our data platforms and reporting were mainly managed by third-party vendors.”

Adding to the complexity of Hershey’s data environment, the company maintained separate data platforms to handle data for major retail customers.

Databricks powers a single source of commercial data

Hershey’s first task was to find a technology platform that could support CDS. The company explored several options, including a cloud data warehouse, but decided to go with the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform. “We always try to innovate and be open to new technology at Hershey,” said Jordan Donmoyer, Manager, Customer Data Solutions, at Hershey. “If it’s a change that will significantly impact the way we do business, we’ll go for it. Databricks Data Intelligence Platform was the right solution for our needs.”

Hershey also sought the right technology partner to support their CDS project. Based on recommendations from third-party vendors, the company engaged Advancing Analytics to build the foundation of their CDS platform based on Databricks technology. Advancing Analytics used their Hydr8 framework to dramatically reduce the time needed to get CDS up and running, launching a platform that uses Databricks for ETL and data processing and serves data through Databricks SQL.

“By working with Advancing Analytics, we not only connected with the new retailer platform, but also provided our business team with more value than they had had before,” said Donmoyer. “Until that point, we had been at a standstill with data with our largest retailer. The CDS platform, built on Databricks technology, sets us up for the future and has been transformational for our company. We’ve arrived at the next level of how to model data, serve it up and make it useable for the business team.”

“For myself and the rest of the Advancing Analytics team, partnering with Hershey on such a complex and critical project to deliver one of the first successful integrations of a major retailer’s data product via a Databricks-driven lakehouse solution has been a great experience, unlocking incredible value for Hershey’s business,” said Zach Stagers, Principal Consultant at Advancing Analytics.

All of Hershey’s commercial data reporting is now based on Databricks SQL and runs through Tableau and Power BI. Rather than serving up canned spreadsheet reports, Hershey is now empowering their decision-makers to visualize and easily interact with data.

“Our C-suite and field sales team were used to getting multiple emails with manually created spreadsheets full of data,” explained Doremus. “Now they can see a top-line report that includes various data sets, enriched with other internal Hershey data, to get the KPIs that are important to them. Our data scientists now have workspaces that let them connect directly to data sources. Databricks has made it easy for us to build live connections and data models behind the scenes so that everyone can get the data they need without manual work.”

Building a data culture inspires ongoing innovation

Every Monday morning, Hershey’s senior leadership team receives a single executive summary report in a Power BI dashboard. From there, they can quickly get a detailed overview of business performance.

“Executives used to receive 14 different spreadsheets with 20 different tabs per spreadsheet,” recalled Donmoyer. “Today, they can simply use filters in the dashboard to get the exact angles and views they need. This timely view of our business wouldn’t have been possible without the scalability of Databricks.”

Hershey has also eliminated the need to compile their retailer partner data multiple times. Previously, when Hershey scraped data, the company often discovered the data was incomplete and had to wait for an update before recompiling it. Today, Hershey uses Databricks to retrieve accurate, up-to-date data from the retailer as early as and consistently around 8:30 AM Central Time every day. The company is now exploring ways to establish similar views of data for their other major retailer partners.

“All the work we did to pull our retail partner’s data into Databricks will pay off as we work with other customers because we’re now figuring out how to see the same data elements for other major retailers,” explained Doremus. “As we work, we’re eliminating spreadsheet-based reports full of macros and replacing them with dashboard views that are accessible to all stakeholders without intervention from IT or the data team.”

By bringing direct, near-real-time feeds into CDS, Hershey has put timely data at the fingertips of everyone who needs it. Suddenly, stakeholders can see more insights with less effort. This is critical to Hershey’s goal of continuing to leverage data as a competitive advantage against their competition.

“It used to be a hassle for our decision-makers to get the data they needed,” Donmoyer recalled. “With Databricks, we’ve taken a lot of manual effort off their plates so they can focus on driving the business. Our category management leaders are now coming to us asking us for new ways to unlock insights from the data, and we’re strategizing together on ways to keep Hershey growing.”

Doremus agrees that building CDS on Databricks has changed the data culture at Hershey. “Our business partners are much more data literate than they were just months ago,” he concluded. “Databricks Data + AI Summit is coming up and I have business partners telling me they would love to attend. Connecting the business and technical sides of our company is making Hershey stronger and more innovative for the long run. I’m looking forward to having our leaders get new ideas at conferences — now that we have the right platform to act on them. There’s no longer a need to sign large contracts to do proofs of concept with outside technology vendors. We now have all the capabilities we need in-house.”