Japanese company becomes stronger through SI2.0 even within the new normal!
A resilient future of data utilization challenged by "Seven Central"
(From left to right)
Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd.
Izuru Nishimura, Deputy General Manager, Systems Headquarters
Takeshi Sato, System Planning Department, Systems Division
Cloud Ace, Inc.
Shota Kikuchi, General Manager, Consulting Department
Saori Yamauchi, System Development Department
Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "SEJ") and Cloud Ace, Inc. worked on the "Seven Central" project, which began as a start of a foundation to support SEJ's IT strategy for the medium to long term. For example, POS data has been scattered in various places until now, but the goal was to store it in real time on a single digital platform and utilize it effectively.
There were three principles in the implementation of this project:
- Data must be versatile.
- Immediacy of data.
- Is original to 7-Eleven
The versatility and immediacy of data is of course important, but the third thing we needed to pay particular attention to is the fact that the data was original to 7-Eleven.
The know-how that will become a major weapon in our company's business is something that only our company can understand and create because it is our own. This case study illustrates the big IT investment decisions and the challenge of the systems department to learn from the lessons of the past. This project is a form of system integration that symbolizes SI2.0 advocated by Cloud Ace. (Read more about SI2.0 here: https://www.cloud-ace.jp/lp/si2-0/ )
The global outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic occurred just as the project was getting into full swing and although we had originally planned to carry out the project in Japan, we proceeded with development remotely. In the process, SEJ took the lead in decision making as well as project policy and introduced communication tools such as Slack, so we were able to develop with high agility in this new normal era.
As a result, we realized that the new environment is an opportunity for Japanese companies to build a resilient future.
Main aspects of this case study
1. How the project came about and what happened next
We got together with existing vendors to share concepts, challenges, and goals, and brainstormed and discussed what would be best for Seven Central. The team discussed how to structure the data to achieve SEJ’s goals, and as a result, we decided to use BigQuery™, a data warehouse specialized for big data analysis, as a database that makes data processing on Google Cloud™ easy. We chose BigQuery as the most suitable solution for Seven Central because of its availability.
2. Tuning for processing huge amounts of data
Initially, the project was kicked off when it was uncertain whether SEJ would use an external service for this project. At the time of the project order, it was decided that Seven Central can connect to external services, so for the part related to analysis, we used BigQuery, and for the part that requires an instant response to use for external services, etc., Cloud Spanner. Using both services properly together was one of the main challenges of this project.
On the other hand, we also had a difficult time with this point, because in the storage part of Cloud Spanner, we received sales and inventory information for all stores at least once a minute, so we needed to process a huge amount of data in real time at each process. On the back side, we used Dataflow, a fully managed streaming data processing service, and Cloud Spanner, but due to the nature of the complexity of streaming processing, the amount of processing did not simply increase as the number of units increased, so we used the test data as a basis for tuning for cost optimization.
3. Unexpected implementation benefits
Seven Central's initial goal for real-time delivery was 30,000 stores, with the goal of getting the data from the customer to the point where they could buy, aggregate it, process it through the network, and have it processed on Google Cloud until each service received the information in less than an hour. After iterative improvements to each step of the process, the final stage of testing was completed in about 5 minutes (10 minutes at the latest), well ahead of our goal.
We were very surprised to see that the results were much faster than we had expected.
4. Changes in the direction of IT investment
Initially, we were going to use the system to make improvements in our normal operations and sales, but now we are trying to move on to strategic areas and business reform.
As a medium- to long-term direction for system investment, we would like to reinforce the system that enables us to develop with a high level of agility, to strengthen the systems department so that it does not depend too much on vendors, and to renew the core system.
For example, Seven VIEW is the system currently used for disaster countermeasures, but in the future we intend to use it as an integrated GIS system in our business areas as well.
5. Future Prospects
Member stores and store owners face a number of challenges at the moment. One of those challenges is getting the data ready to view and process, and we want to make sure it's both versatile and real-time for SEJ, and secure.
We get a lot of requests from various departments within the company to use Seven Central, and we want to grow this system based on principles.
There are also great expectations that the system will lead to improvements in existing operations and the development of new services that we couldn't think of because there was no such thing as Seven Central until now.
In the future, there are areas where we want to integrate various machine learning through AI, and we would like to use Google's technology in those areas as well. We also aim to cluster the data of 20,000 stores and use BigQuery to complete Seven Central.
We hope to incorporate the results of the data analysis into Google Maps™ and visualize the results of the data analysis, and then derive the results from the integration with media platforms such as YouTube™.
We hope that this project will serve as an example of the new normal for IT investment and the challenges facing the systems sector and inspire Japanese companies to take up the challenge.
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＊You can read more about this case study on the Google Cloud Japan Blog.
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