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Written by Mikkel Dengsøe in Case Study

Building reliable data with dbt and spreadsheets

Instabee created a culture of shared ownership with upstream teams and achieved 5 minute issues resolution times.

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About Instabee

Instabee operates a logistics network of storage locations and couriers across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany. They work with a large network of e-commerce partners and let customers pick up products they’ve ordered in one of the conveniently located Instabeees or get them delivered to their home.

Industry Data stack Company size
Logistics dbt (cloud), Tableau, Snowflake, Fivetran 3000+

Benefits from Synq

  • Assess severity and root cause of data issues directly in Slack
  • 5 minute issue resolution times for most issues
  • Errors routed to upstream operations team based on owner definitions

About the interviewee

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Paul is a Brit living in Stockholm. He’s the Head of Business Intelligence at Instabee and remains hands-on with day-day data challenges while also leading a large and growing Analytics team.

The challenge

Instabee is focused on growth through sustainability and are constantly on the lookout for ways to optimise their operations. Using data has proven to be one of the best ways to achieve that goal. Instabee has several business-critical data use cases such as using data science to optimise route planning, forecasting demands during peak times and providing the operations team with accurate and up-to-date dashboards.

Before using Synq, the data team found themselves in a constant squeeze with end-users too often discovering stale data in the core operations dashboards. Most of these could be traced back to issues coming from upstream sources owned by other teams.

“You sit so far downstream as a data team. Each time someone in the operations team makes an error in a spreadsheet we have to deal with it. This causes data to be stale or missing for our core dashboards too often which harms the trust in data across the company”

The data team at Instabee decided to use Synq as their end-end solution for data reliability to help them solve these problems.

“I especially like that we could be up and running in 15 minutes with the dbt cloud integration and that Synq’s interface is so intuitive and optimised for both analytics engineers and business-facing analysts”

The solution

With Synq, the Instabee team has achieved clarity of error messages and sped up their resolution work. They’re able to route issues directly to data producers to increase the shared ownership of data.

Assess root cause of issues directly in Slack

Instabee has invested in building a solid foundation of dbt tests to catch issues proactively. With Synq, the team gets contextual alerts in Slack with all the relevant information to prioritise what to fix. They can see if a recent code change has introduced an issue, what the severity is based on the estimated downstream impact, and get on-point error messages that help them take action. The Instabee team can triage and resolve all critical issues before they are discovered by end-users.

“The default dbt cloud Slack alerts didn’t work well for us. Each time we had a test failure, we had to open the dbt cloud interface and scroll through the logs to understand what the error was related to. With Synq alerts we get pointed to exactly what the problem is with verbose error messages, and can see an estimate of what the impact is and who may have caused it.”

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5 minute issue resolution times

Before using Synq, getting to the root cause of a data issue involved using multiple tools to get the full picture of what could have gone wrong. You’d have to inspect recent code changes in GitHub and traverse a lineage of hundreds of data models to find the most upstream error.

With Synq, the team can solve more than half of their data issues within 5 minutes of learning about them, and can often discover the root cause without leaving Slack.

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“I particularly like being able to jump straight from a Slack alert to the compiled SQL code that I can run in Snowflake to get the specific rows that failed a test. Combined with being able to see if any upstream data models had an error, I can narrow down my investigation a lot“

Errors routed to operations teams based on owner definitions

Synq helps the data team at Instabee create a culture of shared ownership of data quality with the operations team. The data team has tagged data sources owned by the operations team and alerts for issues on these sources are sent directly to a shared Slack channel.

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This enables the operations team to solve issues that are causing downstream errors faster, often without the data team needing to be involved. It has also created a culture shift where the operations team take greater responsibility for the data they own as they’re made aware of issues caused by their systems directly.

“We use Google Sheets to bring in data where systems are not integrated or do not exist. With Synq, we can automatically send relevant Slack alerts to both the data team and owners of the sheets. Every time we have an issue that’s caused by a sheet it goes directly to the correct slack channel and we’re able to solve it right there and then with the data producers.

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