How RStudio allowed us to harness the full capabilities of our data science team and gain massive efficiencies

by Paul Ditterline / Manager of Data Science, Brown-Forman

The Problem

The Brown Forman Research and Development group within Global Production had a set of related problems. Repeated statistical requests were being asked that were very similar. Reports were being made at regular intervals that required hours of work to reproduce with traditional tools. Historical research and results were often hard to piece together from the resulting report and disconnected data sources. All of these tasks usually required the cleaning and combination of disparate data sources, which was time consuming work. Groups inside and outside of production facilities needed better and readily available analyses of their data to help guide their work. At the same time in finance, questions were being asked about our brands and competition that only large scale statistical modeling could answer, and attempting to continue this work in Excel just led to crashed computers and version control problems.

The tools inherent in RStudio allowed our statisticians and data scientists to turn into application developers and data engineers without learning any new languages or computer science skills.”

- Paul Ditterline, Brown-Forman

The Solution

R and RStudio were already being used by data scientists within these groups on their personal machines. Local examples of solutions were built to showcase what could be done with packages like Shiny and RMarkdown. This lead to the purchase of RStudio Connect and then RStudio Server Pro and Package Manager. Dplyr was used inside of hosted RMarkdown scripts to easily bring together data sources into reports or Shiny applications.

Why RStudio Professional Products?

Statisticians and Data Scientists were already used to using R to solve problems. The tools inherent in RStudio allowed them to turn into application developers and data engineers without having to learn any new languages or computer science skills. The ability to host markdown documents, ETL scripts and shiny applications on the same platform made the solution very attractive.

The Payoff

The suite of RStudio products allowed us to harness the full capabilities within our data science team. Manual solutions were programmed as self-updating reports or applications when possible. In short - we gained massive efficiency. Since the ability to create tools and solutions leveraged by other employees was expanded to the Data Science team with RStudio Connect, previously time consuming tasks such as ongoing reporting or requested routine statistical testing were now easy to use tools that a single person could update as needed. Scientists within R&D could now perform their own analysis without waiting for a statistician. This also allowed for monthly reporting to be automated via RMarkdown and shiny or flexdashboard applications, saving dozens of hours of work across multiple functions.

R&D especially benefited from Rmarkdown reports that provided answers to experimental tests along with the associated code in a single-source, transparent and reproducible format accessible from computers or mobile devices. Data Scientists were able to quickly put out content with the push-button publishing inherent to RStudio Connect, and future team members won’t have to piece together how the data, analysis, and results fit together.

After proving out RStudio Connect, RStudio Server Pro was purchased along with Package Manager. Previous financial models that were breaking with traditional methods were able to be scheduled and ran as needed, with proprietary functions being turned into a company package that was easy to deploy with Package Manager. We were able to create true SAAS solutions that were previously only available via third party contract that came with very high price tags.

About Brown-Forman

Founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, Brown-Forman Corporation has enriched the experience of life by responsibly building fine quality beverage alcohol brands.

His original brand, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, was America’s first bottled bourbon and remains one of Brown-Forman’s finest brands today. Geo. Garvin Brown IV, a descendant of the founder, is part of the 5th generation of Brown Family members engaged with Brown-Forman, a publicly traded, family-controlled company, and serves as the presiding Chairman of the Board.

Brown-Forman employs more than 4,600 people worldwide with about 1,300 located in Louisville. Brown-Forman, one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies and among the top 10 largest global spirits companies, sells its brands in countries around the world and has offices in cities across the globe. In all, Brown-Forman has more than 25 brands in its portfolio of wines and spirits.

RStudio provides open source and enterprise-ready professional software for data science teams using R and Python.