Journey into analytics

Introduction

Thanks for stopping by! I am blogging to share my experiences with you on how i got started into analytics and hope it will give those inspire others to reach out and help others.

How did i get into analytics?

4 years ago while working as an senior analyst within a large insurer,  I was tasked with cutting SAS code to answer questions that business partners had. Why is my revenue ahead or behind budget, could it be due to the volume or price or mix of new business?

The trouble with this was that it took considerable effort and days to get answers to simple questions. I thought that there must be a better way so i went online and discovered that there was called Tableau.  For those new to Tableau, it is best described as a pivot table on steroids! Download it and give it a go. You can simply load data into the tool and then it draws fantastic looking graphs almost immediately.

Don’t take my word for it, go download the product and see how it works for yourself!

Having used Tableau with SAS for a few years, I came upon another tool called Alteryx.  One night , I came across an presentation by a BCG consultant at a Alteryx Inspire 2014 conference and it sparked my interest on how i could be using it within my company to help business users get to the answers they need faster.

For those new to Alteryx, It can be best described as a graphical drag and drop workflow that can be used to combine and pharse numerous data sources together in an easy to use way such that anyone can use it!

Alteryx is really a 3 in 1 product supporting data preparation, spatial analytics and predictive analytics and works fantastically well with Tableau.

Don’t try and do everything yourself!  Buy world class products that can make your analytics lives easier!

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Learnings from presenting at CPA Australia 

Last week I was invited by CPA Australia to a lunch presentation session to showcase analytics to  government organsiations. It was a fantastic session with many departments represented including Aust police, Health, Department of education and many more NSW government bodies.


The purpose was to facilitate discussion on how to best implement analytics to deliver business value.

My presentation can be found here  for anyone that wants to leverage it.

Some of the key challenges include the usual legacy systems but also most interestingly the challenge around people’s mind sets and defining the business problem. Often in analytics many BI managers are fixated on the latest and greatest technology that they forgot that the Tech is meant to serve a business purpose.

Framing the business problem and articulating the value of analytics can be one of the most important steps in leading an analytics team.

Another interesting point of discussion was the number of data scientists required in a team. A lot of people have over hired or under hired data scientists. To those new to data science it’s just a fancy title for applied statistics or maths or physics.

Ensure there is a good ratio of 3-4 business analysts to statisticians (data scientist)

The optimal ratio is really 3-4 business/ data analysts to 1 data scientist. Nearly 80% of a data scientist work is preparing a base table and not modelling and so it’s much more efficient to hire a cheaper resource to help with the task. More importantly than just hiring brute force numbers is to empower business analysts with the right tools like alteryx to help with not just the data portion but also the Spatial, predictive and optimisation parts.

Use best in class tools like Alteryx , Tableau and AWS to overcome technical challenges

Another common misnomer among people is that a data scientist needs to know R, python, Scala etc. in my view it’s more important to be able to work with the business and ask the right questions , framing the problem and then using alteryx to overcome the technical challenge.

This not only reduces time to deliver analytics but reduces key person risk when an analysts moves on the role. Recent developments in alteryx  including alteryx connect ( search and metadata repository) and alteryx promote ( productionising data science models ) have taken the product up a few levels to become an enterprise data science platform.

Start small iterative quickly

Another few interesting points included the need to start small iterate quickly and move away from writing those 100 page RFPs. After all if u really want to know how a product works u test drive it just like test driving a car. No one reads the technical specs and tries to compare each point, instead it’s better to actually try and product and form your own views.

Analytics can be game changing if leveraged correctly – Make sure Alteryx is pack of the technology stack

Organisations early on there analytics journey should also embrace visualisation and great to showcase analytics in this way to get  management  buyin. Later on in the analytic journey however we need to focus on use analytics to deliver game changing capabilities to the business. Just listening to the latest group of customers at Alteryx Inspire Europe reiterated this. Check it out below

https://www.alteryx.com/inspire-europe-2017-tracks

Listen and learn to Alteryx customer presentations

My favourite customer presentations are by Shell, bookmyshow and Asahi. The keynotes by Dean stocker and the product demos were incredible. Didn’t realise u could use alteryx to read in photos and hook up with Microsoft API for face recognition. This is game changing stuff from a business perspective as it can be applied to recognise customers and improve customer experience.

That’s all for now.. Stay tuned for my next instalment..

 

Visiting Alteryx HQ in Irvine California

During Libby’s recent visit to Australia, she invited me to visit Alteryx HQ in California.  I’ve always wanted to see what it was like at Alteryx HQ so I took time off our Disneyland trip to see Alteryx.

 Check out the photo below, the postcard says it all.  

Alteryx is more than a software product – it’s a community of staff and people driving change within their companies  delivering superior financial performance through the use of a modern analytics stack

Personally it was such an incredible experience and I wanted to share this with everyone.
The day began with a tour of the Alteryx office. It’s a beautiful open plan fun filled office with both founders and staff openly collaborating. This is perhaps one of the keys to Alteryx success. It also made me realise that the alteryx community and staff are part of a bigger global group contributing to driving change within their companies.

It’s like coming full circle – reading about Alteryx through BCG 3 years ago to actually deploying the product in over 3 companies and advocating for alteryx ; both small and large corporates can benefit from using alteryx’

‘Alteryx will be a big part of my personal and professional life and it’s my mission to empower and educate senior executives and companies on the potential of using Alteryx to drive improved financial performance’

A big thank you to Tatiana for hosting me at Alteryx HQ.

I also wanted to thank everyone at Alteryx  especially Libby and Dean for spending time with me at Alteryx HQ. Missed you Ned! Next time hope to make the trip to Boulder to see you. Personally It was an great way to share real life experience with Alteryx staff as the product is changing the way companies and entire industries operate.


Photo op with Dean and Libby


Get on the Alteryx bus – Literally and figuratively


Alteryx has a rich history spanning over 20 years. 



Alteryx user groups are gathering momentum across the world including the US, Australia, HK and APAC..



Coffee chat with Alteryx at HQ..



1. What a day is like in the life of an analyst using alteryx

– Meeting business leaders and managing team priorities 

– Using alteryx within teams to quickly deliver insight and value into the businesss. Leaders can no longer wait days, months and years before getting answers to basic questions.
2. How can companies embrace a data driven culture  and driving change.

– Bringing analysts from different silos if the business together as a community of practice.

-Showing experienced SQL analysts that using alteryx will expand their analytic capability to spatial, predictive and cognitive thereby future proofing their careers.

– Articulating the financial value of alteryx from a P&L perspective when used within companies.

3.  How do  the more recent alteryx acquisitions ( alteryx connect and yhat) potentially change the game for organisations using alteryx 

– Alteryx as a product has a rich history and is reknowned for data prep. Recent acquisitions extend the capability to becoming an enterprise platform with data governance built in as well as productionising of analytic models.

4. What the challenges relate to articulating the benefits of alteryx? While most analysts report productivity improvements in reducing time to insight ( time savings of days to minutes ), it is equally important to frame alteryx within organisations from a P&L perspective ( eg: Rev uplift, margin optimisation or cost reduction) to make it tangible to senior leaders on Alteryx.

5. What’s it like being an Alteryx ACE ?

– Giving back to community not just in your local user group but also globally. My personal mission is to educate business leaders in all different institutions (particularly CFOs and CIOs) on what is possible with analytics (beyond the hype). In particular how to go from reading the Harvard business review on ‘Big data’ to actually looking at the people , processes and technologies like alteryx that can drive improved business performance.

– Being an Alteryx ACE is global in nature. Take myself for example even though I am in Australia, I was contacted by some new potential alteryx customers to ask for help in New York.
6. What’s the best and most effective way to get alteryx into an organisation 

Look for a particular use case and problem area in the business that has big financial implications be it operational efficiency improvements, cost reductions or things that potentially lift revenue.
7. What would I do if someone took Alteryx away from me?

Just buy it!



Interesting fun facts I have learned about Alteryx

1.Alteryx and their user groups are exploding all over the world as it is becoming a global product. Check out the photos of user groups all over US, Australia and APAC. It’s fantastic to see their customer focus is translating into customer advocacy all over the world.

2. There’s a actual beer tap on the Alteryx bus!

3. It’s a fun filled office with open plan kitchen and a ‘gong’ to ring each time a sale goes through! What a great way to motivate staff.

4. Democratisation of advanced analytics is the next wave – Alteryx empowers everyone to have data scientist capability. They are also incredible at developing new training material – check out Alteryx academy and Joe miller. Brian who heads up Alteryx community is also incredibly focused on making it easy to onboard new users to alteryx. This is incredibly important as alteryx community continues to grow and spread its wings globally.
5. Alteryx founders began this 20 year journey and its incredible how they stay united and focused on customer success even when the company is growing globally. To be this is a story about human spirit of being united and driving a vision of making analytics available to everyone. 
6. Companies all around the world are at different stages of maturity in embracing data driven decisions. Biggest challenge is not a technological one rather it’s about influencing change within organisations. Once again I’ve found the fastest way to do it is Brough showcasing its impact on financial performance ( revenue gain or cost reduction).
All in all it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the a Alteryx team. I look forward to collaborating with them further and helping drive change within he Australian companies and governments.

Lessons and learnings for me
1. Keep an open mind, Adopt a global perspective (most analytic problems have been solved already in other markets ) , use those lessons to apply to lead change within your own company. There is no substitute for spending time with people.

2. Establish and maintain senior relationships – Partnerships deliver superior  business outcomes.

3. Give back to educate the community as well as others that are new to the product.

Alteryx User group Sydney

Last night , I attended the Alteryx user group in Sydney at the Hyatt organised by Alteryx ANZ and MIP.

The session kicked off with Peter Kokinakos (Chief operating officer – MIP)  introducing the speakers of the evening.   It was amazing experience as I reflect back on how a few years ago I was at the first user group I was one of 10 people in the room. Today nearly 100+ users turned up in Sydney.

Personally it was certainly one of the most surreal user groups as both current customers and prospects had the opportunity to learn from fellow customers (  Betty Machalias – NSW Family and community services) before Libby & Kane presented the future of Alteryx .

For those new to Alteryx, Libby is one of the 3 founders of Alteryx.

Customer story: Alteryx transforming the NSW Family and Community services 

NSW family and community services presented their use case of Alteryx and how it  consolidated data from multiple disparate systems into 1 data source. Most importantly Alteryx was also used to help to improve the outcomes of children and young people in out of home care in NSW.




After the customer presentation, Libby presented and shared with all of us the journey of Alteryx as a company. The picture below says it all!

Start with a vision – The 20 year journey to success

Having a founder speak to the audience is an incredible experience. Libby gave an overview of the history of Alteryx (SRC) and how the 3 of them ( Dean, Ned and herself) grew the company over 20 years to its current size.

Very few people would have the will, integrity and resilience to stay together after so many years and to me this is the most inspirational message of the night.

Having worked at a startup like amaysim with founders who took the company to IPO, I know its no mean feat to work together with partners through thick and thin. This certainly says a lot about the 3 founders character and a testament to each other.

 

Stay humble and true to your customers 

Most impressive fact is that despite their success they remain incredibly humble.

‘We will always remember the people who got to where we are today’

Libby mentioned they will always remember how the times when they had zero customers and how they have always focus on the success of the customer because at the end of the day it that is what makes them successful.


 

Code free analytics for the Citizen data scientist + Flexibility for the expert data scientist 

Alteryx democratises data science and truly enables line of business analysts the platform to discover their data, prep and blend as well as move up the continuum of spatial, predictive , optimisation and cognitive. I particularly like the fact that Alteryx continues to listen to customers and continually makes it easier for new users to pick up predictive analytics.

This is an incredibly important point as the platform represents a step change in how analysts continue to improve their skills and deliver value back to their organisation.


It’s also important to note that while Alteryx is popular for data prep, it enables analysts to have predictive, spatial , prescriptive and cognitive capabilities.

 

Alteryx connect – Making it easy to search and find all your information in one place

Impact of Alteryx on the analyst

The best use case was in Western Union where Eric miller who was an analyst in the fraud section was continually spending over 100 hours a week preparing data. After using alteryx he was able to reduce that to a few hours and get home to his young family at a decent hour.

Change the game with analytics

Another fascinating case study is the fact that Southwest airlines who is a budget carrier is using it to optimise fuel costs saving millions a year! This is a perfect example of how Alteryx analytics  can change the game for large companies.

Alteryx user groups – exploding all over the world! 

The key message to me was that you are not alone, remember that you are now part of the wider community helping to ask and answer questions of other users. This is certainly an incredible feeling.

Personally it’s a incredible experience for me as I’ve deployed Alteryx in 4 organisations over the last few years. It all began with first meeting Dean a few years ago in Sydney during his visit to Amaysim.  Since then I’ve gone to Inspire conference (to see Alteryx users and founders) and now Libby is back visiting Sydney.   The world is certainly a big place but also small by the same token.

 Alteryx connect – Presented by Kane Glendenning 

Amazing stuff. Certainly will be a game changer for corporates using it to govern data sources and making it easy for people to collaborate across the enterprise

Get on the Alteryx bus!

 

I’m certainly looking forward to visiting disneyland and also visiting Alteryx HQ next month – stay tuned..

Adopt a global perspective for analytics

The year I unfortunately couldn’t make it to Inspire 2017 in Las Vegas due to work commitments however I hope this will inspire you all to take analytics to the next level within your respective companies.

In particular, I really would like to dedicate this to all of you who are trying to challenge the status quo within your organisations and share some of the learnings that has worked for me.

1. Research how other customers have done it globally

As they say good artists copy, the best artists steal! Look for the things that have been done by people in the US and feel free to connect up with them and replicate what they have been successful at. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.Most importantly don’t be limited by the country or industry that you operate in. Learn and adopt global best practise from the start.

 Alteryx inspire is a clear example of this. It’s a global community of people who have overcome incredible organisational challenges to come out on tops delivering value to the business. Check out the links below. Feel free to copy and leverage successful deployments here.

https://www.alteryx.com/inspire-2017
2. Solve a business problem and ask for money$

So often I see people getting stuck into the technology but not focusing on the actual problem that the business has. Doing so often doesn’t end well, it becomes a debate of features and merits of product A vs product B. In the case of Alteryx just download the product, get the analytics done and show the insight to senior executives directly!

Once the insight is shown, remember to ask for money to proceed to phase 2.
3. Build solid partnerships with vendors

When choosing a vendor, make sure you have access to senior leaders within the organisation as well as engineering teams and their developers. Help them to help you. Often I see in major corporates, customers keep the vendors at a distance ( is: Classic supplier customer relationship) rather than partnering with them to improve their product offering. Such shortsightedness often means that a customer will not be able to get the best out of the product.
A recent discussion with some of my peers showed they wanted to get major cloud vendors to fit it out and pitch from a cost perspective. Vendors have to reach their revenue targets, it’s often much better to help them achieve this, being open and transparent and in so getting incredible support when you most need it.
4. Join the global community and be resilient

Finally join the global communities like the ones organised by Alteryx, tableau, Microsoft and AWS. Realise that you are part of something much larger and leverage others who have gone before you. Remember to also give back to others along the way.

https://community.alteryx.com

https://community.tableau.com/index.jspa

https://forums.aws.amazon.com/index.jspa

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com
Deploy a Data Warehouse on the AWS Cloud with New Quick Start

Sharing alteryx with new users

Last few weeks, I had the privilege of introducing a new users within my organisation to Alteryx. What was most interesting was the variety of skill sets we had in the team. Some were already seasoned SQL programmers while others were completely new to analytics.

The biggest learning that I had was that with Alteryx you can effectively teach analytics to new audience as well as those really skilled technically. Most importantly it’s about teaching people how to think through a business problem and then showing them the tools.

Another key learning for me was that you need to use the self service as a guide so that users are able to see the experience the full Alteryx capability rather than be limited by the current business problem in their respective teams.

The feedback I received was overwhelming positive! Practise certainly makes perfect, I feel really lucky to share real life experience with others.

The democratisation of infrastructure and advanced analytics

The rise of different technologies such as AWS, Alteryx, Tableau, Databricks, Datarobot have democratised analytics for everyone.

Democratisation is about giving business users the power and capability to do advanced analytics without coding just in the same way as we use Windows instead of DOS.

What this democratisation is really about is people’s battle for relevance, the battle for existing people within companies who don’t wish to embrace change vs those that do. Often it comes from a fear that they are no longer useful, important or relevant to the organisation. 


AWS has democratised infrastructure enabling companies to focus on business outcomes

I particularly like the fact how companies and individuals can now modernise and consolidate to enable innovation for new revenues while improving customers engagement and experience.


Democratising and modernising analytics platforms

Anyone with a little knowledge can easily spin up a AWS EMR cluster and access nearly 100 cores in Spark to do processing without breaking a sweat. That type of processing power is incredible compared to what can be assessable on premise. In addition, the cost to run it is only $4 an hour. It’s almost crazy cheap! Certainly cheaper in a server at home.


One of the most recent advances in AWS is AWS Redshift spectrum. This is a really fast and easy way to query data that is stored in s3 instead of going through the traditional process of loading to a warehouse. This is definately a game changer as it enables users to directly access all their data , not just data stored within the databases be it Redshift or Aurora.

Big data is relative

it’s funny how everyone thinks that their data is ‘big’. After reading a few case studies on AWS like Netflix with 60 Petabytes in S3 and  who makes up nearly 1/3 of all Internet traffic in the US. they also land over 760 billion events into s3 daily. 

The weather company who produces 15 billion predictions a day or NTT Docomo who has over 68million customers. Most data in companies are really small by comparison. It’s really funny when you read about people using redshift for Petabyte scale queries. That’s unreal. Check out their video and  Slide share

A few interesting insights are

  • Data team is relatively large with over 100 staff out of 2000 total company staff
  • S3 is the main data lake where everything gets stored before downstream processing. The real benefit is infinite scaling and you can collect as granular as you want. I was lucky enough to use the technology at Amaysim and it’s fantastic as it enables one to use other database technologies easily in the future as you are not stuck to 1 tech.
  • hive metastore used to store information about files in s3.
  • Presto used for interactive queries
  • Redshift and Teradata used for data warehousing and Tableau for visualisation


Alteryx enables anyone to advanced analytics without coding

Alteryx has revolutionised the analytics market by making it easy for a business user to simply download the product, combine data from tons of data sources and then perform ETL, spatial, predictive and optimisation in 1 hit. 

This type of reach and power is completely unreal as it shift the power from the analyst directly into the business. It also enables anyone to become an analyst and ask and answer questions of their data. Alteryx turns every data worker into the discoverer of marginal profitability! 

To top it off Alteryx server is also available as an AMI on Amazon. just click start free trial.



Tableau the King of visualisation 

The ability to see and understand your data is clearly the mission of Tableau and they take it really seriously. Just look at the number of customer stories and you can tell it’s a successful company. It’s also fantastic that it’s also available on Amazon.

Collaborating across the organisation with the Alteryx


Yesterday I had the opportunity to help my organisation train a cross section of new users to Alteryx using the self serve enablement material. The session took 1.5 hours and had a cross section of the organisation of users in it.

In the session we had

  • Data scientists
  • Managers
  • Tableau specialists
  • SQL specialists
  • End to end BI analysts

What I learned by training others

1. Alteryx democratises data science and facilitates cross functional collaboration

Alteryx training is really about bringing different people within the organisation together leveraging each other’s skills and enabling them to have a common language of how data is acquired, wrangled and visualised. The most important take out for me is that people of any skill level can pick up the use of the tool really quickly which then forms the basis for collaboration across the organisation. 

2. Alteryx has a short learning curve

This is in stark contrast to other BI tools who require extensive training to pick up and get value from.The most important thing is that through the use of Alteryx, development times to get insight for business leaders is drastically reduced to hours instead of days.

3 Speed to insight matters

This in turn becomes a competitive advantage for the organisation.

I hope this blog inspires others within big corporations to take the first step and try it out.

Download the product here and give it a go

http://downloads.alteryx.com

Best of spatial analytics for alteryx

Intro to spatial

http://www.thedataschool.co.uk/ian-baldwin/spatial-data-alteryx/

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/Engine-Works-Blog/Spatial-Analytics-the-final-frontier/ba-p/17703

 

Polybuild

http://inviso.dk/2015/how-to-make-custom-tableau-maps

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/tkb/articleprintpage/tkb-id/knowledgebase/article-id/1251

 

Make grid vs Heatmap

http://www.thedataschool.co.uk/ben-davis/mapping-big-data-using-tableau-alteryx-part-1-heat-maps/

https://benjnmoss.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/reviz-city-of-crime/

 

Generalise polygon

Using Shape Files for Boundaries in Tableau

 

Spatial functions using summarize tool

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/Alteryx-Knowledge-Base/Combine-Spatial-Fields-Using-a-Summarize-Tool/ta-p/25685

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/Alteryx-Knowledge-Base/Spatial-Functions-with-the-Formula-Tool/ta-p/28409

Geocoders

http://www.findlatitudeandlongitude.com/batch-geocode/

https://www.programmableweb.com/news/7-free-geocoding-apis-google-bing-yahoo-and-mapquest/2012/06/21

 

Geographic analysis collection

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/Alteryx-Knowledge-Base/Spatial-Inputs-to-the-Market-Analysis-App-Geography-Analysis/ta-p/20196

 

Alteryx location analytics best practice

https://community.alteryx.com/t5/Alteryx-Knowledge-Base/Alteryx-Designer-Best-Practices-Spatial-Matching/ta-p/1176

 

Locality sensitive hashing with Spark

https://spark-summit.org/2016/speakers/alain-rodriguez/

 

Spark streaming

 

 

Tableau Fringe festival APAC

TCC fringe festival.PNG

I had the privilege of presenting at the Tableau fringe festival   #TFFAPAC on going from Struggle street to Easy street   – Using analytics to change the organisation.

Here’s the slide deck for everyone interested.

It was definitely a great experience hearing so many people share their stories, journey to analytics and a great learning experience for everyone. Best wishes and thanks go out to Fi and Emily for organizing the session. Will definitely post a full write-up when I get a moment..

Really enjoyed Craig Dewar’s hacks ,   Peter’s Orgill’s Street detective session,  Elinsa’s story  from dentistry to data and JJ Philips from alteryx.

Many thanks go out to Fiona (aka Vizchic) & Emily for organising!