Leading the analytic revolution – The difference between a developer and an analyst

The world is becoming more connected than ever before. After returning from the alteryx analytic conference, it got me thinking on my own personal journey into using alteryx and tableau to drive organizational change.


Training is a sharing of life experiences beyond the textbook material

More recently I was in Melbourne training new analysts and business users  into how to use both alteryx and tableau together. What I saw amazed me was that so many people out there were still struggling with reporting, still stuck in using Microsoft excel and Access to get data from source systems and spending all that effort to meet reporting deadlines when they should providing analysis and recommendations to improve business performance.

Companies often looking for ways to drive cost and performance improvements

In all my years of working, every single company  is looking to drive improved operational and financial performance. Yet there remains a huge opportunity to see or invest in the right areas. Years ago, we went through an offshoring wave in analytics as companies were looking to lower their cost structures through the use of cheaper labour offshore. ( Cost out strategy) While this may help improve financial performance in the short term, the lack of closeness to the business ( aka where the action since) means that a lot of effort is actually wasted and lost in translation. It often also translates to an offshore model which is not truely in sync with the rapid changes in businesses.


The old way – Order taking – A waste of time and resource

  1. Business analysts takes business requirements from business stakeholders who not quite sure what they need or want
  2. PM organizes resources like developer, testers, database access
  3. Developer attempts to build from business requirements ( this column vs that column)and based on their own interpretation gets it wrong or does not foresee data quality issues or data interpretation or business rules.
  4. Business users wait 2-3 weeks for first sprint to complete and discover it’s not quite correct
  5. Repeat
  6. Finally after [x] months business users get a working report however by that time aesthetic the business has changed or another question needs to be asked

What if companies simply empowered their onshore analysts with the rights tools, training and thinking ?

Firstly this would drive transformational change through the organization. analysts would spend more time thinking of ways to drive operational improvements instead of struggling with data mingling. business leaders would be more empowered to change and act faster in their business environments.


    The new way – Collaborative analysis between business leaders and analysts ( Empowerment and automation)

    1. Download alteryx and tableau [10 minutes]    
    2. Watch YouTube training video [20 min]
    3. Business leaders asking questions on operational performance – What’s going on with my sales? Which customers are unprofitable? Why do you think this is going on.
    4. Business analyst co-locates with business leaders and builds analysis within a few hours, calls meeting with line managers and offers insight into their business and suggestions on how to drive improved performance on sales / profitability. Notice how different this is to build in just a dashboard that looks pretty but doesn’t serve business value.
    5. Business asks the next question, analysts builds on earlier analysis within hours and calls meeting a few hours again.
    6. Business analysts attends alteryx + tableau training to further upskill.

    The key difference is using the new way anyone within the business can get answers to their questions by combining data themselves and then quickly using tableau as a visualizer to see if there’s anything going on in their business. In doing so, they make analysts more productive and streamline their businesses for greater agility and so gives themselves a competitive advantage.

    Investing in training as a means of driving cultural change

    I am fortunate enough to share my analytics experience with different companies with the goal of helping them becoming more data driven.

    The most successful deployments of analytics in organizations often involve buying tools like alteryx and tableau followed up with ongoing investment in  up skilling staff to take advantage of the full capabilities of such tools.


    Training drives cultural change and cross company collaboration

    While tableau and alteryx are easy tools to learn,  investing in staff training often has a multiplier effect on cultural change. In fact it is best if at each training session, the stakeholders come from diverse business units such as sales, marketing, finance. Often in larger organizations analysts are in different pockets and don’t often may not know each other. Other times the various stakeholders know each other well and training becomes an opportunity to further cement those relationships

    Training is more than a recipe, rather a sharing of experiences

    Just as anyone can brew a cup of coffee, learning from a barrister on how to brew the best cup of coffee is something of a different experience. Often learning is not just about technical skills rather it is a knowledge sharing session of what works within their organisation, what pitfalls to avoid and how to actually use that knowledge once people have gotten back to their day jobs.

    I also enjoy learning from new users to alteryx and tableau and are often surprised by the many different ways of thinking that they come up with within the tools.


    Learn how to drive the Ferrari 

    Alteryx as a tool is incredibly deep as it covers the full spectrum of analytics from ETL to spatial, predictive and prescriptive. Investing in training enables a person to quickly learn how to ‘drive’ it like a Ferrari and not a scooter.

    Similarly tableau is simple to learn however there’s a lot to mastery of visualization technique and finding the best way to present the message to influence business change.
    Start user groups whether formally or informally to keep the momentum

    Often within organisations there will be more advanced users as well as those just starting the journey. Encourage sharing of skills within Alteryx and Tableau with users of all skill levels with each other. The advanced user through teaching reinforces his knowledge while the newer user also gets the benefit of a mentor.

    But it costs money…. Not training is a false economy

    From an executive and management point of view, companies often heavily invest in training at both the senior leader and manager level thinking it will drive improved performance.

    This alone is not sufficient to drive the organization, training needs to filter down to gassroots level and not just be a computer based training routine to save on costs.

    It’s about engagement

    Some companies spend $1k per FTE per year. Assuming a decent analyst costs $100k per annum, in essence this equates to only 1% of the cost structure.  Trust me 1k doesn’t get you much these days. Companies  should be targeting a training pool of $3k-5k per analysts per year. This equates to between 3-5% of cost base. In return the analyst will drive either process improvements or highlight revenue and cost opportunities a magnitude of that!