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Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Three Alteryx success stories in one podcast episode - yes please! Alteryx President and Chief Revenue Officer, Paula Hansen, sat down with Alteryx users Jet Lali (State Street Global Advisors), Laura Anderson (Siemens Energy), and Nathan Patrick Taylor (Symphony Care), to chat about their Alteryx journeys and the importance of having a vision for digital transformation at scale.


*This conversation was originally a fireside chat for Alteryx associates. The conversation has been edited for clarity.








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Episode Transcription

MADDIE 00:02

[music] Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. Today you'll get to hear insight from three Alteryx customers who shared their analytics journey during a chat with our President and CRO, Paula Hansen. From State Street Global Advisors, you'll hear from Jet Lali.

JET 00:20

There's a quote from a professor at University College London. She said, "All big companies only manage to understand less than 1% of their data." And I think even when we manage a [inaudible] 2%, that's just a game-changer.

MADDIE 00:36

Laura Anderson from Siemens Energy,

LAURA 00:39

We make sure we keep the lights on for everyone. And my role in that company is running the controls and digital business. So essentially, I'm the brains of all of these big plants, and I do anything from 600 data points coming out of a plant to 48,000 and they come out every single day.

MADDIE 00:57

And Nathan Patrick Taylor from Symphony Care.

NATHAN 01:00

We've been using Alteryx, I think, since 2015, so I won't say we're an original. We haven't gone back 25 years, but we're definitely there very early on. Been to numerous inspires. In fact, today I wore my Alteryx socks. [laughter]

PAULA 01:14

All right.

NATHAN 01:15

I have those going for me. [applause]

MADDIE 01:18

During their conversation with Paula, Jet, Laura, and Nathan shared the importance of thinking big to drive digital transformation with Alteryx analytics cloud, including Auto Insights. And if you're curious about that cheering in the background, those are Alteryx associates in the audience, including me, as this was originally recorded at an associate event that we had earlier this year. Here's Alteryx President and CRO Paula Hansen.

PAULA 01:48

This promises to be maybe one of the highlights of the day because everyone loves hearing what's on customer minds. So let's start with a little introduction. Share with us what you do at your company and maybe a little bit about where you are in your analytics journey.

JET 02:04

Okay. Hi, everybody. My name is Jet Lali. I'm the chief digital officer at State Street Global Advisors. We're a $4 trillion assets under management company and we're part of State Street, which is the second oldest bank in the US. And my team leads the digital transformation for the asset management division. We're at the very start still. We've done a lot of work in the last three years in analytics, and we've come from literally nowhere to pretty amazing stage where we are now. But I think this is a rest of my career transition. I think for the, yeah, next 20 years, we'll still be improving upon understanding all the data. There's a quote from a professor at University College London who did some research and she said, "All big companies only manage to understand less than 1% of their data." And I think even when we manage a [inaudible] 2%, that's just a game-changer. So I think it's a really long journey. We're at the very start of it. It's moving really fast and it's really exciting. And I look forward to telling you more about it later.

PAULA 03:08

Great. Thank you, Jet. Laura?

LAURA 03:11

Hello. My name is Laura Anderson and I work at Siemens Energy. Siemens Energy is north of 30 billion euros. We're active in many, many countries in the world and essentially what we do is provide critical infrastructure. So our specialty is power. A human right more or less these days. So we build power plants, industrial plants, high-voltage transmission grids. We make sure we keep the lights on for everyone. And my role in that company is running the controls and digital business. So essentially I'm the brains of all of these big plants, and I do anything from 600 data points coming out of a plant to 48,000, and they come out every single day. So we have an amazing amount of data to work with. We have been fortunate to work with Alteryx now for about five years, focusing a lot more on the business side of things rather than the operational, but I'm excited to learn more about how we can potentially work with Trifecta.

NATHAN 04:10

Excellent. Hi there. I'm Nathan Patrick Taylor. I'm the chief information officer at Symphony Care Network. I do sort of the traditional CIO stuff, so cybersecurity, worrying about WiFi networks, all of that good stuff. Help desk. I came from DataRobot, so I was a customer-facing, data scientist at DataRobot. Symphony brought me over to lead their digital, and data, and analytics team. So I kind of have this CIO, CDO dual role there. We've been using Alteryx, I think, since 2015. So I won't say we're an original. We haven't gone back 25 years, but we're definitely there very early on. Been to numerous inspires. In fact, today I wore my Alteryx socks. [laughter]

PAULA 04:56

All right. [applause]

NATHAN 04:57

I have those going for me. Yeah. Not a lot of people have heard of Symphony Care, so we are in healthcare, but we are probably in the niche that was hurt the most by COVID. So we're in skilled nursing and assisted living. And so it's been a rough two and a half years. There's a lot of positive things that came out of it with the help of Alteryx, and I think we'll talk about that here as well. So that's my story.

PAULA 05:24

Yeah. Lots of transformation in each one of your industries, so no doubt about that. Okay, so I'm going to walk through with each one of you a question to have you share with this audience your words of wisdom. And I'll start with you, Jet. I know you're a big believer in driving digital transformation at scale globally, across State Street Global Advisors. And I'm sure with that initiative, at times there are challenges. And so you came up with this approach of simplify, unify, and amplify to be able to get people on board. So why don't you talk a little bit about that?

JET 05:59

Yeah. So when I first was given the job to lead the digital transformation, I actually didn't know what it was. I didn't like the title. It was super vague for me, and I had to really think about what does it mean for my business? What is achievable? What's going to add the most impact, and what can we do really quickly? And as I looked across our digital portfolio around the world, we had some like eight different content management systems. Everything had grown up locally, and the old way of doing business, local business leaders were running everything. Their IT, their sales, their marketing. And with that, we had lots of legacy technology all over the world. And so the first thing we need to really do was to standardize that and we couldn't globalize it without standardizing it. So simplify was really how to get the one solution that does that thing worldwide for everybody. Once we did that, it was okay. We now have all of these billions of data points that have been generated from our customers every time they visit one of our 156 websites around the world. How do we unify that? How do we take all of that data, marry it with other data we have in our finance systems, about our products, or about our clients, and really get a 360 degree understanding of what our customers are doing and how can we learn from that? And then the last piece of it is amplify. And a transformation really has to have a bold intent. And our intent was we need to have ten-X improvement, because if it was 100% improvement, that's just good improvement. It's not really a transformation. So we set this very high target of having ten-X in all of the things that we wanted to do, and that would be ten-X in terms of using the data better, ten-X, more customers engaging with us online, and that's the kind of ambition that we have. And some things we can do quite quickly, and some things are more kind of multi-year to get us to ten-X.

JET 07:56

Where all of that journey continues, and it continues, I think, forever going forward. I think the pace of change in business is you're constantly going to be in transformation, and there isn't ever an end to it. And I'll talk a little bit more about some of the specifics of what that means to me. It's no longer about the technology. I think the technology now works. I've been in this space for quite a long time, and for the first 15 years, it was about getting this technology to work. And the technology is so good now. It does its job, and that's not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is how do we put that data we get into action and how do we upskill and train all of the people in our organization to do their work differently? And that's the transformation that we are working towards now and still trying to figure it out. It's a really big challenge, and it's skilling people on a one-by-one basis. You can implement global technology at scale, but when you want to develop individuals, everyone has a different job, everyone has a different problem they need to solve, and that can't be solved in the same way. And so that's where we're at the moment.

PAULA 09:07

And I think we're going to circle back on that conversation of the people and process elements of transformation. But love the ten-X goal that you set. That's a good one for all of us to reach for. Shifting over to you, Laura, I know that you've been working with Alteryx now for five years, so we've been on an exciting journey together. And you've had to work through some of the challenges that we hear from many of our customers. Right? One around, how do you build a bigger vision, so the executive team understands what you're driving towards with analytics. And then on the flip side, you also face challenges with platform [wars?] where there's multiple options that you could-- multiple vendors that you could go with. So why don't you walk us through how you navigated through those two things?

LAURA 09:55

Sure. So I think, as Jet mentioned, we're struggling a bit with this one to two percent of the data that we're really using, and how do we get value out of it? And also, this idea, Siemens Energy is a set of conglomerates. So basically we define or perhaps in the dictionary, you'll find our name under data silos. Right? 35 different SAP systems, 11 different instances of PLM, 11 different instances of Salesforce, because we can't all do it the same way. So trying to pull all the data together is a nightmare. And we kind of say we spend 80% of our time, maybe even 90 pulling the data together and 10% of our time thinking about what it means. And so what we really wanted to do was try and somehow flip that on its head, 10% of the time on the data, 90% of it thinking about what it is that we really are going to do. And when we first started working with Alteryx, it was very interesting because we had, I think, as Mark called them, kind of zealots or evangelists, and they would kind of spread-- and everything spread via word of mouth. And then it kind of bubbled up to management at the point where we needed somebody to buy a server, and that person was me. Right? So I kind of looked at it, I said, okay, it was 50,000 back in the day. It doesn't seem like a big deal. But then I ran into my first challenge of kind of educating the rest of management, because I kind of got that you would get the data much faster, right? You would get those insights. But I think it's a little bit about management not really wanting to know how the sausage is made. They don't really understand the process. IT and data is always something they've never really spent a lot of time about. It's just supposed to be there. It's supposed to work like their laptop. So trying to formulate kind of a bigger digital or data strategy was a little tough.

LAURA 11:51

But we went forward with the server, and then we spun out from Siemens, became Siemens Energy. And then we decided no, no, no, no, no we really need only one vendor of key services. So when we started looking at the ETL area, we ended up in this platform [war?]. So we had the Europeans primarily who had more experience with KNIME. They loved it. They were super into the fact that it was free until you needed to go to the server model. And then you had a core group of the Americans who really loved Alteryx, loved how easy it was. And they both had very dedicated user groups within the company. And so enter the war. Right? [laughter] And it was really fascinating for our IT group because they were originally looking at it from a pure cost perspective. So I was called in with one of our CFOs to kind of help mediate this overall discussion, and to bring in the, quote-unquote, "business view" because the businesses wanted to make sure that this wasn't just going to be an IT-led discussion. And that was really fascinating because we had to go away from the pure, let's look at the technical, right? Let's look at the cost of the licenses, let's look at total cost of ownership, and then let's look at important things like usability. What data do we already have? Is there a migration path because you have all these people terrified that all of their work hacks are going to be lost? So that was a real pivotal turning point for us in terms of understanding the power of the system, but also really inspiring because none of this work had kind of happened from the top down. In most instances, it was all being driven out of early adopters. These zealots, who really wanted their jobs to be better, and more meaningful. So it's been quite a journey. We now have a chief-digital officer, and are trying to put a little bit more structure around it to really step it up and scale it. So at this point, I think we have 600 Alteryx licenses that basically all got used like that. It was impressive. We didn't think we'd be able to do it, but it's been a great journey.

NATHAN 14:06

That's incredible. We talked backstage a lot about the platform wars. And we went through our own version of that ourselves where when we adopted Alteryx, we had a lot of users who were using Power BI. And the struggle there is that Power BI, and a lot of the Power platform, is I'm going to use air quotes here, "free" in the sense that it comes with some of the licensing structure. And that organic growth where they're using Power BI. And then you say, "Well, but I have this other platform, Alteryx, which we do pay for, right?" And that's where we got a lot of pushback from people who were using Power Query. Now, I don't think Power Query holds a candle to Alteryx, but some of our users thought it did. [laughter] [applause] So, yeah, there was a big internal battle around that. And it really came down to, I think, the theme of what we've talked about over the last couple of days, getting to know each other, is sort of the speed of how quickly you can get stuff built, but also managing it and understanding it. I think one of the downsides to Power Query, if you're going to go up against it, is that control mechanism. And I hate to sound like the typical IT guy, but there's no real way to govern what somebody is doing in a Power Query. And when it's sitting out there in the service, I can't really control that. And there's not a lot of good standardization around it. Where there is with Alteryx and the server, where I can see what people are doing. I can govern the data sources that they're going to. And I think that to us was what sort of won the day on the Alteryx side. I still have people who want to use Power BI for certain reasons, and if you're doing visualizations have at it. But for the data manipulation component of it, stick to Alteryx.

PAULA 15:47

The important stuff.

NATHAN 15:48

Yeah, the important stuff. [laughter] [applause]

JET 15:51

The hard stuff.

PAULA 15:54

So Nathan, obviously tremendous amount of change in the health care industry for years. And then comes a global pandemic which puts an incredible amount of pressure on it, an already under pressure industry. And so you started thinking about how you could actually use Alteryx with nurses to help them do their jobs better given how difficult their jobs are. So why don't you share a little bit with us about that?

NATHAN 16:24

Yeah, yeah. It was sort of an interesting project. So we were trying to do some predictions around readmissions. And in our industry, a readmission is a negative thing. It's where a patient who has had knee surgery or hip surgery comes to us for rehab. They're supposed to do their rehab, maybe 10, 11 days, a little shorter, a little longer, depending on how they're progressing, and then they go home. So this was to be a really positive, transformative experience for them to learn to walk again, and comb their hair, brush their teeth, and then transition home. If they go back to the hospital, something bad has happened to them while they stayed with us. So what we did was we tried to create a model that would predict what the underlying factors were for a patient to go back to the hospital. When we created it, naively, we thought that the nurses would fully understand how this model would work. And when we gave them a probability of 40% chance of going back to the hospital, they understood what that meant, and they had no idea what it was. So we went through a system of color-coding it, and we've had this conversation in the background here about red, and blue, and green, and yellow, and all these different colors. So finally we settled on a scoring system that's based on something they already knew, which was this physical levels of movement, and that had its own color-coding system. But really what it all came down to is just training them on how to use the data to make decisions. And so we spent a little bit of time with every nurse, whether it was red, or green, or yellow, or whatever color we decided to use, what that really meant. And in the end, we found out that a 20% chance, a 30% chance was actually really high. And I started to use this analogy that if you were going to take an airplane flight and I told you there was a 20% chance that something would go wrong, would you get on that plane? And you would say, "No, I'm not going to get on that plane." And it's a little extreme analogy, but that's kind of what we were facing. In traditional machine learning you usually say 50% or more, this event is going to happen, 50% or less, it won't. And that was a training that we had to go through to understand how to use predictions in a way that made sense. And so, yeah, we spent that time with them. And then we got to a point where it started to go out into other parts of the organization. And the finance team heard that the nurses were using something, they're like, "What's the Alteryx? What's that all about?" [laughter] And we had a chance to move that other places. Yeah.

PAULA 18:55

That's great. And you've also been somewhat of an early adopter of our Auto Insights capability.

NATHAN 19:01

Yes. Yes.

PAULA 19:01

So what's your feedback on that?

NATHAN 19:04

I love it. Yeah, I think it's amazing. So our biggest challenge, obviously, I mentioned Power BI. We're a Power BI shop is I can't build everything everybody wants, and I don't know what questions they're going to ask. As much as I try to try and figure out, I'm going to walk into a meeting, what is our COO going to say? What's our CEO going to say? They ask questions, and that means I have to go back and rebuild my Power BI report all over again. So our first pass at Hyper and our Auto Insights was having it give us what the underlying causes were, and have those time dimensions built into it. If anyone's ever done anything in Power BI, if you try to do time intelligence, you need to know DAX or M, which I don't have a person that knows DAX all that well. So Auto Insights build those time dimensions. What happened last month? What was last month to the month before? What was last month to the year before? What was last year before the year before that? All that's built into it from the beginning. And then you can just drill down into what's causing those factors. Huge time savings for us. It's a sales tip. If I can give that to you, it's not going to replace Power BI. It won't get rid of those standard reports, but I think it supplements those things in a way that we wouldn't be able to build report after report after report.

PAULA 20:25

Yeah, yeah. That's great. So maybe the last questions for each of you because you've each referenced a little bit of this in your perspective, and then we've talked about it offline, too, is that it's not really about the technology, and the technology working so much as it is how you're going to work it through your organization, culturally, with the people, and the process that goes around the technology. So the question is, what role would you like to see Alteryx play in that?

JET 20:55

It's a good question. I think many of the things I heard today are the right things that you guys are doing, and it's really encouraging to hear the commitment you have in the communities that you're building. And I think as one of the leaders in the industry, that is your role you need to play in that. In every business, everyone has become a knowledge worker, and everyone who's a knowledge worker is a data worker, and they haven't been that in the past. Whether you're a nurse or whether you're a marketing person or a salesperson. Yes, you still have to have relationships. You also have to have data. You have to know all the information about your clients for your patients. And that's a really big change. And we are in the fourth industrial revolution. We're going from the proverbial horse car to the automobile. And no one really knows how to do that because no one's alive that saw that happen before. And so we're kind of figuring out how do you make every single person in every single company a data worker when they haven't had to do that before? And so I think with any kind of transformation, you learn on the way, and you figure some things out. I think empowering and encouraging the relationships you have with your clients that you not only bring the kit, but you bring the infrastructure and the support for communities to kind of help train and develop the people, and that's going to come after. So once they've got the data wrangled, the next thing comes the people. And I think that's super helpful for other execs on the journey to tell them, that great, you've got to solve this problem, but then you're immediately going to have that problem. And you should start thinking about that now. And we can also help you with that.

PAULA 22:35

That's great. Thank you, Jet. Laura?

LAURA 22:38

I really liked what you were showing earlier about the different data stages that you had in terms of the maturity assessment because I really resonated with the fact that we're all still pretty early, and not all of us really know what the path is to levels three, four, and five. Right? So constantly having that perspective of okay, where am I? How can I get better? What's the vision I should really be communicating to my broader organization? And where can I show some examples of people who've done really cool stuff? And that makes you, in my perspective, more kind of a strategic partner to really help drive our business into the future rather than just a tool vendor.

NATHAN 23:21

Yeah, we definitely view Alteryx as a partner, and when we talk to vendors, when they're first trying to pitch to us, we always emphasize that partnership mentality. And I don't think a lot of people take us seriously when we say that because every sales rep will say, "Yeah, we'll be a partner [laughter]," and I get that. I get that. But that relationship is built over time, and that's definitely happened with Alteryx. Your acquisitions with Trifacta-- we actually looked at Trifacta several years ago. It wasn't the right fit at the time, but now we're growing enough where that might be a good fit, and it's a smart play. Hyper Anna, it's a paradigm shift. That idea of what Auto Insights is, is a paradigm shift. It changes the way that we're going to be doing visualizations and reports. It's going to be different. And I like where that's heading. So when I engage with a new vendor, I like to see where do they think they're going to go? How are they going to grow? And you guys have done that so keep doing that. The other piece is the community. I don't know of any other vendor that we have, partner, that has the community you guys have. So keep raising that up, keep growing that community. I always joke that when you have a problem in Alteryx Designer that you're trying to solve, you Google it. The first thing that comes up is a community page. There's usually somebody that has already solved that problem or there's a YouTube video out there for it, and you can follow along with that. So yeah, keep that education piece going and the community going.

PAULA 24:55

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today. This has been invaluable insights for the team here. [music] Thank you for being Alteryx customers, and we look forward to continuing to earn that partnership as we go forward. So how about a warm round of applause for our customers? [applause]

MADDIE 25:15

Thanks for listening. To learn more about Alteryx Auto Insights or to join the Alteryx community, check out our show notes at community.alteryx.com/podcast.


This episode was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ). Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @mikecusic for our album artwork.