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Alter.Nation

Community news, customer stories, and more!
smoskowitz
12 - Quasar

Way back in 2017, I was sitting at my desk when the Senior Director of Tax was just coming back from a Tax Conference. You know the Tax Conferences - where they discuss rule and section changes and how it affects corporation. However, this Tax conference was a little different. As a matter of fact, I think I would have liked to have attended this particular one.

As the Tax Director walked by, he handed me a sheet of paper. On this sheet of paper were three tools that he wanted me to investigate, one of those tools was Alteryx.

I am a Senior Business Analyst at the Interpublic Group. I technically report to Information Technology (IT), but am solely dedicated to Corporate Tax. So anytime there is some new software to look at, I am usually all over it.

However, over the years, I have come across lots of software with big promises and little on the delivery. Sometimes you take a calculated risk in hope of a home run, but mostly I pass.

 

But this was Alteryx! Wait, what is Alteryx again?

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The First Steps -- You Want Me to Do What With Alteryx?

I am not going to describe what you probably want to hear at this point, there was nothing game-changing in the first few weeks. However, that does not mean I wasn’t challenged. I was given small projects to do in Alteryx as opposed to my go-to software -- Excel.

I watched videos on the Alteryx Community, read other people’s blogs, and followed the discussion forum. Slowly I was able to get things done in ways I didn't think possible. Joining data offered benefits over using multiple vlookups in Excel. Slowly I was starting to make progress and show some real value with the tool. So much so, I was able to meet with the EVP of Tax and convince him to purchase a couple of full licenses.

… and then came The Ask!

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It’s Showtime for Alteryx! Can It Do That?

I received a meeting invite from our internal Tax Reporting team. This team is responsible for obtaining all financials from every country that is not the United States.

 

The team needed help. Every year, they send out templates to be filled out by each reporting unit around the world. After they send out the templates, they spend their time answering questions, receiving back, and organizing, and chasing down people who have yet to fill out a template.

Once they get these templates back, two Tax professionals spend about 80 hours going through each template and copying/pasting information onto a master spreadsheet to then begin analysis.

Then that moment came as the Director of Tax looked at me and asked, “Seth, is this something Alteryx can help with?

Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is that moment. You know the one, where I pull open my shirt to reveal the big “S” on my chest; and with great gusto yell out with all the passion in the world, “Yes! Yes, it can!”

So, let’s go through that again, remembering I probably have about 6 weeks of Alteryx experience.

Director of Tax: “Seth, is this something Alteryx can help with?


Me: “I will have to investigate...”

 

Not very confidence-boosting is it?

"Houston, we have a problem!"

 

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I Am Not Alone…Enter the Community.

I got back to my desk; probably slightly more panicked then I would have liked. The Director of Tax came over, put his hand on my shoulder, and told me to see what I can do. This is the type of use case that would offer me a good challenge and really test the tool for all its capabilities.

I started scouring the web re-watching videos -- but then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The Alteryx Community is a place where people can ask questions, and other people (that crave a good challenge) try to assist by answering those questions. I thought this would be a good place to get some guidance on the topic.

I liken the Alteryx Community to that of the boating community. Have you ever been out on a boat and somewhere along the way you pass another boat? Typically, what happens as people on each boat look at each other and wave. I don’t know why they wave at each other, but they do. If I saw the same person in a car next to me, I wouldn’t wave - but boaters do.

I went ahead and posted my question, and waited. I might have prayed a little bit as well.

Then all of a sudden I got my first email; it wasn’t on the board, but rather a private message. I logged in and read the message and was immediately taken aback by this user's response.

He introduced himself, explained to me he was an Alteryx ACE, and wanted to set up a call -- not to do the work to get my project done, but to teach me how to do it!

We got on a call and this total stranger spent enough time with this newbie that we were able to get the project done and at the end of the call, I’ve learned, at a basic level, the power of batch macros.

 

I spent some time learning this technique to the point I could do it myself. I now know how to do it for similar projects; which by the way, there have been many.

And what a powerfully useful one it was!

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Here Comes the Payoff!

We got back into a conference room a few days later with the Director of Tax Reporting. At this point, one of his direct reports had reviewed and validated the data that came out of Alteryx.

As we sat down to discuss what I built, I decided to run the workflow for him. (The total time to pull the required data for 309 workbooks was 4:23.)

 

As I opened the output and showed him, he sat there with his mouth agape and asked if he really just pulled in all that information that fast. Now with a big smile, and some new Alteryx confidence -- I gave him a big passionate “Yes! It did do that! It can do that again, and there are lots of other things it can do.”

 

Everyone walked out of that meeting smiling. The Director of Tax Reporting, because his team just got time back to work on more value-added projects; the Director of Tax, because he took a gamble on a tool and it paid off; and me, because I think I just found my next career move.

 

 

Comments
JC2323
5 - Atom

Way to go Seth. Persistence and an open mind created a solution to a problem. Continued success!  

NicoleJohnson
14 - Magnetar
14 - Magnetar

@smoskowitz - What an incredible success story!! Love the honesty, and love the ending even more... what a powerful testament to this incredible platform AND to your perseverance in learning something new to solve a big challenge. Well done, Seth!

 

Cheers! 

NJ

 

PS. You have such an excellent writing style, this was a lovely read! Hope to see more articles & success stories from you in the future! 🙂

chris_dambola
5 - Atom

Great story Seth!  Tax reporting is a different world than when we met ~14 yrs ago!  You have always been ahead of the curve.  It is easy for IT to fall victim to restricting their supported functions in the vein of managing rampant costs.  You've found your way through to enable Tax to thrive!  I look forward to more insights and anecdotes!

VizChic
8 - Asteroid

I love your post!  The Alteryx community is amazing, so helpful, and we all love data!  Thanks for sharing 🙂 

AbhilashR
14 - Magnetar
14 - Magnetar

Such an amazing story. Thank you for writing and sharing this with us @smoskowitz