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With help from Northstrat and Rotunda Solutions, the Department of Defense successfully pioneered their first instances of Alteryx and in doing so, gathered a wealth of information and lessons learned. They performed numerous projects including how to establish need, win user-support, engage Department executives, address IA, navigate red tape, secure funding, purchase licenses, implement into DoD environments, and integrate with standing DoD systems.
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
The Department of Defense essentially represents the largest business entity in the United States, but it behaves different than any commercial company, or even any other Federal agency. Unlike most companies, it doesn't have the same drivers, influences, and it certainly doesn't have the same constraints. We’re talking about a 2019 budget of $686 billion with 3.4 million estimated employees, so imagine the amount of data produced.
The defense sector has proven difficult for many consultancies, solutions, providers, and product vendors. As a result, the business drivers, policies, constraints, and challenges of operating in the DoD are often poorly understood.
Lacking a foundation of analytics, the DoD’s existing data collection, storage, and analysis was heavily paper driven and lacked the proper frameworks needed for success. Before we could increase collaboration, information sharing, and data driven action, we needed to change the perception of data and highlight the value it could provide.
Describe your working solution
Our first step to enable data analytics was understanding our user’s business challenges and the type of data they have access to. At the DoD, data exists in hundreds of different places and lacks standardization across various lines of business. Clients hold onto spreadsheets and users must go searching to get permission to access files on a monthly or quarterly basis. Once we understood some of the key issues, we highlighted the benefits of having organized access to data. We built repeatable workflows to reduce a whole day’s process down to two minutes and showed a few of the possibilities they could accomplish using analytics.
Alteryx provided the perfect platform to address some of the DoD's challenges. It has been essential in getting data merged together. I absolutely love the join tool. We have a lot of data that's inconsistent or in different places, so I built a custom macro to compare specific variable names based on a unique ID. Having the ability to join various file types has been huge!
Our other biggest problem was the number of different data types and inputs we have across the armed forces. A lot of the paper and digital inputs aren't usable for data analysis so we wanted to standardize data collection to use in analysis. Alteryx accepts most file types, which was very useful in our conversion process. We had a number of SPSS files to convert to CSV, so I built a macro to batch out all the SPSS files from a specific location into a CSV file in a different location. The thing I love most about Alteryx is the repeatable workflows and error tests. If something is not functioning the way that I want it to, I can attach an error tool and it'll pop up in the workflow when you run it. This immediately impacts effort and reduces time spent on data pre-processing.
With Alteryx, the DoD has been able to cultivate a culture of analytics. We now have the tools to manage and merge data from multiples sources. We have transformed hundreds of files to spreadsheets and dashboards used for analysis, reduced task time to seconds, and increased our collaboration of data. Without Alteryx, none of this would have ever been attainable.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
Alteryx has allowed us to expand our data footprint and enable our cultural change. The DoD has shifted its mindset from instinct decisions and siloed data towards a culture built on visibility and collaboration using advanced analytics. We are working to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the security of our nation with large scale projects and initiatives. The DoD is still in the early stages of this data revolution but we anticipate Alteryx will continue to be instrumental in our future.
The entire PowerPoint presentation can be found here. Additionally, visit this link to watch the entire recorded session.