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Wolseley is the UK operating company of Ferguson plc, the world’s leading specialist distributor of plumbing and heating products. My division is known as Infrastructure, providing world class solutions within the Civils, Utilities, Power and Hire sectors. I am Infrastructure’s Senior Analyst, heading the team responsible for delivering Reporting, Analytics and Data science. Our focus is driving profitable growth through process simplification and innovation using data analytics.
In this use case, I want to share how I used Alteryx to solve my organisation’s data problems and how that transformed my wellbeing which positively changed my life. By using Alteryx it has freed up a lot of time, offered me the opportunity to join a community and operate at a completely different level. Since February, my Alteryx use has increased and resultingly, my knowledge and data skills have improved significantly. I used the time Alteryx liberated to invest in myself by revising for the core and advanced certifications. I also went to the gym - between the period of February to August 2019 I lost 8 ½ stone (119lbs).
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
Like many large organisations, managing the volume and diversity of data is a challenge. At Wolseley we use separate data portals and systems to help minimise risk and develop specialised knowledge. These systems can include anything from invoice tables, transport portals, call management systems, CRM’s along with many other features. This approach can prove problematic when gaining access and intelligence from the bigger, interconnected picture. However, it must be said that each system on its own merits is fantastic; and the company benefits from many subject matter experts.
Describe your working solution
I have been an Alteryx user for over two years now. I was excited from the moment I first received my license, however following my initial usage I wasn’t very involved. It wasn’t until February 2019 that I realised I was falling behind. I began to spend more time on the Alteryx Community where I was inspired by the diversity and ingenuity that’s on display. I also started to pay attention to Alteryx ACEs and user group leaders Samantha Hughes and Joe Lipski who demonstrate fantastic system skill and an infectious can-do community spirit.
My challenge was translating the inspiration to everyday work and improving my initial solutions. My first action involved returning to one of my more ambitious data projects; creating an interconnected platform to access everything across my organisation’s separate data systems. Now armed with the knowledge from the Alteryx certifications and the wider Community, I re-identified the data sources, discovered ways to access them more effectively and better applied the prep and join tools from Alteryx Designer. From this process I combined all the sources to create my own Alteryx database. This mighty database provides me with data continuity and the ability to standardise all data down to individual branch level.
An example of some of the Headline categories combined into a single source;
Having updated the workflow that creates the Alteryx database, the team and I then created an additional workflow, (the “analysis” file), to assess and review our business from multiple points of view. Within the analysis file we apply unique dates, lenses and categorisation systems to help score and rank the results of the data held within the database itself. The analysis file has grown over time to become our first port of call for most business information. It has also become our analytical playground.
The workflow today, now includes hundreds of KPI’s and measures set across pretty much any criteria we can think of. For example, measures could include;
The count of positive feedback we receive against the number of deliveries
Credit notes raised as % portion of the number of sales people
However, my personal favourites include;
Comparing sentiment from customer feedback against the sentiment of our response
Using the spatial tools to determine if a sales transaction was completed in the most optimal way (closest depot etc.)
The possibilities are endless and every month we add more. Occasionally we add measures to solve emerging business problems but often, they simply improve our own learning and understanding of Alteryx's capabilities. Some measures have even been included just for fun, but who knows, sometime in the future “the most frequent selling minute of the day” or “how many times a month our fleet travels to the moon” could become useful information! However, I must confess, some of the more meaningful measures arise from ideas posted on the Community or within the weekly challenges - they prove to be great cheat sheets.
The concept of combining the two workflows has grown to be known what we affectionally call “’iSTAN” (Infrastructure Standardisation) at all levels in our business. We use iSTAN to an ever-increasing degree as it helps answer our advanced queries and even the standard information determinations such as whether an increase to an individual branch’s resources is warranted. As we continue to develop the system, we compliment it with external information such as; weather patterns, Royal Mail’s postcode database and the applicable areas of the UK Census. In more recent times we have bolstered the system, by experimenting with predictive modelling which we plan to deploy wider when Alteryx release their assisted modelling technology.
Above all else, iSTAN has helped my organisation build understanding and trust with our data. The system has laid the foundations to develop our culture of analytics.
Accumulation of small solutions using Alteryx/iSTAN:
Historically, my department’s biggest concern is dealing with an ever-increasing workload created through a build-up of small-scale tasks. Since the creation of iSTAN we have placed many of these tasks through Alteryx which has resulted in a profound accumulation of time saving boosts to our efficiency. One such example is how we’ve transformed our customers reporting packs from a task that took 8 hours to only 30 minutes. Other small-scale wins include how we have placed Geo-fences around our branches to investigate when the vehicles leave the branch boundaries for the first time and enter for the final time each day. We do this in order to determine the true efficiency of our fleet. An upgrade on our existing transport system which only shows the time the key went in and out of the ignition.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
iSTAN and Alteryx have saved us countless hours. It has enabled us to eliminate duplication, and process repetition. Further to this, it has assisted in building a culture of analytics; by using models to present and review data, it has made understanding of analytics commonplace:
Personal benefit, weight loss:
During a seven-month period, I lost eight and a half stone (119lbs). At my heaviest I was making some poor decisions. I therefore have tempered my recent success with the realities of where I have come from. In fact, until this point, my journey has only been shared with close friends. I have decided to make it public, as it is my hope to convey that by using Alteryx and therefore joining a supportive community that’s geared towards self-improvement, you can have some wonderful (albeit unexpected) personal experiences too.
Many factors contribute to weight loss:
Support of friends and family
Support and flexibility from your organisation and management structure
Where Alteryx fits in is time, stress-relief and confidence. It is no coincidence that as my Alteryx use increased my lifestyle improved. Through the activities listed earlier and countless others, my working day has simplified and become calmer. The time-consuming tasks I once completed which required overtime have transformed into overtime sessions at the gym. As I learned more about Alteryx's systems, my confidence increased, and self-improvement is infectious - I brought that feeling into my personal life.
Me (waving in the blue, sat next to Nick Jewel) at the Coventry user Group November 2018;
Me in July 2019 with my core certificate and the man of the year award as voted by my friends at slimming world, Weston-super-Mare;
Before I became an Alteryx customer, I watched a promotional video at Inspire Europe in 2017, it said; “take back your day”, I feel like I’ve taken back my life, something I will forever be indebted to Alteryx for.