Brookson is a digital services business in the UK that has evolved from a small accountancy firm into a business providing technology-enabled service platforms. With Alteryx, they have digitized advisory services, and complex financial work has gone from taking hours to seconds. From customer portals, to business intelligence and data analytics, their augmented Intelligence Engine is the hub that influences all aspects of their platform business, and it is built on Alteryx, Squirro, and Tableau.
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
Brian Millrine, Brookson Strategy Director, was tired of spreadsheets going back and forth between departments, little to no visibility across departments and siloed customer experience. “We built our business based on systems, and we couldn’t change anything in the systems implemented. We spent hours creating spreadsheets,” he said.
Brookson’s old approach to Management Information and Business Intelligence was similar to that of many other companies: a citizen would discuss their idea and requirements with the BI Analyst. The request would then sit in the queue and wait for the BI Analyst to go to the data warehouse, build the report, and give it back. “The problem is that they speak different languages: citizens are not sure of what they want until they see the final product. Reports are held locally, and they lack governance and structure,” Brian explained.
Brian and his team decided that they needed to improve their customer experience, accuracy, and timeliness. They also needed to reduce investment in admin, increase investment in advisory, and be less reactive and more proactive. Brookson now uses Alteryx Designer, Server and is implementing Alteryx Connect.
Describe your working solution
Alteryx helped Brookson transform their business to a truly digital platform. Brookson has deployed hundreds of Alteryx Gallery Apps and algorithms that helped them and their customers grow exponentially.
Back in 2012, their first step was to get all the information from their different systems to a Data Warehouse using SQL-driven Excel reporting. “We only had two data analysts at the time. Then we realized we needed one more, but that wasn’t feasible. So we came up with a new approach to build our Intelligence Engine that was citizen based,” Brian explained.
Brookson’s data structure involves balance sheets, personal tax documents, financial statements, and other detailed information about their customers. There is also information about their CRM system, which gives Brookson visibility of what is going on.
Automating Financial References
Before Alteryx, Brookson’s accountants would spend a 1h30 to do a financial reference (i.e. to confirm a company’s financial statements). They would go into the system to get an XML export and clean it up. Then, they would bring in more data from another part of the system, use VLookup, and clean it up again. In a year, it took their full time employees 1,750 hours to do 3,500 financial references.
With Alteryx, they built an algorithm to replicate the spreadsheets (below on the right) and send all the relevant information directly to the customer. “The beauty is that it takes a week to build an algorithm that we can turn into an app that only takes seconds to run,” Brian said.
Innovation to Create Product Differentiation
Brookson automated their portal (below on the left) and created an Alteryx algorithm to analyze customer’s behavior and to show them customized messages. “We used Alteryx to differentiate our product, and the impact is that I can see who paid their bills and who went overboard,” Brian said. So now, their customers that forgot to pay a bill can get an alert before the due date and avoid a fine. Meanwhile, most accounting firms skip that step and only do the bookkeeping for the late payment.
To gather more conclusive insights, Brookson used unstructured data from customers’ emails to analyze their sentiment. They used Tableau to help with visualization, then Squirro to apply text analysis to the emails and combine it into structured information. Through Squirro they could find where all the unhappy customers were, and with Alteryx, they bind all those technologies together. “We use IBM Data Capture to make sure we can digitize PDFs. We use Alteryx to bring information from external ecosystems and to hook into APIs. Alteryx is the most impactful technology – it does all the heavy lifting,” Brian said.
Present vs Future Architecture
Brian said that at this point in time “we got all the information going into our Data Warehouse and going through our Intelligence Engine. We started creating more apps at our Gallery. We are starting to get into this system automation loop: system – data warehouse – Intelligence Engine – system.”
Brian was excited to see that the number of spreadsheets between departments started to decrease. They now also have no work orders going between departments, “so there’s no longer the excuse of ‘I can’t see the other person’s system’ because now you can get a Tableau dashboard or an app that tells you exactly what is going on.”
The next step (step 3 – see below) in Brookson’s architecture is to work on the API layer for the next three years towards being fully automated. “That’s when we get automation of the back office, and that is game changer. We are all about customer experience, and that cost reduction will allow us to redesign the business based on the customer’s specific needs,” Brian said.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
“With Alteryx, I believe that we can disrupt the accountancy market. We are already far along on that journey. We are competing against prominent accounting firms that are still using spreadsheets,” Brian said.
Brian and his team can now deliver things that before they could only imagine. By participating in the creation process, citizens can better define what they truly need. Using Alteryx, Brookson has significantly improved data visualization, and the quality of work has “gone through the roof,” as Brian put it.
“The sophistication of our advisory algorithm is at a level that we could never have achieved before at the same cost because we would’ve had to pass it through a developer. Now we do the intelligence ourselves in Alteryx,” he said.
Hear how Brookson reduced their dependency on Excel and SQL here.