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Alteryx
Alteryx

Coming up on five years ago, my wife Shannon asked me to make her a cake for her birthday.  The loving husband that I am, I said “sure – no problem, I’ll go get some cake mix …” and she stopped me right there.  “Oh no Gary … I want you to MAKE me a cake”.  Okay … So I printed a recipe off of the internet (because everything is true on the internet) and I made my way to the grocery store.

 

Fascinating place … the grocery store.  Not sure if you’ve ever been in one, they're remarkable! fascinating place... the grocery storefascinating place... the grocery store

 

I looked around and saw this big sign that said DAIRY.  I got all excited.  I found milk, eggs, and butter.  They were all on my list of needed items.  

 

I looked around again and saw this big sign that said BAKING GOODS.  I got all excited!  I found chocolate, sugar, flour, vanilla extract … but no baking powder.  By the way, don’t make a cake with baking soda … I will neither confirm nor deny how I got that tidbit of wisdom.  Anyway, I did like any good consumer and said to a pimply-faced 15-year-old kid … “Hey kid … there’s no baking powder” as I motioned to the empty shelf.  He replied that he’d be right back and disappeared behind these two silver doors in the back of the store.

 

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait (it was no less than 5 minutes – but we do live in a microwave society – we want it "hot" and we want it "now"), the kid reappeared, pushing a hand truck with a box on it.  He opened the box, handed me baking powder, and began to restock the shelf.

 

 

I said thanks, paid for my items, got half-way out in the parking lot, and stopped dead in my tracks.

 

Stay with me here, because it’s about to get interesting …    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

My Epiphany

 

I realized that I walked in to what could be described as an ANALYTICS data warehouse.  I was a data scientist.  The ingredients were variables from different tables.  I needed to group them, measure them, sort them, and combine them in a certain fashion to help me solve my problem.  It was relatively easy for me to find my variables.  Nice, big, wide shiny aisles.  Big, easy signs for me to navigate throughout the store.  Great stuff until ... I needed baking powder. 

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The pimply-faced kid, when he went behind the silver doors, walked into the ENTERPRISE data warehouse.  Data stored for optimal space usage.  3rd normal form.  The key, the whole key, and nothing but the key, so help me Codd (it’s a database thing).

 

 

And if I, the consumer, were to walk behind the silver doors and see boxes stacked floor to ceiling, boxes labeled in incoherent gibberish, I probably would’ve had to start at BREAD, so I could leave a trail of crumbs to find my way out.

 

What I realized in that moment was that most IT organizations DO NOT shape data for analytics.  Tell me if you’ve heard this before ... Business says “I can’t find any information in the warehouse”.  IT says “the data’s all there”.  You know what?  Both groups are right.  The data’s all there, but it’s not in a fashion that easily consumable for Business to find what they’re looking for.  IT asks Business to “go behind the silver doors” to find baking powder.  Business has no idea how to navigate through the boxes.  And both get frustrated.  "THIS", I said to myself, "is one of the MAIN reasons organizations have 10x, 20x, 100x the size of the EDW stored OUTSIDE of IT".

 

So what do we do about it?

 

It's easy.  Talk.  Share.  But it's hard too.  (As an aside, next time we run in to each other, ask me about "core competencies" or "swim lanes" and I'll expound.)  

 

If you’re in Business, help IT help you.  Work with IT regarding what data you most frequently use to answer questions.  Let IT know how you blend it in preparing for analytics.  And maybe, just maybe, IT will create you a new table or view that becomes a better launching point for your analytics! 

 

If you’re in IT, help Business help you.  Work with Business regarding how data can be shaped to more quickly meet their needs.  See how Business blends data and TAKE THAT ON.  Maybe, just maybe, Business will be able to solve organizational problems in a more timely fashion.

 

A grocery store is a fascinating place.  There’s so much applicability when relating it to business process.  During my now ever-frequent visits, I've gleaned even more IT, Business, Data, and Analytics insights regarding the grocery store, but you’ll have to ask me about them at another time … or if I decide to NOT wait five years to put it down on paper …

 

Oh – I almost forgot to tell you about the cake! I'll close with this ... my wife Shannon and I are still happily married … for better or for worse … right?Beware the dangers of baking soda!Beware the dangers of baking soda!

Gary Spakes
Director | Solutions Architecture

Gary focuses on both the technical aspects and business implications involving the Alteryx architecture. Gary engages strategically with customers world-wide on a variety of technology topics including but not limited to Data Management, Analytical Process Lifecycle, Insight Delivery, and underlying technologies. Gary’s goal is to help organizations leverage technology to turn data into information, information into insight, and make “better” decisions. An 18 year IT veteran prior to going to “the dark side” in Sales and Marketing, Gary has implemented and led operational teams for ERP systems, been a DBA and DBA manager, and developed investment management and mutual fund accounting software during stints with Price Waterhouse, Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase), Acxiom Corporation, and SAS. Spakes holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Tampa with majors in Mathematics and Management Information Systems. He resides in North Carolina.

Gary focuses on both the technical aspects and business implications involving the Alteryx architecture. Gary engages strategically with customers world-wide on a variety of technology topics including but not limited to Data Management, Analytical Process Lifecycle, Insight Delivery, and underlying technologies. Gary’s goal is to help organizations leverage technology to turn data into information, information into insight, and make “better” decisions. An 18 year IT veteran prior to going to “the dark side” in Sales and Marketing, Gary has implemented and led operational teams for ERP systems, been a DBA and DBA manager, and developed investment management and mutual fund accounting software during stints with Price Waterhouse, Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase), Acxiom Corporation, and SAS. Spakes holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Tampa with majors in Mathematics and Management Information Systems. He resides in North Carolina.

Comments

@GarySp,

 

This is a great analogy. I often struggle for a universal comparison of how IT and Business exist in the same infrastructure, yet somehow don't fully understand each other. It is like any good set of ingredients (a data driven organization), it's all about measurements, timing, methodology and experience. None of which are normally the same for IT,  business or recipes.  Only through conversation and compromises can we achieve analytics that were though previously achievable.  As users of Alteryx, I think we stand at the center of this conversation.

 

--To the Altases of Analytics, don't shrug off your responsibility.

Alteryx
Alteryx

Thanks @AndrewDataKim for the comments.  Like I stated, it's been a constant epiphany for 5 years now.  Stay tuned for more from me on my shopping excursion (and other, upcoming blogs) as there's a continuation of the analogy with Data Scientists tactically working with IT - but I better not say too much as I'll "spill the beans" (pun intended, but has nothing to do with the analogy other than beans are bought at a grocery store as well). 

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