A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with two dynamic leaders who are accelerating outcomes in their organizations through analytic automation and continual upskilling. Jacqui van der Leij, Head of Tax Technology at eBay, and Ju Lee, Senior Director of Global Tax Technology, Strategy, Accounting & Reporting at Fortive, joined me for a conversation around how they have accelerated their teams’ digital transformation through analytics while at the same time building critical data skills within their teams. It was amazing to hear Jacqui and Ju discuss their personal and career journeys, providing perspectives on the important role of analytics for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for organizations.
For those who missed this Women of Analytics webinar, the recording can be found here. We also had quite a few questions come in from the audience, which Jacqui, Ju and I would love to address:
Q: Speaking of upskilling, are analysts required to know SQL to use tools like Alteryx?
Libby: No, SQL is not a requirement to use the Alteryx analytics platform. As a code-free and code-friendly platform, the use of Designer, for example, allows a user to define the analytics process with no coding experience required. Let me suggest that you ask our community this same question: check out https://community.alteryx.com/t5/General-Discussions/bd-p/general-discussions.
Q: What is a "Hack-a-Thon?"
Libby: Think about Data Challenges where teams of a few people come together to answer questions with data, AKA, data puzzles. I’d recommend checking out our Data Challenge Playbook, which you can download here.
Jacqui: A Hackathon/Datathon is an opportunity where a team dedicates time to focus and uses creative thinking to find a solution for the most challenging issues. This effort also provides opportunities for cross functional collaboration and partnering.
Ju: At Fortive, we are bringing cross functional teams together using specific issues in our business to find a solution and build a training around it so that other members from the company could leverage the training. We also share our use case stories so that other folks can understand where the tools can benefit them. In addition, we have a Kaizen event where we prototype with ideas/solutions, and we actually used Alteryx to find a solution for a Kaizen team. We subsequently built a training off of this so that others can leverage the learnings as well. I would say this is a hybrid of a typical hack-a-thon.
Q: Jacqui, how did you convince management to let your teams take 3 weeks to work on a hack-a-thon? Did other project timelines suffer?
Jacqui: The Hackathon/Datathon had a run through time of 3 weeks; we didn’t dedicate the full 3 weeks. The extended timeline provided opportunities for all team members with different timelines and different time zones to get access to training and support to build out their solutions. This also made it easier for executive management to be supportive of the Hackathon.
Q: Jacqui, could you please repeat what you recommended for your group with regards to training time per day for learning and development in Alteryx?
Jacqui: I asked my team to dedicate 10% per week (4 hours) on development and upskilling. This does not just have to be Alteryx, but can be in any direction that will create new skills for each team member.
Q: Does Alteryx partner with consultants to market the product on projects?
Libby: Yes, we can partner on various use case applications using the Alteryx platform.
Q: Have you ever come across any individual team members who perceived the use of Alteryx or other tools as a threat to their job security? How do you overcome resistance to automation from the mindset that automation will replace my job?
Libby: Analytics automation is enabling teams to solve those higher value, higher impact questions that will improve team and company performance. Platforms like Alteryx also bring excitement and rewards to each employee by engaging their creative solving skills which keeps them away from the mundane work.
Jacqui: The messaging and objectives around automation need to be clear. Automation allows individuals to focus on key aspects of their job and develop further rather than doing the same repetitive tasks. We also need to realize that transformation is a journey and you need to cater for all different levels of understanding and support. It is important to take everybody on this journey with you.
Ju: I have not specifically experienced this with members having concerns of automation threatening a job. However, at the macro level, there is sensitivity to how a solution like Alteryx challenges members to pivot from the old process to something new and sometimes it can highlight issues from the old process or challenge and how they were going about the entire process in general. It is important to remind people that we can be part of this journey together. Being transparent about the process and letting the member as well as the expanded team (including leaders) know that we may be finding issues and remediating them through a new automated process is important with adoption of new solutions.
Q: I am interested in Alteryx, but I am very new to this application. Can you please advise me steps that I need to take to master this?
Libby: I'd recommend exploring the Alteryx Community a bit more and engaging with our ‘Getting Started’ learning path under the Alteryx Academy.
Jacqui: There are multiple Alteryx training opportunities available, however the key source will be the Alteryx Community. This community can support from the very beginners to the most experienced.
Ju: Alteryx has great learning platforms. Weekly challenges on the Community is also a great way to learn different ways to find solutions and collaborate with other members as well.
Q: The SparkED Education Program is a great opportunity for people to learn technical skills. How can staff learn the softer skills of evangelizing analytics, engaging with other teams, having a positive conversation with Board members, etc.?
Jacqui: It starts at the very beginning of sharing the excitement that learning new skills brings to the table. Ultimately embedding analytics in people, data and processes results in an increased employee satisfaction. While it cannot always be measured in dollars, employee satisfaction is critical to any growth and transformation efforts in companies.
Ju: Finding ways to tell stories that share the overall experience is important. The story includes the realistic efforts to find the solution, the impact to the overall process, and the positive impact it has made to the individual. These personal stories combined with positive impacts help bring others along and gain more support. For example, as we rolled out Alteryx solutions, individuals experienced a time saving of a specific process time but had to invest much more hours to learn and solution a new process with Alteryx. Initially the ROI impact was not looking so great. However, the positive impact that made to this person’s overall lookout for the job was very impactful as they were very excited about where else they could apply this new solution and realized that the learning curve was not going to be as steep anymore.
Q: Do any of you have a favorite tool as your actual database? My organization has all kinds of tools, like Salesforce, QuickBase, Smartsheet, etc., and I'd like to pitch consolidating, but would love input on a favorite tool. (i.e. we're using Alteryx to apply logic and combine a lot of different sources, but I'd like to then output that into one consistent location/tool).
Ju: I am an advocate for consolidating. We currently use Vertex tax performance engine for tax data repository, My Insight Client Edition for centralizing tax processes & manual data collection, Alteryx for our big data analytics, and Power BI for visualization. We also leverage other Microsoft solutions to collaborate and share our data.
Q: I'm planning on starting a master’s degree in Nursing Informatics. Do you think learning Alteryx is useful, or should I just try getting into this field without it?
Libby: Understanding data and developing your skills to question data will make you more powerful and knowledgeable as you advance in your career. Having these data analytics skills will benefit you with your ability to ask questions and intelligently question data.
Jacqui: At a minimum Alteryx will provide you a very solid automation and analytic foundation. The method of thinking and using data will give you a head start, but also benefit you regardless of the direction you move into.
Ju: I am not familiar with this degree. However, if you work with big data, I think Alteryx can help you learn the analytical skills to work with data in a standard process. Other tools may do something similar, but Alteryx really helps you learn how to analyze and manipulate data one step at a time. I think it’s a skill that can be useful even if you do not use the same tool in your field.
We’d love to hear from you, our Women of Analytics Community members! Continue the conversation below by posting your questions or thoughts.
Thank you so much for sharing, i like the rule of 10% of the week for upskilling and development. We have automated a lot of processes and it does make life easier for us now that the workflows are running smoothly