If you’re looking for steps to enable Alteryx for your organization, this article is for you. Here you will see how we, JPMorgan Chase & Co, organically expanded usage of Alteryx from a couple of users to over a 1,000 in just over 2 years. You will learn how different departments came together to implement a cultural shift within analytics and enabled Alteryx at an enterprise level. We created a real ‘buzz’ around the platform, built a thriving community of empowered analysts, all while maintaining governance and the necessary controls for a global financial organization. You will also read some lessons learned and best practices that they developed along their path of growing a user-driven Alteryx community of excellence.
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
We want to give some background about what our organization's analytics looked like, before Alteryx. The way we used to approach analytics was very hands-on, but there was a disconnect between the business person who needed to use data to make better decisions and the employees that worked with the data. Their process worked something like this:
First, nothing would happen until someone asked a question- things were very reactive.
Once you had a question, you have to fill out forms, and write requirements of what you needed and send that off to the development team
That team would use a legacy toolset, maybe take a week or two to build a dataset
Which they would later format into some kind of report,
Copy it into excel (the only acceptable medium for moving data)
And email it back
Now if you had another question based on that data, or you realized that you phrase your original question properly, you had to restart this process. Most of the analytics team’s efforts went into forcing the tools that they had to work for what they were being asked to do. And that took a lot of time and effort. When something more effective presents itself, you may not even have the time to recognize the potential due to a lack of time and complacency with the process that already exists.
Describe your working solution
We would like to walk you through our 4-year journey or we like to think of it as a 4 step process.
Stage 1 – Crawl
Large organizations are basically set up to reject change - it's like your immune system reacting to a threat. So if we wanted to do something differently, we knew we would need to start small and in a non-threatening way.
At our organization, in order to do anything, you have to partner with IT from the beginning. We needed to ask permission to download the trial. The early investigators that started to look at this tool, were taking on a significant amount of career risk because they were challenging the enterprise status quo. We were basically acting as individual contributors. We had no servers or central support yet.
When working on our own, some things worked well during this phase. There were lots of ad-hoc uses cases to pick from which could play to the tool’s strengths. For example, we needed to do a lot of data prep for analytics dashboards related to marketing. And so that specific use case worked very well, for taking Alteryx and then enabling it with better dashboards. And there were a couple of other things that worked very well. We partnered with our control officers and our executive leaders, as part of an agreement to take a year to work on this. We decided to give this project some runway to find out if it's going to meet our needs, and if we want to continue to grow it out. And so we had a high degree of creative freedom.
Some of the challenging questions included: How do my team and I collaborate within the tool, I bought a handful of licenses but I’m working on my own? How do I truly partner with someone else, who's going to be building a workflow, and pass it off to them? Also, we didn’t have formal training programs, no one else to reach out to, there were only 5-10 of us that have licenses, so how do I find ways to learn this software? And then how do I explain the value of the user experience? And then finally, would anyone even believe me?
The lessons we learned from this stage was to pick narrow/well-defined use cases to attack, develop skills and a working model, and prove the value by documenting your success. When we think back about this period, this is a good time to spend experimenting with Alteryx. The fact that Alteryx was still relatively unknown and no one around me really understood what I was doing with it, meant I could spend time developing my skills in the tool… and trust me – in later stages you won’t have as much time to experiment.
Stage 2 – Walk
What we were starting to see beyond the individual users, was entire teams beginning to adopt Alteryx Designer. Things were getting forwarded throughout the organization, so there was this growing awareness of Alteryx. We started to apply firm software development standards to Alteryx. When it shifted from an individual to a team, we had to start stepping up some of the controls and governance and think about what we were putting around this. At this stage, we brought our IT partners into the picture.
Thinking back to this stage, we believe there were three key factors to our success here
Firstly, we had to have a strong use case – and it was still a phase where Alteryx was relatively unknown, so we needed to prove its value
Secondly, we knew we had to empower users – after all, empowerment is what we all like about Alteryx
Thirdly, we knew we had to provide governance. The new users that we trained after this stage will be completely new to Alteryx so we had to put structure around Alteryx and processes from the onset to ensure consistency in the work.
These factors helped build the right foundation for the next stage of the journey
In regards to our use case, the operations management team came to us with a request trying to understand where our manual work was coming from.
In Operations, manual actions happen when ops need to push a process manually in core systems because their system couldn’t perform it without manual intervention.
All of our actions are tracked and the ops systems were no exception.
All get captured in some audit log
We had a problem of too much data, in too many formats, which needed to be processed too often … what tools could we try throwing at the problem other than Alteryx?
We ran a POC in one department, but we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to complete the project with just one team working on it. That’s not only because of the limited resources we had and the sheer scale of this project but it was mainly due to the fact that each department knew their data, their systems and their area best, and they’re best positioned to analyze it, rather than one central analytics team. So, we knew quickly that we had to engage others to work towards a common goal.
The first thing that we did, given we were planning to expand to an area that had no prior Alteryx usage at all, was building a training program that concentrated on this use case. We trained the analysts in the tool itself, but also in the framework that we have built for this very project, showing them what is possible with Alteryx, not only for generic use cases but on something very tangible for the group. We also brought experienced consultants to help build the framework and to help provide new skills to those Alteryx users who were just starting with the tool. All this had created data analyst communities which were first centered around the project but then spread across other areas. This created an environment where these departmental analysts that we trained up emerged as toolset champions in their own areas and started using the tool on other projects.
So even though we started with one concrete use case that we used to train everyone on the toolset and show the power of the tool, the main intention from the get-go was really to empower & inspire them to solve their data problems in their respective areas.
And finally, what was important from the beginning of the project, we provided a very structured approach to developing Alteryx workflows. We were no longer working individually on workflows and we were also bringing a lot of new analysts to the project who had never used Alteryx before.
We built a framework that anyone could use
It was supported by a large number of macros to standardize the processes and ensure consistency on the project delivery
We promoted re-use of the components that we created onto other projects and areas
We created a departmental macro repository and promoted its use across other projects
But going from 10 to 100, while we saw a lot of successes, also came with its own set of challenges. So again, from the analyst’s perspective, how do I continue to repeat this success? How do I get more licenses, as the demand continues to grow? How do we think about starting to stand up a server when we need to centralize and automate? Keep in mind what we’ve been hearing from management and our control officers who want to ensure this doesn’t get out of hand – after all, we know Alteryx is a powerful tool, so we had to ensure it’s used in the right way with the right controls in place. Then, we were challenged on how Alteryx fits into our existing toolset portfolio as it wasn’t the only tool we, as an organization, were using for self-service data transformation. So there were questions regarding what use cases we should use Alteryx for vs others. And finally, our favorite question, how much did you say was the license again?
Coming out of our Walk stage, there are a few key takeaways worth sharing:
We found a large enough use case that was difficult to describe without using the word ‘Alteryx’ as we couldn’t imagine delivering on the project without it
Create Alteryx ambassadors in other areas of the firm, who will see the value of the tool and spread the word within their departments
We also set the foundations for governance, provided structure, started establishing certain standards in workflow development and data processing
Stage 3 – Run
We provided structure establishing certain standards, like some of those reusable components, so that we moved more towards an SDLC environment. Something like that would be more familiar to our IT partners as we reached complete adoption. Which brings us to where we believe we're operating today, which we call, our run stage. It is the stage when Alteryx is used globally across all those different lines of business. We have more than 2,000 Designer users, many different server environments serving either an individual line of business or multiple departments. We have also, a COE that was not appointed by a particular CIO. And finally, we've seen this community emerge internally. But again, it's not without its challenges.
Some of the things we are starting to think about with the self-appointed COE is, how do we actually control power as we grow and give out more licensees. We want to ensure these analysts are going to be equipped with the right practices and knowledge to be successful. We want them to be as successful and manage and grow this enterprise-wide community. When it's a few of us that get on the phone once a week, that's easy to do, but when it's a thousand people and it's two thousand people, what are the mechanisms we put in place, so everyone still feels they’re part of our internal Alteryx community. And finally, we have to have a way to manage the requests for onboarding and still distributing licenses and ensuring a smooth path for success for new analysts.
Now that everyone knows about Alteryx, we hear comments like ‘this is awesome’ more and more. Interestingly, even those that were previously skeptical about the tool are now requesting a license. Everyone wants to learn it – regardless of what level they are at, just starting or already using it and want to learn more.
There are 3 things we are doing:
To build out a firm-wide community we started with our internal chat platform Symphony – it wasn’t an instantaneous process. Right now, we have almost 2,000 users forming a very lively community and it’s one of the biggest chats in the entire firm!
We built a dedicated Alteryx website, a one-stop-shop for anything Alteryx so that anyone wishing to learn about the tool can get all the main information in one place – from getting the license, through learning about the tool, use cases, trainings, to standards, controls, macros, best practices, to even finding out who is using Alteryx across the firm.
The training aspect was most important – we needed to ensure new users were well-positioned for success when using the tool.
Established cross-divisional governance forum to self-govern Alteryx enterprise-wide
Set up user-driven Center of Excellence
Created user-driven Alteryx standards, from workflow design, documentation, through controls to training, e.g. mandatory core certificate (upcoming)
We created standards of care through our license management process, by continuing to target the right use cases.
Once we give users a license, we require them to go and complete some level of training, and we require them to complete core certification.
We use it to manage our licenses across the firm. We get regular usage stats from Alteryx (setting up internal license server) and join that with our HR data to figure out duplicate keys, wrong e-mails, unused seats as well as analyze Alteryx usage across the firm.
Stage 4 – Fly
We think we're in the run stage still, but if the journey was over it wouldn’t be as fun. So now we're looking ahead. And because we're not satisfied with where we are, we're thinking that the next phase will be our fly phase. At that stage, things that we believe are going to happen, including having consistent server environments amongst the different departments. In the fly phase, we're going to feel good about these firm-wide standards of care and governance that we've put in place. Thirdly, we want to continue changing the culture of our organization. We want to equip people with modern toolsets and teach them how to use Designer to create a true data-driven organization. And lastly, we want to create a fully engaged data literate community, that can solve any data related complications with Alteryx.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
As we’re looking forward to the Fly phase, there are five key takeaways we want to share that we think will apply to anyone using considering implementing Alteryx at their organization.
Be passionate: Share the successes in what you're finding. You need to show your excitement because you cannot over-communicate in a large organization.
Make sure to have strong use cases: You want to continue proving the value of the tool and answer questions/provide insights, wherever you are on your Alteryx journey.
Empower all users: That means giving them a path to help ensure their success. Vetting their use case to make sure you're giving them something that's going to work. Giving them the training and the path to learn, get certified and to collaborate with others.
Build communities: And ensure you have a thriving, well-trained user base that can solve any problem and share knowledge between themselves.
Work with your executives, your control officers, and your IT organizations, to provide the right governance at the right time
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