Spreadsheets have been the workhorse of data analytics for decades. But progress means change, and data-driven businesses can’t maximize the potential of their technology investments if their employees keep using outdated tools.
Ninety-three percent of organizations surveyed for a recently released Alteryx-commissioned IDC InfoBrief report say they are not fully utilizing the analytics skills of their employees. And the overwhelming majority admit that only about half of their business decisions are made based on analytics. Yet, close to three-quarters of these same companies are planning to spend more on data and analytics than any other software investment over the next 12 to 18 months.
These statistics show an emerging analytics gap, where companies who have democratized data and analytics access are outperforming those who have not.
“The data was really clear: Organizations that have a higher percentage of their workforce using analytics are enjoying a much higher return from their analytic investment,” said Alan Jacobson, chief data and analytics officer at Alteryx Inc. “It’s not about hiring two double Ph.D. statisticians from Oxford; it really is how widely you can bring your workforce on this journey.”
Jacobson spoke during the “Democratizing Analytics Across the Enterprise” event, an exclusive broadcast on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio. The event, which was moderated by theCUBE industry analyst Lisa Martin, focused on the results of the Alteryx-commissioned IDC InfoBrief: “Four Ways to Unlock Transformative Business Outcomes From Analytics Investments: A Global Survey on the Impacts of People, Data, and Analytics Automation on ROI.” (* Disclosure below.)
Unlocking transformative business outcomes from analytics investments
In the first session of the “Democratizing Analytics Across the Enterprise” event, Jason Klein, product marketing director at Alteryx, reviewed the results of the IDC InfoBrief and described four practical ways in which companies can improve their analytics proficiency.
“In this research, we developed a framework of enterprise analytics proficiency that helps organizations reap greater benefits from their investments,” Klein stated.
The framework was created by reviewing the behaviors of organizations that gained a higher ROI from their investment in analytics, and the key indicator was a company’s ability to make data and analytics equally accessible to all employees.
“Everyone, regardless of skill level, should be able to participate in the data and analytics process and drive value,” Klein stated.
The widening analytics gap is threatening operational progress by wasting workers’ time, harming business productivity, and introducing costly errors, according to Klein. The InfoBrief found that organizations that derive more value from their data and analytics had invested more aggressively in four dimensions of enterprise analytics proficiency.
First was the comprehensiveness of how they applied analytics across all data sources and data types. Second was the level at which companies invested in the flexibility of analytics across deployment scenarios and departments. Third was how they invested in the ubiquity of analytics and insights for every skill level, making analytics available for everyone. And fourth was how effectively companies invested in the usability of analytics software by prioritizing easy technology to accelerate analytics democratization.
In essence, the secret to high ROI on analytics investment is to invest in accessible analytics technology that embeds analytics into the company culture across every process and every person. This can be remembered as “the four E’s” — everyone, everything, everywhere and easy analytics.
“Organizations that use more data types and more data sources generate higher ROI from their analytics investments. Among those with improved customer metrics, 90% were good or great at utilizing all data sources compared to only 67% among the ROI laggards,” Klein stated. In addition, 78% of the high ROI achievers “had good or great alignment between analytics investments and workforce upskilling, compared to only 64% among those without positive ROI.”
Review the complete findings of the Alteryx-commissioned IDC InfoBrief: “Four Ways to Unlock Transformative Business Outcomes From Analytics Investments: A Global Survey on the Impacts of People, Data, and Analytics Automation on ROI,” which is available as a free download on Alyterx’s resource library. And learn more about ways to maximize your company’s analytics investment by watching the complete video of Klein’s session below:
Alteryx helps companies achieve analytics maturity
The highest ROI on analytics spend was achieved by companies that displayed the highest level of analytics maturity. This was marked by their ability to democratize analytics and build a data-centric culture across their organizations. In a session titled “Accelerating Analytics Maturity to Win,” Jacobson demonstrated how Alteryx can help companies achieve analytics maturity simply and speedily.
“The hard part really, in the end, isn’t the technology and learning analytics and data science. The harder part is this change management,” he stated.
“In about 15 minutes, you can go on and answer some questions and understand where you sit versus your peer set, versus competitors, and where you are on the journey,” Jacobson said.
Upskilling current employees, many of whom are domain experts, is much more efficient than onboarding data and analytics experts who have no idea about the core areas of the organization, according to Jacobson.
“Domain experts are really in the best position. They know where the gold is buried in their companies. They know where the inefficiencies are,” he said. “It is so much easier and faster to teach a domain expert a bit about how to automate a process or how to use analytics than it is to take a data scientist and try to teach them to have the knowledge of a 20-year accounting professional or a logistics expert of your company.”
While learning analytics sounds intimidating, Alteryx makes it simple, according to Jacobson, whose two teenage children gained their Alteryx certifications after only about 20 hours of study. Professionals who have an entrenched mindset may find it hard to let go of their spreadsheets, but they need to upskill to remain valuable for their company, according to Jacobson.
Global telco British Telecommunications PLC provides an example. Before Alteryx, the company ran 140 legacy spreadsheet models to enable it to comply with strict public sector reporting regulations. The process took four weeks and was incredibly challenging. After investing in training 50 employees over two weeks on the Alteryx platform, the company was able to implement a new reporting process that brought a 75% reduction in the number of man hours and provided a 60% uptick in runtime performance.
The savings amounted to “potentially millions upon millions of dollars,” Jacobson stated. “What we see, again and again, company after company, government agency after government agency is how analytics are really transforming the way work is being done.”
Here’s the complete video interview with Jacobson:
eBay demonstrates the benefits that come from democratizing analytics
The final session gave insight into data and analytics democratization from the customer’s point of view. Paula Hansen, president and chief revenue officer of Alteryx Inc., and Jacqui Van der Leij-Greyling, global head of tax technology at eBay Inc., joined forces to describe how eBay built a culture of analytics.
“We knew we couldn’t wait for all our data to be centralized until we actually started using the data or started automating and becoming more effective,” Van der Leij-Greyling stated during the session. “So we really started very, very actively embedding analytics in our people and our data and our processes.”
eBay was already a very data-driven company, and after 27 years of operations, it had a lot of accumulated data. The problem was working out how to use that data efficiently.
“That was definitely one of our biggest roadblocks when we started,” Van der Leij-Greyling said. “Finding those data sources and finding ways to connect to them.”
eBay’s not-so-secret weapon is the Alteryx Analytics Cloud, which was designed to democratize analytics access and empower all employees, regardless of job function or skill set.
“It operates in a multicloud world and really helps across all sizes of data sets to blend, cleanse, shape, analyze and report out so that we can break down data silos across the enterprise and drive real business outcomes as a result of unlocking the potential of data,” Hansen stated.
eBay also took advantage of Alteryx’s training opportunities, showing employees that being a data scientist is not a big thing like becoming a rocket scientist, but “something that is in everybody to a certain extent,” Van der Leij-Greyling said.
The company is currently running a program to teach any interested employee, regardless of skill level, about artificial intelligence and how to build machine learning models.
“We have over 50 participants without the background from all over the organization. We have members from our customer services,” said Van der Leij-Greyling, who told the story of how an employee with no data science background saw an opportunity to improve functionality in eBay’s checkout feedback process. “She built a model to be able to determine … what is the type of problem and even predict how that problem can be solved before we, as humans, even stepped in.”
This shows the potential of Alteryx to democratize analytics across the company, bringing the power of modern technological advances into every department.
“It’s really about ensuring that people feel comfortable, that they feel supported, that they have access to the training that they need, and ultimately that they are given both the skills and the confidence to be able to be a part of this great opportunity of analytics,” Hansen stated.
Here’s the complete video interview with Hansen and Van der Leij-Greyling:
And watch the complete “Democratizing Analytics Across the Enterprise” event video below:
(* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the “Democratizing Analytics Across the Enterprise” event. Neither Alteryx Inc., the sponsor of theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)