How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
Alteryx is leading the charge in analytic process automation (APA) which delivers end-to-end automation of analytics, machine learning and data science processes to help support customers on their mission to accelerate digital transformation. We’re using data and analytics to automate processes, embed intelligent decisioning and empower people to deliver faster, better business outcomes.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
It seems incredible to look back to the start of 2020, with some big analytics events in Las Vegas and talking face-to-face to amazing customers in Sydney, Australia (remember international travel? Remember airports?!) And then, that seismic shift to online events which has really changed the way that everyone connects, consumes and collaborates.
It was tough to lose some of our biggest in-person customer events in 2020 because of Covid-19, but the pace at which the industry adapted was phenomenal. It’s been genuinely inspiring to see the extent to which the Alteryx community has rallied to support all its global, diverse family members during this challenging year.
Instead of webinar fatigue, we saw online mixology lessons precede an industry briefing. Instead of a simple product overview, we enjoyed events with special guests and leaders from all kinds of different analytics fields coming together in new ways that really helped overcome any sense of professional isolation.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
Being a leader at a data and analytics vendor means setting expectations to meet or exceed those of your customers’ immediate needs. There’s a constant arms race to work with both the explosive growth of data volumes as well as the variety of data sources and platforms that produce or manage that data. There’s an increasing demand to do more with that data by applying advanced capabilities to help extract insights and generate explainable predictions for future outcomes.
Perhaps, above all, there’s a continuing momentum to automate and augment as much of the process as possible so that we can pull the majority of information workers out of the mundane and focus instead on high value, high impact outcomes.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
I’m passionate about data for good schemes. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time as data ambassador with DataKindUK working with charities as diverse as the Ecological Land Co-operative, Global Witness and the One Campaign. I can’t wait for 2021 and in-person data dives to resume!
At Alteryx, we’ve seen huge traction with a new programme called ADAPT (advancing data and analytics potential together) which aims to empower and up-skill new graduates or unemployed/furloughed data workers to continue to learn and develop their analytics skills during these difficult times.
What has been your path to power?
I made a jump in my career from computer-aided drug design to the burgeoning business intelligence field around the time of the dotcom bubble. Learning the ropes in several boutique consultancies - and getting exposed to a wide variety of industries and analytics use cases - was invaluable experience in those early days.
I developed my interests in innovation, applied modern analytics and architecture during my long service with a large financial services organisation in London. The company championed internal mobility, so I applied my knowledge of data warehousing, visualisation and self-service analytics to lead cross-functional, global teams in the delivery of analytics in many of the company’s key business areas.
At Alteryx, I’ve been extremely fortunate to develop my analytics career in several directions: first, by driving customer engagement with our platform; but also, by working across the product division to help shape the future of analytics technology through continued investment in innovative and open-source projects, as well as building relationships with partners and the wider analytics eco-system.
Perhaps, most enjoyable of all, I get to evangelise and bring to market the benefits of data science and advanced analytics, helping to develop the untapped potential of analysts within organisations.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
I’m very fortunate to work with colleagues who share my passion for data and analytics and are collectively laser-focused on delivering the most amazing experience back to customers in the form of award-winning analytics software. Amidst all the turmoil and upheaval that 2020 has inflicted, the team effort that successfully brought a set of capabilities for easy-to-use text mining and automated machine learning, a high-performance analytic engine upgrade for our core platform AND a whole new software product category called analytic process automation into the market has left a new high-water mark of achievement to aspire to beat in future years!
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
At the heart of the Alteryx mission is the alignment of the three biggest forces for digital transformation: data, process and people. It’s the third of these that I’m making my personal mission. The “new normal” of business in 2021 will place an ever-greater premium on self-reliance as the route to high-productivity. I’d like to motivate and energise every analyst, every information worker who spends their day drowning in spreadsheets that there’s a better, more productive future ahead!
How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?
The game-changer for aligning data and analytics with business objectives at Alteryx has been the introduction of a chief data and analytics officer (CDAO) who helps to deliver data-driven change across all functions of the organisation. This partnership, at every level, between data science and the operational side of the business is the critical key to success. The business knows the process and helps define the outcome and the CDAO’s “strike team” of data scientists knows the data, the lineage and how to apply analytic techniques to deliver the best results.
At an industry level, working for a vendor that plays a critical part in many enterprise-level analytic eco-systems, we often find powerful complementary functions from our partners, whether it’s acquiring data from software process bots, data management in cloud-based data warehouses or data storytelling through dashboards. The business can always automate their data inputs, solve their analytic challenges with a huge breadth of analytic functionality and then deliver transformative outcomes, wherever they’re needed.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
There’s a hard-won understanding from industry veterans that technology doesn’t deliver value in the change process alone: it’s the data and the people that bring about that value together. Self-service analytics promises to reduce the blockers and the friction that prevents many analysts from reaching their goals. By automating those many hours spent buried in spreadsheets, it will make their lives far easier and bring new opportunities to learn and develop.
As you build this culture of self-service analytics, you’ll need a community that supports them and nurtures this growth and up-skilling. Some will need blueprints or best practice, others will need weekly challenges and clear paths to certification and mastery. Others will simply thrive knowing that the community has got their back when they meet their next challenge.