Editor’s Note: The X Factor is a blog series featuring data rockstars and their everyday challenges and solutions.
This blog features Ian Reed, Manager of Enterprise Analytics, Signet Jewelers.
Ian Reed will be the first to admit that his personal journey with Alteryx (and analytics in general) started off slow.
“It wasn’t until I joined Signet and saw the day-to-day frustrations that the real world faces in terms of data curation,” says Reed.
While he was introduced to the self-service analytics platform more than five years ago by Alteryx ACE, Gary Gruccio (whom he reports to today), it wasn’t until he attended an Alteryx Inspire event in 2015 that he was, well, inspired.
“It was like an a-ha moment. Being in that atmosphere, seeing how much others love their jobs, I really wanted what they had,” says Reed. “I happened to be in a room with an Alteryx executive who challenged me to try the weekly challenges on Community, and from there I really hit the ground running.”
Today, Reed serves as Manager of Enterprise Analytics at Signet Jewelers, the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry and the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the U.S., UK, and Canada.
Here, he is responsible for organizational transformation in a relatively new department — enterprise analytics — that he has helped build from the ground up.
“My role is to help validate career paths by turning analysts into decision makers. It’s about walking the walk and talking the talk,” says Reed.
“This commitment to creating a data-driven culture comes from the top. Our CEO has made it clear that it’s not the highest position or the loudest voices in the room that have the greatest impact — analysts must also have a seat at the table to help drive decisions,” says Reed.
Like most organizations, it has been an upward challenge.
“We were so caught up in the daily grind of reporting on what/why things happened, that we didn’t get a chance to start trying to answer what will happen until we had a good footing in data prep/curation,” he says.
“Every department functioned as a silo, and there was no great way to merge and join data for meaningful insights,” Reed explains. “We were reliant on IT, which could often take weeks or months to get to. In our fast-paced retail environment, these delays were resulting in lost opportunities.
“Although we do see a benefit in this, we also want to have these silos freely communicate with each other. By increasing the flow of communication between departments, specifically in terms of data, we want people to be
familiar with ALL parts of the company and experts in their slice of it. A lot of times our analysts don’t even know what data exists outside of their bubble, so it’s impossible for them to draw connections to other aspects of the business. We want to change this. We want our analysts to be the first line of defense in identifying relationships with other aspects of our business, because after all, they are the ones knee-deep in data,” says Reed.
“By leveraging different departments to be self-sufficient, we can get to actionable insights right away, discover correlations for opportunities, and be more agile as a company. This is particularly important in the COVID-19 environment where things are changing by the moment and impacting sales.”
He stressed that automation doesn’t equate to a reduction in headcount. Instead, upscaling frees up analysts and citizen data scientists to not only better understand the business, but “Gives you the freedom to come up with ideas and run with them.” This, in turn, “Improves confidence and certainty when providing recommendations on the directions we should take.”
“Not only have we gone from 1 to 100 on speed to insights, our analysts have gone from report builders to storytellers and problem solvers. Without it, there is no way to get to the next level in our digital transformation journey,” says Reed.
He also recognizes that becoming a data-driven organization is truly a team effort. “If you’re adopting Alteryx solo, you are missing the boat, you have to bring the culture,” Reed stresses.
Inspired by the Alteryx ACE (Alteryx Certified Expert) Program, Signet has created its own “Analytics Community of Excellence” program to help shape the company’s data-driven vision and growth.
“My greatest enjoyment comes from seeing new adoptions and increasing the number of people certified and their lightbulb ‘I get it!’ moment, which down the road leads to promotions and personal enjoyment of their jobs,” says Reed.
“I am in a unique position that I get to work with so many departments in our company that with each interaction I am forced to learn something new (which often involves several trips to Community!) Despite this, I make it a priority to continuously upskill. Whether that takes the form of speaking with new software vendors so I’m knowledgeable about the landscape, listening to webinars over my lunch breaks, attending conferences/networking events, and most importantly weekly challenges/Alteryx certifications.”
“One of my personal goals is to pass the Alteryx Expert certifications, which I have sat for twice now. I also can’t stress how important public speaking is. The questions that I receive after, and the relationships that I have built, are incredibly valuable. To recap, it’s an easy trap to rest on your laurels, but this game of analytics/data is evolving daily. If you do not take the time to invest in yourself, you will be left behind,” Reed advises.
“It’s really cool to walk through the office and see how many screens have Alteryx popped open,” says Reed. (You’re telling us!)
(He’s not one to brag, so we’ll do it for him — Reed’s been promoted three times since earning his Alteryx certification.) Not just that, but all employees who have been Alteryx certified have gone on to receive promotions. Score.
Reed’s X Factor?
“Definitely my genuine passion and love for data and helping others benefit from it while learning and building a culture around it. It’s contagious!” Reed expressed.
“I really enjoy the journey and the freedom and encouragement from Signet to share my experience with using Alteryx,” says Reed.
We’re glad, too.
Top 3 success areas with Alteryx
- Increased analytics capabilities
- Cross-departmental analytics/ecosystem of data sharing
- Democratization of data