Managing growing datasets and ensuring regulatory compliance was top of mind for the charity as it investigated potential technologies. Stephenson was introduced to the Alteryx Analytics APA Platform when a spare Alteryx Designer license became available. In her own words she, “Tried it for a week, laughed with exhilaration, then got to work.” The subsequent deployment of Alteryx Server has been part of a 5-year data strategy framework which Stephenson has spearheaded with three key directives:
- Data management
- Insight for action
Prior to Alteryx, the original uncoordinated team of four business analysts at Anthony Nolan were working in an environment lacking in data quality management and governance, which made it almost impossible to derive actionable insights. “The analysts were very much divorced from the data sources and lacking analytic tools such as stats packages and visualisation tools. They could produce very little reporting and no true insight,” Stephenson says. “Alteryx gives us the ability to pull huge datasets from disparate sources and very quickly aggregate to achieve instant meaning. I could almost hear the light-bulbs illuminating as each person realized the insights they could derive as a result.”
As an example of automation that produces meaningful business insights, Anthony Nolan uses 5-year age grouping to categorize donors on the register. Before Alteryx, when someone wanted to run an analysis on the age groups, they would have to manually recode in Excel. Each analysis would be slightly different and produce varying results. With Alteryx Analytic Process Automation, the age groups are categorized in a fraction of the time with consistently accurate results. This efficiency gain allows the analysts to interrogate combined factors such as age-group of donor at sign-up, how long they have been active on the register, and how many donations they have made to generate a much fuller picture of the rate at which stem cells are donated; this information has helped to launch targeted interventions by category and expose age groups to focus on for specific campaigns.
Stephenson fondly refers to the data warehouse at Anthony Nolan as a “data shack” and all regular processes running on that data are known as “shack-planks.” Performing shack-planks in Alteryx takes the heavy lift out of business-critical processes such as data quality checks and allows automated alerts to be sent to the relevant business owner when a problem is identified. Programmed fault identification and swift remediation prevents the continuous investment of funds into legacy systems; a decision which was crucial to the success of an innovative data-led strategy.
To gain executive buy-in for a data-led technology strategy, Stephenson stayed true to the Anthony Nolan core value; patients are the center of everything. “Being patient-focused is a directive driven by humanity and that will always be central,” Stephenson says. “However, when you look at what we achieve here, it starts with genetic samples from different people, rendered as data, and compared, to seek out matches. Successful matches lead to more data being shared in the organization, internationally, which hopefully leads to a tissue donation to help a patient in need.” This journey is summed up poignantly as Stephenson adds, “Quite simply, we are data.”