The holiday season is here, so what better analogy than food? Let’s jump into data and analytics with our appetite this holiday. Here’s a few key terms from the kitchen:
- Data = Raw Ingredients
- Coding = Cooking
- Templates = Recipe Book
- Dashboard = Fixed Combo Menu
- Metrics = Food Dish Items
- Metrics Catalog = a-la-carte Menu
- Metrics Store = Kitchen, to transform raw ingredients to the desired food dish, with recipes.
Business users don’t always need data (raw ingredients), but they are always hungry for metrics (food dishes). The problem is that metrics (or KPIs) are buried in data or BI dashboards. If it’s hidden in data, it needs coding (cooking) to convert it to meaningful KPIs (imagine getting raw ingredients when you are hungry).
If it’s in dashboards, then KPIs are restricted to the ones designed and displayed (think fixed combo menu).
Dashboards provide the most used metrics but don’t leave any option for custom or ad-hoc queries. For anything that’s not used frequently (call it a-la-carte analysis), they need three things:
- Access to a data warehouse or data lake.
- To capture business logic using code (SQL or Python) or a no-code data prep tool like Alteryx.
- BI, reporting, a visualization tool, or XLS for simple reports and quick ad-hoc charts.
The problem is that these three tasks are performed by three different users (personas) using three different products, all with interdependencies. Let’s call them controller (IT person or super user with all data warehouse or data lake access), data analyst (the builder or coder or creator who owns the data prep tool), and business user (the consumer who spends more time on BI tools or XLS).
Now let’s make it bigger; we solve the problem of a-la-carte analysis one user or team at a time. i.e., every user or team starts with raw data access and builds a custom business logic for their team. Now we have a problem of too many cooks in too many kitchens. Managing metrics is a mess for most companies, and the bigger the company, the messier the metrics and its governance (kitchen).
Today we’re excited to share a new approach to standardizing and democratizing metrics for your enterprises using the Alteryx Metrics Store.
In this blog, we will cover:
- The metrics layer concept
- Why Metrics Store and why now?
- The Alteryx approach to no-code Metrics Store
- Key personas (creators, customizers, and consumers)
- Use-case templates of metrics store for cross-functional collaboration
The Metrics Layer Concept
The way organizations measure their progress toward strategy is through metrics. And there is a long list of metrics for every organization to monitor. In Figure 1, you can see several examples of metrics and how they measure progress toward strategic goals.
Figure 1: Metrics Layer Concept
For example, progress toward financial health is measured by a net-profit margin, debt-equity ratio, return on capital, EBITDA, and more such financial metrics. They span all lines of business too. For example, HR needs to know about employee satisfaction scores; sales, marketing, and product teams need to know churn by user and by revenue, etc. Organizations are increasingly building ESG metrics to measure things like their carbon footprint, DEI scores, etc.
When one metric is combined with other data, be it internal or external, it can provide the context needed to tell the story. How does a metric take net profit margin and vary it from one region to another or by product category and/or line of business? How does it link to customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction scores?
All important questions, all highly valuable, all somewhat repeatable from one team to another. And, of course, building metrics and adding all this context is very hard! It takes time, talent, and technology to build it.
But imagine if all of these were available to you on-demand; just click on metrics you care about, and voila, you’ve it. Before we get to the solution, let’s see what the problem is with the traditional approach to metrics.
Figure 2: Metrics Layer Concept
Considering how most companies use data and build metrics, it looks like what we see on the left. You have a variety of departments and business units building the metrics they need. But they use their own logic and build their own metrics, which causes problems (think multiple kitchens, which is inefficient).
- Duplicating calculations results from different teams building metrics and is an INEFFICIENT use of technology, time, and talent (think someone re-calculating ARR in XLS, when it already exists in BI).
- It also leads to INCONSISTENT, highly variable results due to different logic built by different teams (e.g., churn always varies for product, customer success, or sales teams).
- Business users must check several places to get the metrics they need which is TIME-CONSUMING. (e.g., renewal is a classic example, it needs coordination between sales, customer success, and finance teams to arrive at a final number).
- They may find inconsistent results that differ from one consumption platform to another that they cannot explain. They hence can’t SELF-SERVE (whatever is done in steps 1-3 needs to be repeated for every minor variation for similar business questions).
If you land on an “aha” moment or perfect metrics, your options to share that with your team or manager are very limited. Simply put, there are many inefficiencies in the journey from data to metrics. What if they could simply point and click their way to off-the-shelf metrics and customize quickly and easily?
I want to introduce you all to the concept of Alteryx Metrics Store, a metrics catalog for business users and no-code UI for data analysts and IT teams to create and customize these standardized metrics as per their company’s specific business and data needs. But before we go there, let’s see some recent product trends regarding Metrics Store.
Why Metrics Store? (And Why Now?)
As we’ve seen over the last few years ─ especially in the technology sector ─ is the trend of technology use moving from “digital natives” (like those in the tech industry) to other organizations.
Similar to highly scalable data lakes and data warehouses, digital natives build technology first to meet their own needs (e.g., Airbnb built a metric platform, Spotify built themselves a Metrics Hub, Uber built Umetrics, etc.) then eventually, their tech is productized and moved into the masses.
According to IDC’s research, “Enterprises looking to develop innovative products and services that differentiate, create competitive advantage, or disrupt the market should follow the lead of digital native companies.” The question on the need for Metrics Store isn’t necessarily yes or no ─ but a question of when. The digital native companies listed above faced a common set of challenges:
- It was time-consuming
- There was no single source of truth
- Lack of visibility for metrics definitions
- Inconsistent definitions
So, they did something about it ─ they built a solution for themselves. What they built were metrics stores. These metrics stores were meant only for internal production, so unless you work for one of these digital natives, you’re probably asking yourself, what does a metrics store look like?
Alteryx’s Approach to a No-Code Metrics Store
Alteryx Metric Store offers a more efficient approach. At the highest level, Metrics Store provides a middle layer to produce and consume analytics consistently. The middle layer solves consistency problems by providing a single source of truth and delivering consistent logic before any data hits a BI dashboard or any consumption app.
It allows business units to have a common language and drill down into key metrics using pre-defined business logic and standardized dimensions.
Figure 3: Building Blocks for Alteryx Metrics Store
With the middle layer in mind, there are three key elements to the Alteryx Metrics Store.
- First is the set of templated business logic needed to build and execute a use case or to calculate a key metric quickly – this is where partners and domain experts come together to define the logic and the inputs. Since Alteryx designer is a no-code tool, all the metrics logic will reside in templated Designer workflows instead of code.
- Consumer-centric metrics catalog for business users to find, access, and consume metrics quickly and without writing a line of code or data modeling. Here’s the demo to see what the metrics catalog looks like for business users.
- Set of governance, versioning, access controls, and sharing capabilities that an enterprise-ready solution like this requires.
Note: Metrics Store is meant to be partner-led and is certainly a new opportunity to build new customer use cases.
Please sign up for our Metrics Store partner program here.
Key Personas (Creators, Customizers & Consumers)
Figure 4: Unified experience across all three personas
Alteryx’s mission is to democratize analytics for all, and with Metrics Store, we’re now offering “metrics for all.” This means uniting the different personas with a unified and consistent experience to meet all their various needs, and Metrics Store is designed to do just that.
Creators: For creator personas, some call them data analysts; what Alteryx already provides is a no-code product to build the metrics logic using designer workflows. Once the logic is built, it’s ready to be customized to enterprises’ data and business needs.
Customizers: Next, customizers have access to a new code-free UI. Using this experience, customizers who can be IT admins, super users, solution partners, and consultants can map the pre-built logic to the organization’s data. It is code free and intuitive to use to accelerate use case delivery. Now with the data customized for the organization and the logic built, the metric catalog is ready for business users to self-serve.
Consumers: Now, metrics can be easily consumed by business users; we call them consumers. Ultimately, business users, which is the key focus for Metrics Store will have a variety of metrics to self-serve. Just like placing an order in a restaurant or ordering food in DoorDash or Uber Eats.
Our approach directly addresses the pain points inherent to the current state of the metrics experience. Repeatable metrics means no duplicating effort for creators. Easy mapping of datasets shortens time to value and reduces the backlog for customizers. The self-service metrics catalog enables faster, better decisions for business users.
For every company, there may be few creators or customizers, but the focus for Metrics Store is 100s or 1000s of business users, who make decisions on top of well-defined, self-serve metrics and KPIs.
Use Case Templates for Metrics Store
Figure 5: Metrics Store Templates for Business Teams
Alteryx Metrics Store and the use-case templates make life easy for the three key personas needed to democratize analytics across the enterprise: consumers, creators, and customizers.
- Consumers are shown in the outer layer (Figure 3) here as the business users in functional teams such as Finance, HR, and Customer Success – they consume the output of metrics calculated for the set of dimensions they want.
- Creators are the analysts who create these templates in the middle layer such as P&L Reports, Staffing Analysis, and Customer Success Financials – and make it possible for all consumers to consume the metrics and dimensions that they are familiar with.
- Customizers are the stewards of the core dataset layer – made up of the dimensions and datasets for the enterprise – datasets such as Salesforce, NetSuite, Workday and dimensions like time and location – for example, what is our fiscal Q1 dates, what countries make up the region EMEA for us, etc. Customizers plug the right datasets and dimensions into the templates, manage the versioning and lifecycle and manage user access controls. They have an important role in bringing trust to the metrics store from which all the business users consume.
Above (Figure 5), you can see just a few examples of metrics and templates, but in enterprise scenarios, there are 100s of use cases and 1000s of metrics. Alteryx metrics store plans to standardize not just use cases but all the metrics within those use cases.
Alteryx Metrics Store is ready for Early Access. If you are interested in the Early Access program, you can find more information on our website.
Summarizing this blog with our holiday and food analogy, now consumers have access to their favorite food (metrics), with an a-la-carte menu (metrics catalog), curated by the best chefs (creators or data analysts) using famous recipes (templates). All of this is happening without much cooking (coding) but with all the customizations. It’s just like building your own pizza, pasta, or salad (select metrics and dimensions).