As the 3D printing industry boomed, business challenges for Stratasys grew from multiple angles. The market had become more saturated and the demand for impactful analytics increased, but data was scattered across different departments and routine processes were stacked up.
Increased Number of Data Sources and Limited Resources
Previously, senior management had to rely on several disparate platforms — including Excel, Salesforce, and Oracle — to get a complete view of the business. Cheung and Soh were the go-to guys to help bring everything together. And with a growing number of data sources, data management became an even greater challenge.
To address the needs of the business, Cheung and Soh had to combine pre-sales data in Salesforce with various Excel files not accommodated in the CRM system, along with post-sales transactions data in Oracle. Presentations had all been in Excel, or sometimes put onto PowerPoint.
Huge File Sizes and Varying Data Formats
For a single year of transaction data generation, the raw data combined with formulas and charts would make an Excel file unmanageable for a typical laptop to process. This required the team to create a separate file for each calendar year, which made analyzing historical data and reporting on booking trends to management extremely difficult. The time and effort required for Cheung and Soh simply to collate the data was limiting their ability to perform impactful analytics on the combined data set.
Another challenge was managing different data formats, such as data sets from customer support where one region uses a different system. Cheung and Soh also collect external transaction data from Stratasys’ go-to-market channel partners. Cheung explains, “We have control of our data structure when we sell directly, but it is a challenge to collect and merge data from our regional channel partners, most of which keep data in different formats from how we manage information internally.”
Soh adds, “At the end of the day, our senior management team needs to see all of our pre-sales and post-sales together — from both internal and external resources. With the hours required to coordinate — consolidating and verifying data, and ensuring we account for any possible human errors, we needed a solution to improve the total processing and visualization of data.”
Cheung and Soh learned about Alteryx at the Big Data and Analytics Summit hosted by the Innovation Enterprise, where they were exploring ways to visualize and consolidate data more efficiently. While evaluating visualization tools from Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, they quickly ran into limitations with streamlining data and processing multiple data sources together. “The visualization tools weren’t working for us and we knew that we were missing something,” says Cheung. “Then we started looking at the self-service analytics capabilities of the Alteryx platform, and we realized this was the solution we needed.”
Cheung and Soh immediately found that with Alteryx they were finally able to compress, process, and perform end-to-end analytics on their large amounts of fiscal-year data. The file size for a single fiscal-year report made analysis extremely challenging when using a standard laptop, let alone analyzing multiple years simultaneously. After implementing Alteryx, they could not only trend a full three to four years of data, but Cheung was then also able to load and cleanse data from their various channel partners regardless of formats. He says, “Instead of needing to manually format every time, now Alteryx does all the work for me with just one click.” He could also connect to other data sources and another region’s database to effectively map everything together and present visually in Tableau.
Soh shares, “Alteryx works really well with Tableau, especially with Publish to Tableau Server tool. We have internal processes that we are working to map and streamline, so Alteryx is our ‘virtual intern’ that we need going forward.” Using Alteryx, Cheung and Soh are now able to pull the data they need from channel partners and align it to fit into their internal dashboard for more comprehensive customer insight from both direct and indirect sales.