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36 embark_Alteryx for accounting the future of the finance organization_v1-05

An abacus works great as long as you're counting bushels of wheat. The same goes for a business calculator and NPV calculations. Or spreadsheets and budgeting. But take a step further than a tool's sweet spot and a CFO is asking for trouble.

That's the dynamic running rampant across industries right now, with finance organizations and fleets of well-meaning CPAs pushing Excel past its natural limits and, in turn, preventing their companies from taking a deep dive into the business intelligence pool. Thankfully, we've been able to address such issues with our clients using a straightforward yet incredibly potent solution – Alteryx.

So give us a few minutes as we explain how Alteryx is the next evolutionary step from Microsoft Excel and, most importantly, how it can reinvent your accounting function into a streamlined, nimble, and value-adding powerhouse for your entire enterprise. 

The Business Intelligence Revolution

What Is Alteryx?

Before we begin, we want to make a few things clear. We use an awful lot of solutions as we knock out complex issues for our clients. Therefore, when we shine a particularly bright spotlight on a specific tool, it's a statement toward our belief in the solution and not a smokescreen hiding ulterior motives.

Put another way, our Business Transformation team has been extraordinarily successful using Alteryx for a while now, and we want to share the knowledge with our brethren working under the office of the CFO.

That said, at the highest level, Alteryx is a platform that empowers your business users to build and execute processes more efficiently. And it does that by connecting, transforming, and moving data between the different systems you use on any given day.

In fact, we probably buried the lede on this one since, if we're to distill Alteryx into a single catchy tagline, it would be something like "unlock the power of your data." Because that's precisely what it does – it helps convert your business data from mountains of numbers your team pushes across innumerable spreadsheets into invaluable business intelligence.

To borrow a metaphor from The Economist, that data – genuine BI – is "the oil of the digital era." Extending the comparison a bit further, if data is black gold for the 21st century, then Alteryx is the wells and pipelines transforming it into a true asset. Unfortunately, most finance organizations are still trying to capture that digital oil with five-gallon Home Depot buckets – or spreadsheets, in this case.


Alteryx Use Cases for Finance Professionals and Functions

The alternative to buckets, of course, is to employ tools designed to efficiently mine the untapped digital oil reserves – business intelligence – you've been sitting on for all these years. And that's essentially what Alteryx does, providing the framework you need to get that metaphorical oil out of the ground efficiently, distribute it across your enterprise, and start putting it to work. Immediately. Specifically, Alteryx drives and streamlines:

  • Data preparation
  • Data cleansing
  • Data requirements
  • Data structuring
  • Applied logic
  • Data and systems connectivity – interfacing

Further, all of those bright, talented, motivated people in your accounting and finance departments are going to appreciate your commitment to BI via Alteryx. Because, as you know, those types of people want – need – to be challenged. Otherwise, they slowly disengage and, ultimately, leave the organization for one that actually provides such challenging, satisfying work. To that point, recent research found 89% of workers to be more satisfied with their jobs after their employer implements automation technologies.

But how, exactly, do you keep your people engaged, data timely, and business intelligence relevant and guiding? It’s an awful lot to shuffle, right? Well, as you're about to see, that's where data analytics and Alteryx play an essential role.


Reconciliations shouldn't induce night sweats. Nor should AR, AP, your monthly close, or any of the other repetitive tasks on your accounting function's plate. Yet, more often than not, these types of essential processes rob your organization of time and resources that you’d be far better off devoting elsewhere. Like, for instance, creating value in any number of initiatives you could be undertaking instead.

Moreover, the folks running those repetitive tasks can quickly hit a mental and emotional wall. As previously stated, repetition directly correlates with burnout and talent fatigue, both of which are toxic to your organization's well-being and future viability. Those talented, motivated people we mentioned up top didn't sign up for the continuous borage of arduous, mind-numbing responsibilities that are still critical to your operations. So what's the alternative?

For starters, tools like robotic process automation (RPA) and automatic process automation (APA) – along with cohort technologies like visualization solutions, ETL (extract, transform, and load) tools, and different machine learning applications – can be fluid and efficient with Alteryx. Simply put, the Alteryx workflow connects these various technologies and makes sense of your data – from basic, repetitive tasks to hyper-complex ones – all without having to manually upkeep countless Excel files and needlessly burn FTEs.

Data Consolidation and Migration

Let's say you've just acquired a company whose data looks like the local fairgrounds after a three-day death metal festival. Where do you even begin sorting through it? And how on earth are you going to align it with your own?

Such problems aren't exclusive to M&A, of course. Any systems integration or ERP implementation can trigger the same overwhelming anxiety, where it feels like you're trying to make sense of a million moving parts, all while your stakeholders and board are looking over your shoulder.

As you probably guessed, Alteryx allows you to efficiently consolidate and migrate data between different organizations, departments, strategic partners, or whomever you want to seamlessly share business information with. And it accomplishes such lofty tasks through dimensional modeling, mapping the throughput of the data flow, and addressing duplicative information.

Put another way, with Alteryx involved, information from disparate data sources can flow into your chart of accounts or general ledger without the manual heavy-lifting that's traditionally plagued accounting functions. And don't forget about the advantages such data integrity and immediate data analysis can have on your decision-making.

Financial Reporting

Speaking of data analysis, decision-making, and advantages, there aren't too many competitive edges more powerful than agility. Markets move like lightning, so the faster your leadership can read the economic and operational tea leaves, the better.

However, organizations have immense amounts of data to sort through, making real-time reporting a bear of a task without the right tools to inform it. In fact, without using the right solutions, it's practically impossible to aggregate and present accurate, timely, nuanced data that forward-looking, agile decision-makers need.

Once again, this is an area where Alteryx shines, guiding all that information you can now pull together into Power BI, Tableau, or whatever your preferred visualization and data dashboard solution might be. And that's true business intelligence at your fingertips, normalized and structured data feeding metrics, informing KPIs, and providing the sort of self-service analytics the office of the CFO has long dreamed of.

Systems Limitations

Think about your business information for a moment. You know – those countless rows of data that, collectively, tell your organization's story and serve as the basis for the models, forecasts, and reports that define its future. Needless to say, it's crucial to every aspect of your operations, not just FP&A.

But just lassoing all of that information and trying to deal with it efficiently – not even counting the data extraction, consolidation, and clean-up we already discussed – is an immense task in and of itself. How many record limitations have you smacked into like a brick wall while combining data sets? Or SQL queries timing out when generating a report? Probably quite a few. And it’s frustrating, right?

Thankfully, Alteryx lets you avoid these hurdles by, amongst other functions, scheduling your workflows on a server – depending on your company’s configuration, of course – and, thus, allowing you to streamline the entire process for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Which also means all of that efficiency is completely scalable, expanding as your operations and needs expand so you don’t run into those barriers. Alteryx optimizes your day-to-day data management so you never have to divert your attention and, to mix our metaphors to the umpteenth degree, jump the hurdles that have been a perpetual thorn in your side.

Documentation and Data Audit

What happens when you have a critical workbook maintained by a single individual on your team? And that single individual hits the lottery, doesn't give you two weeks' notice, and just stops showing up one day? Talk about quiet quitting.

Obviously, that's not an ideal scenario and can leave your entire enterprise susceptible to all kinds of risks and reprimands. Granted, you should already be addressing such potential calamities with sound internal controls, but Alteryx gives you another backup simply by documenting the different processes going into that worksheet. Therefore, no matter how important any person is to a particular task, you'll always be able to fill in the gaps if that knowledge walks out the door.


Embark: Your Alteryx Go-To

If you were to walk through our content library, you'd see that we usually aren't so effusive with our praise and recommendations. But when a tool like Alteryx enters the picture, we can't help but want to scream about it from a mountaintop.

So if we've piqued your interest and you want to find out more about everything Alteryx can do for your organization – we've only scratched the surface today, believe it or not – then let's talk. Because there's nothing we want more than to implement this tool for your enterprise and watch your profitability soar, people smile, and success bloom like a daffodil.

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