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The University of Georgia’s Analytics Journey: From Spreadsheets to a Culture of Data

Holley Schramski, the former associate vice president of finance at the University of Georgia, recognized that her team was performing a lot of manual labor for their data processes. She recalls her associate controller being frustrated as Excel kept crashing while she tried to wrap up financial statements. Schramski said that UGA was “never going to evolve from a transactional operation to becoming more analytical unless we stopped all of our manual processes and started automating processes for our team.”

UGA began its transformation journey in 2016, partnering with Avaap to implement a new ERP system. The finance team suddenly had large amounts of data and insights they weren’t able to access previously, and needed to start leveraging it to accelerate and inform decisions.

Schramski, also a professor at the University, knew of Alteryx from the classes she taught undergraduate students. Alteryx is a modern data management and analytics tool that enables self-service data preparation and predictive modeling for tools such as Tableau and other BI and data analytics outputs. Schramski loves to share the story of her class’ assignment to complete an ETL (extract, transfrom, load) workflow first in Excel and then in Alteryx. She describes the frustration her class faced doing it in Excel and then the ease in which they were able to do it in Alteryx.

Just like her students, team quickly saw the benefits to using Alteryx. Although first hesitant with the change, they quickly were onboard once they saw Alteryx’s ability to create and manage data workflows, and the ability to easily clean and transform data with minimal to no coding required. The biggest value, however, is in the automation.

Schramski overheard her colleague say, “Now that I automated the bank reconciliation process, I have three extra days in the month.”

While most of the team was excited about the possibilities of Alteryx, Schramski knew to expect apprehension to change and implemented change management principals she learned during UGA’s ERP implementation; Avaap led Schramski and the University of Georgia team through Prosci® classes during the ERP project. For the business intelligence transformation project, Schramski found a group of self-starters that became the department’s change agent network (CAN). The CAN teamed up with Avaap to train their colleagues on Alteryx and lead them through the change.

“Even the smallest amount of change can rock someone’s world,” said Schramski. “It’s important to explain to your team what’s in it for them and how it will add value. Engaging stakeholders early and often is equally critical, as communication is key. We are in the beginning stages of our BI journey, but with the help of Avaap, we have already developed a number of solutions in a short amount of time.”

About the author: Jason Wood is the director of analytics at Avaap. With over 10 years of experience in technology, he is skilled in all aspects of business intelligence and analytics.