Alfonso Franklin on Helping Clients Wrangle Data and Making Customers Successful
Data Evangelist, Sigma
As the volume and quality of data that companies have access to has exploded over the last few decades, BI tools have promised transformative results. But the reality is that BI adoption remains a paltry 30% and organizations still struggle to make data-driven decisions. Time and time again, BI tools have failed to help companies harness the full power of their data.
With over 25 years of experience across finance, technical sales, and information technology, at companies like IBM, Salesforce, and Qlik, Alfonso Franklin has seen dozens of BI solutions come and go. Like many of our customers, Alfonso found himself returning to Excel again and again to solve his BI challenges. But when Alfonso discovered Sigma, he knew that he had found something truly special.
Alfonso now serves as our VP of Solution Engineering. This talented group of data experts partner with our customers to explore ways Sigma can help them get the most value out of their data. Leveraging decades of collective experience and expertise, they dive deep into the problems our customers face with their data and develop custom solutions that help them achieve success.
I sat down with Alfonso to learn a little more about why he joined Sigma, what the future of BI looks like, and how Sigma is changing the way companies interact with their data.
What attracted you to Sigma and led you to join?
It just wasn’t one thing that attracted me to Sigma, it was the sum of the parts: A cloud-based analytics solution built from the ground up, a focus on making analytics easy for real, and a passionate and enthusiastic group of bright people determined to deliver a modern analytics tool that everyone can use.
The fundamental premise of the solution is leveraging a familiar Excel-like interface that everyone in business has used for over 30 years with a few modern updates and tweaks, to deliver on unlocking data from cloud data warehouses at scale that performs.
This strategy takes me back to some of the earliest days in my career as a Financial Analyst when I used Excel with BI add-ins to access data from the ERP and data warehouse. I had learned to extract the data with a database management language I had not used before, SQL, and without it, I wasn’t going to do any analysis or reporting. Select statements, where clauses, group by, and union all were typed out incorrectly at times, reviewed, and much later, finally rows of data!
With 20 years of BI experience, I have seen a number of solutions come to market, but like many of the customers I have worked with over the years, I found myself defaulting to Excel as the BI solution of choice. When I learned that Sigma was making it easy for all knowledge workers to access their data in real-time without cumbersome SQL, I knew we were on to something big that could revolutionize business intelligence. We are making analytics easy for real.
I learned a long time ago that you can have the best ideas and a hard-working team, but without passion and humility, it is nearly impossible to get things done. I recall my first few phone calls with Sigma leadership and I could feel their excitement as well as their experience through the phone.
One example of this is Solution Engineer, Archana Manohar. When she spoke about Sigma, the people, and the product, you knew she was waving her hands around during the call and this was confirmed once I came on board. The teaming across Engineering, Product Management, Sales, Marketing, and Solution Engineering is some of the best I have seen in the industry. The team doesn’t care why something happened or who is to blame, everyone is focused on the solution. To ensure nothing gets missed, objectives and key results (OKRs) keep our agile team on track.
When I learned that Sigma was making it easy for all knowledge workers to access their data in real-time without cumbersome SQL, I knew we were on to something big that could revolutionize business intelligence.
VP Solution Engineering at Sigma
Can you share a little bit about your team’s areas of expertise and responsibility?
At Sigma, we are the Solution Engineering organization. We are responsible for partnering with our customers and sales team to help customers understand how Sigma can turn their data into actionable insights that drive business value through dashboards, reports, and ad-hoc analysis. The Solution Engineering team has decades upon decades of expertise in analytics, data transformation, and data warehousing in multiple industries and departments.
We work with our customers to understand and document their data and reporting opportunities by engaging in working sessions to uncover use cases they have not tackled in the past as well as data silos and bottlenecks. Based on this interaction, we develop demonstrations and proof of concepts (POCs) to show how the Sigma platform can simplify data wrangling and deliver results in hours, not days, weeks, or sometimes months on large complex data sets! And our engagement doesn’t stop here. After a customer joins the Sigma family, they have access to the Solution Engineering team through live chat and one-on-one discussions to drive success. This is my personal passion, driving our success through customer success. I recognize as a previous IT leader how important user adoption is to the overall success of a software solution deployment. Are you a Sigma customer? Feel free to reach out to your regional sales manager to schedule a call with the team and I.
If you had to describe the major problem Sigma solves in one sentence, what would it be?
Sigma solves the data traffic jam! Being a native of California, I am definitely familiar with traffic jams. Business Intelligence and IT departments across the globe have a backlog of analytic requests that can not be serviced in a timely fashion. With Sigma, we remove the barrier of needing to be a SQL expert. Our interface and solution are designed with the business user in mind, not a developer. And developers are welcome too, we have an interface to write SQL.
What are some of the most interesting Sigma use cases you’ve seen so far?
Great question. For such a longtime, business intelligence was focused on the traditional lines of business; finance, sales, marketing, and supply chain. Indeed, this is a big focus for our solution as well.
However, I am excited to say we are diving into new use cases, some of which simply weren’t achievable in the past because the data was too large and BI solutions too arduous. One such use case is security analytics leveraging Sigma to identify and diagnose security threats on massive amounts of data.
We also have clients using Sigma to process claims and align this data with other third party sources for 360 degree insights. Our customers and prospects are demanding more as they leverage data at scale with Snowflake and other modern cloud based data warehouses.
The future is bright as compute power continues to grow, allowing Sigma to demystify massive amounts of data and insights. This is driving better business decisions by empowering the domain experts, a.k.a. the owners of the data, to do their own analysis easily and quickly.
The future is bright as compute power continues to grow, allowing Sigma to demystify massive amounts of data and insights.
VP Solution Engineering at Sigma
What are your predictions for the future of BI and analytics?
Real-time performance at scale
If the data is stale, it will not be used, period. The interdependent overnight batch jobs that would fail and contribute to the great debate on who had the correct numbers to make serious business decisions will become a thing of the past.
Today, enterprises have adopted real time analytics, but only for select mission critical applications and it often comes with a large price tag or it doesn’t perform. Real-time performance at scale will grow in popularity as technology advances and new solutions are brought to market.
As data types and quantity continue to grow as we usher in the roaring 20s decade, organizations and business leaders will be required to adjust their data strategy often. New sources of data will come: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. Old sources of data will become obsolete, won’t scale or won’t integrate.
The best way to stay ahead of this trend will be to have a cloud-first strategy. Companies like Intuit have reaped the benefits of a cloud-first strategy by incorporating all lines of business in their development lifecycle. No longer do they have discrete product lines, but an integrated platform rooted in data so everyone knows what is going on in real-time.
Over the next 10 years, companies large and small will need to adopt this strategy as it will be the only way true agility can be achieved. If you need to stand-up servers in your data center, load software, then build applications, the data will be out of date by the time you deliver your first solution.
Fit for purpose BI will continue to be the norm
‘One BI solution for all’ was the promise in the early 2000s, but it never happened. Why? Because vertical and departmental requirements vary. In those days, a single version of the truth was the goal, but most solutions lacked the flexibility to support constantly changing metadata (the names of the columns and metrics) and often the developers of the content did not have context for what they were building. Lastly, they simply could not keep up with the demand from business users. Therefore companies needed multiple solutions: productionalized static reporting, ad-hoc slice & dice, and true self-service (Excel). Not to mention industry and departmental specific solutions for manufacturing, healthcare, marketing, supply chain, and many more. With the demand for fit for purpose BI, companies will continue to rely on multiple analytic solutions to run their business.
Alfonso is VP of Solution Engineering at Sigma Computing. He has over 25 years of experience in technical sales, accounting, financial analysis, information technology, and personnel management with a proven track record of streamlining processes to drive sales strategy and develop partnerships with customers.
Photography, Hanging out on the beach, Cooking, and Golfing