We recently hosted a webinar – From days to seconds: How Alteryx has transformed VAT reporting for Lumen – with our collaborative partner, Alteryx.
As our most popular webinar to date, it’s perhaps no surprise that we were inundated with questions from attendees during the live Q&A session at the end of the event. From the benefits of using Alteryx for tax to the intricacies of its reporting functionality, we endeavoured to answer as many as possible during the webinar.
However, if your question was missed on this occasion or we weren’t able to go into the level of detail you’d hoped for, we’ve rounded up the insightful answers of our Global Solutions Architect, Andrew Bohnet and his fellow panellists in response to your queries:
- Is Alteryx suitable for global tax issues?
- How do you link to the correct tables in your ERP? Is this done from the ERP or within Alteryx?
- Can Alteryx be used as a cloud-based solution?
- Can you tell me more about the flexibility of the reporting section?
- Can Alteryx map to any AR or AP system?
- How long would it take to see ROI on an Alteryx investment in tax/VAT issues?
- Where would external advisory come in?
- Are machine learning tools provided as standard? I can’t see them in Alteryx Designer…
- Is it possible for the reverse engineering to reflect corrections back into the ERP system automatically for any mis-codings / posting identified in the end-to-end process?
- How does Alteryx deal with consolidating source data from different systems and in different formats?
1) Is Alteryx suitable for global tax issues?
Absolutely! When we implement our tax automation globally, one of the most important things is giving a structured, standardised approach. A lot of companies will set up tax local to the system so, for example, if they’re dealing with Italian Electronic invoicing - widely referred to as e-invoicing - is the exchange of a digital document between a supplier and a buyer. E-invoices are issued, transmitted and received in a structured data format that enabled automatic and electronic processing. They contain data in a machine-readable format so that an AP system can read an invoice without manual data entry, leading to faster and more efficient invoicing. all their tax logic and naming conventions will be specific to the Italian requirements. They often fail to map it across, but by using Alteryx you can convert everything back to a standard platform and use that to find gaps where some countries may not be following the right naming structure.
Also, when it comes to pulling data out the system with Alteryx, our investigatory approach means we ask why are you doing this task manually? We can save you huge amounts of time and go back upstream and potentially introduce better automation around the tax or to increase the amount of data that’s coming through on those interfaces. So Alteryx absolutely can be used from a global perspective because you can use it to take data from multiple sources and make it look like it’s coming from one, allowing you to read it as one rather than look at data differently.
2) How do you link to the correct tables in your ERP? Is this done from the ERP or within Alteryx?
Alteryx generally will have (depending on the ERP) the hook in and then you can access the different tables. What’s perhaps more important than Alteryx having access to those tables is to understand what are the correct tables to use. We commonly come across situations where we’re doing a solution review and the IT team may have been given a brief to create an interface, but they don’t understand tax, the tax team doesn’t understand data or tables (it’s not their job) so therefore the actual tables used to bring the data may not be the correct ones.
We’ve seen situations where a project module has been used to bring all the tax information for a company. Or the example I gave before where tax on bank charges is simply not being picked up at all because no one realised the particular ERP system stored that tax separately. I think it’s a really good idea to get an expert from that particular ERP to tell you where all the tax-related information is. Once you know that you can take over to use that data as you want to.
It depends on the ERP but because the data has been accessed you’re not pushing anything back so you have quite a bit of access to those ERPs because you’re not interfering with the data.
3) Can Alteryx be used as a cloud-based solution?
The way Alteryx is designed and how its modules are built mean it is something you can save on your desktop. You could run it from an Alteryx server which can be installed centrally and that can be used across your organisation. That can be stored on AWS for instance. There is a version that will be cloud-enabled that Alteryx is set to release in the near future and you’ll be able to add this to your desktop and be connected to it on the same day.
4) Can you tell me more about the flexibility of the reporting section?
The reporting tools within Alteryx essentially publish the output you’ve made so the reporting tools are only ever limited by the workflows that have been made. We’ve formulated many eye-catching reports and are able to easily drill down into them. There is more and more reporting being done within the Alteryx platform now, that’s certainly the way the platform is moving.
5) Can Alteryx map to any AR or AP system?
With Alteryx, you’ve got an open platform to connect to anything. Where Alteryx has worked with a company with an existing application they’ve made it easier to connect by putting all the components and parameters required together to make that connection. So to answer the question, yes, you can connect to any AR or AP system. If it’s not something Alteryx currently do you just have to create the right extract. We do a lot of work creating the connectors and, providing the security is in place, you shouldn’t have any problems.
6) How long would it take to see ROI on an Alteryx investment in tax/VAT issues?
It depends on your precise circumstances but it can be as little as just a few weeks.
Our team could take a process that takes you one day in 20 different countries, making 20 days of work in total, and develop a process to take its place that takes just five days to complete. In that case, the rewards can be almost immediate.
We’d need to look at your existing configuration and identify the quick wins. Once those quick wins are delivering ROI, you can go back to upper management and they’re more likely to support further requirements.
7) Where would external advisory come in?
Having anything in-house is great but you should never have one person doing the work. Consider if that person is working on multiple projects you may not have the resource, or that person may not have the necessary tax expertise. If you have the luxury of having an in-house tax technologist you can apportion their time to work with the tax team to knowledge share.
The key thing is you only know what you know. In cases where a business has an in-house tax technologist, often their skills begin to diminish because they’re only looking at their own data and requirements, whereas if you work with a company like us that works across all countries and all industries you’re going to benefit from our knowledge of what other organisations do to resolve their issues. We bring that to our other clients quickly, identify similar situations you may be facing and prevent you from experiencing the same pain points.
Without doubt one of the biggest failings that we see around most tax automation is that while people can map to a third-party tax engine or create rules, the overall structure of their configuration is usually terrible. It’s like a shanty town, building up and up and being added to all the time. Further down the line as you grow and regulations change, it becomes difficult to make the necessary updates you need. If you have the right advice at the beginning and you structure things in the right way you’ll make the considerations for things that may happen in the future, essentially future-proofing your business.
8) Are machine learning tools provided as standard? I can’t see them in Alteryx Designer…
The machine learning tools are in Intelligence Suite, which is an add-on to Alteryx Designer. There is an additional cost for this but you should be able to see those capabilities greyed out; and if you apply the Intelligence Suite key they become available. Alteryx is often happy to provide trials of those add-ons. Machine learning tools are a great way to get up to speed with this area and there are lots of training guides and visual aids to help.
9) Is it possible for the reverse engineering to reflect corrections back into the ERP system automatically for any miscodings/posting identified in the end-to-end process?
You can write to an ERP system (as an output) out of Alteryx but I would not usually advise this as coding anything back-end back to the ERP can be risky. Instead, you can build output reports from your workflow to identify miscodings which can then be fixed following your usual process.
10) How does Alteryx deal with consolidating source data from different systems and in different formats?
The formatting can be stripped and prepared into a format that suits the requirement using the variety of preparation tools that Alteryx provides. Each single input source can be handled individually before being combined into a single data stream.