Why Organizational Design is Crucial When Scaling a Team, According to Alteryx’s CHRO

Sharon SteelFeatures
L. David Kingsley CHRO

L. David Kingsley, the CHRO at Alteryx. Courtesy of Alteryx.

Alteryx is a publicly traded leader in analytic process automation (APA), a cloud-based data analytics platform that allows organizations to solve problems with lightning speed. The company experienced massive growth in 2020, and with that came strategic shifts in top leadership: This past fall, Alteryx appointed a new CEO, Mark Andersen, and expanded its C-suite by welcoming L. David Kingsley as Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). Kingsley started his career as an organization design effectiveness consultant with Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton, then went on to serve in executive roles at Vlocity, Mulesoft, and Salesforce before joining Alteryx.

The Org spoke with Kingsley to learn more about how Alteryx plans to evolve its organizational structure to chart a course for growth in 2021. Read on for excerpts from the conversation.

On the goals of Alteryx’s strategy, and its emerging organizational design:

Alteryx is all about delivering analytics that automate and optimize business outcomes. These elements are guideposts for how we think about organizational design. With so much complexity in the challenges our customers face, organizational design at Alteryx has to be streamlined, optimized, and transparent. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time trying to figure out whom to ask or where to go at the company when you’re trying to serve a customer. We have clear organizational designs, with transparent team and role names, so it’s easy to know who does what, and where to turn to ask for help—or to offer it. The hallmarks of our organizational design will be trust, empowerment, and accountability at all levels.

On using Alteryx’s own technology to rethink its organizational design:

We use our technology to understand how our workforce is feeling through engagement surveys and pulse checks. Then, we take that data and incorporate it into our approaches to organizational growth and evolution. Our APA platform brings clarity to data and processes in a way that helps HR meet the needs of the organization, sometimes before the company even knows we need it. Those insights show up in the forms of candidate experience, recruiting efficiency, associate engagement, equality, and empowerment in our culture.

On a long-term strategy for developing the right organizational design:

I think the right organizational design emerges over time, rather than transpiring overnight. When changes are made, some folks may take some time to adjust to them. If they’re the right changes, it won’t take long for everyone to see that they were the right moves. If the feedback or operational delivery comes back otherwise, then the company should pivot to a better approach. Sticking with the wrong design on principal—or worse yet, for pride—will do more harm than good for the organization.

On the strategic imperatives that allow teams to achieve both growth and efficiency at multiple levels:

We have six strategic imperatives, starting with driving growth by delivering and prioritizing customer outcomes and wrapping up with attracting, developing, and enabling a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce in a fun and engaging associate experience. Those imperatives are guiding lights that help to show us the way. Under each imperative lives a set of objectives and key results (OKRs) that help to ensure we’re intentional and measuring our progress along the way. In some cases, the OKRs are focused on growth metrics, and in others, they are focused on operational efficiency. We’re committed to remaining mindful of both as we continue to scale the company.

On the need to streamline processes through a new organizational approach:

We’re enhancing the way we think about workforce planning. One key area of operational efficiency is the cross-organizational work we’re doing between the HR and Finance teams. The many elements of customer demand, market responsiveness, talent strategy, financial planning, and organizational culture all play into that process, which is becoming more streamlined this year.

On how the Alteryx engineering team is structured:

Our engineering team is a hybrid approach. While there are teams dedicated to the platform technology that underlies our solutions, there are also individual teams on both the product and engineering side working on specific products and features. This allows engineers to be agile, and move within and across teams. Some of our more tenured engineers say they feel like they’ve had the advantage of having several distinct “jobs” at Alteryx, all in their time with our company. We think it’s the best of both worlds, and it builds the best solutions—and engineering culture—in the industry!

On learning from past attempts to implement organizational change:

In my consulting days, I may have been a proponent of faster organizational change than was digestible by the organization. Although the organizational designs may have been the right ones, in context — because they were not fully understood — the time they took to deliver value may have been longer than we’d have liked. While I don’t think I’ve slowed down in my approach, I do think I’ve learned to build in the elements to ensure that organizational change is understood and has the time to build the buy-in and adoption that the workforce deserved. The most important thing is that any organizational change is driven by factors that are clear to everyone, or can be made clear through good communication of strategic intent by the leaders making the changes. I’m a huge beneficiary of working and leading in a data-driven culture where everyone is a builder and a solver.

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