I kind of remember Alteryx from TCC13, but to me, they were just another vendor (sorry, y'all). It wasn't until this year, when either I got smarter, they're doing a heck of a job with marketing, or a combination of both (which is probably the case), that I kind of understood what this Alteryx was about. So when I saw that they had an event nearby called Analytic Tools for the Data Warrior, I knew I had to attend. I rounded up an analyst at work who likes this kind of thing, and we headed over to Bethesda. First, the Tableau rep, Pat, nailed it when he said that events in DC are tough, that it seems like people can't escape their offices. Which is pretty much why I was sitting front and center; a result of arriving five minutes before the event was supposed to begin (but in fact, had just started. Side note, they must prescribe to the Tom Coughlin rule of meetings...If you're five minutes early, you're late!). Anyway, the Alteryx dude gave a brief background on Alteryx, which has been around for over 10 years, with a name change (and mission change) in 2010. I thought the demo was pretty interesting, as was the happy hour (data=happy). It was quite clear that they have a strong background in spatial analysis. I think Alteryx is similar to tableau in the sense that you can see what you're doing as you go along. I think the preview functionality is brilliant! Now, is the software completely intuitive and so easy that someone off of the street could pick it up and start going? No, and that's not a bad thing. I think for data management tool, I think it's probably as intuitive as it can possibly be. There are a few things that I saw from the demo that I thought were pretty cool.
- Previewing results (let's me make sure I'm on the right path).
- Cool spatial analytic tools. Like drive-time!! I actually thought of a use case at work for this.
- No scripting for R. I know very little about R, except that you can do some awesome predictive analytics with it. Now, why is this bullet point worthy? Because you don't actually have to know how to code in R...they have wrappers to help people like me (or data management people, at least).
- I also like that it can create an extract that will feed tableau (yay! less work for me!) and
- Drag and drop workflow
After Alteryx did their portion of the demo, it was time for tableau to show their stuff. Based on raised hands in the crowd, about 2/3rd of attendees had used Tableau. That's pretty good! The Tableau representative took the extract and re-built the sample dashboard and stopped there, which kind of annoyed me, especially as there was time remaining in his portion of the event. The question being answered was 'Who Do We Send A Second Mailing To?' While his primary objective was to rebuild a dashboard with four views on it, since he had time, he could have made the dashboard more meaningful by doing a few tweaks to it, like putting a title on it and changing the color palettes (because I'm pretty sure he used orange twice). Thinking back, I'm not sure if the R stuff done in Alteryx was explained clearly when it came to showing it in Tableau. Maybe it was and I just have a bad memory. Overall, I felt like there was so much more than could have been done to really show off Tableau, that I was just itching to go up there and do some tweaks. But I didn't. Though I did quietly say something about reusing orange and the other analyst from work just chuckled at me. He knows that I don't like re-using colors, especially on views in the same dashboard. I guess that means that I was interested in the tools being shown, since I wanted to fill the time with information about both.
Next up was the customer story by Bernardo Roschke of Discovery CommunicatIons about how they use Alteryx and Tableau to track operations and how productive their equipment and people are. This was a great example of how both tools worked well together. The highlight for me was that Bernardo was able to take seven separate data sources and use the whiz bangery of alteryx to solve their data problem.
At the happy hour (which was really an extension of the presentations), I was able to ask my burning questions. How much does it cost and what about these duplicative offerings between the two tools? Alteryx tiers their licenses and natch, a server license costs more. I think it might be a matter of perspective. While it seems expensive (to me, though I haven't researched the costs of data prep tools), it certainly costs less than waiting for the work to be done by others (like the cost of one FTE). If the data/report/dashboard is not timely, then it's not relevant. Next up...what's the deal with redundancy. When is it appropriate to use the visualization and R features in the respective tools? From what I gathered, visualization in alteryx seems like a side dish to the main meal. As for R, the benefit of using alteryx for this is that you don't need to know how to code in R, as you would in tableau. Non R coders Rjoice!
Overall, this was a nice little event and I was glad I was able to get out of DC to go. I expanded my network and learned more about a data prep tool, which gets me thinking about how we might be able to use it at work. We even got a free copy of their booklet Predictive Analytics for Dummies. The wheels are a-turnin', so I'm counting this as a productive outing.