Letter #1: Analytic PenPals featuring Alteryx and Tableau developers. Why do people use Alteryx?
One of the goals I’ve set out for 2021 is to learn Alteryx. Now that we’re about a quarter of the way through the year, I better get started. But while I have a high-level understanding of what the platform does, I don’t fully know what I’m getting myself into and the ways I should expect it to support my other work. Because of that I went to my friend, colleague, and Alteryx expert Jacob Kahn to ask – why do people use Alteryx? And this what he had to say:
Dear Autumn (Tableau Expert),
Well there are many reasons I’d give for why you might use Alteryx. I’m not going to go into the cost and resources, but there are plenty of other practical reasons.
First, Alteryx is a nocode program. That means to say you practically don’t need any coding experience to use it successfully. I’d even go further to note that you don’t need any experience working with data to master it. Actually, when I first started using Alteryx, I didn’t know that I was dealing with what’s labeled as ‘data’, is data. We referred to it as “PBC”, ‘provided by client’.
Alteryx is most commonly known for being used with data. That is, cleaning, blending, and other general data preparation tasks. So if you’d perform a union or join in Tableau, you might also do the same in Alteryx. As well, you can create what you might be familiar with as “calculated columns”. Alteryx is capable of performing a lot of different calculations across columns, even simultaneously. Some examples are parsing information, math, concatenation, etc.
Also, on the point of “preparation”, people use Alteryx to get their data ready for, let’s say, a next step in their work process. Perhaps folks upload their data into PowerBI, or send it to their managers, or use it in a third-party software. The preparation side of Alteryx includes data types, field length, field names, etc. I know from my limited experience in Tableau, data types are extremely important. Alteryx would be where you’d assign data types to different fields.
So we’ve covered data and data preparation. But I want to emphasize why you’d want to do it in Alteryx. Alteryx workflows are what are commonly known as “repeatable processes”. What people mean when they use that term is that when you build a workflow to perform all the manipulations on a table or data set one time, and you save that workflow like you’d save any other document, you can actually open up the workflow again, and use the workflow on a different or updated table or data set. Yes, the information in the table or data set generally has to be similar, or the same, depending on how the workflow is built, but the time it takes to make any configuration changes to your workflow (that is, what is actually happening to your data), is less than the time it takes to clean your data or prepare it manually, or even build the workflow again.
So to recap to make sure I’m not going on a tangent, people use Alteryx to clean and prepare their data in a work process. People who use Alteryx actually create benefits of being able to reuse their work in the future.
Does that provide you with enough information of why people use Alteryx? There are so many things I’d like to tell you about, but they are best seen as you begin to use Alteryx itself. For example, analytical applications – once a user builds a workflow, they can easily convert their workflow into an application. I love that about Alteryx – I build a workflow and then never have to open it again. I program user interfaces in a nocode application builder and walla – an Icon on my desktop.
I didn’t go much into the fact that Alteryx has tools, and a Canvas, etc. etc., but I’m hoping with what you’ve seen of Alteryx you are familiar with those concepts already. Lastly, we can talk about those things when we talk about what Alteryx is and open it together.
Sincerely your data friend,
Jacob (Alteryx Artisan)
P.S. That’s what we call ourselves – artisans.
Dear Jacob (Alteryx “artisan“),
Thanks Jacob! While the benefits of the platform can be found on the web or provided by the company, I wanted the human aspect of having someone I know and trust who uses the application regularly tell me about its merits. This is just what I needed to start my learning journey in Alteryx. I’ll keep you updated as to how it goes and be sure to check-in if I have any more questions! Hey Jacob, have any questions about Tableau for me?
Note: I’ll be learning Alteryx through Data Coach. Reach out if you have any questions about how you can get started learning too!
Autumn Battani (Tableau Expert)
ANALYTIC PENPALS: Join Autumn Battani, Tableau Expert, and Jacob Kahn, Alteryx Expert, on their pen pal adventure exploring the tools of the others expertise. Autumn and Jacob are ready to share their letters with the public in hopes that the exploration of data processing and data visualization inspires readers to take the next step in their data game.