Seeing Tables and Building Workflows

by Ian Baldwin

Knowing Your Target

Over the last couple of days we’ve been through a ton of Alteryx exercises manipulating data from an input file to a given output format. Something I find absolutely key in these exercises is keeping an eye on the desired output format at all times. If you lose sight of this then it’s easy to get lost doing things to your data that either aren’t needed or just aren’t the simplest way of getting to your final output.

These exercises come with a defined output but in the real world the output isn’t defined until we define it. So if you think your data needs preparing before use in Tableau, take a little time to define how you want your data to look before your import into Tableau. This target output from Alteryx makes your workflow easier to build as you know exactly where you’re heading.

 

Seeing Tables

A technique I use when working out my steps in a workflow is to ‘see’ my tables in front of me and pretend I’m in Minority Report gesturing how I want to pivot, filter, split and join them.

 

Tom Cruise seeing tables. By the way Tom Cruise's upper jaw has a middle front tooth - look it up.

Okay he’s looking at buildings not tables but you get the idea

 

This may look a bit silly to colleagues but each gesture I make will correspond to an action in Alteryx. If I’m swiping in a table in from the side I probably want to use the Join tool, if I’m moving my hands apart step by step I may need to use the Text To Columns tool or create new fields with the Formula tool and if I’m twisting my wrist I want to pivot my data with Transpose or Cross Tab. Our brains are wired to think visually, it’s why building workflows is easier than coding, and thinking about tables visually makes it easier to build our workflows step by step.

 

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