Preppin' Tip: Draw your workflow and output

by Matthew Armstrong

Last week we were introduced to the worlds of Alteryx and Tableau Prep, going over the very basics of data preparation. After a few teething problems, the team seemed to be getting the hang of the process by the end of the week, with most showing a slight preference for Prep. For the majority of the week, we were completing either the Preppin’ data challenges, or Alteryx weekly challenges to hone our skills and got more familiar with the software. The benefit (/ drawback as you’re about to see) of these challenges is that there is a “right answer”, and you can check your answer against the output file provided. However, this can put you in bad habits, as I found out in the Friday project.

For our Friday project was an Ashes themed competition against our Australian counterparts. We were tasked with creating 4 Ashes themed dashboards from some data that needed a bit of cleaning. I was tasked with cleaning some of the data for one of the dashboards someone else was making, which proved to be much more difficult than the week’s previous tasks. Before, we had known that the challenges were possible, and we’d had the output file to reference as a clue. In this instance, we didn’t have this luxury, which made conceptualizing the final output much more difficult. This proved to be the downfall of the dashboards I was prepping, as I prepared the data in the wrong format for the chart type we wanted (again, sorry Eve & Charlie…).

Earlier in the week, Carl had suggested that we draw a plan of our workflow and output before getting stuck into the actual data (an idea I had originally scoffed at), and upon reflection, this would’ve been very useful. This would’ve forced me to more thoroughly consider the final product, and given me a rough idea of what I was aiming for.

So my little tip for this week is to draw your workflow and output. Sometimes it won’t have been necessary, but for the times when it is, it will save you stress, time, and possibly the Ashes.

Hopefully this little tip will help you get unstuck from a Prep problem you face in the future.