The First Friday Project – Redoing our application (Part 1) – Discovering the power of Alteryx.

by Samuel Shurmer

Last Friday we were presented with our first Friday project; a Friday project is carried out by all members of the Data School currently in training (so in our case DS 12 & 13) and can often be the continuation of some client work that is carried out during the week. However, as we were just beginning our journey, we were given something quite different. We were tasked with changing (or upgrading) our original application dashboards and using Alteryx or Tableau Prep to add supplementary data.

I originally applied with a dashboard on American immigration and its levels within different American cities. This dataset was “borrowed” from a project within my Master’s and took 3 of us 4 solid days of copying and pasting (even using macros) within excel to create this dataset from various USA government sites. Upon realising this I panicked and quickly brought up my original data set (as I hadn’t looked at it for nearly a year) and tried to work out how I could supplement it within the time frame.

After much studying I concluded that it was difficult to add additional data as it already covered a vast array of relevant measures, and finding those had been difficult enough:

I then decided that it would be best to attempt to add some extra years (Mine only straddled from 2010 to 2014), hoping this would be more feasible in the 3.5 hours I had left. This, however, seemed tougher than I thought when it turned out the US government shut down had caused a delay in the 2018 data and they had changed the general structure of data since I had last downloaded from the site. After downloading the data, I still didn’t have a clue how I was supposed to solve this crisis.

2 Hours Later

So after 2 hours of stressing and learning, I finally had a data set that I could use. Having not known any of the tools only 3 days ago I was able to produce the following workflow: –

Definitely not optimised, but that is something I can learn; but as a lot of engineers say “as long as it gets the job done”

Now, it must be noted, that one of the key advantages of training at the data school is the help that is provided by current Data Schoolers and other members of the Information Lab. This was invaluable at this time (and will be throughout my time at the DS), with everyone happy to help and explain key parts when requested, or even just checking in if they see you getting frustrated or confused; its all a big family really.

After this completion, I was rather shocked, and proud of my achievements in the time frame I had. Using Alteryx had been so much easier than manually using excel (It had been 48x quicker) and that was even with a relatively amateur knowledge of how to use the tool. I believe my journey with Alteryx and the advances it can bring me have only just begun…

Next time I will bring you how I created my new dashboard and the agony of deciding on what to change when its something you love; as well as the daunting feeling of presenting to your colleagues for the first time…


Samuel Shurmer

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