Alteryx. You had me at hello

by Tom Pilgrem

Want to change your analytical life? Get Alteryx!

That may sound like a bold claim, but I challenge you to dismiss it.

The last two days at the Data School we have been learning Alteryx. Chris Love took us through an introduction on Valentines day (that’s not a joke) and Andre de Vries took us through today’s tasks. This wonderful piece of software is so incredibly powerful, and best of all, so so simple. It turns excel monkey work that can take days if not weeks and turn it into a minute long automated workflow. Sounds too good to be true? Keep reading.

What is it?

The majority of people will use Alteryx simply as a data cleanser. And for this purpose it is exceptional. It can link to multiple files, in all manners of databases, .csv files, text files, web locations and local locations. The speed with which this is done is mind blowing. If Chris’s demo where he combined a whole folder full of .csv files was a light bulb moment, then me combining 14 million rows of data in under a minute was the industrial revolution.

Beyond combining data files in unions (stacking) and joins (combining based on a common field) you can use Alteryx to clean up your data in a way that allows your analysts to spend way more of their time doing what you pay them to do, analyse. It is so easy to just remove nulls, white space and change titles which don’t match, something commonly encountered when using data. I have had some experience in using R to cleanse data and combine sheets. Seeing Alteryx has made me wonder why I was bothering with R. Why would you do this by hand, where it’s easy to make errors, when you can automate it in a fraction of the time?

How are we using it?

We have our first project at the Data School on Friday. We are using Alteryx to find supplementary data that could help support our original application viz. It’s been a really interesting project and something which has opened our eyes to the power and variety that Alteryx can add to an analyst’s quiver. My application was looking at bicycle thefts in the UK so I have been using Alteryx to bring in both the total UK crime for each constabulary. I’ve also been using Alteryx’s spatial analytics functions to investigate the link between students and bicyle thefts, a question that arose in my interview. I’m a bit of a map nerd in all honesty, so I’m excited to see what Alteryx can do. It’s all looking pretty promising at the moment and I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you tomorrow, tune in at 3!

Hope that’s shed a light on Alteryx for you and I can’t wait to learn more of it further through the DS process. Keep tuned in to my blog to see what else I learn, I look forward to sharing it with you!

Any comments or thoughts, get in touch on my twitter or linkedin