I spend a lot of time with potential users of Alteryx and there are often several myths or issues that come up time and time again. I can well understand where these come from, I was sceptical on my first use of the software, but these are often easy to debunk and so I thought I’d share some of the common ones with you.
Myth #1: Screen real estate: Alteryx is less efficient than a programming language because the icons take up more room
Often this myth comes from people who haven’t used the software. It’s very easy to look at Alteryx as a new user and equate the strange icons and lines to complexity. So it’s very easy to debunk this myth, once people start using the tool they very quickly start to build up an understanding of how quick it is to build out modules – usually over the course of just an hours usage.
I can’t share specifics but I’ve also seen and heard of head-to-head challenges vs other languages and Alteryx has always come out the most efficient tool, even with a new user at the controls.
Myth #2: Hard to read: The Alteryx flow is harder to read than , I can’t tell what it’s doing at a glance
This is hard to debunk as often it comes from, say a seasoned SAS user, looking at Alteryx for the first time. Yes, those icons take a little time to learn, but as a tool it is completely self documenting and add the annotation available in Alteryx and the modules are immediately self contained process flows which any Alteryx user can immediately look at and interpret visually. Programming languages don’t offer that.
From my own experience, I used to spend time telling the SAS analysts I worked with to document their code to make it easier to read, I’ve never had to do this since I’ve worked with a team of Alteryx developers.
It can take a few module builds to learn what the tools do, compare that to the time taken to learn a new programming language and I think that speaks for itself.
Myth #3: Dumbing down: Alteryx takes away the Analyst’s skill and is too black box.
If the skill is in writing the program / workflow then yes correct, Alteryx removes all that effort. If you want to build a team of people who can code all day then go ahead, SAS is the right tool for you. If you measure success by pages of code written then Alteryx isn’t for you.
However, if like me you’d rather judge success by the results, and you’d rather your Analysts spent time doing what you paid them for – Analysis – then use Alteryx. It allows people to spend time analysing and interpreting the data and results rather than writing the process.
Also, for the record, Alteryx isn’t black-box – it allows users to delve right into the R code if they need to. However I rarely choose to as the tools are their that I need – and an R expert has written them, so I can benefit from all his experience.
Myth #4: Skills: My analysts want transferable skills, Alteryx is too niche and isn’t transferable.
I refer you to my earlier point, analytical skills are transferable, the language is just the delivery method of those skills. As an analyst I know it’s my analytics I’d rather invest in.
Also Alteryx isn’t niche any more, their annual conference grows every time I go and there are more and more users globally. The Alteryx job pages speak for themselves. I’ve bet my own career on the fact Alteryx will continue to spread and I have no doubt that it will.
Myth #5: Expensive: I can already do everything Alteryx can do in other tools, I don’t need another piece of software.
This is often the situation I face when talking to people about Alteryx, however I find that Alteryx typically replaces not one tool but several. I no longer need a GIS tool, an ETL tool, a predictive tool, a development tool, etc, Alteryx cuts across all that and provides a single, central tool that can provide instant results. The value of that vs moving data between several systems, and the inherent delays therein is vast.
Alteryx isn’t expensive compared to the value and opportunity it offers, the efficiencies I’ve seen from people using Alteryx over the years are testimony to this. Likewise the stories I’ve heard from people who move jobs and lose Alteryx: “I spent all day doing something that in Alteryx would take me ten minutes – it’s so frustrating, can my new manager come and speak to you about us getting Alteryx”.
Myth #6: Too quick: Alteryx is too quick and flexible and means people won’t spend the time building the problem and so they’ll lose insight
I had this one the other day and nearly laughed out loud. If people seriously want to argue that a tool can be too efficient and that somehow by spending a few days writing a process it allows the analyst to “connect” with the data then there’s something wrong somewhere.
In my experience Alteryx is an eye opener for people, it’s the first time they see their data opened up and they can start to work with it in ways they want. Far from introducing error this gives more opportunity to focus on data and remove error.
I can’t be specific but anecdotally I’ve heard stories of Alteryx being awarded Employee of the Month, I’ve seen results from head to head competitions, I’ve seen Alteryx use cases grow from automating a few reports into a production system automating tens of thousands. I’ll leave you to make up your mind whether that is offering too much flexibility.
To try Alteryx for yourself for free download the Project Edition: http://www.alteryx.com/download