Alteryx – Debunking the myths


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

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7 thoughts on “Alteryx – Debunking the myths

  1. Alteryx is 100% all the points above
    10x easier more effeicent and effective than main stream analytical tools

    Alteryx empowers. Both the IT Analytical professional and Business analytic professional to produce actionable insights that deliver new monetized outcomes

    Alteryx is a 1st in class IDE platform for traditional R-DBMS and C-DBMS Hadoop and Mongodb

    Keith

  2. Quick Question – my uses don’t justify using Alteryx Server Edition ($85k/year license) which allows scheduling of tasks. So, I have to use another way of getting this done: create a .bat file that will run Alteryx and then use Windows Scheduler to schedule that .bat file. I can’t use the AlteryxEngineCmd.exe file as this requires a special API license which I don’t have – so I have to have the .bat file open alteryx and the file I’m working with. . . where I get stuck is in writing the code to actually run the module in the AlteryxGui.exe. Do you know how to do this? Much thanks in advance.

    • Hi Clark – I think there’s no way round this. On the desktop you will need to hit that play button.

      Personally though I think there’s lots more value in getting an Alteryx server beyond just scheduling. Building apps to share with your colleagues, or less skilled users, is the biggest use case for server – and you get scheduling too.

    • If you can get Excel running and execute a macro with Windows Scheduler, you can just have VBA launch your Alteryx file using the “shell” command. Then use the SendKeys to send a Ctrl + r after a 20 second delay. That will automatically run it. Boom. Just saved you $5000. I’ll take my 10% cut in cash please

      • Typically running alteryx via the command line or via shell is disabled in the licence. Not sure why it is enabled on yours but not sure everyone will get this to work.

      • Not sure why it works for me, but it works perfectly. Excel sends the keys perfectly. Even if it didn’t, I could just use another 3rd party macro program to send the shortcut keys. It’s silly to pay such a huge price to just schedule running something.

      • Oh using sendkeys – hardly a robust enterprise solution but yeah if it works (and you arent breaking the eul) then great.

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