In our short time training as data engineers, we have managed to exponentially develop skills in data manipulation and visualisation; first using Microsoft Excel, then graduating on to PowerBI. The Power Query functionality that these two tools offer allows one to quickly transform and prepare both Excel and .csv files without the need for use of code.
While these tools are useful, we discovered that the learning curve to reach proficiency in their use was not exactly flat. Any business user without experience in their use would still need to reach a base level of understanding to use them to their full potential.
However, as anyone who has used PowerBI in the past can attest to, managing the workflow can be tedious, especially if you must return to an earlier stage in the process to rectify something. Oftentimes this can lead to the rest of the workflow failing and you having to start the process over again. In hindsight, Alteryx would have saved us a lot of time fiddling with my data cleaning workloads.
Alteryx is a platform that allows companies to answer their business questions quickly and efficiently. With its intuitive visual workflow format and the compartmentalised structure of its tools, it is easily comprehensible to individuals that lack a background in coding.
The software makes use of tools that can be dragged onto the Alteryx workspace and pieced together, effectively automating many of the processes that must be manually carried out with end-user developed applications such as Excel or using languages such as R, Python or SQL. Another benefit is that with the right permissions, data can be read and written to files, databases, and API’s.
An example of a data cleansing process that took substantial time in Power Query can be replicated in Alteryx within a matter of minutes. Figure 2 shows the partial completion of a data cleansing exercise which we undertook as part of a project. This process took the better part of a few hours, having to constantly glance over columns and refine parameters before saving them.
Alteryx can also be used in situations where other complex Excel data manipulation processes are required. This includes, but is by no means limited to:
- COUNTIF, SUMIF
- INDEX, MATCH
Furthermore, Alteryx can handle much larger datasets than Excel; it’s typically faster, and the process is much simpler to grasp thanks to its highly visual user interface. A free trial can be obtained here, with interactive learning material here.
Alteryx is a platform that allows companies to answer their business questions quickly and efficiently. With its intuitive visual workflow format and the compartmentalised structure of its tools, it is easily comprehensible to individuals that lack a background in coding