TableauPro’s Day 1 with Alteryx – Part 1

This is Part 1 in the series TableauPro’s Day 1 with Alteryx – Intro. In this post, I am talking about my first experience with Alteryx and then my impression of the first tutorial.

When I opened Alteryx Designer (v10.6) for the first time, I got this ‘Getting Started’ window. My first reaction – ‘Wow!’. This is something I have started seeing lately in a few consumer apps on the mobile and it was refreshing to see this kind of help in an enterprise-grade ETL tool. The workflow demonstrated is very simple – just utilizing a select, sort and filter operation. You can watch each step (an animated gif) at your own pace and move on to the next step.  Continue reading

TableauPro’s Day 1 with Alteryx – Intro

This is going to be a long post where I assemble my first experience with Alteryx. My intent is to document all the resources (videos, articles, etc.) I went through with the following: key take aways, what I liked, what could be improved & my impression of Alteryx various features/usability. When I say ‘Day 1’, please do not take it literally – I am just documenting the first few hours I have spent with Alteryx, spread over a period of few days.

As a first-time user, I found that there are multiple paths to get started and there is some slight differences between them. This can leave a new user confused and it could also means wasted time in going through multiple resources, not knowing the minute differences between them (as it happened to me). I hope Alteryx fixes this and provides a single way to get started. Or at least unify all the different paths and make it clear in the welcome email. I provide a detailed review of each of these paths and also provide my recommendation on the best path to take to save you the time I ended up wasting in sifting through these resources.

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A Tableau Power User’s Journey as an Alteryx Newbie

 

It has been a while since I have been hearing a lot of things about Alteryx especially as a great ETL tool for Tableau since Tableau lacks the ability to change the shape of the data (except for the few limited features like unpivoting and union that were added, if my memory is right, in the last 1 year). Having the data in the right shape (or as we call it, having the right data model) makes working in Tableau frictionless and productive. When encountering a tricky reporting requirement, especially one that does not seem easy to build on Tableau, most newbies to Tableau try to write complex calculations or resort to some hacks to solve the problems. Whereas people who are masters in the craft, like Joe Mako, often talk about changing the data model to make working in Tableau easier. Every real-life project that we work on always has a few data model issues that makes data cleanup/data preparation necessary before bringing the data into Tableau. So, we have been on the lookout for good ETL tools that would fit the budget for our clients. But I have ignored Alteryx for a number of reasons which I will explain below and now I have decided to take Alteryx for a test drive now, primarily inspired by 2 people – Joe Mako and Ken Black. In this series, my intent is to capture my entire journey in learning and evaluating Alteryx as a tool for data preparation and data cleansing.

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1.3 Paradoxical Problem 2

This is the third video in the series – Demystifying table calculations in Tableau.

Here, we will look at the second paradoxical problem. If you have not gone through the first paradoxical problem, I recommend you to do it first before proceeding.

Here is the gist of the video:

In the second paradox, we look at another very common business requirement in reporting : looking at figures cumulatively like Year-to-Date (YTD), Month-to-Date (MTD), etc. We have already established that accessing a previous record is difficult for the databases. This paradox also has the same issue, but it adds one more nuance to it.

Here is a text-version of the video for those of you who prefer to read than to watch – please note that this is NOT a transcript of the video.

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1.2 Paradoxical Problem 1

This is the second video in the series – Demystifying table calculations in Tableau.

Here, I introduce you to the concept of the “3 Paradoxical Problems in the Reporting World” and then we will look at the first paradoxical problem in detail.

Here is the gist of the the video:

Some operations are very easy for us as human beings to do, but they are hard for databases to do (and hence for the reporting/analytics tools). It turns out that the most-often needed calculations in business like Ranking, Top 10, etc. suffer from the first paradox – If you want to know what this paradox is about, please watch the video or read on.

Normally, I would like to help you save time by summarizing the key take away first so that you can decide whether to invest your time in watching the video or not. But in this case, if I summarize it, I am afraid that it would take away the impact of the message. So, please spare 4 minutes of your time to watch the video.

Here is a text-version of the video for those of you who prefer to read than to watch – please note that this is NOT a transcript of the video.

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1.1 My first BIG insight about table calculations

This is the first video in the series – Demystifying table calculations in Tableau. In this video, I talk about the first big insight that I got about table calculations that led me to understand it much more intuitively, a feat that I could not achieve even after reading so many articles and watching so many videos.

Here is the key take away from the video:

Imagine you have a view/report that displays Total Sales by Region. Instead of displaying the raw sales numbers, you might display the percentage of sales of each region or the rank of the region, etc. This change in display is what Table Calculations are about.

To define it more specifically, Table Calculations are nothing but a way to change how a summary value like Total Sales is displayed in a view/report in Tableau.

Here is a text-version of the video for those of you who prefer to read than to watch – please note that this is NOT a transcript of the video. When I record the video, I do have a clear idea of the ideas I want to communicate, but I don’t follow a detailed written script as I just want to go with my natural flow as a teacher. Similarly, when I write after I have produced the video, I just want to go with the flow I get in writing as I try to capture the same ideas in the written form.

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