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In my experience, Alteryx is one of a kind and amongst all the analytics tools I have tried, Alteryx gives the best return for my time. I will share my personal experience as well as what I have observed from teaching ~ 15-20 colleagues and ex-colleagues who basically started from scratch.
I have had prior experience with other analytical software (TIBCO Spotfire®, Power BI, Matlab and, last but not least, LabView which I feel is Alteryx’s much older twin in the engineering world), and I can say that Alteryx is hands down the easiest to learn and has the most intuitive interface.
It is very easy to understand AND also easy to use a completed workflow to explain what has been done at each step. In the Q3 2019 Alteryx Singapore user group meeting, Alan Jacobson @AJacobson, chief data and analytics officer (CDAO) of Alteryx, shared that his 11 year-old-son learned to use Alteryx on his own, used it to solve challenges, and did not need to use Excel anymore. If an 11-year-old can, how difficult can it be!?
What Makes Alteryx Easy to Learn for Excel Users?
The formula tool is very similar to Excel’s, it can do everything Excel formulas can and more. The syntax is similar as well.
Spreadsheet-friendly for both inputs and outputs.
Intuitive interface designs for data blending, meaning tasks involving Ctrl-C / Ctrl – V, Vlookups, If statements can be done much more safely and easier to trace.
No coding is required (and if you want to code, you can, too! Alteryx is code-friendly)
Graphic interface, drag-and-drop. It is easy to understand what goes in and what goes out after each tab.
Easy to preview or extract intermediate results into spreadsheet at any step
Batch macro makes combining the same schema across multiple tabs in multiple files seamless.
Beware!! There is a gap in “understanding what has been done” vs. “doing that myself”, which is common in learning anything, not just Alteryx. Part of the frustration can be because it looks so easy when someone else demonstrates it live.
What I find as a “block” to some people is that when they get an error on something seemingly easy, they feel frustrated and then start to “blame” the software for being “stupid”. Very often, the error messages are nothing more than just, well, messages, to inform the users where to fix what to make things work. Admittedly, none of us like to see an error message and our emotions can get the better of us – myself included!
Thankfully, this “block” appears to inflict a small % of people only and can be resolved if there is a more experienced person to help guiding the person out of the hole.
"How much time do I need to spend to learn Alteryx?” Which levels of proficiency to aim for and the level of efforts to get there.
To answer this fairly we need some benchmarks. I will use Alteryx’s own Product Certification Program as references.
Alteryx offers several Program Certifications: Core, Advanced, Expert and Partner, more details can be found here. Do check out the community page, plenty of FREE and USEFUL resources!
I will only touch on what the Core and Advanced mean, how useful they are and the time I would recommend a first-time user spend to reach this level. (If you are at Expert or Partner level, you do not need any guidance from me ^-^). These are based on my personal experience at learning Alteryx myself and teaching / coaching my team.
For my own use case (explained earlier), “Core” is already useful, more on efficiency gain. But the real sweet spot for me is “Advanced” level where I can benefit from not only speed but also scalability (via macros) and start doing interesting non-Excel stuff such as catchment analysis (Spatial).
Based on the explanations below, choose the level of proficiency that you want to aim for.
The Alteryx Designer Core product certification exam is intended to test your aptitude around the 'core' toolset in Alteryx.
The 'core' toolset was determined by selecting the most commonly used tools in Alteryx Designer in addition to understanding basic UI/operational elements.
The Alteryx Advanced exam is the next stepping stone in the Platform Certification journey, allowing users to demonstrate their higher-level abilities with the Alteryx Designer.
The exam builds on concepts, configurations, and tools that are included in the Core exam, and also requires users to be able to understand a wider breadth of tool functionality and apply their knowledge to more complex applications.
My personal takes
<EXCEL ON TURBO>
· Achieving this level means that you can replicate data processing steps that you can do in Excel, including advanced calculations, vlookups, and endless Ctr-C and Ctr-V to join/paste data and build in data integrity checks to ensure accurate, repeatable, traceable and documented analysis.
· In addition, you can also do a fair bit of data cleansing (e.g. extra blank, special characters, splitting fields, conditional selection, pivot / unpivot, filtering etc.) that is a much dread task if you have to manually do in Excel.
<EXCEL + MACRO, SPATIAL AND SCALABILITY>
There is large GAP to step up from Core to Advanced. The key differences are:
· Expand the tools included in the syllabus from 24 to 69 (counted from the prep guides as of 17/02/2020).
· For each tool, one needs to know ALL the functionalities, including under-used features.
· Need to know how the tools can be used in combinations. A lot of MCQ involve “tick all that apply” type that requires one to think through the possible alternatives to get exact the same results.
· MACRO and SPATIAL are extensively tested. Achieving this level means your repertoire of skills has significantly grown and you can start doing things that you probably have never thought of before.
· IT GETS REAL! 50% of the score requires one to actual DEFINE the problem statement, ENVISAGE a path to solve it and IMPLEMENT the steps. Each application question closely resembles real business question and one should not spend more than 15’ to solve each application question.
· It’s testing you for both POWER AND SPEED.
Prep guide as at 17/02/2020
Free. Except for your own time.
Free. Except for your own time.
Next installment: “How to get started?” Tried-and-tested learning paths. Tune in next week to find out!