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8 - Asteroid
8 - Asteroid

Getting Started with Analytics Part 1

Getting Started with Analytics Part 2

Getting Started with Analytics Part 3 (you are here)

Getting Started with Analytics Part 4


There are a lot of useful resources on the Alteryx Academy in the Alteryx Community. The Community page is continually updated. For example, when I started learning Alteryx a couple of years back, there was no section dedicated to Learning Paths and the interactive lessons did not include “Parsing data” and “Predictive.”

For the uninitiated, just looking through all the good stuff available there takes time and one may be tempted to try a bit everything… which can be sub-optimal.

I had a quick look at the “Getting Started Learning Path.” While it is helpful as a comprehensive guide to everything and is organized by topics, my first reaction is it can be a bit overwhelming since it is designed to give the user quite extensive knowledge on a particular topic. Helpful for experienced and seasoned users and full-time students, but could be too heavy front-loading for a beginner, especially one who moonlights an hour or so every day after work (like myself).

Personally, I prefer bite-sized stepwise learning to first grasp the “core” then progress to “advanced.”

Here is the “recipe” that I used to learn Alteryx for myself and to teach Alteryx to my team towards “Core” certification:

  1. Find a use case that is relevant to the team. In my case, the use case is that of combining financial information which is presented in a similar schema in any tabs of many Excel files. The “pain points” for the team are multi-fold, for example:

    1. They had to copy and paste the same financial data ~100 times (literally) to combine data from ~100 Excel tabs into a single master sheet.
    2. Sometimes the columns are not exactly matching.
    3. Very prone to copy and paste errors.
    4. Even after copying and pasting to combine data, the team needs to deal with merging cells, subtotal rows which need to be eliminated, manual tagging of rows into a group. In short, in a pure-Excel world, there are many intermediate steps to finally get the data into an Excel pivot-friendly master sheet.
    5. If they want to take the intermediate results for another cut of analysis, then making sure the various pieces remain consistent is challenging.
    6. When another version of the data arrives (which happens often indeed, in my line of work), we have to repeat the same steps and incur the same (if not more) efforts to check data integrity.

  2. If there is someone in the team who is a seasoned user of Alteryx, demonstrate live how all the “pain points” can be overcome with the addition of Alteryx to the team’s toolkit. If not, move to step 3 after having the team acknowledge the pain points so that they keep these thoughts in mind and look out for “aha” moments as they proceed to do self-study.

  3. For self-study to work: Agree on a time commitment by each team member on the number of hours per week. How this works out varies from team to team and often includes spending personal time after work or an understanding with the team leader to “earmark” a certain number of working hours as “Learning and Development” hours. For effective learning, I suggest at least 2-4 hours a week at the minimum.

  4. Self-study sequence:

    1. Interactive Lessons comprise bite-sized lessons, typically 4-7 mins. There is a knowledge test at the end of each lesson. Recommended sequence leading to the “Core” exam:
      1. Getting Started: 11 lessons. [Recommend: to complete this in 1 shot, or maximum 2 shots for highest effectiveness.]
      2. Alteryx for Excel Users: 10 lessons. Some of these overlap with “Getting Started.”
      3. After completing 1. and 2., a team debrief to reinforce the similarities between how the Alteryx functions vs. Excel.
      4. Writing Expressions: there are 10 lessons in this section, but only do the 6 lessons marked with “Core.”
      5. After 4., team debrief to reinforce the similarities between how the Alteryx functions vs. Excel and highlight additional non-Excel features.
    2. Weekly Challenges:
      1. Solve AT LEAST 7 “Beginner-level” and 3 “Intermediate-level” Weekly Challenges. [Recommend: try to do 1 challenge per week to maintain tempo.]
      2. All challenges are indexed with levels of difficulty (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) and Main subject (e.g., Data Parsing, Data Preparation, Data Cleansing, etc.) – see below an example of what the index of Weekly Challenges looks like.

        CristonS_0-1585579365014.png

      3. It is highly likely that you will be lost in your first one or two challenges. Download the model solutions as well as other solutions submitted by other community members. Read and try to understand why certain tools are used in certain ways by checking the input and output of every step to fully understand what is done by each tool and the settings. Refer to previous steps for knowledge refresh if needed.
    3. Download the Core exam prep guide and try the self-assessment. If you do not recognize or are not sure about any of the tools, open Alteryx Designer, locate the tool (it’s grouped by color and shape in the Palette) and open the example (single-click on a tool, then a drop down with appear with a hyperlink “Open Example”). See screen shots below:

      CristonS_1-1585579365840.png

      CristonS_2-1585579366247.png

      Click “Run” and follow along. Make sure to read each input/output anchor to understand how different settings give different outputs for the same input.Click “Run” and follow along. Make sure to read each input/output anchor to understand how different settings give different outputs for the same input.

    4. After 1., 2. and 3., attempt the Core exam:
      1. Certification link
      2.  If you pass on the first attempt, congratulations! If you fail on your first attempt, fret not, as your performance is similar to the majority of my “students."
    5. So, assuming you fall to the “majority” group, then:
      1. You can re-take the exams as many times as you want, the only caveat is you need to wait a “cool-down period” of 7 days. And there is a lot you can do during this 7-day cool-down period before you retake.
      2. Regardless of whether you fail or pass (>80% score) the exam, you will receive via email a scoring report almost immediately. This report gives a summary of your score for each of the topics. RAG-rate your performance as Red (<80%), Amber (80-90%), Green (>90%) to identify which topic you need to work on. Focus on red and then amber, go back to the tools and the interactive lessons to reinforce/refresh.
      3. Try to solve another 5 weekly challenges, aim for “Intermediate-level.”
    6. Most of my “students” who followed this recipe passed or came very close to passing (like >78%) in their 2nd attempts. Hopefully, it works for you, too! But if you need to try the 3rd time, here are the additional resources that you can try to cover that gap (which should be really small (<5% short), maybe due to 1 or 2 careless errors..?).
      1. Explore the Video Training Index to find the videos where Alteryx teams discussed the exam focus, common pitfalls, how test-takers performed, etc. This should give you a flavor of what the Core exam aims to “test.” After all, it appears that Alteryx believes that taking the exam is also an effective way to learn how to use Alteryx as well. My favorites include:

        CristonS_4-1585579366330.png

      2. In addition to the exam-focused stuff, you can also find topic-specific videos. Some relevant topics include:
        1. Data Blending for Beginners
        2. Alteryx Essentials
        3. Alteryx for Excel Users
        4. Data Investigation Basics
        5. Data Types 101
        6. Working with Strings in Alteryx
      3. If this learning path does not seem to be very successful for you, perhaps trying the Alteryx Learning Path is something to take into consideration!

 

Next installment:  Going Beyond Core to Advanced.   Tune in next week to find out!