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Based on a simple idea about the 90’s hit show Friends, one analyst used Alteryx to solve their biggest challenge when connecting with friends: finding somewhere to meet that works for everyone. Inspired by the infamous Central Perk coffee shop, they created an Alteryx workflow to identify the optimal location based on travel time, quality of venue, and place type. This side project transformed into a solution the Javelin Group uses to provide clients with insights on market factors, hiring staff, and strategic planning.
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
I've themed this around my favorite US import, Friends, the TV show. We can all relate to it, people growing up in their 20s and 30s, going through all sorts of life challenges. It's quite realistic, apart from one thing, the Central Perk Coffee House, where these six friends descend and meet. To me, it isn't like real life of living in a city. We all have friends in towns or cities where we live and there’s a real struggle to work out where you're going to meet.
Obviously, it's fitting for the show, but I don't really understand how on any moment's notice they could all meet, and somehow, always get that same sofa. This led to my real-life attempt at problem-solving, for what I think is the biggest issue with Friends. I used Alteryx and its spatial capabilities to try to find the perfect location to meet with friends.
Describe your working solution
Like any rational analyst, I split my social life into problem and constraints. The main problem for myself (and friends) is deciding on the best place to meet. Here are the three main challenges we encounter:
The place chosen must be of reasonable travel time for each person(s)
There should be a balance between even travel times and quality of venue
There should be the option to choose a place type (e.g. bar, café, restaurant) and see any relevant information about the establishment
Starting with the first challenge, a location needs to be within a reasonable travel time for each of the people involved. Living in London, I get a bit tired of going to meet my friends in the pub next door to their house and having to travel all the way back home. With the spatial tools in Alteryx, I created a workflow to find a middle point using travel polygons for each person's location. I analyzed where they overlap to identify the “optimum location" for us to meet.
Once an optimal point is found, the workflow uses the Google Maps API to search within an area and answer the following questions:
What are some of the places that we could go to?
What else can you tell me about that place?
Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant?
Is it good, is it bad, is it open now?
These are some of the things I consider when searching for a place. From there, the workflow will search the specified area based on the given radius size. I built an index of average rating, travel time, and price factors to prioritize rankings. The end result is a ranked list of places based on the optimal location, time to travel, and specified criteria, removing much of the friction that comes when trying to get together with friends.
While the initial intent of this exercise was to solve a fictional problem, I was able to modify the existing workflow to create a solution to help clients with their real-life challenges. This solution has been used by clients to: analyze competition by geography, strategize where to invest resources to maximize market share, and visualize hiring volume to identify dense populations of similar-skilled workers. Our spatial insights are transforming the way our clients are doing business.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
We face analytical challenges every day and Alteryx provides an amazing platform to tackle problems using data and a bit of creativity. Whether analyzing hiring volume or performing market research, I am enabled to use Alteryx to solve almost any challenge and help clients make the best decisions for their organization. Alteryx provides us with a competitive advantage and is changing the way data analysis is performed at the Javelin Group.
The entire PowerPoint presentation can be found here.