So, I have been an Alteryx user for more than three years now, and part of my job is helping others in their Alteryx journey (which I absolutely love). So here is my list of 10 tips / best practices that I learned over a period!
1. Use Gallery Collections to securely share workflows or schedules within your team
Alteryx gallery collections are a great way to securely share workflows saved in your private studio (subscription) with others without having to make them public. Collection admins can add other users to the collections and give permission to edit workflows that are part of the collection. Collections also allow schedules created on workflows (along with their run history) to be shared with other users who otherwise would not have access to them.
a) To create a new collection, navigate your organization's Alteryx gallery and click on Collections.
b) Click on + Add New Collections
c) Give a meaningful name to the collection. Below is an example of a collection created to manage and share workflows on Sales Insights.
d) Once created, use the Users, AD Users, or User Groups tab to add users to the gallery and set their access rights.
e) Once added, each user would be able to add their workflows and schedules to the collections without making them public. This way, access to workflows can be restricted to a smaller group.
2. SQL inputs - Pick and choose columns whenever possible
If your input is an SQL query pulling data from a table that can potentially grow column-wise, pick only the columns needed in the process instead of firing a “Select * from Table “and using a Select tool to limit the columns needed in your process. (A 'Select * From Table' may work on a table with few columns, but if the table grows over a period with more columns, selecting all columns which are not required in your process can significantly slow down the workflow, particularly if a column that can hold large amounts of textual information gets added—like nvarchar or blob data types—to the source table.)
Tip - If you do not exactly know the column names, use the Visual Query Builder, and select the columns needed.
3. Document using comments in the Formula tool
Did you know that you can add a bit of description about what your formula t is doing by adding comments to them? It’s a lot easier to understand a formula with a description, particularly when handing over your workflow to someone else or returning to your previous work, or investigating any issues at a later stage.
Comments can be either in a single line or span into multiple lines. Use either // or /* */ as shown below to add comments.
4. Split complex formulas into multiple columns
When creating columns that involve complex logic using the Formula tool, split them into multiple columns in a sequence rather than putting all the logic together in one, making it difficult to understand.
Having multiple columns with smaller logical parts also makes identifying any data issues, debugging, and testing your workflows at a later stage a lot easier.
5. Prefix schedule names with the frequency
While creating schedules on your workflows in the gallery, instead of leaving the default schedule name as is, prefix the schedule name with the schedule frequency (i.e., Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, followed by the workflow name). This makes it easy to understand how often the schedules would be running rather than having to go into the details.
For example - Daily Sales Analysis (where Sales Analysis is the workflow name and Daily is the frequency)
6. Use Unknown Field wisely
The *Unknown option represents any fields that may come into the tool which it did not know about when the module was originally built. Though it can be very powerful, in situations where the input can potentially change and have additional fields added, which you do not want in the data set, having unknown selected can cause issues. So, unselect *Unknown when the input can potentially grow in terms of the fields and you do not want the new fields in your data set. This can be done by unselecting unknown using a select tool as shown below.
7. Keep a single copy of any workflow in the gallery
Since it is possible to have multiple copies of the same workflow with the same name in the gallery, often leading to confusion, use the ‘Replace Workflow’ functionality to replace an older copy of the same workflow with the latest version.
a) Search and open the older copy of your workflow in the gallery
b) Click on ‘Replace Workflow’
c) Select the workflow from the list of the available workflow(s). This is the workflow that will replace your workflow from Step 1
d) Click on Replace
8. Make use of the Events feature to send emails and be notified of workflow failures
Events are a great way to be notified when something goes wrong in the workflow. No matter how perfect your workflow is, it can fail due to reasons beyond your control, like network or database failures, to name a few. So when we have a brilliant mechanism here, why not make the best use of it?
To get notified of any failures, use the send email feature under the event tab.
a) Click on the workflow configuration and the Events tab
b) Ensure that ‘Enable Events’ is selected
c) Click on Add - Send Emails
d) Select ‘After Run With Errors’ from the pop-up window.
e) Configure the email settings such as SMTP and port numbers
f) Change the email subject if required
Tip - I prefer adding the word ‘FAILED' to the subject followed by the workflow name as an email with the title FAILED is much more likely to grab your attention than any other emails 😊
9. Create User Constants to save time
Constants are variable that offers the flexibility to store values in a single location that can be used across the workflow. Any change to the value would then be reflected in the workflow without having to change them in multiple locations. They can be very useful in defining output locations or file paths that are used in multiple areas within a workflow. So rather than hard coding them, add them as a constant and use the constant instead.
a) Click on the Workflow tab under workflow configuration
b) Click on the + symbol and add the constant name and the value
c) To use these constants in formulas, type [User. <Name of the constant entered in Step 2 above>]
Tip - Constants can also be used while testing/ debugging the workflow to save a considerable amount of time.
For example, if you want to test a workflow and data set produced via the workflow against a particular Loan ID across multiple areas in your workflow, instead of hard coding the Loan ID in the filter tool, create a user constant and assign the Loan ID that you want to test against the data set to this constant and use it in the filter tools. This way, if you must test the data set against another Loan ID, all you must do is change the value of the constant created!
10. Use the URL option under Meta Info to link workflows to other applications
The URL option under the Meta info tab on the workflow tab is a great way to associate workflows to other applications, like a link to a dashboard or a confluence page. Once the workflow is published to the gallery, the URL entered would appear as a link, helping the user to navigate to the application mentioned in the URL. They are quite handy when a combination of Alteryx and a visualization tool (like Tableau or Power BI) is used and you want to associate the workflow with the dashboard for easy reference.
That's all! My ten tips and best practices.😊 Thanks for taking the time to read through them, and I hope you find them useful. If there is something that you have learned from your experience and would like to share with the community, please feel free to leave a comment!
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