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Engine Works

Under the hood of Alteryx: tips, tricks and how-tos.
Emil_Kos
17 - Castor
17 - Castor

The goal of this article is to help professionals understand and start implementing Alteryx in their organization or team. Alteryx is a fantastic tool which allows its users to solve business problems in an elegant and scalable way. It can bring value to the organization in weeks rather than months. At the same time, it may be challenging to implement Alteryx, especially for teams that aren’t very tech-savvy. 

 

Here is a collection of tips for implementing Alteryx in your team. First off, let’s start with how to guide your team through the process.

 

How to Set Your Team Up for Alteryx Implementation

 

  • Find Advocates. One of the first things you need to do is to find individuals who will be the Alteryx specialists in your team. Ideally, they already have some technical knowledge that can help them master Alteryx Designer. For many people, learning Alteryx can open the doors for future career opportunities, so this should be a way for you to reward your most valuable employees. Once you identify them, proceed to the second step on this list. 

 

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  • Free up their time.  If you picked correctly, your Alteryx advocates are among the most reliable people in the organization. And you’re probably not the only one who thinks that!  Because a lot of people rely on them for many things, the advocates are constantly busy. 

If you want to take your team to the next level by implementing Alteryx, you need to free up the time of the 'ambassadors.' The concrete solution to this task this depends on your team’s circumstances. What you can try is dividing at least some of the ambassadors’ responsibilities between other team members. Even if it means spending some extra money, remember that this investment will pay itself off soon!

 

  • Give advocates a proper training: This may sound obvious, but it’s important to outline it. You don't need to hire external trainers to teach Alteryx to your team. To start with, you can task them with completing the Getting Started Learning Path in the Alteryx Academy. All the learning paths are well structured and provide a solid foundation for using Designer. Just keep in mind that people need to have enough time to learn. 

 

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  • Introduce them to the Alteryx Community. Beginners may spend hours finding answers to problems that more advanced users can solve in minutes. There are plenty of experts in the Alteryx Community who dedicate their time to helping others solve problems using Designer. It’s far more efficient to spend a few minutes asking a question and get an answer, instead of wasting hours trying to solve the problem alone. Show them the community and encourage everyone to use it often. Don’t forget to emphasize that they need to mask confidential data when asking questions!

  • Identify the low hanging fruits and grab them. If you want to bring change into the organization, you need to get early supporters on board. By supporters I mean senior stakeholders that have real power in the organization. The easiest way to reach them is showing the power of Alteryx in practice. Identify where you can implement a solution quickly and focus on creating a workflow to showcase the advantages of Alteryx. If you promptly deploy a working solution, you will get supporters across the organization and  empower your advocates at the same time. Remember: implementing a new business intelligence solution is complicated and expensive. That’s why positive PR along the way is vital.

 

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  • Establish rules that your team agrees to follow. If you want to know more about the standardization of workflows please check this article by @Michal. Standardization of your team’s processes has many benefits. The most obvious ones are a higher quality of work and time saving. Standardization should be critical as you start implementing Alteryx, but you need to keep in mind that it can be a demanding process. My advice is to start a conversation about the standardization with your team early on. Thanks to that, you’ll save a lot of time and avoid stress later. 

Best Practices For Using Alteryx Efficiently

 

Once you create agreement with your team around how to implement Alteryx, they’ll be on their way! Here are my best practices on how to use the designer, especially in the early days.

 

  • Project plan. If you require your developers to follow a project plan, pick one template for a project plan and conduct training to show how your specialists should use it. This will maximize the chances that your developers  use it as intended. 

 

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  • Four eye checks: If you think your developers should validate each other’s workflows, create a standardized process for it. This will ensure that everyone is performing similar checks. That’s especially important if the processes that your team is overseeing are crucial for the organization’s success. In case of a mistake, you’ll have evidence that you’ve done everything you could to mitigate the risk.

  • Uniform folder structure: This can be much more complicated - and also, more important - than it seems. If you have a few people with licenses and everyone has a different folder structure, it will be tedious to run/edit workflows when someone is out of the office. The lack of uniform folder structure brings risk to an organization that can be easily mitigated by addressing it before this becomes a problem. To do so, highlight this to your team and schedule a brainstorming session. I am sure that you will agree about a folder structure that the whole team will follow.

  • Remember about documentation. Proper documentation allows you to operate smoothly in case of an emergency. This doesn't mean you need to create additional files to document your workflow. Alteryx's documenting functions work pretty well but sometimes, it needs users' help. That is why you should use Annotations on tools/ Comment boxes and Containers to make it crystal clear for everyone how the workflow is working. 

 

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  • Use comments in the Alteryx workflows. This is especially important if there are regular expressions (an advanced data parsing topic - in short, it is a sequence of characters that specifies a pattern) that might be foreign to other users. Explain briefly what happens in each step of the workflow and why. This will make it more straightforward to maintain the workflow and allow users to implement changes quickly. Comments can also be used as brief procedures that explain the most complicated parts of the workflows.

BONUS: Ideas to Help Alteryx Stay in Your Organization for Good

 

The last point I wanted to mention is the best practices for your organization’s culture. This can help you solidify Alteryx as a go-to tool in your team and organization.

 

  • Find an Alteryx expert (ideally, from the same industry) and invite them to speak to your team.
  • Gather materials/videos related to best practices in one place. Make sure they’re easily accessible for everyone. You can also periodically send out emails with useful articles to help your team be more efficient. 
  • Ask if one of your advocates would be interested in leading an ongoing initiative focused solely on implementing best practices. This can empower your advocates and allow them to bring positive change into the organization. 
  • Encourage your advocates to visit User Groups. User groups are a perfect place to share ideas, experiences and best practices. As a bonus, your advocates can also get inspired as they might overhear a use case that will allow them to do something extraordinary with Alteryx. 

Summarize - Two Important Takeaways


The Alteryx implementation process can be challenging, so it is essential to prepare for it properly. One key takeaway from my side would be focusing on the advocates. If your ambassadors see the tool's benefits, they will go the extra mile to learn it and use it to bring value to the organization. 

 

The second important takeaway is best practices. If you can adopt them at the beginning of the implementation stage, the whole implementation process will be more efficient. 

 

And remember:

 

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Feel free to share your comments below. I’ll be very grateful for all ideas and suggestions that will allow the readers to achieve their goals related to the implementation process. 

 

Thank you for reading, and happy analyzing! 

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