Converting Excel Users to Alteryx Analytical Nerds

By - April 23, 2020

There are an estimated one billion Microsoft Excel users on the planet, including you and me. This collective army of spreadsheet wizards are all aware of the sweet satisfaction that comes with exhausting all ingenuity on writing a VLOOKUP or INDEX MATCH that successfully returns the requested data. However, what if that same function could be accomplished by dropping one tool [Join] onto a canvas in Alteryx Designer?

Microsoft Excel has long served as the business user’s application of choice for simple data modeling, preparation, blending, and aggregation. In this post, I give 3 reasons why now is the time to trade spreadsheets for workflows.

Repeatability

Whether you realize it in the beginning or after changing a column data type for the third time, most of the data processing that users perform is repeatable. These mundane tasks are taken on every day by analysts in nearly all industries for the purposes of producing reports or reconciling data at the close of a business period. However, these time consuming, non-value added tasks can be easily automated on a specified schedule. No, it does not require a programming background or any knowledge at all of macros and VBA scripts.

With Alteryx, users can build an analytical workflow once in a code-free environment and continue to deploy it over time. Leveraging a reusable framework allows to not only save time but to also avoid breaking a solution when the input or source data changes. Want to take the repeatability to the next level? Alteryx Designer and Server can schedule a workflow to run based on various options such as frequency, an event, or a custom time that meets your needs. Interested in scheduling an existing workflow, learn more here!

Scalability

We are in the age of big data and many middle market clients are adopting new sources and various types of data seemingly non-stop. Business users can no longer rely on Excel to support large quantities of data. At some point, everyone has experienced a frustrating crash with Excel and thought there’s got to be a better way. Guess what, there is.

Alteryx Designer bolsters a limitless capacity for any type of data. If you can think of a source that you commonly pull from, chances are Alteryx has a pre-built connector for that. The ability to quickly load different file types, clean the data, and structure it in a fashion that meets your needs is enough to never go back to Excel. However, deploying Alteryx Server opens a door for organizations to scale analytics at all new levels.

Modularity

Does traceable and transparent come to mind when your data is changed to #Value! and #REF? Nobody should spend hours writing complex formulas for different calculations only to sit back and cross your fingers that it will return what was expected. What happens behind the scenes for that expected value to appear in cell B5? I have no idea.

In Alteryx Designer, the process behind why data appears a certain way is easy to understand. The users thought process dictates the build of analytical workflow and anyone can easily view how data changed over time. Each Designer tool has in and out anchors that can easily trace back to how the data changed at every step along the way to cell B5. This obviously leads to time saved and fewer errors. As a bonus, if you are met with an error message in Alteryx, at least it won’t be #Value!

The Bottom Line

Excel spreadsheets will remain a fundamental application for calculating finance and accounting data for years to come. However, if members of your organization are struggling to cope with the limitations of Excel, or you want to more efficiently get from input data to insights, then it might be time for an Alteryx Designer license. There is really no catch from a technical perspective, the tool is easy to learn and has a ready to help community. Next time opening an .xlsx file, load it to Alteryx first and try to use this guide to translate Excel processes and formulas into Designer tools. Warning: You may never go back.

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