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Give Your Data Visualizations a Facelift With Self-Service Analytics

Become a “visionary” data analyst with the combined power of self-service analytics and visualization

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One of your greatest challenges as a data analyst can be communicating your findings to others in a way that’s simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. It’s also an essential — and the most visible — part of your job. Fail to do so effectively, and the stakeholders you work with throughout your organization may not fully grasp the business-critical insights you’ve discovered. Don’t give them any reason to question what you’re doing tucked away in your cubicle all day. You’ve got to share those findings in an easy-to-understand format.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Spreadsheets

Data may begin as numbers, but those numbers form patterns, and those patterns tell stories. That’s why dashboards and data visualizations are so important. Not only are they an effective way of helping you uncover the opportunities hidden in your company’s data — resulting in faster speed to insight — they’re also essential for conveying those opportunities to your business stakeholders in a format they can easily grasp so they can make important business decisions.

Why Some Visualizations are Neither Pretty Nor Actionable


What action would you take from this data?

Two major hurdles can cause bad visualizations that lack both substance and style:

1. Prep and blend takes too much time, leaving little for a thoughtful presentation

Data analysts spend as much as 50 to 75 % of their time preparing data for reports, dashboards, and visualizations. Of course we can’t underestimate the importance of good inputs. After all, rich, perfected datasets are the meat of great visualizations. But all that data prep leaves you with little time to create and perfect the visualizations — and socialize them with your stakeholders.

2. You’re stuck pulling static spreadsheet data into charts without the power of dynamic dashboards

You may find yourself scrambling to prepare data for reporting and consumption. How many times have you been stuck in the office late at night doing a copy-paste or creating PowerPoint charts based on static Excel numbers, wishing you had a dynamic dashboard with drill-down capabilities?

Enter the magical combination of the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation (APA) PlatformTM and data visualization tools. The Alteryx platform enables you to solve complex analytical problems that you otherwise may not have been able to, and visualization tools can illustrate the results.

For example, if you’re a healthcare analyst tasked with understanding and reporting on the relationship between Medicaid and hospital services, good data inputs overlaid with geospatial information can lead to a compelling visualization that drives home the most important points.

Let’s look at how the Alteryx APA Platform partners with your favorite data visualization tools like Tableau, Power BI, and Qlik to help you deliver better visualizations, faster. We’ll also look at the six steps you can follow to start powering your data visualizations with Alteryx.

Better Visualizations Start with Better Data

No matter what data visualization platform you use, you probably find yourself spending a lot of time doing the necessary legwork to prepare your data. That’s time you’d undoubtedly rather be spending working your way through your backlog of requests or going a step further with your data.

Alteryx can help by not only making the data preparation process much faster and easier, but also by allowing you to create a much richer and more powerful dataset. You want the visualizations that result from your data to not only be beautiful, but robust and able to withstand both rapidfire questions from executives as well as in-the-weeds questions from line of business managers.

We were using R code with Tableau ... but [Alteryx] makes our lives easier, it cuts back about 70+ pages of SQL code, R code, and all of that stuff into a more simplistic workflow that allows us to update the dashboard in a more timely fashion.

1. Finding, joining, and cleansing your data

Finding data is no big deal. Finding good, clean data is the real victory. Alteryx Connect changes how you discover and organize information in your organization. You can use it to identify the types of information your data contains, where the information comes from, who’s using it, and how it’s used through highly social interactions. Powerful search capabilities enable you to find and reuse information contained in data files, databases, analytic apps, workflows, macros, visualizations, dashboards, and more. All of this allows you to reduce the time you spend searching for impactful data and assets, while bypassing information others in your organization have rated poorly.

Once you have your data, Alteryx Designer makes blending and preparing fast and easy. The repeatable drag-and-drop workflow lets you join data from multiple sources and clean it with tools that automatically deduplicate, parse, and eliminate any extraneous information.

2. Enriching your data

Sometimes the data that you start out with isn’t as compelling as you’d like — especially if you know it will end up in a rather skimpy visualization. That’s why Alteryx lets you enrich your data with additional context from third-party sources. For example, you can use:



High-resolution satellite images from DigitalGlobe with street overlays to provide a spatial frame of reference for your decision-making.



Lifestyle, attitude, brand preference, and media use data from Experian, as well as five-year projections, to accurately estimate customer demand today, tomorrow, and over the long term.



Visual presentations of more than 50 layers of cartographic data from TomTom, including roads, highways, and parks, to incorporate location intelligence data for more accurate analytic results.



More than 3,000 population characteristics from the 2010 United States Census, such as racial and ethnic information as well as family, household, and housing unit details to identify market potential and trends.

Using enriched data in scenarios like these is an incredibly effective way of making your data — and by extension your dashboards and visualizations — much more useful.

3. Applying advanced analytics

You can take advantage of the powerful self-service predictive analytic tools on the Alteryx APA Platform for everything from market basket analysis and linear regression to A/B testing, decision trees, forest models, and more. Plus, any predictive analytic model can be easily represented and visualized in your favorite data visualization tool. For example, you can use bar charts to represent treatment vs. non-treatment items in A/B tests. Or you can use bubble charts to represent market basket analysis and show how a customer’s purchase of one item can influence her purchase of others.

The Alteryx APA Platform also lets you use spatial analytics through drag-and-drop tools. You can track the physical location of buyers when they make mobile purchases, perform retail location analysis, and more. And, if you want to create a map in your data visualization tool, spatial analytics on the Alteryx platform help you create the relevant data set.

Finally, the Alteryx APA Platform can help ensure that your data is always fit for purpose. If you want to run a predictive model, for example, it will help you create the very narrow data set that you’ll need with just a few specific variables to establish causality and predict future outcomes. Meanwhile, if you want to create rich data visualizations, it will ensure that you have as much data as possible so that you can recombine, compare, and view it from different perspectives. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, the Alteryx APA Platform will help you get your data in order.

4. Reshaping your data

With Alteryx, you can shape your data so that it’s easily consumable in whatever data visualization tool you’re using. That’s important because even though you’ve blended your data, that doesn’t mean that it’s in the right format for visualization. You may have to transpose rows and columns or regroup the data in a different way.

For example, many companies use survey data that’s stored in long rows of responses per respondent. The problem is that if you try to use data in this format for a visualization, you’ll end up with gibberish. In order to work, you’ve got to reshape the data into columns that relate to each question.

Love Your Data Again: Six Steps to Better Data Visualizations with the Alteryx apa platform

Wondering how Alteryx works with data visualization tools like Tableau, Power BI, Qlik, and more? Here’s one simple visualization along with a more detailed step-by-step workflow:


1. Collect the data necessary for your analysis

  • Using the Input Tool, drag and drop data sources to build a workflow
  • Choose the data sources you need using the configuration pane
  • Preview your datasets to see if you need to make changes in the workflow before you blend them

2. Cleanse your data to remove outliers, duplicate data, and other data noise

  • Remove outliers and noisy data with the Sample Tool. Then use the Filter Tool to isolate the specific subset of data you’re interested in.
  • Finally, remove duplicate data using the Unique Tool

3. Optimize the data for visualization

  • Drag the Transpose icon onto the canvas and transpose your column data to row format
  • Using the Select Tool, rename your fields to make your visualizations more readable
  • Using the Formula Tool, take values from one set of cells and reuse them on other rows of data

4. Join the specific data required from all your different types of sources

  • Accept and combine each stream of data into a single stream using the Union Tool
  • Join the product details to the customer transactions on the SKU number
  • If fields don’t match, use Fuzzy Match to join them

5. Transform your data without manual formulas or coding

  • Using the Summarize Tool, count the number of transactions by Customer ID
  • Then use it again to total the value of the purchases

6. Output your results directly to your favorite data visualization tool

  • Simply select the appropriate output tool for your workflow
  • Wow your stakeholders with a beautiful and robust data visualization

Paint the Picture, Tell a Story

Data visualization is critical for identifying trends and deriving meaningful insights from multiple sources and types of data, not to mention for communicating your findings to the rest of the business. (Unlike you, not everyone is a whiz at reading spreadsheets!) Visualizations tell the story hidden in your data in a compelling way that anyone can understand.

Visualize Your Data While You’re Working with It

Did you know that Alteryx Visualytics helps you visualize your data during the entire problem-solving journey, not just at the end of your workflow? Understand how your data changes as you work and you’ll be even better prepared as you bring that data over to your favorite data visualization tool.

Are you ready to eliminate those hurdles to prepping, enhancing, and sharing data and transform into the “data visionary” you were meant to be? Get your 14-day free trial of Alteryx Designer today and give your data a facelift.

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