Using Alteryx and Tableau to overcome the data quality challenge

bad dataold pic

To most people, analytics appears to be about dashboards, predictive analytics and better decisions. Yet too often data coming out of old source systems that are often:

A. Undocumented / arcane

B.  Inconsistent and changes with time due to business changes

This often results in considerable effort being used to acquire , structure and clean data. Talking to many others in the industry also highlight this struggle and highlight the value of having 21st century tools like Alteryx and Tableau enabling everyone in the business to do analytics.

Building analytics for companies is just like building a house.

To build a house, one must first:

1. Select the right site and location

2. Lay the right foundation with a team including examining cracks and defects in foundation


3. Build’up’ the rest of the house


4. Finishing off with that nice coat of paint, beautiful timber floorboards and putting in fancy furniture.


5. Inviting friends over for a party

house party


In the case of analytics:

1. Select the right business problem to solve or address a burning business need.

  • It’s really not about the analytics in itself rather it’s about defining what the question is eg: which stores are making money or whitch ones aren’t.
  • ‘Big data’ and other buzzwords are constantly appearing in the media and poised to solve the worlds problems.
  • Nothing could be further from the truth, companies should be focusing on the business problem, big data simply provides the companies the opportunity to gain business insight and actions at a more detailed scale and level.

2. Laying the foundation

  • Agile methodologies talk about doing projects in 2 week sprints to get outcomes so that one can present back to the business.
  • However what if one could decrease that time to deliver outcomes in a hours? Wouldn’t that be faster than a 2 week sprint?

Alteryx and Tableau allow users to focus on business outcomes and business rules rather than cutting code just as Google allows everyone to ask more questions and get  answers almost immediately rather than struggle with platforms.

It’s like comparing the days of running DOS green and black screens to running Windows and then running IOS on iPad. Would you rather use a DOS system or an Apple Ipad?


3. Building the house

  • The building of the house, that is really like building out the workflow in alteryx, building the dashboard in tableau.
  • Depending on the complexity of data, one might find that it takes 60-70% of effort to prepare data especially if combining 4-5 data sources.
  • Don’t under-estimate the time taken to acquire and clean the data

A key tip when building out Alteryx workflow which often contains complex business logic, dirty data from source systems is to build the workflow together with business or finance.

alteryx workflow

Don’t hide behind your screen!

This stage is critical to make business leaders aware of business rules used and source data issues.


4. ‘Painting’ the house

  • Polish the  Tableau visualization till so that anyone looking at a dashboard can get the message in 5 seconds or less.
  • The message should jump out at you when looking at a dashboard.
  • I can’t emphasize enough to continuously show the dashboard to users who have never seen it before, get their feedback and then continuously iterate.

5. Inviting friend over for a party

  • Socialize insight broadly and findings across the wider business. Once you get feedback, keep iterating with the Alteryx workflow and tableau dashboard to see if any other relevant info can be incorporated.

So do you think analytics is like building a house?

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