Do you primarily use Excel to prepare and clean your data?
What if I told you if there was a better way to create a data prep workflow that is repeatable, auditable, and easy to hand-over?
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a powerful tool called Alteryx. Our first project at Data School was to re-create in Alteryx, the data preparation tasks that we performed on the datasets used during the application process. For this project, I chose my original submission; a dataset that required corrections as well as enrichment.
It is only after building the workflow in Alteryx that I could clearly see the shortcomings of Excel. While Excel got the job done, Alteryx is a much better option. Here are a few reasons:
- The beauty of Alteryx is that you can see the logical flow of the steps taken ( see screenshot below) and all the changes made to your data at each step from start to finish. In Excel, it may be difficult to locate the starting point within a complex workbook, let alone identify the sequence of changes made.
- Reviews and hand-overs are more efficient especially with a well-annotated workflow ( see screenshot above). Anyone can review your methodology and offer immediate feedback.
- The accountant in me is always looking at creating auditable work. Therefore I would typically try to maintain the complete dataset at all times even though it may significantly reduce the performance of any software reading the file. In Alteryx, you can easily extract a subset of the dataset at any stage without deleting or copy/paste.
Alteryx allows you to build a robust, efficient, and well-documented workflow – which will save you much time and energy. Try it out for yourself. Here is what you can do :
- Choose an easy enough data prep workflow that you regularly perform in Excel.
- Download the 14-day trial for Alteryx.
- Learn the basics – and I suggest you do a search on the Data School Blog as you will find plenty of resources.
- Create your first Alteryx workflow and compare it with your existing excel based workflow and processes.