You’ve downloaded your 14 day free trial and want to immerse yourself in the weird and wonderful world of Alteryx ASAP – but where do you start? You’ve heard tales of unthinkable power when handling large datasets, of a toolset so vast it gives Swiss army knives nightmares, BUT… It’s so different from anything else you’ve used!
As someone who has felt all these emotions (and more) let me share some of my favourite tips and tricks that have helped me get started with my own Alteryx journey!
1. Choose a dataset you understand and set a clear goal
When first figuring out the ins and outs of what Alteryx CAN do and WILL do, it’s best to use either a dataset you know – or a dataset where the meaning of each column is intuitive to you. If you have a statistics background and a particular hankering for superstoresales.xls (or its training dataset equivalent) then buddy up with your old friend and prepare yourself in a wild ride. If you haven’t had experience in statistics, or you’re already saturated in training data, then choose a dataset with which the meaning comes naturally to you. If you like soccer, then look at soccer stats, if you like basketball, check out NBA stats, if you like hiking, then check out some geographical data and plan your next hike! Make it relevant, make it interesting, and make it something you can connect with.
Once you’ve decided on your dataset and have pumped yourself up, set yourself a clear goal for what you want to do with it. Do you want to calculate a new field based on your existing data? Do you want to combine it with other data from the same country? Do you want to combine totally unrelated things and look for weird and wacky correlations? However simple it may seem, set a goal and forge your way towards making it happen! The taste of success mixed with an increasing familiarity with the program will only serve you well in the long run.
2. Run, run, and keep on running
To run, just put down your left foot, then your right foot, then your left…. Oh. Not that kind of run?
Terrible jokes aside, running your workflow when you’re new to Alteryx is invaluable – especially if you’re using a workflow that doesn’t take long to complete. On top of this, by toggling between your input and output you can see what each and every tool is doing to your data inside the view panel. If you’re unsure whether you did exactly what you wanted, or low-key broke the workflow, then give it a run and find out! The easiest way to run is by pressing Ctrl + R and getting into this habit will accelerate your learning process by saving you from clicking the little green button each and every time.
Formulas are powerful. Their symbol is a rounded flask located in your favourites bar, and by learning just a few basic formulas you can do things that could have taken years in other programs. (Ok… Maybe weeks if you were really dedicated.) Armed with if and case statements, as well as the basic formula and variable dropdowns on the left hand side of the formula box you will find ways of doing anything and everything you can think of! Just watch out you don’t try to write out a formula for something that Alteryx already has a tool for………!
4. Search and examples
Following on from the last point, if you ever have a vague feeling that what you want to achieve could be done by a pretty looking tool with a few dropdown menus, there’s a good chance that it can. In the immortal words of the Data School Australia’s mentor and friend Pete Goldsworthy “There’s a tool for that!”. Throw the key word into the search bar, and if you find something good – drag and drop it onto your workflow and give it a go!
If you find something but aren’t quite sure how to use it, click on the tool in the toolbar and check to see if there is an Example page for it. If yes, congratulations! You will find only success in your future. If not, click in the bottom left hand corner of the configuration panel where there’s a help symbol and find yourself transported to the online Alteryx wiki – all information about the tool will be there!
5. Alteryx community and weekly challenges
You’ve achieved all the goals for your favourite dataset, have familiarised yourself with the main tools and formulas so… What now?
First things first, give yourself a pat on the back – it’s never easy to start something new. While you’re at it – check out the Alteryx community for even more info, friendly forums, and a whole lot of challenges! The Alteryx community has weekly challenges that range in difficulty from ‘beginner’ to ‘advanced’ and will be the perfect testing ground for your new found skills! Check them out here.
Don’t be fooled, some of the ‘beginner’ challenges can be pretty tricky so when you’ve figured it out don’t be afraid to show your solution off in the comments section. I hope to see some of you there! 🙂