Saturday, 15 February 2014

Should Tableau and Alteryx get hitched?

Ahhh Valentines day, the day of romance, when love is in the air, red roses wrapped in cellophane and a chilled bottle of champagne awaits in the fridge. Restaurants filled with happy couples sharing romantic meals bathed in the glow of soft candle light. At home, the kids are put to bed and the lights are turned down low. And all over the world he first seeds of romance are sown with the receipt of the valentine card. That folded piece of card, usually with hearts, or a teddy bear, proclaiming that " you are the one for me". Taking those first steps towards a bigger relationship.

Its no big secret that I love Tableau. It came into my life over 2 years ago and its turned my world upside down. If i am not creating a new viz then I am thinking about one or looking at one, or bemoaning the fact that someone used a pie chart instead of a bar. Using Tableau is like being in a warm loving embrace, you feel safe knowing that any mistakes you make will be forgiven (ahh the undo button). That when you need help "Show me" is there. And that by holding your hand Tableau leads to create a viz of beauty and wonder. Tableau is a fantastic viz tool, provided that the data you have is in the right shape. Yes you can use some calculated fields to overcome some issues but you have to be quite Jedi. If you are able to modify the data at source then great, but a lot of the time you have to work with the data you are given.

But lately I have noticed Tableau courting a new love, and they have an awful lot in common. Both are young and carefree. Both make something that once was the preserve of the expert and puts the power in the hands of the normal person. What Tableau is to data visualisation, Alteryx is to data transformation.
Alteryx allows to to take some data, manipulate it, transform it, modify it, analyse it and then save it to a different format than the original. It uses a very simple drag and drop mechanic, just like Tableau and lets you create simple or complex processes to turn what ever input data you have into something you can easily work with in Tableau. One of these output formats can be a Tableau Data Extract so it plays nicely with Tableau.

So we get the point of this blog post. Should Alteryx and Tableau get hitched? It would certainly make sense as they dovetail beautifully. Tableau really lacks a good ETL front end, although this looks to be improved in 8.2, this has yet to be seen in the wild. Combining the two packages would create a powerful piece of software that could create a viz from pretty much any data. However, rather than a full marriage should just have a little fling? Altreyx is very very powerful and including all its functions in a Tableau Alteryx hybrid would undoubtedly be over kill. But the commonly used tools of transforming messy data, aggregating it, renaming and reshaping the data would be an excellent addition to the front end of Tableau. I spend most of my time reshaping data before i can use it in Tableau so this would really improve my work flow, and i suspect I am not alone.
So this valentines day, maybe Alteryx and Tableau should send each other a card, or some flowers and declare their intentions. Have a couple of dates, a walk along a beach and just see what happens. The children could be amazing.

Matt Francis

Author & Editor

Tableau Zen Master, Social Ambassador, Wrangler of Data, Vizzer of Data


  1. This. All of this. I've been thinking about this civil union for a while, and it makes all kinds of sense. I really hope Tableau can make a bold move towards a truly unified, end to end experience. They would be truly unstoppable.

  2. Alteryx is more than data transformation. It is really about creating and managing process flow, which becomes crucial for complex analytics, using Tableau as the front guy. They are partnering already and have joint customers. Wonder what these customers are thinking and experiencing?

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