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        Mark Smith's Analyst Perspectives

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        Alteryx’s Business Analytics Empowers New Generation of Data Artisans

        I attended the Alteryx user conference called Inspire 2012 (Twitter: #Inspire12)  in Denver this week. This fairly new analytics software company has been gaining customers in a range of brand-name organizations such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Supervalu, U.S. Cellular and VF Corp. The company focuses on meeting the needs of analysts across the business analytic spectrum including a geographic and location context for simplifying the analytic tasks and processes for the needs of business at the strategic and operational level.

        Alteryx utilizes a unique approach to analytic tasks based on workflow and components that also link location-based references to data and determine the relevant business value through in-memory computations and processing. Our benchmark research in location intelligence shows that integrating location data is critical to business analytics in more than one-quarter of organizations, yet only a handful of software providers actually support it. Alteryx’s point-and-click interface enables analysts to access and integrate data from files and databases and follow the logical tasks required to process data to yield relevant information, which can then be automatically delivered and shared in a host of data formats, including Microsoft PowerPoint. In this way Alteryx aims to help users improve decision-making, which is a goal driving 67 percent of organizations to improve their business analytics according to our research.

        Alteryx says it has a loyal customer base, more than 97 percent of which renew their product licenses annually. Historically it has done extremely well in servicing real estate teams of any organization looking to analytically identify new locations or marketing and customer analysts looking to more accurately identifying segments and consumers to market to more efficiently. Now Alteryx appeals to a larger group of data and analyst types across line of business departments. Its customers belong to a new generation of analysts who use analytics data intuitively, much like artists; Alteryx calls them data artisans. This term is new to the industry but accepted by Alteryx customers. Processing data from a multitude of sources into new forms of output based on workflow and processing techniques is an interesting dynamic. While many individuals who are using the software might have a generic title like manager or senior manager without the word “analyst” in it, “data artisan” does describe their actual roles and responsibilities.

        Our benchmark research in business analytics, covering more than 2,700 organizations, found that data tasks related to analytics can take up to two-thirds of the time people spend on analytics. Alteryx addresses this waste of time in its Designer’s Desktop. The desktop allows users to visually drag and drop analytics tasks as components in a module, then link them together in flows that can efficiently process and analyze data. The desktop includes a very sophisticated set of functions easily accessible from its ToolBox that are extensible from a processing or mathematical approach. The complications of the underlying SQL and processing are hidden from analysts but available for inspection. It also enables a variety of iterative analyses from regression and root-cause analysis to geospatial identification and analysis of locations. This is supported by using a multistep and multi-branching approach including a set of tasks including spatial analysis that can integrate and publish to sources from vendors such as ESRI, MapInfo and Oracle Spatial, and it can create thematic geographic maps with layers of analytics for review or publication. Alteryx empowers what our firm calls Location Intelligence, which provides analysts who process business analytics with geographic context and visualization. In our benchmark research on this topic, 61 percent of organizations said Location Intelligence is very important, especially for improving customer service and business process efficiency in more than half of organizations.

        At its user conference Alteryx representatives announced shipment of its version 7 release, which includes a in-memory server that can operate inside the enterprise or in a private cloud environment and can operate in a 64 bit computing model. Cloud capability is critical for organizations that want to link multiple Alteryx users so they can share information and analytics from their instances, even if they are not able to establish a server inside of the enterprise. This release also supports access to the Hive big-data technology that is part of the open source Hadoop movement. Our benchmark research on Hadoop found that gaining advanced analysis is a top priority in 69 percent of organizations. Eighty-five percent of these organizations expect big data and Hadoop to enhance the speed of analysis, and Alteryx can now address that.

        Alteryx can process real-time streams of tweets from Twitter or check-ins on Foursquare as data feeds. The company says it will soon support Yelp as well to help brand and consumer analysts determine the impact of customers who share their experiences and opinions on that site. I have been research on the importance of integrating social media sources of information for better insight on actions that should be taken across the channel of interactions. Alteryx supports a large library of data sources and targets. It also supports embedding of R , an open source language for applying predictive analytics. Analysts can easily embed and execute R code to produce statistics, as they can with other analytics that process along with the data tasks of users of the product. Our benchmark research on predictive analytics validates the need to embed predictive analytics and illustrates its rapid growth in use across organizations line of business departments.

        Alteryx software is gaining users in industries that need to add location context to analytics, such as telecommunications, retail, consumer packaged goods, commercial real estate and restaurants. Businesses can use location-enabled analytics for tasks including site identification and review, or marketing and servicing consumers according to geographic context or areas of operation. Alteryx articulates why the existing business intelligence technology stack fails to meet the demands of analysts, who want to focus on business and not IT. The company is promoting its placement on the Gartner Business Intelligence Quadrant, but Gartner’s low ranking misunderstands the power of Alteryx. I encourage anyone evaluating Alteryx to ignore this, since the software is not just a business intelligence tool but is business analytics software designed for line-of-business analysts who want to improve decision-making and strategic focus.

        To establish a place in the larger business market, Alteryx needs to highlight its workflow and activity-based approach to analytics, which binds together the actions analysts perform in a series of tasks. This is a challenge for anyone using spreadsheets, which our research has found are used regularly or universally in 88 percent of organizations; spreadsheets are a root cause of wasted time in data and analytics tasks, and create personal silos of potential miscalculations. Alteryx addresses the usability needs of analysts, a criterion that has the highest importance for 57 percent of participants in our research. I was impressed on the simplicity of building and viewing compound analysis and reports into documents of any format that can be emailed or shared across the network. Alteryx also enjoys a network of business partners addressing more industry specific needs and I got demonstrations at the conference including: Korem for trade area analysis using Google Maps, Critigen for solar location analytics and operates on Apple iPad and farsite for site selection.

        Alteryx is addressing many of the business technology trends that I outlined for 2012, including big data, business analytics, cloud computing and social media. Now, in connecting users through its cloud computing offering, it should also address the business collaboration and mobile technology needs of its users. This software is already miles ahead of what the majority of analysts use today, whether it’s spreadsheets, business intelligence or aging GIS products that do not satisfy the data and analytics demands of businesses. Organizations that want to dramatically improve the efficiency of their analysts and reduce the cycle time to iterate analysis should evaluate Alteryx.


        Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer


        Mark Smith
        Partner, Head of Software Research

        Mark Smith is the Partner, Head of Software Research at ISG and Ventana Research leading the global market agenda as a subject matter expert in digital business and enterprise software. Mark is a digital technology enthusiast using market research and insights to educate and inspire enterprises, software and service providers.


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