A Desktop Reporting Visualization for All Budgets

January 4, 2017 | Mark Richards

Mark Richards | Consulting Partner

Mark has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, including application development (SDLC), application support, database administration, data modeling, system migration, enterprise reporting (BI), and data...

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Do you ever wish you had the ability to corral your data and analyze it directly on your desktop or mobile device? Apply leading edge visualizations to highlight KPIs, or overlay it on a map for analysis using spatial awareness, without having to make a request of IT? Self-service data preparation, visualization, and reporting has been a dream goal in the industry for some time, but recent trends are turning these dreams into reality and putting the power of data directly in the hands of business users. Two leaders in this movement are Tableau and Alteryx — two distinct products that complement each other by targeting different sides of the problem to produce a unified solution. Key differentiators for both products is that they target the business user with a unique combination of world-class features, ease of use, and a low-cost entry point that scales with need.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and Tableau Desktop brings that age-old idiom into the EKS&H Tableau Partnermodern workplace. It breaks down technical barriers to allow you to ask questions of your data with a drag-and-drop interface that allows exploration and analysis through visual patterns — anything from interactive dashboards and scatter charts to more traditional bar charts, line graphs, and tables of data. In combination with powerful R-driven statistical functionality and the ability to drill down into the detail, Tableau desktop is a market leader in the visual analytics.

But of course to be able to analyze data you have to be able to feed that data into the reporting tools. Is your data spread out across multiple systems? Do you regularly export out of enterprise databases into Excel to match it with other data sources or manipulate or add in your own custom calculations to meet your requirements? How much time does that take each month? And what are the risks of introducing errors and inconsistencies? How can you be sure that this manual process is applied consistently and correctly across the board? 

This is where Alteryx Desktop comes in. Alteryx is a data preparation tool that automates those manual processes into simple workflows, which allows you to visually “blend” data from one or more data sources; apply your calculations, filters, joins, and aggregations in a drag-and-drop interface; and be able to deploy and run it over and over at the touch of a button. Need to add extra columns? Make changes to existing logic? No problem — easy-to-use transformations let you visually build and track the journey your data takes from start to finish and intercede to make tweaks at any point along the journey.

If Tableau is the Ferrari of visualization tools, Alteryx provides the premium fuel needed to get the best performance out of it. Alteryx can even write directly to the format that Tableau most efficiently consumes or even create your Tableau workbook for you. Separately, they are outstanding tools. Together, they are outstanding solutions.