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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Insightful Data Management with Paul Ross, Alteryx, Inc.

October 2, 2013 No Comments

In this interview, Paul Ross from Alteryx offers expert advice for organizations looking to reduce analytic processing times and deliver meaningful data from throughout the enterprise in a manner that is both user-friendly and easy to understand.

  • Q. With the evolution of Big Data and Cloud Computing, and the rapid growth of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data, how important do you feel it is to humanize” big data?

A. By “humanizing,” we mean putting data and analytics tools directly in the hands of the people who need it most– the line-of-business analysts and decision makers –  being able to understand the data and then make business decisions based on what the data says.  If it takes too many steps to acquire raw data and process it through the IT department to the point where insights can’t be found or decisions made, then the organization is likely losing out on big opportunities – against competitors and with customers.

  • Q. What do you view as the ultimate business value of being able to analyze data in “real time” from anywhere and at any time of day?

A. Real time is important to many organizations, but what we see as critical is the ability for analysts to get the data and do the sophisticated analytics they need at the time they need it. The traditional model still relies on specialists and processes that take the immediacy out of the analytic process. So while real time data delivers new opportunities, analytic independence will have a larger, more profound impact on line of business decision-making.

  • Q. In your opinion, how important is bridging the gap between business and IT, and how is Alteryx working to accomplish this for organizations today?

A. Both IT and line-of-business professionals struggle with the amount of time and money it takes to derive insights from their data with the previous generation of BI tools.  The business side wants actionable data in hours, not months.  IT leaders would rather not allocate their most valuable programmers and statisticians to routine data preparation tasks, nor do they want to pay increasingly higher maintenance costs to keep legacy analytics platforms such as SAS going, when they can’t keep up with big data.  What Alteryx provides is way for business and IT professionals to “leapfrog” from the old paradigm into the new, with an extremely efficient analytics workflow.  Alteryx Strategic Analytics is put directly in the hands of the business user, which means IT departments serve in a much more strategic and advisory role, and business analysts operate in a self-serve environment for the first time in analytics history.

  • Q. How do you foresee Alteryx’s partnership with Tableau Software helping organizations to reduce analytic processing times and deliver meaningful data from throughout the enterprise in a manner that is both user-friendly and easy to understand?

A. Tableau solves the problem of simplifying and visualizing data in powerful ways that make a difference to business analysts and executives.  And to make great visualizations, you need a powerful analytics platform to support the process, especially in cases where organizations have dynamic and complex data sets, data quality issues, the need to blend data together and the need to perform spatial or predictive analytics.  There are dozens of companies that say that the combination of Tableau and Alteryx equals a compound effect on insights and productivity that make them much more competitive in their respective industries.

A. Industry analysts often describe Alteryx as part of the “new guard” of analytics vendors because we make simple and affordable what used to be so difficult and expensive in predictive analytics.  We make this possible by putting our powerful, easy to-use-software tools in the hands of the business analysts, which greatly improves time to insight.  In addition, Alteryx is the industry leader in blending big data (Hadoop, social media streams, NoSQL) with spreadsheets, data warehouses and packaged market data –recent customer data shows us we can do it 100 times faster than old-guard companies.   And finally, a long-term advantage that Alteryx offers is that we have a completely modern platform built on the open-source R programming language, which in 2014 will eclipse the incumbent, SAS Base.

  • Q. Can you please give us a few examples of customers who have had success using Alteryx data analytics solutions?

A. Alteryx currently serves more than 300 plus customers across a number of industries, including Chipotle, Experian, Dairy Queen, AT&T, Walmart, Marcus & Millchap and GreatClips. For example, VF Corporation uses Alteryx Strategic Analytics to match products to consumers at specific stores based on simultaneous analysis of POS data and demographic information. With Alteryx, the company can analyze sales by category, style, and size for each defined market and cross-reference this information against inventories, market demographics, and customer drive times. This means VF Corporation can more effectively plan and move inventory into the right locations at the right time, improving sales and reducing merchandise mark-down and return rates.  In addition to VF Corporation, we recently posted nine short success videos on our web site that provide a wide variety of ways that we serve our customers.

  • Q. What advice can you offer to businesses trying to juggle the increased speed, volume, and variety of data that Big Data brings to the table?

A. We recommend setting up a multidisciplinary task force to look at the existing BI and analytics infrastructure, and then interviewing line-of-business executives, data analysts and IT professionals to see how well it currently serves the organization and will support its future needs.  Often times what a task force finds is that the existing infrastructure supports basic operations quite well, but that there is a growing project wish list that requires new infrastructure (Hadoop, NoSQL) and more capable analytics tools than currently exist.  From there, we recommend identifying a few of the most strategic new projects and start experimenting with the modern tools and platforms that are easily available today to help the line-of-business organization achieve their goals faster.


Paul Ross is Vice President of Product and Industry Marketing for Alteryx. Paul has spent the past 15 years of his career helping users and decision makers connect with the value of technology, especially the value of making analytics and using data as simple as possible. At Alteryx he has helped bring the company to the world’s attention and is passionate about causing problems for expensive, slow moving, legacy analytics vendors. You can follow Paul on Twitter @pjross01.


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