Early on in this blog I was talking about tools that would help accelerate productivity. Some I continue to feel a lot of benefit from using, such as XYplorer, while some I just couldn’t fit into my own workflow easily and stopped using, such as PhraseExpress.
Since then I have also gone on to review and use Process Street and Plan.co, which continue to be great productivity enhancers for me after reaching the limits of what I could accomplish with my free Trello account, but I’m not going to talk about those here today either.
Today my topic is the next level tools for analysis that I am going to be using, but rather than a review, it’s going to be more about just putting the spotlight on them today and reviewing them later.
Before I begin, I would like to give Excel and the multitude of add-ins created for it an honourable mention. Excel has been around for a very long time and pretty much anything that can be calculated can be calculated in Excel. Where the standard features leave something to be desired, some pioneers have developed add-ins that you can use to expand Excel which turn it into a real powerhouse of analytical abilities. If you can’t use any of the big name tools then I would encourage you to go looking for the Excel alternative, it is almost guaranteed to be out there!
Moving on, while undertaking a predictive analytics course on Udacity, I came across Alteryx, which appears to primarily function as a data preparation and statistical analysis tool for those who want to make quick adjustments and analysis of their data. My first hands on experience was really great and I was doing things in Alteryx that could take hours of work in Excel. It really is built to provide the answers you want much more quickly and accurately than Excel. The only real downside in Alteryx is for the designer version, they start prices at over $5k for a year’s subscription, or just under $4k if you sign up to 3 years. Ouch!
I can sign up to the paid nano-degree on Udacity and get a free license for the duration, but that alone is already $1k and the majority of the content is available for free, I’m not that excited about using Alteryx just yet!
That said, it is an impressive tool and I am going to try to squeeze plenty of testing out of it during the 14-day trial. It has built in tutorials that I found really helpful and I wouldn’t want to miss out on doing those as if I look far enough ahead, I can see myself picking up this tool.
Another tool that I’ve looked at is Tableau. We have a single license at work and it has actually started impressing us with the data presentations it offers. There is some work involved in getting our data to the point that it can slot into these presentations, but once you’ve got everything set up, it’s not that bad at all! I had a free trial of this one as well but squandered it a little at the time. I didn’t notice any built in tutorials like with Alteryx, but I was somewhat distracted with concern and didn’t really put the effort in to look.
Next year I will be on a course using Tableau properly and I can see some analytics courses on Udacity that use it, so there is a really strong case there for trying to get a head start! The cost of Tableau is $840 a year for individuals, so a little more accessible than Alteryx for someone like me, but again it is quite an investment and one I can’t really justify at the moment.
I’m going to look into both these tools more as I’m seeing more and more examples of analytical types using both of them, so don’t be surprised if you start seeing more commentary about them both on my blog!
Who knows, maybe I’ll help you identify a usage that you could turn around within the trial which just might convince you or your boss to put the money down for the subscription! I mean, when I think about the amount of work that Alteryx and Tableau can do, that’s almost a full-time person’s job if Excel is the only tool available and that employee would certainly cost more than $5k a year!