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Alteryx Stays Classy in San Diego for Inspire 2014
Peter Krensky, Aberdeen Group
JUN 20, 2014 01:02 AM
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I spent the last three days in San Diego (not a tough sell in June, or any other month) for Alteryx Inspire 2014. CEO Dean Stoecker kicked things off on Tuesday, taking the stage flanked by a two-member uniformed marching band and the power guitar riffs of Muse’s “Uprising.” I prepared myself for more theatrics in the style of The Wolf of Wall Street, but Mr. Stoecker smoothly transitioned into introducing the conference’s theme of “analytic freedom.” He made several points that resonated with me and my research, including changing the role of IT “from gatekeepers to air traffic controllers” and putting as many tools as possible in the hands of the “modern data analyst” working at the line of business. Two of my recent reports, Big Data Perspectives: Users vs. IT and Collaborative Data Governance: Peeling the Red Tape off Data Discovery, examine the decision making benefits of this philosophy. The impressively fleet-footed CEO wrapped up his keynote with an ambitious dance number, which I’m sure is making the rounds on the internet by now.

Jer Thorp, Co-Founder of the Office for Creator Research and former Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times, did not disappoint. He shared some brilliant data visualizations on everything from the world’s wake-up times to exoplanet candidates in the Cygnus constellation. My enjoyment was not even tempered when my tweet about landing in sunny San Diego suddenly appeared on screen (anonymously, thankfully) and I ended up as the butt of a solid joke.  Mr. Thorp was able to create a visualization of the flight paths of hundreds of conference attendees based on all of our self-congratulatory landing declarations and our profile information. The data artist chided us for our vanity, but thanked us for the information needed for his model of human travel. Mr. Thorp concluded his presentation with a point I took to heart. He hates the term Big Data. He feels this way because he believes in the long run it’s going to make all of us look pretty stupid. How we’ll laugh, remarked Thorp, when we’re tackling the data volumes of five years from now and look back at what we considered “big”.  I still recognize the value of Big Data as a marketing term, but we should all try to be a little less myopic in the application of buzzwords.

The evening brought the Alteryx Grand Prix and the excitement of watching five data analysts go head-to-head on the big screen. Each “driver” was given the same business problem: figure out the optimal placement of food trucks throughout Dallas based on past location data and revenue figures, in addition to all other data sources available for blending. Each analyst had 45 minutes to work and none of them wasted a second. In the end, defending champion Chris Love retained his title and will be enjoying his second free trip to Vegas in as many years. Undoubtedly he’s read Location Analytics: Putting the Evolution of BI on the Map.

Things wrapped up Wednesday morning with a keynote from Alteryx President & COO George K. Mathew, who took the stage sans marching band. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Mathew’s use of the ruins of Corfe Castle in southern England juxtaposed with the modern skyline of Hong Kong as a metaphor for the fate of legacy analytics. He boldly asserted that in the face of new technologies for data blending, advanced analytics, and visualization, “legacy analytics either have crumbled or are crumbling.” He then brought Tableau VP of Product Management Daniel Jewett on stage to discuss the value of their partnership for users and the power of interactive data visualization.

Alteryx’s overarching value proposition for the conference was performing complex analytics faster to drive faster decisions and faster value. The robust interactive visualizations shown on screen were the final payoff of successful data blending and advanced analytics. Aberdeen research shows that users with the ability to interact with their visual data reap quantifiable benefits, such as faster data discovery. For more on the subject, read my report, Interactive Data Visualization: Strategies and Key Technologies and keep an eye out for Interactive Data Visualization: The Age of Look but don’t Touch is Over (publishing in July).

I’d like thank everybody at Alteryx for putting on a great event and I’m thrilled to hear that Inspire 2015 will be coming to Boston.

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