23 Jun 2017

Alteryx Product Roadmap: key features and release of version 11.0

Max Kenney

When it comes to challenging the status quo in BI and self-service analytics, Alteryx has shown an unwavering commitment. It continues to innovate on all aspects of its product value propositions, introducing new features that enable us, as analytic icons, to deliver deeper insights and get value from our data even easier.

At the Inspire 2017 Alteryx conference, we were among the first to get a preview of what's in store for the next Alteryx release. Its product management team revealed an ambitious product roadmap that will focus on four key areas:

  1. Data from anywhere – Looking at expanding on and improving their already vast list of Data Connections
  2. Time to Insight – Making the Designer EVEN easier and EVEN quicker to use
  3. Analytics for everyone – Bringing Advanced analytics to the masses, allowing data science techniques to be used within the tool
  4. Enterprise scale – Continued development of Server tools and platforms

Everyone still reading is probably thinking, "That's great, they are improving performance, accessibility and the functionality, but how exactly will it affect us who are using the tool on a daily basis?" To answer this, I will delve deeper into each of the four areas.

1. Data Connections

In the recent release of version 11.0, Alteryx expanded its data connection, including new seamless integrations with SQL server & Oracle, and new platforms such as SAP Hana and Zip file support. Continuing this accelerated rate of development, we expect to see a lot similarities to that of version 11.0 in the future roadmap releases.

Despite a rigorous expansion effort, Alteryx will never be able to list all connectors that exist out there. However, as the platform allows partners to build connectors and utilise these within the tools, the possibilities become endless.

The team went on to detail:

1.1 Connecting to Data

What: Alteryx continues to improve the experience of finding supported data sources, making it simpler to connect to and extending the functionality to manage data sources and credentials.

Why: To ensure you are connecting to the correct data sources and to make it simpler for you to connect to complex data sources.

1.2 In-DB Processing

What:There is a focus on optimising connection experience, enhancing support for additional data platforms and adding more functionality.

Why: In-DB processing is a powerful tool that can use existing DB infrastructure to perform the heavy lifting aspect of certain queries, i.e. joins. The benefit of this is that end users won't have to know complex syntax, and instead can use the intuitive drag and drop nature of Alteryx. By adding to its list of platforms that are able to support in-DB processing, Alteryx can reach a wider potential user base.

1.3 Beyond the Database

What: Providing extensibility to Alteryx will enable partners to create their own connectors. This allows users to build connectors to cloud-based sources.

Why: As confidence in Cloud services grows, more companies are using SAAS to manage their business and leaving "on premise" database systems. Alteryx addresses this trend by providing connectors which enables users to connect to these Cloud sources and build their own connectors. With this set up, users can analyse and supplement their data with more sources to gain additional insight.

2. DESIGNER

Alteryx has made a strong progress in version 11.0 of the Designer tool, with items such as new data profiling, global search, enhanced formula tool and more. Users should look out for new and improved tools that offer more interactivity, similar to the "results preview" seen in the Formula tool.

2.1 Tool Deployment and consumption

What: Alteryx has introduced an SDK for HTML5 and JavaScript, which leads to greater interactivity, improved UX and the ability for users to build their own tools. With this, Alteryx has also introduced versioning of tools and made their integration with the designer seamless.

Why:This allows tools to have more functionality. Take the recent release of the Formula tool, which dynamically shows the result of your formula as you type, providing a richer user experience. The re-write of tools also fits in nicely with the re-write of the engine, E2, which will leverage more of the cores and be able to perform tasks in parallel. Watch out for performance improvements when this is fully rolled out.

2.2 Data profiling extensions

What: With the introduction to data profiling tasks in version 11.0, further enhancements will be on the roadmap to allow for actionable analysis, data exploration and the ability to sort, search and filter the results.

Why: As any data analyst will know: Garbage in = Garbage out. Ensuring you have visibility of your workflows and any possible data issues up front will save you a lot of time and effort, with the end result being a higher quality output.

2.3 Tool experience

What: With Alteryx's focus on tool re-development, you will see a notable difference in the tools' UX – smarter, clearer configurations with less options to choose from, and my favourite of all, the Results preview.

Why: If you're already using the new Formula tool, the difference should speak for itself. The Results preview for example, is so valuable as it will ensure that you write the correct formula, without the need to re-run your workflow, which saves you time.

2.4 Reporting

What: Look out for new reporting tools, including a Single layout tool. This will allow you to re-arrange multiple pre-rendered items using a simple drag and drop, with improvements to tables, charting, mapping functionality and much more.

Why: Reporting in Alteryx hasn't always been intuitive, but the upcoming releases will address much of this. You will have a single interactive configuration for the report layout, which makes reporting much more intuitive, quicker and easier for a great final output.

3. Advanced analytics

Alteryx is known for its ability to empower users across an organisation to seamlessly create and deploy advanced analytics models with speed and ease. Alteryx's roadmap continues to play to this core strength by building on its advanced analytics capabilities.

3.1 Data Science for the masses

What: Alteryx is introducing a predictive advisor, with intelligent data cleansing, fit for the chosen model, and built in cross validation, along with Model management and deployment.

Why:
Given the majority of its user base aren't data scientists or statisticians by trade, Alteryx aims to empower those that haven't got a specialist skillset to also perform Descriptive, Predictive, and Prescriptive tasks.

3.2 High performance for big data

What: Watch out for the ability to compute in the Alteryx engine for scale and performance, additional in-DB support as well as the introduction of Spark.

Why: To drive continuous improvement of the toolset without relying on third party tools or installations on server. Furthermore, Alteryx also aims to widen its reach of more platforms.

3.3 Breadth of algorithmic support through API

What: Enhancements are due to the R tool along with the addition of Python & Scala support. Alteryx will also provide a guide to creating R based Alteryx tools.

Why: To drive user creativity and innovation. Those who have a specialist data science skillset, ability to code in R, Python or Scala, can now create their own Alteryx tools and surface them to their organisation in the form of a macro or an App. This allows more customisation and enriches the toolbox for a wider audience.

4. Server

Alteryx is quite rightly, focusing on the enterprise space and improving the Server aspect of the toolset to cement its position as the ultimate enterprise data platform. It's focusing on developments that will make its server tools as advanced and user- friendly as its desktop tool.

4.1 User experience improvements

What: Work is in progress focusing on re-imagining the server experience for the enterprise.

Why: With the announcement of Alteryx Connect, organisations will be able to govern their estate better and quicker. Alteryx Connect combines the power of data cataloguing with dramatic improvements on information discovery and collaboration within the organisation.


4.2 Analytic governance

What: Beyond its commitment to self-service and data democratisation, Alteryx also values the importance of managing data access and security.

Why: Alteryx server is already a leading enterprise-level platform, however to maintain its competitive edge, Alteryx needs to develop its server suite at a similar pace to its desktop tools. This commitment is already evident with the announcement of Alteryx Connect.


4.3 Self-Service user controls


What: Enabling the analysts to perform advanced data analytics while empowering the IT organisation

Why: There is often a question on who owns the Alteryx process within an organisation. With this feature, Server and IT can now re-gain the ownership aspect, ensuring minimal rework. This allows content to be assigned to different owners, making analytics a centralised and collaborative process as opposed to being managed in silos of teams.


4.4 Operationalise at scale

What: Turning desktop workflows into production analytics.

Why: To ensure a single version of the truth and democratise analytics across the organisation in a production ready state, with the necessary horsepower required to run analytical workflows.

Other notable points to look out for in the near future


New Engine in development

A new Alteryx engine, labelled E2 is in development. In essence, this uses modern hardware and technology to their full potential so that workflows can run aspects in parallel, using available cores within the machine.

When the engine is officially released, you should expect a significant increase in the tool's performance.

Look out for future releases towards the end of the year, and throughout 2018.

New tools

Along with the new engine, a suite of tools will be re-developed to take full advantage of the engine when it is officially released. Although an official release date is not yet on the horizon, Alteryx has started revamping some of its most popular tools.

Look out for improvements such as simpler design, cleaner interface and live previews of results to the Filter tool and Transpose/Crosstab tools.

Get your Alteryx free trial here.

For more insights, trends and tips on data analytics, read our blog.

Max Kenney

About the author

MCSA – SQL Server 2012. Max is a Lead Business Intelligence developer at Concentra. He works with a range of technologies and specifically with Microsoft BI Stack for the last 6 years. As a keen motorsport fan, Max likes his data like his cars, "fast, clean and good-looking".