Unseasonably excellent London weather and an impressive turn-out of almost 500 delegates, partners and Alteryx associates challenged the A/C at the Kings Place conference facilities this week, hosting the inaugural Inspire Europe conference. The two-day event included sessions by a number of Alteryx clients who described their use of Alteryx across a wide range of verticals and even more use-cases. The two-day event included a number of Keynote addresses interspersed among two tracks of themed sessions that included a 'Technical' track where senior Alteryx staff hosted sessions discussing the product and an 'Analyst' track where customers from an array of industry sectors discussed how they'd applied Alteryx within their businesses.
The over-arching theme of 'i.am.analytics' centred heavily on the role of the individual and the 'democratisation' of data and analytics through the business, the role of the individual in providing value through the application of analytics in their day-to-day. CEO Dean Stoeker kicked this off in his opening Keynote referencing the work of American Historian Daniel Boorstin, classifying individual Alteryx users as 'Discoverers', 'Creators' or 'Seekers'.
A secondary thread running through most of the sessions centred on time. The Message encouraging us to reflect on how much more time we would have on our hands when using Alteryx compared to the traditional systems and processes, was consistently repeated by presenters in the keynote and technical sessions and indeed by each MC.
If the Alteryx representatives at #InspireEurope16 were looking to hammer home the speed-of-delivery message in a coordinated way (under the whip of the marketing department I suspect), the customers presenting as part of the 'Analyst' track were happy to jump on board though in this instance there was an earnest quality in how the message was imparted. The presentations would centre on the capability that Alteryx provided in allowing them to leverage data to support business functions, often in ways they had not originally planned etc. It was during questions following these presentations where the audience would demand to know why they had selected Alteryx, or what they felt Alteryx specifically brought to the table: 'Speed' would invariably come back, often with no further elaboration required and a shared nod between asking and answering parties.
Nick Bignell at UBS gave a great summary presentation of the advantages, challenges and successes of implementing Alteryx within a major enterprise. He described the iterative journey they undertook, and as we have often found with our clients, how they soon came to a realisation that they could achieve much that would previously have been considered a flight of fancy thanks to the speed, flexibility and huge of capabilities Alteryx offers. He suggested that one of the challenges faced was trying to make it that what he and his team could achieve became not too widely known within the wider organisation, as a means of demand management. A good problem to have!
Other client presentations included Shell centring on how dissemination of capability to deploy Advanced Analytics into the hands of business users has helped change the way they approach strategic decision-making. Drinks manufacturer SAB Miller spoke about how they have been able to deploy analytics at the local level in their global business allowing regions to track and react to local market & competitive conditions.
A personal highlight for us included the presentation of Exterion Media who are responsible for advertising placement for TfL, basically they are responsible for placing advertisement in the Tube, train stations and the like. The presentation centred on how they use segmentation techniques on passenger movement data to identify locations where they can maximise penetration into certain segments through strategically placing ads at certain locations.
With respect to the technical tracks there were some excellent presentations that provided insight not only into the product itself but in the thought process around how the product is designed. Dr. Dan Pulter (Chief Data Scientist for Alteryx) kicked off the technical track with a session on the approach to first steps in working with Predictive/ Advanced Analytics including the focus on problem definition and Data Hygiene.
A number of sessions ensued on this track around deep dive into the lesser known features included in the product. One favourite included how you can insert a Windows Explorer control directly onto the Canvas (check out the Explorer Box tool in the Documentation Palette), thanks to Ben Gomez for that little nugget!
The highlight of the technical track for us however was when Ned Harding, CTO & founding member of Alteryx, took to the stage to discuss the inner workings of the product. In spite of his stated desire 'not to get too technical' (the next slide was full of raw C++ code…) we were treated to a detailed tour of the each of the components in the product and the types of logical techniques being implemented within the different components all through the eyes of the guy who designed it. Not holding back and, with a mischievous glint in his eye, often apologising to his 'business' counterparts, he discussed openly some potentially touchy subjects including that v10.6 would be the last version to include support for 32 bit & how he wanted to drop support for non-solid state drives as these were 'holding them back' in terms of some of the stuff they wanted to do. It was a brilliant session that provided insight into the technical thinking behind the product from a technical perspective, unique among any conference or event of this type I've ever attended with any other technology vendor.
The Alteryx release schedule continues to be frequent and feature rich, with it revealed that up to seven development teams are working on the various components of the architecture simultaneously. Following the recent 10.6 release, which featured a number of connectivity enhancements and new predictive tools, a host of new capabilities are planned in the forthcoming 11.0 release and beyond. Within the Designer some of the most significant changes are not as headline catching as they seem, but promise significant change in user experience. Alteryx are well underway in a process of incrementally moving tools from C# user interfaces to HTML5, leading to a much cleaner and modern look and feel. The go-to Formula Tool is next in line, with a greatly improved user-interface incorporating intelligent suggestions and showing an immediate preview of the results of the formula. This last addition alone should lead to big efficiency gains when constructing workflows, cutting down on the need to run workflows to validate results, a big win. Another forthcoming highlight is the introduction of a universal web-based scheduling interface shared by both Designer and Server. This eliminates something of a curiosity within Alteryx where it is not possible to directly schedule gallery hosted workflows, and is a welcome architectural change. Coupled with a re-work of the exiting user/permissions model for Server we feel this will greatly benefit its users and those often forgotten administrators.
We felt Alteryx Inspire Europe certainly held up to its name, and we are looking forward to continuing to help organisations achieve analytical excellence within their enterprise leveraging Alteryx. Our ambition is to showcase some of our clients’ experiences and successes for the already announced Alteryx Inspire Europe 2017, again in London. If you’re interested in what you can achieve take a look at our Alteryx Partner Page and please contact us at [email protected]. You can find our Inspire Europe 2016 tweets at @EccellaCorp.