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Alteryx platform update includes automated recommendations

Automation is an ongoing focus for Alteryx. The vendor's latest update adds an automated recommendation feature that suggests tools to connect as users build workflows.

With ease of use a continued focus for Alteryx, new automated recommendation capabilities highlight the data management vendor's latest platform update.

Alteryx, founded in 1997 and based in Irvine, Calif., unveiled version 2021.3 of its platform in a blog post on Aug. 11.

Included is a new "Recommended" category in the Alteryx Designer tool palette.

Alteryx Designer is a no-code capability that enables customers to create automated data preparation, data blending and analytics workflows. By dragging and dropping tools onto what the vendor terms a canvas, users can connect and edit properties to build workflows and applications.

The Recommended category uses augmented intelligence and machine learning to automatically provide customers with a list of suggested tools to connect as they build new workflows and add to existing ones. And for new users, the capability is able to provide guidance about what to do next by showing them new tools and categories.

For example, if a user drops two data sources into a workflow, the feature might ask whether the user wants to join the data sources and, after that, whether they want to cleanse the data.

"It's a powerful tool to get to know all the things you can do in Alteryx," said Jay Henderson, Alteryx's vice president of product management. "I think it's going to help upskill our users and help them accomplish their business goals faster."

He added that, sometimes, it's difficult to know which tool to use at which moment.

"This will put the best tool at their fingertips," Henderson said.

Alteryx is bringing these capabilities into a broader world where business processes and automations are being triggered by, and accelerated by, analytics.
Doug HenschenPrincipal analyst, Constellation Research

Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research, noted that recommendation features aren't unique to analytics and data management platforms, particularly within data integration platforms as a service.

They are, however, uncommon in self-service data preparation platforms such as Alteryx, he continued.

"Alteryx is bringing these capabilities into a broader world where business processes and automations are being triggered by, and accelerated by, analytics," Henschen said.

Meanwhile, David Menninger, senior vice president and research director at Ventana Research, added that while automated recommendation capabilities are becoming more common and no longer differentiate vendors, they benefit data and analytics consumers and that's what truly matters.

"We expect all data and analytics vendors to be adding recommendations and suggestions to various parts of the data and analytics processes," he said. "Despite various vendors' best efforts, data and analytics products are still difficult for many people to use. Recommendations will help make them easier."

More to 2021.3

In addition to the new automatic recommendations in Designer, the Alteryx platform update includes an enhanced version of Compare Workflows -- a tool in Designer that enables users to compare similar workflows and visualize the differences -- and added data modeling capabilities.

Alteryx's May platform update included a new computer vision feature to the Intelligence Suite. The Intelligence Suite is the vendor's toolkit for machine learning model development, and Alteryx 2021.2 added text mining capabilities.

Version 2021.3 builds on those capabilities with an image profiling tool that is able to improve the quality of images like PDFs and pictures that were too dark or too low in quality for prior text mining purposes.

The enhanced version of Compare Workflows, meanwhile, makes it easier than the previous version to visualize differences in workflows. Now located in the Designer user interface, the tool enables users to look at similar workflows in the same visualization and automatically gives visual cues that highlight their differences.

A sample screenshot shows an Alteryx Compare Workflows visualization
Two workflows are displayed in a sample Alteryx Compare Workflows visualization.

The tool is particularly beneficial for tracking changes as different users collaborate, according to Henderson.

"Our existing customers have been clamoring for this, and it's going to simplify how they interact with our systems and give them a lot better visibility," he said.

The latest Alteryx platform update also includes a UiPath connector that enables users to execute UiPath robotic processes within an Alteryx Designer workflow and a Box connector that enables users to download and upload comma-separated values, XLSX files and YXDB files to and from their Box cloud.

"Overall, I'd say [the update] is an incremental step forward on a path that's original and innovative," Henschen said. "I give Alteryx credit for defying and blending categories. We're seeing a push for actionable intelligence within the analytics camp, but Alteryx also brings prediction and data science, as well as workflow and automation to the table to drive action."

The Alteryx roadmap

In the coming months, Alteryx plans to make public new capabilities that were released only to existing customers in early access around the time of the vendor's user conference in May.

At the time, Alteryx unveiled Machine Learning and Designer Cloud.

Alteryx Machine Learning provides automated machine learning capabilities that enable both data scientists and business analysts to build machine learning models. Alteryx Designer Cloud, meanwhile, is a cloud version of Designer and represents the vendor's first capability built specifically for the cloud.

"The next step after early access is to launch them in limited availability," Henderson said. "That will make those products commercially available and, for us, that's the next big milestone we're looking to hit in the second half of 2021."

Alteryx's path, meanwhile, including recent updates focused on automation and upcoming plans to expand its cloud-based capabilities, is one that's resulting in a unique platform, according to the analysts.

"Alteryx is unique in its focus on automating the analytics process from end to end," Menninger said. "We hear talk of DataOps from many vendors, which should include automation of data processes, but analytics vendors are not yet addressing AnalyticsOps issues."

Similarly, Henschen noted that Alteryx's focus on automating all parts of the analytics process has resulted in an uncommon blend of capabilities.

"What stands out is that Alteryx is drawing on innovations from multiple software camps to drive forward its Analytic Process Automation agenda," Henschen said. "The features introduced in 2021.3 aren't new to the tech industry, but Alteryx is pulling them together into a platform that is unique in blending data preparation and analytics, data science and process automation."

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