Could you please define your current role and give brief history of Alteryx, Inc.?
My name is George Mathew, and I am the president and COO of Alteryx. I have the responsibility for product development, product management, strategy and marketing for the company, and have been there for five and a half years. Looking at how the market is continuing to evolve and shift away from authored business intelligence to more self-service data analytics, I felt like there was opportunity in this space to create a product that was focused on line-of-business analysts and users that would help more effectively with analytical data prep, modelling and consumption in a very seamless way.
In just a few years, Alteryx has evolved into the leader of self-service data analytics for line-of-business users. I feel that a lot of that journey has been driven by the fact that there has not been an easy, or straight forward solution that serves users as well as excel does today, but that gives them more sophistication in analytics processes, repeatability, scale, and modelling capacity that users’ need in this modern world of data analytics. This is where Alteryx is getting a lot of its attention, focus and success with customers.
How much of the success of Alteryx do you attribute to platforms like Tableau and Qlik, tools which are focused on the line-of-business users?
As a company, we have been around since 2010, and when you see how much the space has really changed in the last few years, it’s not so much about the products, but more so the shift and movement among business users towards self-service data analytics. We are fundamentally delighted to also work with the leading visual analysis providers in the market from a self-service standpoint such as Tableau, Qlik and MS Power BI who have been the best and biggest partners for Alteryx to date.
How/Why do you think Alteryx remains competitive and relevant?
I think that there’s a few market forces playing out in the BI/Analytics landscape today. First, we’re starting to see the end space for the last generation of authored BI platforms which Gartner has also highlighted. This is mainly because they are losing market share, and have less resilience in terms of how users can take advantage of those solutions. There’s also modern BI platforms coming about and destroying this old generation of BI platforms. Alteryx has been focused on providing that modern analytics capability for business users. A lot of our decisions have been centered on how to serve data and business analysts, decision optimisers, category managers, operations leaders. These users have needed better tools in their hands, and we are bringing this to them. Many other technology companies haven’t quite caught on that there’s a new platform needed here, so there’s not a lot of people doing what we’re doing.
Do you think that Alteryx will begin to replace the enterprise tools in that ETL bucket?
When you look at where we land in large enterprises, our focus is mostly on the excel-based data workers. This is due the complimentary nature of Alteryx with a product like excel. So to be honest, I think it’s more the analytic platforms that have been around since the 60’s and 70’s that are more at threat with a product like ours - SAS Institute and IBM SPSS which is the last generation modeler for analytics. It is more the analytics platforms that are under pressure when products like Alteryx make their way into an organisation and begin to scale their way up. There’s a lot inside the ETL world that has nothing to do with analytics. It’s a lot of movement of data from one place to another. That’s not where we ever really need to compete or run into conversation.
What is the most unusual use case for Alteryx that you have come across?
We’ve been working with Cardinal Health, one of the largest distributors of specialty medicine to hospital networks around the world for a few years now. If you look at one of the most amazing use cases there, it turns out that Cardinal Health has a nuclear medicine division whereby they create nuclear medicine that has a specific half-life to it. Because of the isotopic half-life with the medicines, you actually have a time value associated with how you can get the compounds produced, and how long you have to distribute them and get them to hospitals.
For years, the models that were built in this arena were about understanding where the specialty pharmaceutical center of distribution is, and how many hospitals it can reach by basically drawing a radius around that specific distribution center. It turns out that those models are actually not as accurate if you change the analytics around to create a drive time view. A drive-time view provides an understanding of what exactly is happening on the roads; e.g. is it a rural, suburban or urban network with different densities of population, etc. In doing so, you are providing a much more accurate view of which hospitals can be distributed the medicine from specific distribution centers. It turns out that going through this environment, and using Alteryx for the drive-time models, we were able to reduce spoilage by approximately 30% and generate billions of dollars to the top line. It’s amazing to think about what is possible today with a modern analytics platform like Alteryx.
Do you have a favourite application in the Analytics Gallery?
You’re actually catching me at a very precise moment with this one. We’re in the middle of a presidential election in the USA. At Alteryx, we’ve actually built a presidential prediction application that’s deployed and has processes in the gallery. You can actually go to alteryx.com/election and run that analytics process. You give an address, a county location or a zip code and it will return back the voting preference of all of the households that are aggregated in that area and their presidential preference. On top of that, it rolls this all up, aggregates it and shows a full view of who the country is most likely going to vote for. It’s a massively popular application that we just got into market a few weeks ago. It’s gotten a lot of interest, buzz and social media attention.
What do you think is an important feature of Alteryx that perhaps many people don’t know about?
If you think about our history and a lot of our background, Alteryx has traditionally been a broader general purpose analytics platform. For me, it’s the spatial capabilities of Alteryx that got me focused and interested in the company. Even in the example I showed you earlier, I’m still always amazed by the spatial capabilities in the product. Spatial analytics problems are the most complex problems facing the analytics industry today, and Alteryx has had such a robust solution that delivers a lot of spatial outcomes to businesses such as where to place your next store, what the presidential election is going to look like, where your nuclear medicines can be deployed, etc. You’re profoundly reminded that location matters, and to have that spatial aspect co-exist very naturally with the rest of the general purpose analytics that we can accomplish is such a game changer for many organisations - particularly with customer analytics use cases where they have to understand customer behaviour, customer activity, customer psychography. This is one of our key differentiators that many people are delighted by.
There’s a bit rumour at the moment that Tableau are looking to come back into your space, from visualisation to data preparation. Is that something that you see as a threat?
I think if Alteryx was just a stand-alone data preparation solution, then it probably would be a concern for our company. We’ve spent many years evolving beyond just data preparation, and we feel like we’ve built that full end-to-end experience for business users to do all of the things that they would need to do to solve their daily problems. We think that the data prep portion of the discussion is a great start to driving better analytics as that’s where you get your data right, cleansed, munged, joined etc. In doing so, you’ll be able to do heavier analytic models with Alteryx such as predictive, spatial, algorithmic and machine learning functions that are very well versed in our platform, and that you’re not necessarily going to see in a feature being added anywhere in the space. I have people from all over the world that come up to me and give me a hug before I even have a conversation with them. When I ask them what’s going on they say that because of the way Alteryx works on their behalf, they’re able to go home and have dinner with their families, and not have to wrestle with data for three-plus hours at work after people go home.
Can you please tell us what the importance of business partners are to Alteryx? What value do you believe they add (if any) and the types of roles you see them playing?
We’ve been a company since day one that has a tremendous focus on the scale of our partner-driven ecosystem which has helped us to succeed. Our partners really formulate the ecosystem that has delivered the success in the market that we see today for Alteryx. Well over 50% of all the business that we do is actually driven by some kind of partner influence in APAC, and it wouldn’t be possible to do some of this amazing work without these great business partners. At the end of the day, not having a physical presence in certain locations, but having strong business partners showcasing our tool, has certainly been able to assist in getting us to the scale that we’ve been able to accomplish.
Alteryx designer is currently only available on a windows desktop. Is there any future plan to create a Mac version?
That’s a great question. One of the things that we’ve been really focused on is the push towards java script and html files, and even the rendering components inside the gallery. If you look at how visualisations for advanced analytics work in Alteryx today, it’s all java script and html files. So a lot of the focus from a consumption experience is going towards a cross-platform capability that will be available for all kinds of use cases beyond what just sits on a Windows environment. Alteryx Designer is going to go cross platform, and we’re thinking about what the future of an analytic design time would look like, or if it is even tied to a laptop per se, and I think I’ll leave it at that. This gives you a bit of an idea of what we’re thinking about in terms of the design time experience with Alteryx. It will certainly be beyond just a windows infrastructure.
What’s in store for the future of Alteryx, and where do you see the company in 5 years?
To be honest, our focus is just growth. We want to continue to serve our customers, continue to delight them and deliver the best analytic platform for their needs. So for us, it’s all about growth as we continue to deliver to our customers and provide that unbelievable experience where the product is built just for them. These data workers have been missing this sort of product for over a generation, and as we continue to focus on this, the rest just becomes a whole lot easier at that point. As long as we continue to do that, I don’t think there will be any issues or barriers with what continues to evolve out of Alteryx.
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