White PaperA Buyer’s Guide toStrategic AnalyticsFive Critical Criteria forAnalytics Success
2IntroductionAnalytics drive the key strategic decisions in major corporations today. It’s rarethat a company makes a critical decision about a new product, corporateexpansion or strategic investment without crunching numbers and analyzinga vast amount of data. However, most legacy tools and solutions that helpcompanies make these critical strategic decisions simply aren’t built to dealwith the reality of today’s modern business environment.While the consumerization of corporate IT and the advent of cloud computinghave combined to change how corporate decision-makers use businessapplications, existing strategic analysis tools remain complicated, time-consuming, and difficult to use. Whereas decision-makers now demand instantanswers anytime, anywhere, with access to all the required data to make thosedecisions at their fingertips, most legacy analytical solutions continue to relyupon highly specialized and expensive statisticians, PhDs, or data scientistsand require long lead times from the identification of a business problem tothe actual delivery of data and analytics.Because of this, enterprises such as yours are reconsidering their currentanalytic platform investment and evaluating alternative approaches that arebetter matched to today’s dynamic, fast-paced business environment. But whereshould you start? What evaluation criteria should you use to ensure that youmake a sound investment that will deliver tangible business benefits bothnow and in the future?Clearly, you want a solution that enables you to make the most accuratebusiness decisions in the shortest amount of time. What’s more, you’ll wantto incorporate all types of data—structured, unstructured, or geographic—no matter where it is located, ensuring that your organization is makingdecisions based on the most relevant information possible. And you’ll wantto make sure that you can put the powerful analytical capabilities deliveredby your new platform—e.g., predictive analytics, spatial data, and locationintelligence—directly in the hands of the employees that need this power,whether they are line-of-business business analysts, also known as dataartisans, or the business decision-makers they support.Five Critical Criteria for a Modern, Strategic Analytic PlatformThere are five (5) key questions you should ask yourself when evaluatinga strategic analytic platform for your organization.Question #1: Does the analytics platform combine the experienceof consumer cloud services and sophisticated analytics?Over the past five years, cloud business intelligence (BI) and analytics have beenamong the fastest growing areas of interest for organizations. A flexible clouddeployment and environment can make analytics more easily accessible andreduce the burden on IT while, at the same time, enhancing the user experience.Many organizations have been sold on the promise of saving money andputting analytic capabilities into the hands of more users, more quickly,but they have not seen the promise realized.While plenty of BI tools offer cloud-based deployment options, few alsodeliver the power of sophisticated analytics. Those solutions that providehigh-end visualization, metric, and dashboard capabilities lack powerfulanalytic capabilities. Likewise, those that are strong in analytics simplyreplicate the complexity and cost of legacy on-premise software deployedin the cloud.When evaluating strategic analyticsplatforms, consider the followingfactors when framing yourevaluation criteria:• Time-to-Decision. How quickly canyou get an answer to your criticalbusiness decision?• Data Range. What kind of data—structured, unstructured, orgeographic—can the applicationconsume?• Direct Accessibility byDecision-makers. Can those whoreally need to analyze data do soindependently?
3When evaluating strategic analytic platforms, you should look for asolution that:• Combines the value of cloud-based services with the power of sophisticatedanalytics to make analytics more easily available to the individuals whoneed them, when they need them;• Facilitates iterative interaction between business analysts and decision-makers rather than depending on already overburdened IT resources;• Gives decision-makers rapid access to analytics from any location,including through a public cloud deployment model; and• Delivers an engaging and social experience to allow decision-makersto use and share analytic applications.Question #2: Can you access all the relevant data in order to make thebest possible strategic business decisions?As most analysts know all too well, data today is never stored in a singlelocation and is rarely consistent or uniform in nature. There’s one datawarehouse for point-of-sale data, another for customer relationship data,and yet another location for the growing amount of new, unstructureddata, such as social media content. Plus, there’s the inevitable datacaptured in flat files—word processing and spreadsheets, for example—on their desktops.Unfortunately, most solutions fall short when it comes to accessing data.Some are limited in the size of the data they can access. Others are limited inthe types of data they can import. And many line-of-business decision-makersmust wait for lengthy stretches of time for overworked IT personnel tointegrate and stage these various datasets before they can even begin analysis.Without the ability to directly access, integrate, and prepare the right data tocreate the correct analytical dataset, decisions can be incomplete, inaccurate,and ill-advised.When evaluating strategic analytic platforms, you should ensure that thesolution you select enables you to:• Access all the types of data sources relevant to the business problem,from Big Data and cloud data to local data, corporate data warehouses,and social media streams;• Include and process data of different types, including unstructured,semi-structured, structured, and spatial data;• Integrate, cleanse, and prepare the data for analysis; and• Use all of these capabilities in an easy-to-use tool that does not requireintervention or assistance from data scientists or IT staff.Question #3: Can you complete the entire analytical process in a single tool?Traditional BI, analytical, and statistical tools were built to do a certain task ina certain way and many vendors have created loosely coupled product suites—both through independent development and acquisition—to address the fullcomplement of capabilities required by the modern business analyst. Ask anyanalyst, however, and you’ll find that the analytical process to use theseproduct suites has not been fully integrated or thought-out.Instead, analysts must jump from tool to tool to get from business question tobusiness answer: there’s one tool for ETL and data integration, another tool forconducting analysis, and yet another tool to use for reporting. And none ofthem feed data to one another. What’s more, most analysts face the fact thattheir IT organization must be involved in most of these tasks, which can causedelays in both analysis and actual decisions.“If somebody asked me whetherthey should use Alteryx,my answer to them would be,yes, you should, and you willnever look back again.”Paul Thomas, Head of Retail Business StrategiesDivision at Experian
4When evaluating modern strategic analytic platforms, you should find asolution that drives the entire analytical process in a single tool, so you can:• Unify strategic analytic workflows—from data integration to analytics tosharing of analytic applications—dramatically reducing the time not onlyto create analytics but also to iterate or improve them; and• Reach a specific answer or build a business-user ready analytic applicationfast enough to meet the needs of the organization.Question #4: Does the analytic platform allow you to access andmake sense of Big Data?What is Big Data? Big Data can be defined as data that is created and stored byorganizations in very large volumes. It is generated at a very high velocity andcomes from a variety of sources. This data can be structured, such as financialdata; unstructured, such as text or audio files; or semi-structured, such as aweb page. All of these different data types can be difficult to analyze usingtraditional methods but they unlock the missing “v” in the Big Data discussion:the value of the data.Getting the most out of the valuable information stored in your Big Data is keyto making the most informed decisions possible about customer behavior,process optimization, and even security or compliance. Getting this valuequickly can make or break your organization’s competitive advantage. However,most organizations with Big Data projects still have entirely separate storage,access and analysis approaches that keep Big Data “off-limits” to the majorityof decision-makers.When evaluating strategic analytic platforms, you should look for asolution that:• Makes all types of data available without the long waiting period commonin today’s Big Data access and integration projects;• Enables you to access all popular Big Data data sources, including Hadoopand NoSQL systems, and easily integrate that data with other sourcesof insight; and• Allows you to access all Big Data sources without retraining existingspecialists or hiring new analysts, in addition to the existing data scientistsemployed to drive deployment of the Big Data systems.Question #5: Are the right type of analytics available for you tomake the right decisions?The emergence of data discovery tools has interrupted the steady, sleepygrowth of the traditional BI sector, becoming a disruptive yet positive force inexecutive suites around the world. However, while these tools are visuallypowerful and enable business leaders to view a snapshot of the current state ofthe business, they lack the sophisticated analysis capabilities to provide a morein-depth view into their data’s past, present, and future. Plus, getting thosedetails requires an expensive investment in hard-to-find statistical specialistsand programmers.To make the most informed decisions, you need to be able to run the rightanalysis. You can’t rely on your gut feelings or instincts, nor can you rely onerror-prone spreadsheets. Rather, you need a tool that is flexible enoughto give your organization the edge you need to make the most accuratedecisions possible based on the right results. You need a tool that can takeany sort of data—whether structured, unstructured, or even spatial—and analyze it quickly, giving you the options you need to make the rightcompetitive decisions and drive your long-term success.Humanizing Big Data is dependenton two critical elements:• Making Big Data Easy to Access.The ability to access, integrate,and analyze Big Data should beavailable to data and businessanalysts who drive strategicdecision-making across theorganization.• Helping Big Data Tell its Story.Big Data can drive businessvalue only if it is enriched by thefull context of all data availableand if advanced analyticalcapabilities can be appliedwithout the need for datascience or statistical expertise.
5When evaluating strategic analytic platforms, you should look for asolution that:• Enables a wide range of decision-makers within your enterprise to usestatistical, predictive, spatial, and other advanced analytics, without requiringthe skills of expensive specialists or data scientists; and• Allows you to quickly and easily embed these analytics into analyticapplications, delivering their power to users while hiding their complexity.Alteryx Meets All Five Critical Criteria for a Modern,Strategic Analytic SolutionAlteryx Strategic Analytics is the only solution that meets all five (5) criticalcriteria for a modern strategic analytic solution. As such, it:1. Combines the experience of consumer cloud services andsophisticated analyticsAlteryx is the only analytic solution that combines the power of cloudcomputing with the consumerization of sophisticated analytics. While mostsolutions focus on reducing the burden of IT and infrastructure, they fail toleverage the cloud to benefit the analytics consumer and make analyticsavailable to anyone, anywhere, in an intuitive, engaging environment.Alteryx does this by empowering users to:• Consume analytic applications through a highly social experience thatis intuitive and engaging• Share analytic applications with colleagues using email and social media,including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+• Publish new and updated analytic applications securely without lengthydelays or limits on usage2. Lets you access all the relevant data in order to make the best strategicbusiness decisions possibleAlteryx Strategic Analytics uniquely delivers the ability to incorporate andintegrate new sources of data and analytics alongside existing standardsources all from within a single user interface—ensuring the most completecontext for strategic decision-making. With the ability to access data regardlessof size and type—and even enhance it with packaged data from Dun &Bradstreet, Experian, and the US Census, and spatial data from TomTom andothers—business leaders can make the most informed decisions.Alteryx AnalyticsPlatformsBIPlatformsCloud BIPlatformsCloudInterfaceAccess toAll DataSingle AnalyticSolutionMake Senseof Big DataSophisticatedAnalyticsAlteryx is the only solution that delivers on all 5 critical criteria for analytic success