Alteryx Inspire 2019 Recap

Hello again DataFam!

With summer finally upon us here in Minneapolis, I find myself quite busy enjoying the nice weather and all of the great outdoor activities the Midwest has to offer.  For me that means camping, fishing, and just relaxing in the backyard.   The start of summer also brings the annual Alteryx Inspire conference, which was held the week of June 10th in Nashville, TN.  This was my first trip to Inspire, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the experience.

My Plan/Goals for the Week

As a first time attendee of Inspire, I based my plan for the week on my experiences at the Tableau Conference the past few years.  So, I went in with a few specific goals in mind:

  • I prioritized sessions given by Alteryx ACEs and sessions on using Alteryx to automate manual work, which is something I see often at my clients.
  • Build my network of people within Alteryx and learn about how the product and company are evolving.
  • Make in-person connections with people that I only knew virtually.
  • Catch up with old friends and colleagues.

I have taken a similar approach to Tableau conference the past couple of years and it’s definitely helped me to maximize my experience at conferences.

Pre-Conference Sessions

I was not able to do any of the pre-conference training sessions myself, however I heard nothing but great things about them from people that I spoke to.  This is definitely something that I will try to take better advantage of next year.

Opening Session

The bulk of the conference was on Wednesday and Thursday, with both general and breakout sessions that you’d expect at a conference like this.

Wednesday morning started off with a keynote session by Alteryx CEO Dean Stoecker.  Here we heard about some exciting product updates, some of which were released the same day:

  • Improved connections window – all of the available data source connections are now accessible in a single, streamlined connection window in the input and output tools.  This is available in 2019.2, which released last week.
  • Interactive results grid – this is something I’ve wanted for a long time in Alteryx; the ability to filter, search for records, and sort the results grid directly in the window.  This really simplifies exploring the data and validating your results along the way.  Available in 2019.2 release
  • Field tracking throughout workflow – the ability to track a single field in your data set throughout the entire workflow, so you can see exactly when it entered and exited the stream.  Exciting enhancement for governance and testing, coming in a future release.
  • Assisted modeling – definitely the show-stopper new feature shown for Alteryx Designer.  With assisted modeling, Alteryx will help the user choose the best type of predictive tool for their data and goals.  It helps guide the user through selecting the target and predictor variables, choose relevant model types and test them side by side.   This feature greatly expands the potential user base for machine learning with Alteryx, and helps develop deeper skills throughout the community.
  • There was also some information on server improvements, which are mostly aimed at integrating the Server, Connect and Promote platforms into a single, cohesive entity.

The opening keynote also featured a series of success stories from customers like Coca-Cola, CBRE and Honeywell.  It was great to hear the real-world stories about how Alteryx is helping companies achieve their goals.

Breakout Session Highlights

All of the sessions that I attended were good, and gave me something that I could take back and use in some way.

  • Harley Davidson on having “the talk with IT.”  My biggest takeaway from this one was when their IT partner stood up and said the business had accomplished more in two years with access to the data than IT could have done on their own in 10.
  • Alteryx User Groups – this was a fun session that included a mini grand-prix.  I went to this one mostly to network and share my own experiences leading the Tableau User Group in the Twin Cities.  We’re lucky to also have an active Alteryx user group here, and I attended this session to do what I could to promote the user group concept.  In the end, I was able to help connect some people that could lead to a new Alteryx user group in Omaha.  Fingers crossed, and mission accomplished on this sesson.
  • Cargill on using Alteryx in a huge company.  I loved this session because it had a beginner, intermediate and advanced user each sharing the stories of how they’ve helped their teams save time and money with Alteryx.  All tolled, they estimated 844 hours per month saved by eliminated repetitive, manual work.  Three people doing the work of eight!  Even brand new Alteryx users can make big changes at their companies.
  • Inside the Alteryx Engine.  I loved this session because it really gave me a look under the covers at how Alteryx is built.  It included specific examples of how the code base uses the resources on your machine once you hit run.  Understanding more about how the engine works will definitely help me optimize my workflows in the future!

The Alteryx Community

While we have a strong Alteryx community here in the Twin Cities, I was a bit skeptical that this part of the conference could live up to what I’ve experienced with Tableau.  But it’s right there.  First, there is a ton of overlap between the tools, so it was great to meet and/or catch up with folks from my datafam on Twitter.  And Alteryx users LOVE the tool.  The hallways, meals and happy hours at the conference were full of great energy and conversations about all things data.  I’m excited to be a part of the community that’s being built around Alteryx and am looking forward to doing my part to make it as great as I know it can be.

What I Missed

Due to a family camping trip that was planned well before my trip to Inspire, I had to leave on Thursday afternoon, so I missed the Grand Prix and the Closing Celebration.  I did watch the replay of the Grand Prix, and definitely will not miss that event next time around!

Closing Thoughts

During my TCATUG talk about getting certified with Alteryx, I mentioned that it took me a little time to really start to understand the tool and why I’d use it over say, just writing the SQL.  Because of that, I probably didn’t prioritize getting myself to Inspire strongly enough in the past.  That was to my own detriment.  Now that I’ve been on the ground at the conference and experienced it for myself, I’ll definitely make a push to go back again next year in New Orleans.

Nashville was a great host city, with amazing food, music, and people.  Alteryx did their part and put on a great show, and the community brought everything they had as usual.  All of this added up to make Inspire 2019 a great event.

Now, just a few short months until we’re all together again in Vegas for TC19!

Until next time,

  • Jim

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