Follow Datanami:
May 20, 2013

Alteryx Driving Towards Line-of-Business Analytics

Isaac Lopez

There is disruption in the air, says Alteryx CEO, Dean Stoecker, who today announced that they have received $12 million in financing to take their offering to the next level. Datanami spoke with Dean about the state of big data, and the challenges his company faces as it takes its next steps.

Dean Stoecker, Chairman and CEO, Alteryx
Dean Stoecker, Chairman and CEO, Alteryx

He shared that he believes there’s a gap in the industry right now that isn’t being properly addressed by the legacy vendors, which of course, he believes his company is suited to fill: line-of-business analytics. Much like how Prometheus brought fire down from Mount Olympus for the mortals to make use of, Alteryx has consumerized the complexities of the statistical R language. Stoecker says that using Alteryx, mere mortals can engage in sophisticated analytics like K-Means testing, linear regression, logit, forest plot analysis and more.

 “We fundamentally believe that there is a big disruption in the analytics space that is happening as we speak… and we think it will be on the scale of Salesforce disrupting Siebel and CRM,” Stoecker told us of the market opportunity that Alteryx faces. “But that means a fundamental shift that some are referring to as ‘Analytics 3.0’ where we have the traditional stack in the hands of a single person close to where the questions are being asked so that they have context around the business challenges.”

Stoecker says businesses have very capable people in the line-of-business who know what their problems are, and can recognize insights when they see them.  The company refers to this drive to push big data analytics past the data-scientists to this next business line level as “humanizing big data.”

Retail giant, Walmart uses the Alteryx analytics suite for an array of statistical insight into their processes, says Stoecker. “From dirt to balloons,” he says explaining that one of the uses that Walmart engages in using Alteryx is do gravity modeling to rationalize capital expenditures for in-store developments. He says they’re using the tools for such things as space allocation in stores, hyper-local merchandise optimization, and even such things as financial analytics where they do point of sale audits on skus for every category, department, store, and market every day.

As the POS big data rolls in from around the globe, front line business managers are set up to make direct use of the data. “Mere mortals can run these analytic processes to be able to create a buy sheet that I can take to my buyer on Monday.”

Perhaps it may not be as easy as all that. In Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms, one of the concerns that Gartner noted in referencing Alteryx was ease of use for developers and users, adding that Alteryx scored below average on breadth of functionality. The report noted that comparatively, Alteryx is narrowly deployed within its reference clients, with typically only a handful of business analysts using the tool.  One of the biggest stings it got in the report was dissatisfaction with Alteryx’s data visualization capabilities, rating it among the lowest quartile in the quadrant. Adding to these concerns, more than 50% of Alteryx reference mentioned high cost of the software as a barrier to wider adoption. All this said, Gartner noted that Alteryx scored very high when their customers were asked about the extent to which they used the platform to perform complex analysis – which seems to indicate that once the users get acclimated to the tool, they dive in.

Alteryx appears to be well aware of these perceptions. Having introduced a new pricing model in 2012, the company announced this month a free project edition of its Strategic Analytics 8.5 platform that will give companies the ability to put the Alteryx tools in the hands of its business analysts for a trial period, giving organizations an opportunity to expose more of their users to the tools.

They’ve also leveraged their partnerships to help fill in the gaps and broaden their appeal. This spring, the company joined data visualization star, Tableau Software for a ‘Tableau 8: Data Gets Its Day” series of product road shows. “The partnership with Tableau is one where there are joint sales calls and joint marketing activities,” says Stoecker explaining the chummy relationship that the companies have together where both companies sponsor each other’s conferences, and have a deep rooted interest in bringing analytic and visualization tools to the business line of users.

“Our customers want visualizations, and their customers want analytic processes,” says Stoecker. “We are the only software vendor today that actually supports direct writing of Tableau data extracts,” he says noting that they are able to do this directly from the Alteryx Strategic Analytics platform. “So I can ingest any data of any ilk – big, little, structured, unstructured, in the cloud, on the ground – I can then apply a wide array of analytic processes, and then output to any metaphor (for Tableau users, that’s typically going to be in TDE format) so that they can immediately get to making better decisions.”

On the database side, Alteryx is partnered with major Hadoop distro vendors, Cloudera and Hortonworks, though Stoecker is quick to note that their product has a Hive connector, so they support virtually all Hadoop distros. Stoecker says that they’ve recently announced support for Cloudera’s Impala, saying that they believe their customers are looking for better access to Hadoop environments.

The company also boasts a great partnership with Teradata, where Stoecker says that Alteryx provides data munging and movement of data into the right data store and then giving line of business users on the other end the ability to interact with the data through analytics processes right in the Teradata Unified Data Architecture. “All the way down to not having to move the data out of the database at all – se we can push analytic processes in database for scale in doing predictive modeling from R. It just make it a lot easier for Teradata customers to consume more of the big data that exists and turn it into value.”

Currently, however, Alteryx is limited where NoSQL support is concerned. Stoecker tells us that they support the 10Gen offering, and actually even use MongoDB in their own cloud infrastructure – but the only open NoSQL support they currently give is to Mongo.

Armed with a fresh infusion of capital, this may change. Stoecker says that Alteryx has half of their revenues in channel partnerships and that he sees these technology partnerships as being critical to their growth. With new money coming in from Vinny Smith’s Toba Capital and SAP Ventures, Stoecker says that the money will primarily be used for go-to-market activities, building out sales execution teams, and putting together additional marketing programs – including plans to expand internationally.

Stoecker believes that Alteryx is well positioned for the next phase of big data. “I believe pretty firmly that the conversation is going to move pretty quickly to this – we’re already starting to see it – from big data to big opportunities, and the focus will move from how you store and manage this, to how you consume, ingest and deploy it. There is still going to be some consolidation in the Hadoop world, in the NoSQL world, in the fast analytics database world – but I think the focus is going to turn to analytic processes… the movement of spend is going to line of business.”


Related items:

Software Development Strategies for the Age of Data 

Alteryx Aims to Bypass Data Scientists by “Humanizing” Big Data 

Television Ratings Company Moves on Analytics