Thursday, July 18, 2019

Solving problems across different data preparation tools

Lot of different tools to do the job, and maybe you can learn something new

Lots of people are wedded to certain tools for their data work, and that may be due to what resources they have at work or sticking to what they know. I get to use lots of different tools each day and wanted to demonstrate how each of them perform for data preparation challenges with no bias over preference in the tools.

So this is the output of this work, a whole 45+ minutes walking through me solving two data preparation problems across three different tools (Alteryx, PowerQuery and Tableau Prep). I've done this live so there are a few mistakes here and there (so please be kind on those).

Either watch the video throughout, or just skip to the sections in the video that cover a tool you've not used before (and hopefully learn something new).

What I found useful about going through this process is an appreciation that no tool is perfect. Something that takes you a few steps to do in one tool can be completed in one step in another, or one tool has a better user interface / description / guidance notes and that means depending on the person a transformation process might just click better for someone in another tool.

There's also something around data literacy and helping people understand what they are doing in the ETL process, you can see it in the video that there's a step where you want to unpivot your data and the terminology used across the tools varies from cross-tab, unpivot and pivot (rows to columns). So that again just demonstrates that people will understand it in different ways, but if you know what you want to achieve (I call it, when I deliver some training, making your data wide and short or long and thin), then you should be able to move between different tools fairly easily (and just Google the bits you don't know!!).

I need to give a shout out to the resources used in the videos Alteryx Weekly Challenges and Preppin' Data. Like I said in the video, don't feel that these resources are constrained to the respective vendor's tool, as they are a great resource to learn new things or try a different tool.

Oh and another bit I forgot to mention in the video, is the vendors for each of these products are releasing updates on a monthly/quarterly basis so the functionality and features are constantly evolving.

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