Data preparation for Analysis – New Tools and Savings



A few weeks ago I went to the Tableau On Tour Conference in Sydney, an excellent event.  What really got my interest was subtle changes in complimentary tools for the back end, not Tableau’s back end (tho there are some excellent changes coming in 8.2) but in the data preparation market.
Most people look at Tableau (quite rightly) as the tool of choice for analysis and visualisation of their beautiful datasets to tell the compelling story they know (or assume) is their for the taking.
However most organisational data sources are complex and disparate in nature and rarely comprise a single large table that can be pivoted for that magic business insite!
Preparation of those datasets can be via as many disparate sources, mechanisms & routines as one can imagine, getting control of these dataset’s is the daunting task only surpassed by making these datasets/sources systemic/repeatable, reliable and governable (You want what! A single source of truth!).
To enable and prepare the data for extraction of these business insights some excellent tools have been around for some time like Wherescape Red and BI Ready these make Kimball Schema or star style data warehousing relatively easy but are not cheap.
The new kids on the block however are excellent and nimble as well as much more reasonably priced for mid size (and large) business.  The products on show were LavaStorm and Alteryx Software.

Here are some observations and reasons I expect to see a lot more of these guys around the traps:

  • SQL Coding no longer needed except for really out there stuff and geeks who feel the need to keep their hand in.
  • Very reasonable cost entry points, around 10% of the true DataWareHouse tools like WhereScape Red.
  • As nimble as – as agile as
  • The GUI components and screen design have been designed to enable a level of documentation to be compiled using screenshots (follow the logic trail), with some simple conventions in place for data flow development this can simplify and shorten the documentation process in a smart way that loses little and enhances understanding.
  • The technology is sound, LavaStorm it is based on telco billing systems that support huge multinational telco’s billing functionality.
  • Minimises/eliminates middle layers of datastores and tables used to house data for interim steps, both systems accept multiple disparate data sources and provide outputs in analysis ready formats, I love the ability to provide outputs as Tableau data extracts!
  • I am trying out both products and both seem great with each standing out in certain areas.
I remain an advocate of Ralph Kimball’s Star Schema for large organisational data pools and BI requirements.  Where the requirement is there I believe WhereScape Red or BI Ready are excellent tools.  But it is at a cost in terms of dollars and additional effort compared to Alteryx or LavaStorm.
These products offer exceptional data preparation capabilities at a very good price point that will pay for itself easily in effort expended on data preparation.
I am in the process of comparing these products and early impressions are excellent, feel free to get in touch if you wish to find out more.