BI or LI: Alteryx Can Play in Either but There’s No Magic Quadrant Answer

March 15, 2011

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Most geospatial technology software solution providers do not care about the market research company, Gartner, and its “Magic Quadrants,” mostly because Gartner doesn’t have a magic quadrant for geospatial software solutions. Gartner rates enterprise technology companies by positioning them within quadrants, where the optimum position is in the upper right. Those businesses are classified by Gartner as having both a “complete vision” (x-axis) and the ability to “execute on their vision” (y-axis). These companies are deemed “leaders” of their industry sector. (See graphic below.)

(Click for larger view.)

Gartner likes to classify business intelligence (BI) solution providers into several segments within the BI industry, such as “data quality” or “data integration” or “extract/transform/load (ETL),” all tools that are basic and necessary in data processing. So, if a geospatial technology provider even wants to get noticed by Gartner, it has to provide some aspect of enterprise data processing or analysis. And while many geospatial software companies would agree that they provide some of those tools, they most likely would not want to be “pigeon-holed” as such, especially by Gartner. Therefore, geospatial technology has never been accepted as a mainstream IT tool.

Acceptance as a mainstream BI player is a major challenge for a company like Alteryx. Alteryx has a product, also called Alteryx, which is a data processing and modeling engine, and is a cross between business intelligence and location technology - what the company calls geographic business intelligence. I would simply refer to it as a location intelligence (LI) solution (I believe that is a more widely accepted term). Alteryx wishes to insert its tools into the same departments that use BI and it expects that the addition of its underlying geospatial feature set provides a competitive advantage. Having a foot in both the BI and LI camp can be challenging because neither the analysts who follow the BI sector nor the clients can necessarily determine where the solution fits, and what IT executive will be most likely to bless the purchase.

But once situated in an organization, Alteryx has seen its solution take hold and replace more entrenched BI tools. Alteryx continues to offer demographic analysis, site selection and target marketing solutions - classically business geographics applications. But Alteryx’s secret sauce is its ability to consume large datasets for ETL and data validation, and then expose geospatial tools to business analysts. In addition, file size limitations that confound other geospatial technologies are not a problem for Alteryx.

Another Alteryx challenge is to make the jump to the cloud. Its application has always been a cloud service, but the company is now preparing the Alteryx engine for both a public and private cloud option. In July, the company plans to deploy an on-premise solution allowing clients to install the Alteryx platform on internal servers. Users will also be able to create wizards in Alteryx and publish these to the Web. Key to this implementation is the fact that users can install the platform without a database administrator.

Many Alteryx users are enthusiastic about being able to use the product without much training, and they expressed that at the user conference last week. Many in attendance at the Inspire 2011: Alteryx Community conference in Broomfield, Colorado were users with only one or two years of experience who found themselves able to do very complex analyses. Some of them even ventured to enter the Alteryx Grand Prix, a product challenge at the event. It’s a good sign, as the company positions itself not so much for analysts but for clients who need to solve a problem and do it quickly. Dean Stoecker, CEO and co-founder of Alteryx, would like his company to be recognized by analysts because he feels that his tool set more than adequately competes with other data quality tools. Alteryx has engaged Forrester Research to look more closely at the company’s solutions and commissioned a white paper that examined the BI landscape. Stoecker hopes Alteryx will eventually be noticed by more analysts and will be included in Gartner’s data quality quadrant.

If validation is needed, note that enthusiastic conference attendees came from some major corporations. Walmart, a company that does not usually want to talk about its competitive advantages in the retail market, sent an executive to speak at the conference. So did Sprint, VF Corporation (includes Lees, The North Face, Wrangler, Jansport, etc.), and several others. Andy Moncla from VF Corporation started using Alteryx for wholesale point of sale (POS) applications, using it for data quality assurance, geocoding and drive time analysis, and then integrating the results with demographic data. VF also integrates its Alteryx solution with the corporate customer relationship management (CRM) system.  VF’s goal is to move beyond client profiling for direct mailing and use the solution for store expansion planning, both in the U.S. and globally.

Jack Thompson, CEO of Tango Management Consulting, provides services to help his clients optimize their retail portfolio and manage the entire lifecycle of a store. He uses Alteryx for real estate research, site selection and to help clients execute a retail plan. He sees Alteryx as a “key strategic enabling technology” for his company. Moncla calls Alteryx “a game changer.” These kinds of endorsements may get the attention of more than a few analysts.

[Alteryx supported travel expenses to Inspire 2011]


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