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Alteryx vs. SAS

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Why use business intelligence software? Because you’re probably interested in the following things:

  • Becoming a data-driven organization
  • Collaborating faster and better
  • Tracking key performance initiatives (KPI’s) to maximize revenue

And if those things interest you, you’ve probably run across two major business intelligence players, Alteryx and SAS. But when you pit Alteryx vs. SAS, who wins for which buyers?

Alteryx vs SAS

Both programs are impressive. Two weeks ago, Alteryx grabbed former LifeLock CMO Seth Greenberg and Tableau senior sales VP Scott Jones. They’ll be CMO and CRO at Alteryx, respectively. SAS, meanwhile, has seen yearly revenue growth for over four decades. They’re also #6 on Capterra’s list of the 20 Most Popular Business Intelligence Software.

This is to say that, whoever wins, you’ll be with a solid competitor. But which is the best for you? Your answer to the Alteryx vs. SAS debate depends on your needs. This post will compare the strengths and price points of both products, and share a few of both companies’ success stories.


There’s a lot to like about Alteryx, but the emphasis they put on the citizen data scientist may be number one. Gartner praises Alteryx’s “ability to make hard things easy,” and lauds their “ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction.”

Those qualities are vital to citizen data scientists—that is, business users who need data-fueled insights, but don’t have data science degrees, or know computer coding languages. Alteryx is so easy to use that they tied for second place in the “Ease of Use” category in Gartner’s Critical Capabilities for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.

Alteryx’s drag-and-drop interface is a big part of what makes it so easy. If you can drag and drop an attachment into an email, or a file into a folder, you’ll know how to move data around within Alteryx.

If you do have trouble, Alteryx’s customer service can help you out. One reviewer called their customer service “AMAZING” (caps hers, not mine), and said that she appreciated Alteryx’s “on-call chat service” that would “even do a screen-share and phone call if you need the help.”

If you’re a data-savvy user who doesn’t need the help, though, Alteryx is also a good bet. Another Capterra reviewer praised the ability to use R (a programming language) in the program, saying it “made a lot of analyses much easier.”

Last July, Alteryx added two more intriguing features: predictive and prescriptive analytics. Even if you’re hazy about what prescriptive analytics is, that’s no problem. Alteryx offers a Predictive Analytics Starter Kit that will guide new users through how to analyze data to predict future possibilities.

Alteryx’s lowest-priced offering, Alteryx Designer, is $5,195 per user, per year. Designer is a desktop-based solution, and while it can get information out of the cloud, if you want full cloud functionality, like sharing information with customers, no matter where they are, you’ll need to get Alteryx Analytics Gallery, which is $1,950 per user, per year. There’s also a $6,500 a year add-on called Desktop Automation that allows you to automate the analytics process.

If you’re interested in location intelligence, it’s worth looking into Alteryx Designer Spatial. This upgrade of Designer costs $16,895 per user, per year, but it takes advantage of Alteryx’s relationship with telematics giant TomTom, and the open source program MapServer. If you want to know where your customers are and match that information with other sources, consider Spatial.

SAS Visual Analytics

Gartner rates Visual Analytics highly for both complexities of analysis and “ease of use… for content developers and consumers.” That same combination is what helped Wayne State University when they adopted SAS’s BI solutions last year. Wayne State employees were frustrated with their slow, blocky BI solutions that required they meet with someone in IT and write up a ticket if they wanted data. With Visual Analytics, however, university employees can analyze “massive amounts of data” without having to bug someone in IT. Wayne State VP Mark Byrd praised these two features, saying “SAS advanced in-memory processing combined with Hadoop’s distributed storage allows us to access and analyze data quickly.”

Wayne State isn’t the only school getting help from SAS, however. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Research Data Services also adopted SAS Visual Analytics last year. WRDS’s Managing Director called the purchase an “invaluable” move, and “a natural step,” given his employees’ need to make sense of their data. SAS’s advanced analytic capabilities, in particular, likely make it a good choice for full-time researchers. Gartner was so impressed that it said “SAS differentiates itself on its advanced analytics capabilities”— capabilities like “forecasting, decision trees, and goal seeking.” Even if you aren’t a data scientist, though, those same features are still available in an easy, drag-and-drop format.

SAS is also a solid option if you have a lot of data you need to analyze. They were in the Magic Quadrant’s top quartile for “relational data volumes,” which is a fancy way of saying they can handle a lot of information. If you’re wondering how much, the “size of the average database is 163 TB [terabytes].” For reference, one terabyte equals 1,462 movies in digital format.

Visual Analytics is available in both SaaS/cloud and on-premises options. SAS writes individual contracts based on the buyer’s need, so contact SAS for more information on pricing.

Alteryx vs. SAS: who wins?

Both products are great options, but your winner depends on your needs.

Alteryx’s mixture of ease-of-use and high-quality customer service, whether potential sales or customers, would make breaking into business intelligence a less painful option for any SMB considering taking the leap into data-driven decision making.

SAS Visual Analytics, on the other hand, is great if you’re a larger business with a lot of data to analyze. And while I recommend Alteryx for new companies looking to break into BI, SAS’s high scores for functionality demonstrate how easy to use their product is. If you’re already familiar with BI, and want to do slightly higher-level analysis, SAS’s high scores for advanced analytics are a definite selling point.

Do you use Alteryx or SAS? If you’re a fan of either, let me know in the comments below! Better yet, if you use a product, and you’re happy with it, leave a review. It’ll help the vendor and any future customers.

Looking for Business Intelligence software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Business Intelligence software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.


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