I recently spoke with Bill Lay, former BI director at Technicolor and now an independent QlikView consultant. I wanted to understand what inspired him to go off on his own and focus his fledgling business exclusively on Business Discovery--exclusively on QlikView.

QlikView "A-Ha" Moments

A few years back, Bill created a BI prototype that had about 50 million records in it. Creating the prototype was an enormous undertaking. It involved setting up tables in SQL Server, building a Business Objects universe, and creating static reports. The process was so onerous that the business sponsor decided not to pursue the project.

Bill's first "a-ha" moment with QlikView occurred the first time he got his hands on the software. He tried once again to create the prototype he had tried to build in the past. This time he used QlikView. Results were immediate. Performance, even with 50 million records, was "spectacular"?even on a standard business-grade laptop. "QlikView is fast," Bill said, "but not quick and dirty. It's quick and robust."

Another area where QlikView really shone was flexibility. "I took what I had done with SQL Server integration servers and BO and replaced it all with one box: one QlikView app," Bill said. "That's when I realized this is far more than a dashboard tool."

Bill also pointed out that with QlikView, going from a prototype to a production application is an order of magnitude easier than it is with traditional BI tools. With other BI tools you throw away the prototype and rebuild a production application. But with QlikView it's pretty much seamless. When you're happy with your prototype you put it on a server and apply security to it. You can decouple the data from the code gradually, if you want to. Bill said, "You can get your application out the door, then come back in and do some refactoring if you need to. It's the concept of incrementally coming in and polishing off pieces."


The Business Value of QlikView


Thinking back on his time as a BI director at Technicolor, Bill describes the power of bringing together in one place data that may have been seemingly unrelated. He was able to remix and reassemble data sourced from multiple systems?data people previously were not able to analyze all at the same time. He was able to handle significant volumes of data and to link the data together in meaningful ways.

He also used QlikView to identify anomalies in the data. "In a traditional approach," Bill said, "to try to do a quick analysis you might try to link the data up, then create Excel spreadsheets to manage the master data. With QlikView, you set up inline tables in QlikView. You explore the data and can see when things don't match up. It may seem like a small thing, but for our application we were able to see that in some cases we abbreviated the word 'avenue' while in other places we didn't. This kind of visibility into data quality helped us improve our operations."


At Technicolor, interest in QlikView exploded as Bill and his team began to show it around. QlikView usage and adoption spread all the way up to senior management, and the organization was able to do some great things to optimize operations. Eventually, it got to the point that QlikView was all Bill wanted to work on. Thus his transition?luckily for us!?from BI director at a multi-billion dollar company to independent QlikView consultant.

Understanding how QlikView approaches the topic of security starts with an understanding of the QlikView Business Discovery Platform and how the components work together in a tiered environment. Having this knowledge can dramatically reduce the number of questions about how QlikView handles security.



While Security is usually a topic at the top of mind of an IT professional, it's worth reminding the business user reading this that while QlikView continues to pride itself on having a very fast and highly flexible environment to allow the business to ask and answer their own questions, without having 'discipline at the core', one cannot achieve 'flexibility at the edges'. This discipline starts with security.

It's important to understand the role of QlikView Server, QlikView Publisher and the QlikView Developer, and how they all fit together. In the first half of the accompanying video, I outline the roles and responsibilities of each within a tiered architecture. This video is one of an 8-part series on the topic of QlikView security that will be published on our website very soon. In addition, a new Technology White Paper, entitled "QlikView Security Overview" is now available in the Resource Library of our website.

Tiered architectures are something that IT professionals are well accustomed to, with firewall-protected regions providing inherent security against authorized access to data and applications. QlikView deployments are no different. By employing a tiered data and application architecture as standard, IT organizations can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and can be secure in the knowledge that their QlikView deployments are safe.

A fundamental concept IT pros need to understand is how QlikView authenticates end users and what mechanism it uses to provide authorization to data and applications. Authentication is almost always done outside of QlikView; QlikView relies on third-party authentication methods (such as Integrated Windows Authentication (IWA), single sign-on software, etc.) rather than handling authentication itself. Integrating with IWA or an SSO package is very straightforward from within QlikView. Authorization is achieved using a variety of methods; each is outlined in the second half of the video. The second half of the the video covers file-level authorization as well as data-level (e.g., row- and field- level authorization).

Amongst the biggest concerns that IT professionals have when considering a new software vendor is whether the vendor has a trusted security model and whether the software is flexible enough to adhere to the organization's security standards. Understanding the basic QlikView deployment architecture and the roles of each of the product components can go a long way toward answering many of the initial questions about security in QlikView.

Business intelligence stakeholders tend to view metadata as a painful hurdle the IT organization must clear before business analysts can do any serious work on analysis definition and begin to meet end user requirements. This perception persists because traditional BI solutions treat metadata as a separate data and software layer for customers to populate, query, integrate, manage, and staff. While some traditional BI offerings contain comprehensive metadata modules, these modules frequently go unused. They are work-intensive and expensive to populate and maintain.

The good news is: it doesn't have to be this way. QlikView takes a pragmatic approach to metadata, which balances speed of deployment with oversight and control. QlikView handles three forms of metadata: descriptive, administrative, and structural. The glue that binds these together is the QlikView document. As administrators, developers, or business users look at the descriptive data for a QlikView document, they can also see the administrative and structural metadata.

The beauty of it is that with QlikView:

  • Metadata management is optional and pervasive. QlikView customers use metadata only when and where it adds value. QlikView creates metadata automatically. Whether or not it is used is up to the designers and developers.
  • Our focus is on QlikView itself. QlikView's metadata focus is on helping stakeholders understand and manage the QlikView environment. Developers and designers get a clear picture of how well their QlikView applications were built and gain insights that help them maintain their applications.
  • Developers can introduce metadata usage over time. With QlikView, developers do not have to create a metadata layer ahead of time. They can define and collect metadata after they have created, tested, and even deployed applications. Project teams can instead focus on getting the right business information and analytical tools in the hands of the right people at the right time.

Using our approach, QlikView administrators and deployment owners can better support users and refine processes. Developers and data architects can conduct better planning. Designers and content developers streamline their work efforts. And business users gain insight into usage and system health. To learn more, please download the QlikView Technology White Paper, "QlikView's Pragmatic Approach to Metadata."

With more than 18,000 customers and a 96% customer satisfaction rating, it's obvious that business users love QlikView.* There are many reasons for this. One reason is the power of storytelling and QlikView's role as a storytelling tool. You may be wondering what storytelling has to do with business intelligence. QlikTech expert advisor Elif Tutuk has some great thoughts about this. Here is her logic.

We rely on stories to put our ideas in context and give them meaning. It should be no surprise, then, that the human capacity for storytelling plays an important role in problem solving. So it follows that as technology aimed at solving business problems with the use of data, business intelligence software should help people visualize ideas using data, and should be flexible and fast enough to let people build their stories at the speed of thought?sort of like creating a storyboard.

This concept isn't entirely new. In fact, in the book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright, the author makes the case that consciousness, language, and society developed an intimate relationship with the technologies of storytelling throughout the forty-thousand-year history of human society.

QlikView lets people create their own "data storyboard"

With QlikView, business users can create their own storyboard, telling the story they discovered in the data.

  • QlikView gives them zero-wait analysis and user-centric interactivity. They can load data from any data source in minutes and start exploring it right away. Users can start their story anywhere: from the lowest level of data or the top. They can navigate into details to unfold the data in a way that engages them and lets them make their own discoveries.
  • QlikView delivers an associative experience. They can ask any question, build a chart accordingly, and find the answer or identify a pattern that leads to another question. As they move along, pursuing the series of questions in their mind, they build charts displaying the answers in sequence?for the purpose of finding the unknown in the data.

Traditional BI doesn't cut it as a storytelling platform

With the way that traditional BI technologies make data available to business users, it is not possible for users to visually tell a story with the data.

  • Queries only give access to a limited set of the story's details. Query-based solutions only make a portion of the data available at any one time, so the user only has limited visibility into the big picture. They can only tell an incomplete story, at best. This negatively influences users' ability to formulate the next question, and the one after that.
  • With OLAP, users can only tell a predetermined story. With OLAP-based technologies, users can analyze data only by using pre-determined, generic drill down paths so they have no chance of finding answers to the questions they come up with on the fly. They can only get answers to predetermined questions.

With QlikView, users can tell stories even when the end of the story is not yet known. Because they are not forced to analyze the data in a limited way, they do not use predefined drilldowns or static queries. They are in control of exploring and using their data without limits?and communicating the story the data is telling them. Perhaps this is part of the reason why people are so addicted to QlikView! (Have you seen the classic YouTube video about the QlikView addict?)

*See this IDC white paper series on the QlikView Customer Experience.

The role of the CFO has undergone significant and dramatic change in the last decade. In the most recent business cycle, growth and economic optimism have been replaced by retrenchment. Regulatory requirements are changing in industries like financial services, health care, and energy. CFOs are tasked with providing strategic business advice and guidance to the CEO, improving the organization's controls to comply with regulations, and ensuring the cost efficiency of the finance and accounting function.

To accomplish this, today's CFO needs access to data that lives in different platforms across the organization?and to be able to analyze this data from top to bottom, at a very granular level, at the speed of thought. This is how they can connect dots that may first seem unrelated, and answer "unknown" questions?thereby addressing major strategic issues that can influence the organization's long-term future.

During QlikTech's all-hands summit in Orlando in January, a panel of QlikView customers talked about what QlikView can do for CFOs. One of the main themes that emerged from that discussion is this: QlikView can help CFOs serve as strategic advisors to the rest of their organizations. How? By delivering an associative experience that enables them to connect previously disconnected dots. They can then use this insight to provide strategic guidance to other parts of the business. (For more info on the associative experience see this QlikView Technology White Paper.)

Here are a few examples:

  • Evaluating complex investment opportunities. Imagine a manufacturing plant manager putting in a request to buy more machines because the factory seems to be running at full capacity. By combining plant data with human resources data, the CFO can help the plant manager see that the plant is not currently staffed in an optimal way. Perhaps the plant could be more efficient with the machines it currently has by changing the shifts people work or the order in which they manufacture parts. Or the CFO could lead a discussion about which parts of the country are optimal for expanding growth and building new facilities by combining data from internal and finance and manufacturing systems with data from external sources like regional economic growth trends and real estate and labor statistics in one interactive analytical application.
  • Seeing the big picture and illuminating discrepancies. Think of a human resources application used to analyze the structure of the organization, assess human resources needs, and simulate payroll scenarios. The information needed for this type of analysis typically resides in multiple back-end systems: payroll, finance, eLearning, etc.?and sometimes more than one of each type of system. By bringing the relevant data from all these systems in memory with QlikView, the CFO utilizes the associative experience to illuminate discrepancies. For example: what is an employee? Does that mean someone who is on board as of the end of the month? Or as of their start date? In another example, consider a scenario in which one organization has acquired another and is trying to reconcile the definition of "western Europe." The parent company may include Greece and the Scandinavian countries while the acquired company may not. This matters significantly for revenue reporting and profit and loss accounting. These discrepancies become fully visible when data from both the acquired company and the acquirer are brought together in a single visualization.

By bringing together data from multiple sources into one analytical application, QlikView helps the CFO connect dots that may have seemed unrelated. The CFO can click on any data point anywhere in the data set and QlikView instantaneously filters all the other data around that selection. He can immediately see what's related to that selection?and what's not related. In the above examples, the CFO might select January in the "hired month" field and see that employees are included (highlighted in white) that have actual hire dates in December. Or he selects "western Europe" in the sales region field and sees that for some products Greece and Norway are excluded (highlighted in gray) while for other products these countries are included. For a look at how the associative experience works, check out the videos "Ask a String of Related Questions with QlikView," "Insight in Just Five Clicks," and "The Power of Gray." The associative experience, in combination with speed-of-thought analysis, make QlikView an optimal tool for CFOs.

Thanks to QlikTech technical advisor Elif Tutuk and product manager Arthur Lee for their contributions to this article!

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