Enchanting with Data

Posted by Erica Driver May 30, 2012

I recently read Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. The book is sort of a modern-day “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” not relevant to Business Discovery in an immediately obvious sort of way. But one of the threads in the book is about influencing the decisions people make. Given QlikTech’s mission — simplifying decisions for everyone, everywhere — I found this thread very interesting.

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For a little context, it might be helpful to share what Kawasaki means by “enchantment.” In the book he describes it as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea.” Enchantment is a process, not an event, and the outcome is “voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.” People make decisions as a result of being enchanted — or not — and Kawasaki made a few good points about this, as relate to Business Discovery:

  • Data is good. The implications of data are even better. Communicating what Kawasaki calls “the salient point” can help people make better decisions, compared to delivering barebones data. He gives a few examples. A cheeseburger label says, “You will gain half a pound by eating this” rather than “Total calories: 1,500.” A label on an automobile describes fuel efficiency in terms of cost of fuel per year as opposed to miles per gallon. An MP3 player’s storage capacity is described by the number of songs it can hold rather than gigabytes. The value of a charity donation is described in terms of how many meals it provides vs. the monetary amount. The takeaway? Business Discovery apps can have a greater impact — and shorten the time to decision — by helping users immediately and viscerally understand the implications of data.
  • People need ways to collaborate in the decision-making context. Kawasaki says, “Many would-be enchanters define their targets too narrowly — that is, only the person who will adopt their cause. This often backfires because people don't make decisions by themselves. Think about the folks who might affect your decisions: parents, grandparents, neighbors, pastors, teachers, coaches, spouse/significant other, friends (offline), co-workers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers.” The moral of the story? Make it easier for people to communicate and explore data together — and even to co-create Business Discovery apps — and you’ll help them leverage the insight of the people whose perspectives matter the most, so they can get to a solid decision more quickly and effectively.

For optimal persuasiveness and decision making, context matters — a lot. As does the ability to incorporate insights from other people into the decision making process. To learn more about the core tenets of Business Discovery, check out the "Business Discovery Manifesto."

I’ve been thinking lately about IT trends that will have a major impact on how business intelligence is used in organizations. A few of my thoughts:


  • Mobile technology. Mobile is a buzz word that is sometimes misunderstood. “I am already mobile – I have laptop and can connect wherever I am.” Although it’s true that the laptop is mobile, that’s not really the thing. Mobile is rather about availability — that you bring your device wherever you are, that you can turn it on in a second, and that it is equipped with a touch screen. It’s about connecting instantly to Internet-based apps and resources. Today, mobility is more about smartphones and tablets than it is about laptops. Everyone will soon have one. This will change the IT landscape completely and with this change comes the possibility of having your business analysis at your fingertips wherever you are.


  • Big Data. We will continue to see more cases where we are talking about billions of records instead of just millions. We will also see more cases of analysis where data have been collected from the web, e.g., from social media or customer loyalty programs, or from machines. However, I am convinced that Big Data will not change the lion’s share of BI apps for the foreseeable future. Most BI apps will still be analysis of sales, costs, purchases, suppliers, log files, finance data etc. Most apps will continue to utilize a more moderate amount of data: millions of records rather than billions — even when they include data from “Big Data” sources. The German magazine Computerwoche rightfully asked, “The question should not be, ‘How much data can I analyze?’ but rather, ‘How can I use the data, so that I can make better decisions”? Big Data becomes useful only when it is relevant for the business and in context with other data (e.g., enterprise data, cloud data).

  • Cloud and SaaS computing. Cloud computing, sometimes combined with software as a service (SaaS) licensing models, is another trend that we will see more of. Slowly but surely, more and more data is moving into the cloud. As a consequence, more analysis will be done over the Internet. But this change takes time and most enterprise BI installations will for many years to come remain within the corporate network. Is your company using cloud computing for data that should be analyzed? If so, you should perhaps consider putting your BI platform there too. Check out this related blog post, “SaaS BI: It’s All About the Apps.

  • Consumerization of IT. With this we usually mean how computers, mobile devices, and apps more and more are used in people’s personal lives. But the same trend also exists within people’s professional lives and here it is probably more correct to call it user empowerment. We are talking about a democratization of technology resulting in more and more people using data and needing tools to analyze and make sense of the data. This trend is in my mind the most important one and it is certainly also a driver for some of the above trends. Young people are today accustomed both to using electronic devices for almost anything and to solving problems themselves. They will expect that at work also.

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I think the key to staying on top of the trends is user empowerment. If users are empowered to make decisions they will also take an active part in assessing information, both internal and external. They will drive the need for analysis and they will see which trends affect your business. Empower your staff, give them a good Business Discovery solution, and many needed business changes will come automatically.



Data Brings Joy to People

Posted by Erica Driver May 24, 2012

I have a toy called 20Q. It is an electronic version of the old standby game “Twenty Questions” in which one player thinks of an animal, vegetable, or mineral and the other players try to guess the word within twenty yes-no-or-sometimes questions. One of the questions my 20Q device asks is, “Does it bring joy to people?” If the word you have in mind is something like “kitten” or “cake,” the answer is a clear yes.

If your word was more along the lines of “dirt” or “data,” you might think that question would be harder to answer. But after watching the latest Hans Rosling TED video, “Religions and Babies,” there’s no way I could answer anything but “yes” to the question about whether data brings joy to people.

In this video, Rosling takes on a couple of politically charged topics: religion and population growth. Certainly not presentation topics you would expect to bring joy to people. But I got goose bumps when I watched the video. The goose bumps popped up on my arms around 04:45 when Rosling said, “Let’s start the world” and started the animation on his data visualization. Not because the numbers were so fascinating – but because I could feel his passion as he was storytelling, and because I got a visceral sense for the implications of the numbers by watching the dots fall on the chart like bubbles in a lava lamp.

The data storytelling unveiled the truth in an indisputable way, and there is something thrilling about that. Apparently I’m not the only one – you can see joy on the faces of the people in the audience when he finishes this section of his presentation.

You can see joy and delight on the faces of people in the audience again when Rosling pulls out a bunch of cardboard boxes that had contained notebooks distributed to attendees at the TEDx event. He stacked the boxes on the stage in a specific arrangement to help the audience visualize world population growth trends by age group over time. The lesson? You don’t need fancy technology to deliver a fabulous data storytelling performance.

Rosling started out his research with the question, “Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others — and how does this affect global population growth?” He concluded from the data that there is no major difference between religions when it comes to number of babies per woman. But he did identify a correlation between income and number of babies (the countries that have many babies per woman have lower income) and, interestingly, countries that have high mortality rates have the fastest population growth because the death of a child is compensated by one more child. Wow. Storytelling is a core human communication skill — the primary one, I would argue. And those who are great at it can really, truly change the world.

I like talking about social Business Discovery with customers and partners because the topic generates “light bulb moments.” People instantly start thinking about ways they could use annotations and shared sessions to streamline decision making in their organizations. During a recent customer meeting, the BI project manager identified a terrific use case for shared sessions on mobile devices: sales managers coaching and doing account planning with sales reps out in the field.

In this 5-minute video, we show a couple of examples of ways we use annotations and shared sessions internally here at QlikTech. Brad Copeland, northeast regional sales director, gets answers quickly during a discussion with a member of his team. Ashley Goerger, director of global campaigns, and Shima Nakazawa, global director of QlikView demo and best practices, co-create by working on a demo app together, which Ashley will use in a marketing campaign.


Henric Cronström

Green Is the Colour

Posted by Henric Cronström May 18, 2012

On the Pink Floyd album “Music from the Film More” (1969) there is a song "Green Is the Colour". It is a ballad typical of the early Pink Floyd. And it is still good. Listen to it, when you can.


Given the title, it could have been QlikView's song. There is no color so associated with QlikView as green. Green is the QlikView brand. Green is how you interact with QlikView, how you focus on a piece of information, how you ask questions. You click and it turns green. And the answer to your question turns up in white. It is so easy.


Green and White. Everything is ordered, simple and beautiful.


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Then - enter the black swan: Gray, the color that adds spice to QlikView. After all, green is just a query filter setting and white is just a query result. Anyone can do that! But Gray...


Gray is the color that reveals the unexpected. Gray is the color that creates insight. Gray is the color that creates new questions. Gray is an important part of making the QlikView experience an associative one — a data dialogue and an information interaction, rather than just a database query. Showing you that something is excluded when you didn't expect it is answering questions you didn't ask. This surprise creates new knowledge in a way that only a true Business Discovery platform can.


One of the first times that I went to a prospect to sell QlikView we were at a pharmaceutical company where physicians wanted to analyze their clinical trials database. We connected to the database and were up and running in just a few minutes. I clicked on one of their coming products and we could see the countries where studies of this product were in progress. But one major European country was grayed out when I clicked...


The audience was silent. This information obviously came as a surprise.


— “Oh,  it does not matter," someone said. "We can get the product approved there using the studies from other countries."


— “No!" someone else said. "It is a large market. We need a study there for marketing purposes!"


Needless to say, they initiated a study also in that country.


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Things have not changed. QlikView still helps people discover their data and their business. And gray is a crucial part of the discovery process. Therefore I feel uneasy when I get questions like “How do I hide the gray values?” I always try to persuade the developer to leave the gray values visible, because my view on this is firm: Showing excluded values is an important part of the QlikView experience. Don’t hide them!


Green may be the Colour, but Gray makes the Difference.



Are you a QlikView customer who wants to have your views on business intelligence and the market heard? If so, this survey is for you! Industry analyst firm Business Application Research Center (BARC) has started collecting data for its annual BI Survey, "The BI Survey 11: The Customer Verdict," and have opened up their questionnaire for BI user responses.

Click this link or the image below to fill out the online survey, which is open through the end of June May, 2012.   The questionnaire can be completed in English, French, German, or Spanish.  It should take about 25 minutes to complete.

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BARC's BI Survey is a survey of real-world experiences of users of BI software. It provides a resource to decision makers who are selecting software and to vendors (like QlikTech!) that want to understand the needs of the market.  No vendors are involved with the formulation of The BI Survey. It is not commissioned, suggested, sponsored, or influenced by vendors. It contains no sponsored or private questions and the questions are compiled without reference to vendors. Vendors are not given an early preview of the findings, nor are we allowed to review the report before its publication.

We encourage you to fill out the survey. To give you a sense for the work BARC is doing with this study, here is a link to the QlikView summary of last year's report (BI Survey 10) (registration required). This summary was produced by QlikView and approved by BARC.

A few weeks ago my colleague Jens Boivie (sales executive training in the Nordics) sent me a link to this Fast Company article, “How GM Is Saving Cash Using Legos as a Data Visualization Tool.” It stuck with me ever since so I had to share it with you.

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My takeaways:

  • People choose tools that are easy and fun. It's pretty basic. We like to feel happy! According to this Fast Company article, Tim Herrick, global chief engineer at GM, uses Lego pieces with his organization to track problem resolution; various colors denote the area of the vehicle and the block size denotes the severity of the problem. Likewise, Dennis Pastor, executive director of performance excellence at WellStar Health Systems, uses Lego bricks with his organization — they track on-time starts at the doctor’s office and manage physician-payee relationships, which has led to a series of fixes projected to save the company $1 million USD. What could be easier and more fun that using that mainstay of childhood — Lego — at work!
  • Humans think in 3D. This is something that was on my mind every day when I was an independent industry analyst covering workplace use of immersive technologies (you can find my old ThinkBalm analyst reports and videos here). By 3D I don’t mean “made to look as if slightly popped up from the page.” I mean utilizing three dimensions of space: an X, Y, and Z axis — either physically, as in the case of GM and WellStar using Lego, or virtually, as in immersive serious games and virtual worlds. Pastor said, “We came to the conclusion that our processes were three dimensional but our reports were only two dimensional. We needed to see them 3D . . .”
  • 3D is natural for Business Discovery. There are many ways Business Discovery can become more three-dimensional to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of the human mind. For example, imagine integrating QlikView with motion sensing input devices like Microsoft Kinect, enabling users to interact with apps by moving their bodies around in physical space . . . literally feeling the data. (See the blog post and video, “QlikView’s Simplicity Opens the Door to Innovation.”) Imagine QlikView apps displayed on multiple screens on the walls of factory or warroom, literally surrounding decision makers with data, providing an ever-present status indicator and opportunity for instantaneous exploration.


You think I’m out to lunch with this 3D stuff? Bah, this is nothing! Check out the blog post, “Data Visualization in 4D: Sculpture and a Musical Score.”

Relevance is a big deal in Business Discovery. We recently made a subtle but important change to this blog to narrow its focus and make it more relevant to you. We renamed the blog from the more generic “The QlikView Blog” to the “Business Discovery Blog.” The purpose of this blog is to communicate with business decision makers, business users, industry analysts, press, and the market at large about Business Discovery. Here you can expect to find posts on topics like QlikView customer stories, market trends, the future of BI, and a-ha moments people have with Business Discovery.

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Within the next few weeks we will be launching a second blog called the QlikView Design Blog. The QlikView Design blog will be more technical; it will be curated by QlikView veteran and product advocate Henric Cronström and will feature posts written by technical experts throughout QlikTech. That blog will be written for an audience of users, designers, and developers of QlikView applications — as well as technology industry analysts and technically-oriented members of the press. The QlikView Design Blog will cover topics like data modeling and visualization techniques, as well as best practices and general tips and tricks. I’ll post an update here in the comments and on Twitter (@EricaDriver) when the QlikView Design Blog goes live.

It is fitting that I write this blog post while I’m riding the Amtrak Acela Express from Boston to Philadelphia. We just rolled over a bridge near Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Outside the window, sailboats are tied up in a marina and snowy egrets fish in the marsh. The train really is a wonderful way to travel.

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No wonder there are some die-hard railway enthusiasts out there. People like Joe Parker, QlikTech’s QlikMarket manager, for one. Joe is a certified railfan — railfans are railway buffs who study trains, photograph them, and blog about them. They meet at conventions, share knowledge, and start up hobby businesses — like Joe did.

Joe and a buddy started up such a business to create railroad-related memorabilia and sell it at conventions and online. A big money maker? No, “but I love trains,” said Joe. He took photos and applied them to canvas. He created mouse pads and coasters with railroad logos and pictures on them.

It was easy to manage inventory and sales in Microsoft Access when Joe and his partners sold just a few items. He didn’t need any visual analysis. But as the number of permutations approached 1,200, Access became unwieldy. Joe had created Access forms in which he would enter the name of the item, the size, how many he had in inventory, and individual dates and sales.

With 1,200 items, the resulting Access reports were 20 pages long. He didn’t have a way to do quick comparisons. “I love the ‘show me the top 10’ functionality in QlikView,” Joe said. “I can easily track which items were the top items we sold last year. I can click one more time and see which items are our top sellers at the hobby show.”

When Joe joined QlikTech, he downloaded QlikView to play around with it. He used the QlikView wizard to create his first app in 10-15 minutes. (For a short video on building your first app from Excel, see this blog post, “How about a piece of apple pie?”) That first app was just list boxes and basic graphs but "even with that I gained so much insight," Joe said. "It is powerful to be able to just click on things. You don’t have to be an IT genius to be able to get the answer to your next question, and the question after that.”

One of Joe’s first “a-ha” moments was a realization that there were places in his Access database where the logic (calculations) was incorrect. For example, he had the quantity of items sold and the price at which they were sold, but no totals were showing up. 

After he cleaned up that problem, Joe was able to use his data to uncover new opportunities. He now has a better view of his inventory so he can more easily make decisions about which items to list on eBay. “I had the data all along but would have had to click through lots of forms to get insights out of it,” Joe said. “I had the questions all along, too. But I didn’t have an easy way to get answers.”

What’s my point in all this? That Business Discovery is for everyone. It’s for decision makers at the world’s largest banks and for Joe Parker, railfan hobbyist. Everyone who works with data has the potential to save many hours by spending one hour setting up their first QlikView. Joe put it well: “Anyone can use QikView to get more pertinent information than they ever thought possible. Plus,” he added, “I’m a geek, so, I think this is just really fun.”

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