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Business Discovery Blog Archive

210 Posts authored by: Erica Driver

Hans Rosling is a global health expert and data visionary who is a master at presenting complex data in a way that’s easy to understand. He is a storyteller with a Swedish soul. Here’s a good example, in a 9-minute TED video, “Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine.” This video is a great example of storytelling with data.

Rosling started out his presentation with a story, re-enacted on the stage: the day his mother got her first washing machine when he was four years old. On the first day it was to be used, even his grandmother was invited to come see the new machine in action. Rosling’s grandmother thought the washing machine was a miracle.

Rosling smoothly transitioned into a discussion about women all around the globe who wash laundry by hand, often with water from streams and rivers, heated with firewood. He then bucketed all of humanity into four categories based on our electricity generation and usage. A few points from his presentation—presented below in words far less effectively than he presented it in his simple, straightforward, and visual way:

  1. The “fire people”—29% of humans—consume <8% of the earth’s fossil fuel energy. Two billion of the 7 billion human beings on the planet live on less than $2 USD a day. They don’t have electricity. They heat water and cook food over open fire. They don’t always have enough food. The fire people use less than one unit of the world’s 12 units of fossil fuel energy (oil, coal, or gas).
  2. The “bulb people”—43% of us—consume ¼ of the energy. Three billion people live between the poverty line and the “wash line” (meaning people have washing machines). The bulb people have electricity but no washing machine. They use 3 units of the world’s 12 units of fossil fuel energy.
  3. The “wash people”—14% of the population—use 17% of the energy. One billion people live above the wash line. They have washing machines, but not a house full of other machines and devices. They live on about $40 a day. The wash people use about 2 units of the world’s energy.
  4. The “air people”—1/7 of the world’s population—consume ½ of its energy. The remaining 1 billion humans spend more than $80/day on their consumption. They live above the “air line.” They have a house full of machines and travel around the globe in airplanes. Air people consume 6 of the 12 units of the earth’s fossil fuel energy.

Rosling wrapped up his presentation with a brief analysis of the future. By 2050, he predicted, total energy usage will be 22 units (compared to 12 units in 2010). The richest people will still use most of the units. Two trends that will affect growth in the use of energy: population growth and economic growth.  The vast majority will come from economic growth. The solution?  We will need more energy efficient machines, changes in behavior, and more green energy.

Rosling said that when he was a kid, he liked the washing machine because his mother would load it up and then take him to the library. “Thank you steel mill, chemical processing industry – you gave us time to read books.” The beauty in wrapping data in a story is that then people can then internalize the meaning of the numbers. And that’s the whole point, right?

The other night I was at home listening to music and a thought occurred to me. The way I discover new music today is so different—and so much more satisfying!— from the way I discovered music 10-15 years ago. Similarly, the way people explore and interrogate data at work for insights and decision support is very different—and much more satisfying—from the way it was done in the past.

Today, music discovery is mobile, instant, social, and app-driven

How I discovered music in the pastHow I discover music today
Influence of friendsI would hear new music I liked while at a friend’s house or riding in their car. I’d write down the name of the band so I could look for the compact disc in a record store at a later time.My friends frequently post YouTube videos of music they like on Facebook. My friend David has particularly good taste; I always check out what he recommends. I can also follow bands on Facebook and connect with my friends via Ping, which is iTunes’ social network.
Discovering music in the carI listened to whatever was broadcast on the few channels I received on FM radio. If I liked a song, I hoped the DJ would say the name of the band so I could write it down. If the DJ didn’t announce it, I had to wait until I heard the song again.I listen to satellite radio, with hundreds of music channels to choose from. When I hear a song I want to buy, I hold my iPhone up in the air and click the big orange button on the SoundHound app. The software recognizes the song and stores metadata about it for me.
Discovering music in the storeI would head to Tower Records—now defunct, like so many other record stores. I’d pick up the CD I’d heard at my friend’s place, and wander through the pop and rock aisles, where CDs were arranged in alphabetical order. I would browse through racks of CDs to see if any of my favorite bands had new albums out. Pretty much the only way to explore music by bands I’d never heard of was to stand at a station where I could don a set of well-worn headphones and sample tunes from a half dozen CDs the record store was promoting.My music store is now online. I go into iTunes to buy a few songs I had stored in my SoundHound list. Searching is easy. If I want to find Coldplay’s new song, for example, I can find it by typing the words “Coldplay” and “waterfall” into a search box. The song “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” shows up in a list alongside other songs in that album, and other songs by Coldplay. I can click around, listening and exploring. By clicking on links, I can pursue a trail of tunes, discovering songs I like. Exploring a compilation or soundtrack, for example, takes me to artists I had never heard of before. I wander through the music, exploring and making discoveries. Also, on the home page of the iTunes store, I can see recommendations iTunes has specifically for me based on my purchase history. There’s also iTunes Genius, which creates playlists for me and introduces me to music I might like but haven’t already purchased.
Purchasing musicEven if I liked just one or two songs on a CD, I had to purchase the entire album.I buy individual songs based on my tastes and preferences, and based on personalized recommendations from my friends and iTunes. I can purchase songs from iTunes through SoundHound, right on my iPhone. Or I can wait until I’ve collected a handful of songs in my SoundHound history and then sit down with my laptop for an evening of musical exploration.
Playing musicI listened to one album at a time or—when I got a fancy 6-CD player, I could mix and match songs from 6 CDs and play them in random order. Or I could burn mix CDs—hard-coded collections of a dozen or songs.I can play songs by any artist in any order I like. I can easily organize my music any way I want. I can create playlists as large or small as I want, based on mood, memory, group of artists, or any other criteria.

 

Likewise, Business Discovery is mobile, instant, social, and app-driven

A similar change has taken place in the workplace, as people use Business Discovery platforms to derive insights and inform decisions. Traditional BI solutions give users access to lots of data—just as traditional, physical record stores gave shoppers access to lots of music. But how does the user explore all that data, to discover meaningful relationships and associations, and pursue their own path to insight? With traditional BI solutions, users can explore pre-determined drill paths (like the alphabetically-arranged CDs on shelves ordered by genre) and preconfigured queries (like the headset in the store, through which I could sample the music from a half-dozen new CDs).

In contrast, with Business Discovery platforms, users can search and explore all the relevant data at their disposal (like exploring all the music in the entire iTunes store). They can access their dashboards, analytics, and reports from anywhere, with their mobile device. They can click around in the application, see clearly what data sets are related and unrelated, and quickly ask and answer their business questions (like quickly finding new music I like, buying it, adding it to a playlist, and immediately beginning to enjoy it). They can draw others into the discussion, and share their insights and perspectives with a larger group.

I shared a draft of this blog post with Elif Tutuk, technical advisor, and she had a great perspective to share: “Business intelligence should not be only about the charts, visualization, numbers, reports etc. It should be a user experience where business users get information even before they search. Imagine a world in which BI tools give users multiple perspectives on information displayed on charts, as users interact with the chart. Or, as BI gets more social, imagine a world where BI tools display to users the top 10 charts viewed by others when they do a search.” The future of BI is exciting!

Lots of QlikTech’s customers are incorporating data from Salesforce.com into their QlikView apps. Sales reps use QlikView with Salesforce.com data to track to their targets and stay on top of their potential commissions. Sales management uses it to analyze opportunities, study win/loss ratios, and track team performance. Marketing managers use it to analyze campaign effectiveness, determine which marketing campaigns to run, and create product bundles for cross-selling and up-selling.

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In fact, here at QlikTech we use QlikView with Salesforce, ourselves. We’ve built an application that our field marketing managers and marketing operations team use to populate marketing campaigns with campaign targets. Field marketing managers use QlikView to narrow down the targets for inclusion in a campaign. They can filter by sector, industry, sub industry, SIC code, revenue, number of employees, data source system, job level, job function, lead source, and many other criteria. Once a marketing manager has finalized the list of people to target in the campaign, with a click of the button the campaign in Salesforce is populated with the list.

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Exploring Salesforce.com data in QlikView is easier than you might think

While QlikTech has supported Salesforce data for quite some time now, we recently released a brand new version of our Salesforce connector. QlikView for Salesforce.com is a custom connector that enables our customers to extract data from Salesforce and bring it into QlikView, just as they would from any SQL database, spreadsheet, or web site.

I talked recently about the new connector with Ian Crosland, global product manager for connectivity. The new connector:

  • Has been rewritten and is now managed in-house. Prior to the current version, we provided an open database connectivity (ODBC) connector to Salesforce.com that we had OEMed from a third party. To streamline the code and bring the connector up to date, we brought it in house and rewrote it as a dynamic link library (DLL).
  • Is simple to install. Once you’re sure you’ve got the prerequisite security settings and security token from Salesforce.com, it takes just a few minutes to install QlikView for Salesforce. Select the tables you want and start working with your Salesforce data instantly.
  • Offers new functionality. The new connector now enables customers to pull archived records from Salesforce into QlikView and extract data from Salesforce Chatter. It also supports the latest API from Salesforce (API 21).

For more information, see the data sheet “QlikView for Salesforce.com” or click here to download the connector. You can also interact with or download a demo app showing QlikView for Salesforce here.

Recently I was on a road trip with a couple of girlfriends. It was a gorgeous early summer weekend. We were driving from Boston to Maine, about three hours away. What do you do on road trips? You eat snacks and sing loudly.

We were in the mood for a little U2. One friend plugged her iPod into the iPod-specific jack on the car stereo—a media package I paid extra for when I bought the car. The stereo came with upgraded speakers and sounded pretty good when I went for a test drive, and it was purported to support iPods and iPhones.


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The first challenge came when the stereo didn’t recognize my friend’s iPod. Maybe her iPod was too old. So she plugged in my iPhone 4. The stereo recognized the device just fine. But we spent nearly 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to my U2 collection. The interface seems fairly straight forward, upon first glance. But what is “PTY/CAT?” “What is “A.S?” What is “RDM?” After you push PTY/CAT, A.S, or RDM, then what?

It would have been fine if we could have interacted with the stereo using the iPhone, which has a very intuitive user interface. But the system requires that you interact with your mobile device via the stereo panel rather than your device’s screen.We eventually stumbled on an “artist mode” option, but it looked like the only way to get from the As to the Us was to manually page through the artists, pushing a button over and over to move down through the list of artists. After a few moments of that we switched our choice from U2 to Abba (QlikTech’s Swedish roots have gotten to me!). But someone pushed something and we couldn’t figure out how to get back to artist mode.

We pulled over by the side of the road and took the half inch-thick user manual out of the glove box. We tried to follow the instructions to get to the music we wanted to hear. But we eventually gave up. My friend pulled out her BlackBerry and pushed play, and we sang loudly to the tinny sound of Abba songs coming out of the tiny speaker in her handheld device.

Wait, wait, don’t go. I’m not hijacking The QlikView Blog to complain about my car stereo. My point is this: even if a car stereo has the best technology behind the face plate—the highest wattage, the best digital sound processing, the finest magnets—all that goodness is of no use to me if I can’t figure out how to use it.

The same is true for BI software. Even if all the company’s data is on the back end, and a skilled BI team spent months building out the richest, most comprehensive dashboard, if the user can’t figure out how to ask a question and get an answer, ask another question and get another answer—without having to get in the queue to ask IT for a new query or report—than nothing else matters. It’s all about the user experience, and the user experience is more than just a pretty (inter)face.

Earlier this week I wrote about social BI―in particular, about the various contexts through which social BI can be delivered to users. (See related blog posts here and here.) I discussed two primary approaches to delivering social BI: Information Workplaces, and deploying BI platforms that have embedded social and collaboration capabilities.

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We deliver it how you want it

Our approach is to meet the needs of both types of organizations and teams: those that want to use BI in the context of their existing collaboration and social platforms (or Information Workplaces, where they exist), and those that want social and collaboration features embedded in their Business Discovery platforms. Here’s how we do it today.

If you want embedded collaboration capabilities . . .

We offer:

  • Shared bookmarks. Another way to think of shared bookmarks is user-driven report creation. A user starts from a core dashboard and finds something interesting. They bookmark it and share it, allowing other users to see exactly what they saw. This is effectively an interactive report―a starting point with which users can explore the data further in a collaborative way.
  • Collaboration objects for self-service BI. Often, the notion of self-service BI means users can grab data from the source and work with it locally themselves―typically in an Excel spreadsheet. This private analysis is now disconnected and not shared. But with QlikView, the document is on the server and all users have the same starting point and viewpoint. If a user has a perspective they gain through creation of a new object, or discovery of a bookmark, they can put this object on the server and decide who to invite in. A developer (or business user who has permissions) can easily incorporate the change back into the design of the core app and share it with a broad set of users.

If you are taking a Microsoft-centric Information Workplace approach . . .

We offer:

  • Microsoft Office integration. QlikView provides the ability to run inside Microsoft Office applications using a QlikView plugin. Users can bring a QlikView app into a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, for example, to share it with others.
  • SharePoint integration. Organizations can enhance the context for decision-making by embedding QlikView apps in SharePoint portals and team collaboration sites. Users can then interact with QlikView objects in SharePoint sites alongside other decision-making inputs, such as documentation, enterprise applications, or reports generated by traditional BI solutions. QlikView customers can embed full QlikView apps in SharePoint sites as web parts, right out of the box. Or, by using our QlikView web parts for use with Microsoft SharePoint® product, customers can embed individual QlikView objects (e.g., charts, visualizations, and list boxes) in SharePoint sites.

Social Business Discovery is a big theme for QlikTech for 2011. Stay tuned for more info!

I raised a question in a recent blog post: What’s the right context for users to engage in social BI? Should social and collaboration tools be delivered to users as part of their BI platform? Or should BI capabilities be delivered to users as part of their enterprise collaboration platform or information workplace? (See related Forrester blog post, “The Information Workplace Gets Social.”) The answer depends on a couple of factors.

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If and where users can get the social and collaboration capabilities they need

Social Business Discovery is about enabling people to collaboratively create analytic apps, make shared business discoveries, and collaborate on data-driven decisions. Do business users have access to a great set of social and collaboration tools they can use to accomplish this? If so, which environment provides these capabilities to users in the easiest, most intuitive way: the enterprise collaboration tools or the BI platform?

  • Several of the BI megavendors made it onto Forrester’s list of the four anchor vendors lighting the way with information workplaces (Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle). (See the October, 2010 Forrester report, “The Information Workplace Light Burns Brighter”―available only to Forrester clients, or for purchase.) These vendors offer a gigantic stack of technology, pieced together through acquisition, which includes both BI tools and collaboration tools.
  • But Forrester has pointed out that even after an organization has made a big bet on one of the information workplace platform vendors, the organization may still need to fill in gaps in areas like BI, business process management, and search. And competing analyst firm Gartner pointed out in its “2011 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms” that one BI platform may not be enough; to ensure that the needs of business users are met, IT organizations should take a portfolio approach to BI.

Users’ primary work environment for decision-making

In which software environment(s) do people spend the bulk of their time? And where do they go when they need to make a decision?

  • Some information workers may spend their time with their laptops and an information workplace—and they may best be served by accessing their BI tools in this context.
  • Other people make go into a decision application (like QlikView), and while in there make a discovery they want to share or discuss with someone.
  • Still others (e.g., data wranglers, power analysts, or data-driven decision makers) may by the very nature of their jobs spend nearly all their time in their BI environment.

There’s no one right answer—no one-size-fits-all solution. For some organizations, the dominant approach to social BI will to be to deliver BI to users in the context of an information workplace. In these environments, BI tools should integrate with the existing enterprise collaboration platform. Other organizations will choose to deploy BI platforms that have embedded social and collaboration capabilities. And it’s likely that even in an organization that settles on one of these options as the enterprise standard, not all users will consume (achieve?) social BI in the same way.

How does it work in your organization? Has your organization deployed information workplaces—and if so, is BI delivered to users through them? Are you using BI software that has built-in social and collaboration capabilities? Are you running into “when do we use which tool?” problems? I’d like to hear from you―drop me a line at erica.driver@qlik.com or leave a comment below.

People don’t make decisions based on data alone. They take into account the opinions, ideas, experiences, and perspectives of other people. Conversation and collaboration help create the context around data and drive decision-making forward. It’s this need that social BI aims to meet.

 

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A few weeks ago I had conversation about social BI with a QlikTech partner based in Sweden: Peter Skoglund of EdgeGuide Business Solutions AB. EdgeGuide is an IT service provider that has practices in areas such as BI and social media utilizing IBM Lotus Connections. Peter shared with me some of his personal perspectives about the future of social BI.

He described a scenario in which a business user explores data in his Business Discovery app. This exploration leads to questions, conclusions, and insights. The user shares his insights with his team by creating and sharing notes and comments. The BI software passes metadata about the notes and comments to the enterprise social software. The team members interact with the analytic app to gain new insights and with the social software to ask and answer questions of each other, and compare their analysis and conclusions. The team reaches a decision based on the data and their interactions. All notes and comments are stored for future use and knowledge transfer.

This got me thinking . . .

My conversation with Peter Skoglund got me thinking about a question that’s near and dear to my heart, as a former industry analyst who covered information workplaces at Forrester Research. An information workplace enables aggregation of software functionality that helps knowledge workers access the information and expertise they need. It brings together multiple technologies in a seamless, contextual user experience. (See related Forrester blog post, “The Information Workplace Gets Social.”)

The question is this: What’s the right context for users to engage in social BI? Should social and collaboration tools be delivered to users as part of their BI platform? Or should BI capabilities be delivered to users as part of their enterprise collaboration platform, or information workplace? Part of what drives this question is IT’s desire to minimize the overlap in the tools they make available to users, as well as users’ desire for a fun, easy experience and clarity about when to use which tool in their portfolio.

I’ve got lots of thoughts about this and will write more later this week. I’d like to hear your take. What is your approach to social BI? What do you think is the right way to deliver social BI to business users?

Have you ever wanted to give us your input or feedback on demo apps available on the QlikView demo site? Perhaps an app helped you communicate the value of QlikView to a new set of business users. Or you came across something that isn’t working quite the way it should be.

You can always contact our demo team by email. But now, registered members of QlikCommunity can also rate and review our demo apps quickly and easily, right on the demo site.

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Your reviews of QlikView demo apps will be visible to other visitors to the site. Your scores and reviews will guide us as we hone and refine the apps we create. I recently spoke with Shima Nakazawa, global director of QlikView demo and best practices. She said, “We knew how many people were visiting our demo applications, but we didn’t have enough visibility into which demo apps people liked the best. Now, we can begin to identify what it is that makes some applications more popular than others, and direct more of our resources in that direction.”

Your input could even help us improve our product. Shima said, “Like any software company, sometimes we get so used to QlikView and the way it works that it’s hard to see things with fresh eyes. People who use our demo apps may see something that wasn’t obvious to us.” 

We take your ratings and reviews seriously

When you score or write a review about a demo app, a member of our demo and best practices team will give the review a quick read to ensure that it is relevant before publishing to the site. (Don’t worry, we won’t be filtering out less-than-glorious reviews. We just want to make sure no spam gets through.) Based on your feedback and input, we will create more demo apps that have the characteristics you like and will fix any issues you discover.

Tell us how you envision an app could be used for Business Discovery. Let us know if you identify something that is unique―that you haven’t seen in any other app. Let us know what your favorites are. And let us know if there’s something you don’t like about one of the apps. We want to hear your voice.

We commonly get questions about the level of technical skill needed to create and deploy QlikView apps. People want to know if they are going to be successful with their existing skills―or are going to need more training or additional resources. The answer, of course, is “it depends.”

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Conduct an up-front assessment

The key to a successful QlikView deployment is ensuring that the team possesses the knowledge and experience required by the size and complexity of the implementation. I spoke with Nik Boman, QlikTech’s global director of expert services, and Kim Peretti, our head of global education services, and they offered these thoughts about conducting an upfront assessment:

  1. Identify the skill level of each developer on your team. Remember that with QlikView, business users often do work that traditionally has required IT skills. We recommend bucketing developers into four groups based on their QlikView education and experience: “personal,” “enabled,” “advanced,” and “expert.”
  2. Identify the complexity level of the project. Map the project to a similar complexity model: simple, basic, advanced, and expert.
  3. Determine the criticality of the application. Some projects are high profile or business-critical, where failure is not an option. Other projects are more experimental or are “nice-to-haves.”
  4. Map developer skill against project complexity and criticality. This helps you identify any gaps. Gaps will suggest where to invest in training and education or augment the internal team with additional expertise.

QlikView users with Microsoft Excel skills and a few hour-long QlikView eLearning courses under their belt can create simple apps on their own. By simple apps we mean those that have one to three columnar spreadsheets or low-complexity flat file data sources, simple dimensions and math, a straightforward user interface, and a single language and currency. For these apps, users may not need to complete formal QlikView training. They can get started with QlikView’s wizard-driven interface, online product documentation, and eLearning courses, and can leverage their personal background and instincts for a successful project.

While additional training or resources are not likely needed for simple projects, they may be required for basic, advanced, or expert projects—especially projects that are high profile or business critical.

  • Basic projects. By basic projects we mean projects that may have more data sources (2-3), a single calendar, drill and cycle groups, simple math, a straightforward UI, and a single language and currency. These projects use Microsoft Active Directory, a single QlikView Server and Publisher, and QlikView Web Server.
  • Advanced projects. Advanced projects may have multiple fact tables and 3+ data sources at different granularities, multiple calendars, complex drill and cycle groups, calculations that use variables and basic set analysis, and some user interface automation. These projects involve integration of Publisher with external schedulers, data restrictions via loop and reduce or section access, clustering, use of Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), and multiple languages and currencies.
  • Expert projects. Expert projects may have extensive disjointed data and varied facts at different levels of granularity, advanced calendaring, calculations and nested expressions, advanced set analysis, macros, portal integration, mashups, and custom Ajax. Expert projects may also have real-time data updates and write-backs to a database, LDAP or other security integration, multiple clustered QlikView Servers and Publishers, external access, and multiple languages and currencies.

If you need more information, contact your QlikTech services manager. If you don’t know who to call, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

In June, 2011 IDC published its Worldwide Business Intelligence Tools 2010 Vendor Shares report (available only to IDC clients or for purchase). This report assesses the BI tools market and includes revenue and market share information for BI software vendors.

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The key highlights from this report are:

  • The BI tools market is nearly USD $9 billion in size. In 2010, the BI tools market reached $8.9 billion in software license and maintenance revenue (including subscription revenue from SaaS offerings). The market grew 11.4% in 2010 compared with 2.0% in 2009. This growth was higher than IDC expected due to better-than-expected worldwide economic activity.
  • The top 10 vendors account for more than 75% of the market. The top ten vendors comprised 75.3% of the market, up from 57.9% in 2003. According to IDC, the top 10 vendors in the worldwide BI tools market by revenue (2008-2010) are SAP, IBM, SAS, Oracle, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, QlikTech (yippee!), Information Builders, Actuate, and Panorama Software. (Click here for QlikTech’s financials.)
  • Most of the action is in end-user query, reporting, and analysis tools. The end-user query, reporting, and analysis segment of the market (which includes QlikTech) outpaced the growth of the advanced analytics segment of the market. The end-user query, reporting, and analysis tools represented 81.3% of the total BI tools market and grew at 12% in 2010. IDC found that in this segment, vendors including QlikTech “significantly outpaced the growth of the market.”
  • Simplicity is king. In 2010, the market saw incremental improvements to BI tools in the areas of simplicity―which primarily meant improvements in user interfaces, interactivity, and administration. This is certainly true for QlikView. One of the key themes in QlikView 10, which we released in October, 2010, was “easier to use.” (Click here to download the data sheet “What’s New in QlikView 10.”)

Looking ahead: the future of BI is bright

Based on trends he’s seeing in the BI tools market, in this report IDC analyst Dan Vesset called out a few themes that are also important to us at QlikTech. He commented that the influence of the cloud computing model’s focus on simplicity, and the increasing buying influence of business users, will grow. Demand for mobile BI will grow also, but organizations will demand BI tools that support specific use cases, rather than just support for various devices. “Mobile BI,” he wrote, “will be driven by the need for mobile workers to participate in specific, collaborative business processes and ad hoc approval workflows for tactical decision making.” And he said that “collaborative and social decision making” (the discipline formerly known as knowledge management) will spur new investments in collaborative BI tools―music to our ears, to be sure.

In his 2009 book Change By Design, author and IDEO president and CEO Tim Brown used the term “design thinking” to describe a non-linear way of innovating and solving problems. Design thinking is a means of applying principles of design in a disruptive, game-changing way to generate more and better insights. (Register here to get a free copy of the book. We have a limited number of copies available.)

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Design thinking is an exploratory process that results in unexpected discoveries. These discoveries can be significant enough to warrant refining or rethinking assumptions rather than pressing onward in adherence to an original plan. One example Brown gave in the book was Nokia’s shift from being a hardware company to becoming a provider of platforms for delivery of rich, interactive services that connect people.

The question is, “how?” How do design thinkers arrive at game-changing insights? They explore many options, collecting insights along the way. They head for the edges, the places where they might expect to find extremes. They talk not just with the “average Joe” who may have a useful perspective, but with people who may have unusual or extreme perspectives. They enrich their perspectives by exploring associations and relationships in seemingly unrelated data sets. They synthesize multiple, differing points of view.

Design thinkers need to be able to ask questions and explore data on their own to find answers and generate insights. They might ask, “Which of our active customers are not purchasing our most profitable products?” or “What would happen if we increased headcount in the factory by 10%?” They need tools to help them discover associations and intersections to uncover meaning in data.

Business intelligence software products—specifically, Business Discovery platforms—give design thinkers a way to explore seemingly unrelated data, make connections, and derive insights. Business Discovery platforms enable design thinkers to explore anomalies in the data. They dig into data points at the edges of a scatter chart to explore the “why” behind the highest highs and lowest lows on a related bar chart. One insight leads to the next as seemingly insignificant details accumulate.

Important decisions must ride on more than hunches. Design thinking supported by Business Discovery platforms can drive innovation throughout an organization. With Business Discovery platforms, new concepts and solutions can begin to take shape as insights become clear.

Register here for your free copy of Change By Design. We have a limited number of copies available.

A common notion is that when it comes to business intelligence, agility and governance are mutually exclusive. But this is a misperception. I talked about this recently with Johan Averstedt, segment manager for financial services at QlikTech, and Elif Tutuk, technical expert, and they had some great insights to share.

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The conundrum

Large organizations―especially in highly regulated industries like financial services―have an extreme need for data governance. The health and wellbeing of the business can be negatively influenced by people making decisions based on numbers that are not quality-controlled. At the same time, business moves very fast, making it nearly impossible for IT organizations to provide business users with all the data they need to get their jobs done. To make the decisions they need to make, business users go out and get data on their own and analyze it using spreadsheets and other productivity tools.

The question is: how do you create an environment where governance and agility co-exist? Where the data that must be controlled and protected is taken care of, and users still have the ability to obtain and work with their own data as needed? Where business users can ask—and answer—cross-functional questions?

A solution: a Business Discovery environment with analysis sandboxes

In the large financial services organizations he works with, Johan Averstedt often sees a scenario in which data wranglers harmonize and rationalize data for power analysts, collaborative users, and netizen users. (See the related post “Self-Service BI: Power to ALL the People.”)

The data wrangler’s role is to determine if data is correct. These business users tend to be people who deal with risk on a daily basis. In banking, they may be in middle office roles like financial risk control or product control. In insurance, they may be actuaries. But they could be business or IT controllers in any part of the organization.

The data wranglers use QlikView to create an environment where they can conduct one-off analyses and monitor data over a period of time. We think of this as an analysis sandbox. (See related blog posts “Analysis Sandboxes: Indispensable Tools for Insight Discovery” and “Analysis Sandboxes the QlikView Way.”)

The data wranglers invite a selected group of other business users to “play” in the sandbox. They bring the data they want to work with into QlikView from spreadsheets, web feeds, etc., and the data wrangler spends time with the data to make sure it is correct.

Groups of people who perform this local analysis often come up with ideas that may be valuable for a larger group. These good ideas can then be channeled back to IT for use in bigger, more formal Business Discovery projects that are deployed to a larger community. Data wranglers may work with IT to make the data more broadly available to an appropriate set of users by creating a QlikView data file (QVD) layer from which QlikView apps (QVWs) can be built.

QlikView-based analysis sandboxes for data wranglers, and the power analysts and collaboration users they work with, deliver the needed combination of governance and agility.

Numbers are so boring. Right? Well, sure, if they are represented as black and white characters on a spreadsheet or in a database. But what about when numbers are represented as flowing images on a map? Or when you add the element of time and animate the images into a video? What new insights could numbers give you then?

Check out this video recording of a TED presentation by Aaron Koblin, an artist specializing in data visualization (and the technology lead at the Creative Lab at Google). The video was filmed in March 2011 and posted on TED.com in May 2011.

 

 

In this video, Koblin shows several intriguing examples of insights that can be gleaned by exploring data and visualizing it in new ways.

  • The Flight Patterns project depicts human behavior with air traffic control data. Koblin made the point that there are 140,000 planes being monitored by the US federal government at any given time. This volume of air traffic generates an extraordinary amount of data. The Flight Patterns project shows airplane traffic over North America over a 24-hour period. (Watch the YouTube video here.) As you play the video, you see the map of North America fade to black as people go to sleep. You see the red-eyes crossing the country overnight, and then you see people start to wake up on the east coast, and you see the European flights start to arrive on the east coast. When color-coded by aircraft type (manufacturer and model) you can see the diversity of planes in the sky. Color-coded another way, you can see low-altitude and high- altitude flights, and when colored in a third way you can see ascending vs. descending flights. You see the airport holding patterns, and can see the way airports change over time―such as when airports flip their flight patterns. All in a minute or two.
  • Projects out of the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT show we’re connected digitally. Koblin did a variety of projects with the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. One project, the New York Talk Exchange, illustrated the global exchange of information in real time by visualizing volumes of long distance telephone and Internet data traffic flowing between New York and cities around the world. He set it up as a live globe at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for a “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit. The exhibit showed demographic information coming through AT&T’s data stream. In another SENSEable City Lab project, Koblin applied visualization to data about SMS messages in Amsterdam. By animating the visuals, big spikes became apparent New Years Eve and Queens Day, when everyone is reaching out to their friends and loved ones.

Koblin shows some other fun visualization projects in this video, as well, such as The Sheep Market, The Johnny Cash Project, and The Wilderness Downtown. “An interface can be a powerful narrative device,” he says. “As we collect more personally and socially relevant data we have an opportunity―and maybe even an obligation―to maintain the humanity and tell some amazing stories as we explore and collaborate together.”

Self-service BI is simple to use so business people can perform tasks that in the past would have required assistance from an IT pro. It enables business users at various skill levels to be involved in the creation and sharing of analytics and visualizations.

 

Self-Service BI Gives Power to Users of All.png

 

I talked to a few of the great brains at QlikTech who put their heads together to describe the different types of users who benefit from self-service BI. John Trigg (product director), Mathias Carnemark (partner development manager), and Johan Averstedt (segment manager, financial services) came up with this list based on their experiences with hundreds of QlikView customers:

  • Data wranglers harmonize and rationalize data. Data wranglers are typically database specialists. They can work with everything from raw data sources (including enterprise data warehouses) to analytics and dashboards. They know what data resides where, how frequently it is refreshed, and how to access it. They are good at acquiring data from multiple data sources, creating normalized views of the data, performing cleansing operations, and readying meaningful data views for consumption by other users.
  • Power analysts create dashboards, analytics, and interactive discovery experiences. Power analysts are advanced BI users who know how to work with an abstract analytic layer to assemble dashboards, views, and reports. They focus on creating line of business analytics and representing data visually. Power analysts know which analytics make sense for a particular situation. They understand the data model created by the data wranglers, and know how to create the best paths of inquiry for collaborative users and netizens.
  • Collaborative users add their perspectives to analytic apps―and share them. Collaborative users add their perspectives―such as new measures or visual representations―to the “single version of the truth” created by data wranglers and power analysts. Based on their knowledge of the business, collaborative users have unique perspectives on visual representation, inquiry paths, and supporting analytics. They work with and extend prebuilt applications by introducing their own analytics into existing charts, creating their own visual representations, and adding new searches or filters.
  • Netizen users explore data and share business insights. Netizen users (otherwise known as “the rest of us”) want to explore their business analytics in an unhindered way. They search, drill, and filter the data―in apps created by data wranglers, power analysts, and collaborative users―based on their current thinking and interests. They may share their observations and perspectives with others by passing along filters and searches to colleagues, along with notes.

With an app-driven approach and the ability to deliver 360 degree views of business information, self service is no longer about drag-and-drop to create the report of the day. In this world of empowered consumers, the bar is continually being raised so that business users can do more and more on their own, quickly and with ease. Self-service BI has become about fine tuning the experience for personalized perspectives and collaboration. It enables a broad spectrum of usage by delivering the right capabilities to those who can use them and by ensuring that the fruits of each person’s labor can be harnessed by others in the chain of BI app creation. IT professionals play a critical role in self-service BI by assembling the data, delivering relevant data, and ensuring scalability and security.

The second episode in our “Mobile Minutes” video series is now live. This episode, “Making the Most of Being Mobile,” features QlikView product advocate Donald Farmer sharing tidbits of insight about mobile BI in his charming Scottish accent. His key point in this episode: mobile BI is not just about the same old reporting in new places; it’s about new ways of doing BI altogether.

Still - title clip Donald in car.JPG


The Mobile Minutes video series features pithy commentary by Donald Farmer about how mobility is exploding and the impact it has on business.  We look at mobile BI from various angles, such as:

  • Good mobile BI serves the basic human need people have to be in touch with their information (see the premier Mobile Minutes episode, “Information Foraging”).
  • When people have the ability to do analysis wherever they go, they can influence ideas and innovation.
  • Situational information analysis drives insight creation.
  • New ideas and capabilities are spawned from the ability to go mobile.
  • Mobility is taking off in a lightning-fast way, and the implications to business are vast.
  • Mobile devices can play a big role even inside the office.
  • It takes thought to make BI really useful on a mobile device.

 

We’ve got a series of 10 or 12 Mobile Minutes coming out―so subscribe to the QlikView channel on YouTube to receive an alert whenever a new one is available.

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