As I'm re-immersing myself in the BI market after a few years in another technology space, I've had the opportunity to meet with several industry analysts to get their perspective on the current state of the market. The overall consensus that I've been hearing is that while the market is healthy and growing, it has not yet hit its true potential or original promise. Each analyst had their own take on the symptoms - and the solutions - but a few common themes emerged.

  • BI is too complex. The pendulum has swung way too far towards packing more and more features into a single monolithic application, leaving most users very confused, and leaving IT organizations scrambling trying to manage these behemoth stacks. Given the amount of BI shelfware out there, vendors need to rethink their strategies and focus more on enabling intuitive task or goal-centric BI apps vs. trying to cover all possible needs in one application. (See related post here.)
  • You can't conceive all requirements at the outset. Another commonly used term for BI is decision support - meaning a system that supports decision making. This implies answering questions I don't know the answers to today. Which in turn means I'm not 100% sure where the answer lies or how I will arrive at it. (See related blog posts here and here.) By requiring a heavy metadata layer to define all possible dimensions and measures, traditional BI systems are effectively pre-determining what questions the business users can answer. This imposes significant limitations on real-world decision making where you don't know what questions you want to answer until you start looking at the data. The BI app must be flexible enough to allow business users to conceive new questions and requirements as they are using it.
  • You need to start with the decision, not the data. When creating BI applications you need to be decision-centric, not data-centric. Too many BI deployments are focused on pulling together as much data as possible and shoving it into the mother of all BI applications. Instead, BI applications should be geared around specific decisions or needs and bring together just the data needed to support that area.

Here at QlikTech the mantra is "Simplifying Decisions for Everyone." We are clearly focused on the points above, making BI easier to use, more flexible, and focused on meeting business user needs. What else would you add? Where do you think we, or the market, need to go to ensure BI meets its full potential?

"Start with the visual. That forms the question." It was these eight words in a tweet by John Maeda, President of Rhode Island School of Design, that drew me to watch a 12-minute TedX video titled "Math Curriculum Makeover" featuring high school math teacher Dan Meyer. In this video, filmed on March 6, 2010, Meyer described the way he is turning high school math education on its head to teach kids math reasoning and patient problem-solving skills. He is struggling to overcome a number of student issues like lack of initiative, lack of perseverance, lack of (knowledge) retention, aversion to word problems, and eagerness for formula.

What does high school math education have to do with organizations using business intelligence software? A whole lot, it turns out. Think about this quote from the video, "What problem have you solved, ever, that was worth solving, where you knew all of the given information in advance? Or you didn't have a surplus of information and you had to filter it out? Or you didn't have insufficient information and had to go find some? I'm sure we all agree, that no problem worth solving is like that." That's life in the real world.

What strikes me is that QlikView-a software product-plays the same role in the workplace that educator Dan Meyer is playing in the high school classroom. In this video, Meyer made a few recommendations to educators that apply directly to organizations that are trying to derive business value from BI software:

  • "Use multimedia." In the BI world, I'd translate this to: "Deliver interactivity and data visualization." Enable users to engage with the software, to explore and "go off-road" with their data. Enable them to visualize the data-not just with fancy charts and graphics, but in a way that leads them to see relationships in the data and quickly glean insight from it. (See related blog post here.)
  • "Let students build the problem." He also recommends that educators ask the shortest question possible and "be less helpful." The BI corollary is: providing just pre-canned reports (the equivalent of old-fashioned math word problems, in this video) does not encourage people to think about things in new ways. It doesn't encourage people to think for themselves. Put tools in the hands of decision-makers-including operational decision-makers-that encourage them to think for themselves, to ask and answer not just the first question but the second question and the third question. To investigate not only the "why" questions, but also the "why not" questions.

Meyer uses a great quote attributed to Albert Einstein in his presentation: "The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill." I think this quote applies directly to people at work trying to improve processes, make optimal decisions, or identify opportunities. Check out this video and tell me you agree. Smile

QlikTech has entered a QlikView application into the Mozilla Open Data Visualization Competition. Mozilla Labs wanted to explore creative visual answers to the question, "How do people use Firefox?" Mozilla provided information collected from 164,000 test pilot study users-more than 150 million records (5.7GB of data in total).

Our QlikView app, "How Do People Use Firefox?" is an interactive tool for analyzing Firefox users and understanding metrics for Firefox usage. Select any values within the application to visualize how your selection is related-or unrelated-to the rest of the data. For example, if you want to know more about Android users, point and click on the "Google Android" value in the "Smart Phone Device" category. You can then see Android users' habits highlighted throughout the application (see snapshot).

I spoke with Shima Nakazawa, director of QlikTech's demo and best practices team about the creation of this application, and she shared some insights with me:

  • We spent a fair amount of time on the planning process. We received a huge chunk of data from Mozilla. We had to explore the data and think long and hard about the story we wanted to tell. The hardest part for us was having to make design decisions without being able to talk to the application's end users first.
  • We had to be creative while looking for ways to associate the data. Because of the way the survey was stored, it turned out to be a bit of a challenge to show the dynamic association among different types of users, including their behaviors and habits. But we figured it out and with each click you make, QlikView calculates the associations of all 150 million records in the application. You can already access the "How Do People Use Firefox?" application online; shortly, you'll also be able to download it to your hard drive-and then you'll be able to see the script we used to associate the data.
  • During the design phase, we focused on keeping the application clean and simple. We created five sheets: an introduction, the basics, Firefox usages, Firefox features, and correlations. We kept the number of sheets to a minimum. The look and feel is consistent across sheets. The sheets are neat and uncluttered. We used subtle, consistent colors and easy-to-read fonts, and there's a bare minimum of non-data "ink." These are all best practices we recommend to QlikView customers.
  • We uncovered some interesting findings in the data. For example, male users tend to visit more news sites whereas female users tend to visit more social networking sites. Google Android users tend to use Chrome, and Microsoft Windows Mobile users tend to use Internet Explorer. On iPhones, people use Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari more or less equally. And some people use more than 350 tabs or 65 windows while browsing the web (perhaps due to popups?).

About the Mozilla Open Data Visualization Competition

The organization's goal with test pilots is to encourage people of all skill levels improve the web experience by conducting and participating in these studies. More than a million Firefox users from all around the world participate in test pilot studies. For this competition, Mozilla provided information collected from two test pilot studies. It includes user interactions with the Firefox user interface; browsing data such as startup/shutdown events, session restore information, memory usage statistics, profile age, and history size; and user demographic data such as gender, age, and self-reported technical level.

Winners will be announced on January 7, 2011.

Twas the week before Christmas, and the pressure was mounting,http://community.qlik.com/cfs-file.ashx/__key/CommunityServer.Blogs.Components.WeblogFiles/theqlikviewblog/WeeQ-before-Xmas-graphic.png
Bob, from IT, needed to build reports for Accounting.
The data was scattered, all over the place,
And his spreadsheets were blowing up, right in his face.
Bob needed help, and he needed it quick,
He wished for a present, from good, ole St. Nick.
Bob was tired and weary, when he looked at the time,
And that was when he heard that familiar, soft chime.
It was his Inbox alerting him that a message was new,
So he instinctively opened it, like we all often do.
It was late in the evening, and he wanted a drink,
But as he read through the message, he started to think.
This looks awesome and easy, but could it be true?
Could my problems be solved by this tool called QlikView?
So Bob clicked on the link, and went to the site,
He started reviewing the demos, late into the night.
Later that night, while he laid in his bed,
Thoughts of dashboarding objects danced in his head.
He needed to get back, and get QlikView running,
The way it handled data was visually stunning.
So early the next morning, through a fresh layer of snow,
Off to the office, with a smile did Bob go.
Bob downloaded QlikView, and ran the install,
In a matter of moments, he received a phone call.
It was Shawn, from Wipfli, a great QlikView partner,
Checking to see, if Bob needed help getting started.
After an hour on the phone, and some clicks of the mouse,
Bob had built his first dashboard, without a data ware-house.
He had pulled together data, from multiple places,
Associated it all, and was off to the races.
He built Accounting a dashboard, ready for slicing and dicing,
With information on inventory, A/R and pricing.
With the day nearly over, he started to think,
This Christmas after all, just may not stink.
There are so many things that I want to do,
With this amazing new software, that they call QlikView.
The next day Bob spent some more time with the tool,
He was starting to see that this software is Qool.
By the end of the week, Accounting came to visit,
Bob lifted his head and asked "Who is it?"
"Accounting" they said, as Bob looked to the door,
got up from his desk and walked across the floor.
He then showed them their new dashboard, and let them start to play,
They were amazed at how easy they could see their information this way.
With a click and a drag, Bob could see in their eyes,
The joy that they felt from his new QlikView prize.
They asked where this came from, and could it be true?
Bob then proceeded to tell them about this tool called QlikView.
They said they must have it, who should they call?
Bob added it's not just good for Accounting, it could work for us all!
So they called that guy Shawn, who was pleased, you might say,
To start on Bob's project, the very next day.
With just a little help, Bob built more dashboards very quick,
Because Bob's wish had come true, from good ole St. Nick.
Bob had gone from being unknown, what some call a "zero,"
To the master of data, and a Christmas-time hero.

 

Now this story you know, is really not true,
But it just might be possible, if you download QlikView.

 

The End.


By Shawn Helwig, manager of business intelligence and CRM consulting at Wipfli. Reprinted with permission from his original post on the Wipfli blog. Wipfli, a QlikTech partner, is a 1,000-person professional services firm that provides consulting in a number of areas including business process improvement. Shawn is the firm's BI subject matter expert and leads the company's QlikView service line.

Last week we published a QlikView product roadmap white paper to share with you our vision and high-level product roadmap. Consider this a living document; we'll keep updating it as our vision and positioning evolve and we're able to release more detail about our product directions.

The ongoing explosion of computing power is reshaping the enterprise software market. Technologies and trends that began life only a few years ago are now reaching mainstream adoption. As a result, the traditional domain of BI is being transformed.

We see three dominant trends guiding the evolution of BI software: the consumer enterprise, life after laptop, and freedom from operating system constraints. We are tailoring our product strategy to match. In this QlikView Technology White Paper, we examine these forces and describe how QlikTech is harmonizing our product strategy to position QlikView as the industry standard for business analysis.

Our vision? Simply put: QlikView is every size, every place, and accessible to everyone - until it's everywhere. How will we accomplish this? By continuing to design our software around five themes:

  • Going where decisions are made. Traditional decision making takes place in front of a computer screen. But in our view, that's not the optimal place business decisions should be made. Ideal decision making: in the moment, with the customer or supplier.
  • For everyone. QlikTech's tagline is "Simplifying Decisions for Everyone." When we say everyone, we mean everyone. Our plan is to take what is already the most elegant and successful business analysis software on the market and evolve it into the easiest, most beautiful, and most interactive analytical engine for business users and consumers alike.
  • Webby. In our view, the interface that matters most is the Web browser, which is why we're directing so much effort to delivering QlikView applications through it. The browser isn't just for server-based applications. It can deliver a highly compelling user experience on its own right and unleashes significant mashup opportunities.
  • Open and extensible. Openness is a core element of our strategy. We are positioning QlikView as the business analysis software of choice for anyone wishing to add decision-making capabilities to their own applications. We will continue to open and extend QlikView by documenting application programming interfaces and adding new ones to encourage third-party use.
  • Becoming the standard. Plummeting hardware costs make QlikView's patented in-memory technology more affordable and scalable every day. The combination of falling costs and accelerating adoption is multiplicative. Massive scale will be the norm. QlikView will run anywhere and everywhere.

Expect the next generation of enterprise software to be introduced into organizations by empowered managers partnering with IT departments. Together, they will put in place software that meets users' requirements for flexibility and ease of use, as well as IT's management and security needs. QlikView is focused on enabling IT / line-of-business collaboration and a consumer-oriented approach to business software, with doubled-down focus on our core strengths of visualization, usability, and the associative experience. To experience the power of QlikView first hand, you can download it for free here.

Transparency-you hear this word all the time, upheld up as a corporate and public-sector value. In fact, today a Google search on the word "transparency" returned the U.S. White House's "Transparency and Open Government" in the top six search results. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to be transparent is to be "free from pretense or deceit," "easily detected or seen through," or "readily understood."

A couple of my colleagues got me thinking about this: QlikTech's financial services segment manager Johan Averstedt, and Jens Boivie, our sales executive for training in the Nordic region. They both have worked with many QlikView customers and have seen cutting-edge organizations use QlikView as a tool to increase transparency. Johan gave a great analogy, "It's not until you see evidence of a situation that you tend to take action. Let's say you went to dinner and spilled meatball sauce on your tie. Until you look in the mirror and see the stain, you don't change your tie. People don't change until they see evidence of their situation."

During a November, 2010 web seminar hosted by Consumer Goods Technology and sponsored by QlikTech, Kraft Foods business intelligence manager Richard Knepper told a real-world story about how QlikView enabled transparency that resulted in business benefit for the $40 billion food manufacturer. (You can view a recording of the entire one-hour session here.)

As you might imagine, a global company like Kraft Foods spends a lot of money on travel and a reduction in this area could do great things for the bottom line. Richard described Kraft Foods' use of QlikView to improve compliance with corporate travel policy (among other uses). Using QlikView, all Kraft Foods employees can now view and understand travel patterns. They get visibility into their own travel and can see where they might have made better decisions. They can see which trips didn't conform to policy. This use of QlikView has had a significant impact on the organization, reducing travel expenses substantially. While Richard wouldn't say by how much, he did say that the application had an "outstanding ROI."

This is not uncommon; other QlikView customers have described using QlikView to achieve transparency, as well. For example, Patrick Nelissen, Franchise and Formula Manager with De Hypotheekshop Centrale Organisatie B.V., said, "Our ability to get an instant 360 degree view of clients, the market, margins and the market potential of branches yields cost efficiencies. The availability of real-time management information through QlikView has resulted in everything our organization stands for: a transparent picture." And Uschi Schäfer, Medicine Controlling with Marienhospital Gelsenkirchen, said, "QlikView puts important key data permanently in view for Marienhospital." Improved transparency has resulted in process optimization at multiple levels of the organization.

It's easy to uphold transparency up as an organizational value-but not so easy to put in practice. Evolving toward transparency requires changes in human behavior. Software tools can help change peoples' behavior, and QlikView is one such tool. Simply making data visible-by putting facts in front of people in an easily-consumable way-can change the decisions we make and the way we behave.

http://files.qlik.com/blogs/theqlikviewblog/What-is-a-list-box.pngWhen you sit down to create a QlikView application, the first thing you do after bringing in your data is view it via list boxes. The list box is a QlikView object that is deceptively simple. Here's a two-minute video that shows the power of QlikView's associative experience to deliver insights through list boxes. List boxes are extremely easy for users to work with, made possible by QlikView's sophisticated underlying technology.

 

 

Without applying any filters at all (what we call "making selections") I can already find meaning in the data. I can see that two documents are titled "Become a QlikView OEM…" I might wonder why there are two documents by the same name. I can see that November 12th was a busy day, with 15 documents published that day. I can also see that we have nine collateral types published in half a dozen formats. While I was creating this simple application, in a URL field (not shown in the video) I could see that one URL appeared twice, assigned to two different documents. Clearly, two different documents shouldn't have the same URL-QlikView illuminated an error in my underlying data source.

In just five mouse clicks, I can glean lots of information. Click on the collateral type "blog post" and you learn that Jeff Boehm and I are the bloggers, and that all our blog posts are in English. Clear the filter and select the language "English." You learn that Beatriz, Jesus, and Natasha are not producing English content. This is very important-you see not only who is producing English content, but who isn't. Clear the filter once more and click on my name in the "author" list box. You learn that I've created 58 documents, only in English, and of various types and formats. And that I haven't created any QlikView demo applications or scripts.

Data visualization isn't just about great charts and graphs-though QlikView provides those too. I chose this simple, straightforward example using just QlikView list boxes to make the point that data visualization is about seeing relationships and finding meaning in data. QlikView's associative experience provides a quick path to insight.

In October, industry analyst Wayne Eckerson published a blog article titled, "The Spanner: The Next Generation BI Developer." Eckerson defines a spanner as a BI developer who builds an entire BI solution singlehandedly. He makes the point that spanners work faster than a team of specialists because they don't have to wait for other people to complete tasks, or spend time in meetings coordinating development. And that because they aren't bound by a written requirements document created by someone else, spanners are free to make course corrections as they go along and discover the optimal solution as it unfolds.

This article caught the attention of QlikTech senior consultant Tom Mackay, who remarked that the concept of a spanner applies to pretty much every QlikView developer. I talked with Tom about this, and put it this way, "With QlikView, you don't need an army. You don't need a huge team. You need someone who has the technical skills to collect requirements and quickly implement them in QlikView. As a QlikView consultant I do this all the time during 'Seeing Is Believing' ("SIB") events. People like me are not experts on the customer's business-but we can extract enough from individuals to put an application together. For even our large SIBs, it's still just a single individual or a very small team who builds and presents the application."

Tom continued, "QlikView developers are jacks of all trades. We talk to the people who know the business inside and out, to gain an understanding of what questions they are trying to answer. We deal with the end user, who tells us what kinds of visualizations they want-say, a bar chart or table. We deal with the people who own the databases, to understand what the data model needs to look like. We take all this and boil it down, and come up with something functional in just a few days using real data and real business requirements."

I also talked about the concept of spanners with another QlikTech solution consultant, David Sedgwick. After a chuckle about the word "spanner" (in the UK where he lives, the word spanner is slang for "idiot"), David went on to say, "Being a QlikView developer means participating in an iterative process of understanding customer needs, understanding what the useable data sources and constraints are, and then designing an appropriate solution. I get involved in all aspects of BI: gathering requirements to sourcing, profiling, and modelling data to extract/transform/load and report development, and testing. I have a background in database design, schema modelling and SQL, and that certainly proves useful."

It's not just QlikView developers internal to QlikTech who tell this story. Prior to joining QlikTech, David worked for a major mail order / web retailer. He spent more than a year trying to justify the investment in building a contact center advisor performance analysis application using a Teradata warehouse and SAP Business Objects, but the project was cost-prohibitive.

Then he was introduced to QlikView and within two days had created a prototype, doing work that without QlikView would have been done by several people. The old way, they would have had to identify requirements and the data, bring the data into the data warehouse, build appropriate dimensional tables, and develop a Business Objects solution and report.

This is a very common story. What do you think? Am I drinking the QlikTech Kool-Aid-or is it true that due to the nature of QlikView, all QlikView developers are spanners?

With QlikView, power users can set up associative analysis sandboxes. (We wrote about analysis sandboxes in earlier posts here and here.) QlikView analysis sandboxes can incorporate trusted data sources like a data warehouse as well as external data sources like industry trend or stock market data. All this data is merged in one in-memory location, either on the power user's local machine or a QlikView Server. The power user can immediately begin interrogating the data for answers and insights.

QlikTech technical advisor Elif Tutuk has helped guide our customers in their use of QlikView for analysis sandboxes and recommends the following approach. Pull data from the source systems into a QlikView data file (QVD).* The QVD is a highly-compressed replica of source data. It includes just the data you would want to include in an application-typically not 100% of the data in the source system(s). Production applications as well as the sandbox environment can point to this shared storage area. Then you can go to town creating list boxes, charts, and tables. A chart could be very complex-it could consume a good portion of RAM to visually represent years of data by any combination of dimensions in hopes that the user may "catch something" (identify a trend or outlier in the data).

The QlikView approach to analysis sandboxes has several advantages over traditional approaches:

  • Power users can experiment and explore without harming the original data. They can use the same QlikView data file that's used by production QlikView applications, and also include additional data sources or calculation logic. They can massage the data when they create charts and graphs. Because power users are on a different server from other end users-even while all are accessing the same underlying data source-end user performance is unaffected by the power user's activities.
  • QlikView delivers a high-performance user experience. All users benefit from this approach: power users as well as more casual business users. With QlikView associative analysis sandboxes, there's no waiting for IT to stage the data. QlikView compresses the data at roughly 10:1 and delivers fast load performance. Right away, power users can start analyzing and visualizing the data and identifying patterns, trends, and outliers-and answering urgent, ad hoc business questions.
  • The associative experience facilitates the natural flow of insight discovery. Query-based analysis sandboxes make use of the intersections of data sets. In contrast, with QlikView every search term in the analysis is part of an entire network of data. Relationships among the data are clearly visible. QlikView shows the user not just which data is associated-but also which data is unrelated. QlikView looks through a network of associations for the data that's connected to the user's current selections. (See related blog posts here and here.)

The associative experience and QlikView's visualization capabilities facilitate the natural flow of insight discovery and support a "build to think" approach to BI. With QlikView, its does not take longer to build an analysis solution than it does to think one. (For more on the "build to think" approach to BI see related blog posts here and here.)

* A QVD is a file that contains a table of data exported from QlikView. It is a native QlikView format. The file format is highly compressed and is optimized for speed when reading data from a QlikView script. Reading data from a QVD file is typically 10-100X faster than reading from other data sources.

Information management pros can go about setting up analysis sandboxes in several ways. QlikTech technical advisor Elif Tutuk has put a lot of thought into this and I've got some of her perspectives to share with you. (Analysis sandboxes are environments where power users can experiment with data, explore analysis, and conduct ad hoc questioning in support of answering urgent, ad hoc business questions. We wrote about the concept in an earlier post here.)

Pros and Cons of Traditional Analysis Sandbox Approaches

 

Pros

Cons

Data warehouse-centric sandboxes

In organizations where a data warehouse exists, sometimes the warehouse is partitioned to give power users an area where they can run granular queries. With this approach, it's fairly easy for the database administrator to observe the users' behavior in the warehouse.

As power users run detailed queries in their search for answers, they negatively affect performance for other users running production reports. The solution: spend money on data warehouse processing power to improve performance for the user community.

Replicated sandboxes

The organization purchases another database server, or a data warehouse appliance, and replicates the entire data warehouse. Power users can play in this sandbox without affecting performance for other users.

Replicas are expensive to build. Organizations must purchase, install, and maintain a separate database platform and replicate the data that resides in the data warehouse. And-the sandbox becomes a silo not part of the enterprise BI solution.

Managed client sandbox

The analysis sandbox runs on the power users' desktop or laptop. They run queries against the data warehouse and dump the data into Excel to massage and combine it with additional data sources.

This approach is limited by the memory and processing capacity of the user's machine. The data is not compressed and the user can only pull part of the needed data. As a result, they cannot get a 360 degree view on the business question they are trying to analyze. This approach also leads to an issue of data silos living in Excel spreadsheets and not falling under data governance policies.

 

 

 

While traditional approaches to analysis sandboxes solve some problems, they create others. If the power user is exploring all the relevant data, it's done at a high cost or creates silos or negatively affects system performance for other end users. If the power user is experimenting with a subset of the data to protect end users from performance problems or to keep the costs down, then the path to insight may be slow and difficult.

Power users need a tool to make their analysis ideas tangible faster-especially when they are under pressure to answer urgent, ad hoc business questions. The faster they can make their analysis ideas tangible, the sooner they can evaluate the ideas, refine them, and zero in on the best way to solve a problem or exploit an opportunity.

We have a third post about analysis sandboxes in the works: a discussion about analysis sandboxes the QlikView way, along with some high-level, good-practice recommendations on how to deploy. Stay tuned!

What do kids do when they play in a sandbox? They use mini loaders to fill toy dump trucks with sand. They make mud cakes and build castles. All the while, they are experimenting and learning. What happens when you put heavy rocks in the loader's bucket? How tall can you make your castle before it topples over?

The same is true for BI professionals using analysis sandboxes.

I recently spoke with QlikTech technical advisor Elif Tutuk about analysis sandboxes and have some of her insights to share with you. Elif is a consultant who spends her days with QlikView customers, helping them get the most they can out of their QlikView deployments.

An analysis sandbox is an environment in which power BI users-data-savvy users with strong query and database skills and a solid understanding of the business and business processes-experiment with data, explore analysis, and conduct ad hoc questioning. They can also create prototype BI applications without negatively affecting performance of back-end data sources or the production BI environment. They use these environments to explore enterprise data, combine it with local and external data, and then massage and package the resulting data sets.

Analysis sandboxes can be used to answer urgent, ad hoc questions

Depending on the degree to which the decision makers are tech-savvy, they may even be able to use the sandbox to answer questions themselves. Consider these scenarios:

  • Revenue variance analysis. A general manager receives a monthly revenue statement and sees that revenue is less than expected. She assigns a business analyst to go away and figure out the factors contributing to the variance. Because the question is not a routine business question, the analyst uses an ad hoc information source and does his or her best to find the root cause of the revenue variance with limited time and information available.
  • Quick-reaction decision-making. In a competitive, dynamic business environment, it's not uncommon for an executive to have a 4-hour window in which to make a decision. He may need help from a business analyst to support a quick decision with evidences in the form of data. Without an analysis sandbox, the business analyst may have a hard time finding answers-especially if finding answers requires melding data from multiple sources, and required crunching through a huge volume of data quickly.
  • Customer buying trend analysis. Let's say a management team is talking about why some customers stop buying a particular product after a few months. Perhaps it's not possible to answer this question using higher-level, readily-available data. So the power user has to go into demographic data and purchasing data, and maybe analyze the competition's promotions during a particular period of time. The power user would go to an analysis sandbox to do some exploratory analysis in search of answers.

What these scenarios all have in common is a burning need for fast business answers, in an ad hoc manner. An analysis sandbox is important because the longer it takes to find the root cause of a problem, or the answer to a burning business question, the greater the cost to the organization.

We've identified several ways organizations can set up analysis sandboxes. We'll explore these, and discuss a good practice for using QlikView for analysis sandboxes, in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

It's the Users, Stupid!

Posted by Jeffrey Boehm Nov 19, 2010

A few things crossed my desk recently that made me pause and question whether the BI sell-side community gets it yet. From blog posts to marketing materials to analyst reports, everyone seems to agree that "traditional BI" isn't meeting the need. But lost in much of this hyperbole is the most important thing that needs to change. BI needs to be about the users. For too long business intelligence has been viewed as a data problem, an IT problem, a corporate governance problem. Yes, there are real issues to tackle there. But the lack of focus on the user is what has kept BI back, and this is where the true next generation solutions will excel.

In a recent post on TDWI the author correctly points out the limits the data-centricity of the current generation of BI tools and why that needs to change. But the author then goes on to say that the next generation should be "network-centric." There are indeed changes in computing infrastructure that will shift how vendors and companies deploy all flavors of enterprise applications. But end users don't care how or where a BI application is deployed - they care about whether it meets their needs in terms of flexibility, performance, usability, etc.

A recent product launch invitation from a "traditional BI" vendor highlighted IT as a primary audience for the event. Were business users encouraged to attend? Not really - unless you are a "finance manager" or a self-proclaimed "business analyst." Average business people - the people out on the front lines making decisions every day - are not targeted because this vendor, and most other traditional BI vendors, still view IT and power users as their target constituency. This is further encouraged by the continual stream of BI grading reports that focus on deep infrastructure stacks and IT requirements, and not user issues around flexibility, time to decision, usability, cost of ownership, etc.

I'm not suggesting that infrastructure issues aren't important, nor should we ignore IT and power users. Not at all. Instead I'm suggesting that the next generation of BI needs to be user-centric. They need to be based around "build to think" rather than "think to build." End users get this and they are already voting for user-centric solutions with their feet and budgets. Progressive IT leaders are also moving in this direction, applying the adage of providing the tools and enabling users to fish, rather than trying to fish for them. Vendors, analysts and pundits needs to recognize this shift and get on board - or risk becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

This shift is happening in other markets: CRM (Salesforce.com), video conferencing (Skype), and mobile devices (Apple iPhone). Those tools meet the back-end requirements, but are built with the user as a top priority. And now it is happening in BI. Are you leading this charge, or stuck in "traditional BI" thinking?

I'm proud to announce the availability of a new 8-minute QlikView video tour. For those of you new to QlikView, this video provides an overview of what makes QlikView different. For old hands, it highlights some of what's new in QlikView 10. This series of short, interconnected video segments covers seven topics: consolidation, search, visualization, enterprise readiness, scalability, extension and collaboration, and the ability to deploy anywhere. Click to watch the video here.

According to Peter Simonsen, our Sr. Director Global Web Marketing, we created this video to give people a good visual introduction to what QlikView is all about. Sure, you could get to a point of understanding by reading content on our web site or exploring QlikView demo apps. But we wanted to show people what QlikView can do for them in a quick and engaging way.

The project was a labor of love-a collaboration among the corporate marketing, product marketing, and product management teams at QlikTech, in conjunction with an outside creative agency.

  • For early brainstorming, core team members met in an immersive environment. At the beginning of the project, team members worked together in a 3D immersive environment called Teleplace. There, we collaborated on an initial version of the script, storyboarded the video segments, explored our collection of QlikView demo apps to decide which ones would be best to show, and tried to come up with imagery to communicate some of the more abstract concepts in the video. We were all able to share our computer screens simultaneously in the 3D space. We all created sticky notes and uploaded images to a brainstorming wall, and any of us could rearrange the images and edit the sticky notes as we worked.
  • We finalized the script and flow using good old fashioned email and phone. Between the early brainstorming and the formal project work, we had lots of discussions about the script and the flow of the video segments. During this time, we were preparing for the launch of QlikView 10, and lots of efforts were under way to make sure our messages were all aligned. The core team exchanged lots of emails and participated in WebEx meetings as we evolved the script and finalized the video flow. At key points in the process, project owner Peter Simonsen reached out to get buy-in from a larger group of internal stakeholders.
  • Once our agency began working on the videos, we used their Basecamp site. Once the script was finalized and the agency began creating the videos, we used their Basecamp project management workspace. There, we communicated with the team and managed collaboratively-created assets, like scripts, screen captures, and video drafts. We were able to use email to add comments to discussion threads; all communications were logged in the appropriate Basecamp folder.

Creating the QlikView product tour video was fun and exciting, and we hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor. (And if you're looking for additional info about QlikView 10, click here for the QlikView 10 landing page.)

For more than a year, a serial shooter was on the loose in the Swedish city of Malmö. He shot at people while they stood at bus stops, sat in their cars, and moved about indoors. One person has died and several others have been wounded in the attacks. (For more information, see the November 7, 2010 Associated Press article, "Police arrest man in Swedish immigrant shootings.")

What does this have to do with QlikView, other than the fact that Malmö borders the town of Lund, where QlikView was founded? A lot. Using QlikView, the police were able to identify the suspect by analyzing 10 years of crime report data, and have made an arrest.

This morning I spoke with Malmö police analyst Berth Simonsson about the role QlikView played in this case. Simonsson said, "QlikView has been a labor-saving tool for the police. Police analysts ask questions and QlikView delivers answers instantly. Instead of going through the reports manually, we have been able to go through lots of information quickly and found the link that otherwise would have been hard to detect."

The Malmö police department is a long-time customer of QlikView, but up until now had not used QlikView to analyze crime reports, for legal reasons. Once the department received permission to use QlikView in this way, analysts loaded 10 years' worth of crime reports (2 million reports, comprising 2 billion rows of data) into an existing QlikView application. It took three hours to load the data and configure interactive reports, and then they could immediately begin investigating the data.

  • Nine months of work in one minute. Simonsson said that without QlikView, analysts would have had to read every crime report by hand to search for clues that might lead them to a suspect. This would have been very difficult. He estimated that it would have taken three people three months to read through just one year of reports-never mind 10 years' worth-to find answers that QlikView made visible in just one minute. So every time the department uses QlikView to analyze historical crime reports in this way, it saves nine months of effort.
  • QlikView is a powerful investigative tool. If police analysts have an idea about a case, they can use QlikView to test their idea. They can search for any city, time of day, reported behavior, or other details. The QlikView associative experience enables them to explore trends in the data. If they find something of interest (e.g., red car or red truck), they can click a button to view the entire crime report. In QlikView, the crime report comes up immediately. With another system the department uses, analysts have to wait a half minute for a report to load.

Because QlikView is so easy to manage and use, the department plans to expand its use into new areas. Even with about 100 QlikView applications in place, Simonsson is one of just two people who support QlikView for the Skåne (southern Sweden) regional police department. Simonsson said, "The two of us are supporting 3,500 people in the police force, including about 50 analysts. We have been supporting it for about three years now. It's very easy, very straightforward." And now that the police analysts have experienced the power of QlikView for solving crimes, they are planning to use it more broadly. For example, the department checks about 10,000 people every year in Skåne; what they want to do is analyze who has been checked and when, similar to the way they can now analyze crime reports.

There's no question-the Malmö police department's ability to conduct analysis more quickly and comprehensively will go a long way toward helping to protect the public. We're proud to play a role in it!

Seeing Is Believing

Posted by Jeffrey Boehm Nov 15, 2010

I joined QlikTech about a month ago and had heard a lot about the company, the product, the culture, and the customer base prior to signing on. After nearly twenty years marketing software solutions in business intelligence, data warehousing and search, I was certainly intrigued by what I kept hearing as the "QlikView way." I've now had the opportunity to experience this first hand and am very excited by what I'm seeing:


The user community is passionate. From the thriving QlikCommunity to the excitement I saw among the users at Q-Days in Atlanta or the Boston Tech Days, I have never seen end users so passionate about enterprise software. QlikTech is focused on bringing BI to end users - and from what I've seen so far, the end users are reacting more like Apple users than traditional enterprise software users.

 

QlikView is truly reaching new audiences. I had heard that QlikView was more business-user centric than any other BI product, but I've been amazed to hear where it is being used. Mike Thompson from Children's Hospital of Atlanta told the Q-Days audience that an emergency room physician built a QlikView app to analyze patient visit data. I'm not aware of too many other enterprise platforms where physicians are "developing" new applications!

 

QlikView is forging a tighter relationship between IT and Line of Business. While QlikView is all about empowering line of business (LOB) users to more rapidly perform their own analyses, QlikView is also driving a better, more strategic dialog with IT. About half the audiences at the recent events were IT, and each customer presenter talked about how LOB and IT are working together: IT ensuring the right data is getting into the application in a secure, reliable way, and LOB deriving tremendous business value through new insights into their business areas.

 

Business insights in days, not years. Even before joining QlikView I downloaded the software and found it incredibly easy to create my first QlikView application. In less than a week I was more proficient in QlikView than I was after months of ramping up at previous companies. And I heard the same from customers: Tim Moore from Colonial Life relayed how he built his first QlikView app over a lunch break in the QlikView training. Colonial Life has now deployed QlikView apps to thousands of employees, agents and brokers.

 

I'm only a month in to my QlikTech journey, but I'm already hooked. If you are hooked also, tell me why. In my global product marketing role, I plan on engaging with our vibrant community and would love to hear about your experiences, what you think makes QlikView stand out, and how we can do a better job sharing that message with the world.

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