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Qlik was an early pioneer in developing a substantial market for a visual discovery tool that enables end users to easily access and manipulate analytics and data. Its QlikView application uses an associative experience that takes  an in-memory, correlation-based approach to present a simpler design and user experience for analytics than previous tools. Driven by sales of QlikView, the company’s revenue has grown to more than $.5 billion, and originating in Sweden it has a global presence.

At its annual analyst event in New York the business intelligence and analytics vendor discussed recent product developments, in particular the release of Qlik Sense. It is a drag-and-drop visual analytics tool targeted at business users but scalable enough for enterprise use. Its aim is to give business users a simplified visual analytic experience that takes advantage of modern cloud technologies. Such a user experience is important; our benchmark research into next-generation business intelligence shows that usability is an important buying criterion for nearly two out of three (63%) companies. A couple of months ago, Qlik introduced Qlik Sense for desktop systems, and at the analyst event it announced general availability of the cloud and server editions.

vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiesAccording to our research into business technology innovation, analytics is the top initiative for new technology: 39 percent of organizations ranked it their number-one priority. Analytics includes exploratory and confirmatory approaches to analysis. Ventana Research refers to exploratory analytics as analytic discovery and segments it into four categories that my colleague Mark Smith has articulated. Qlik’s products belong in the analytic discovery category. Users can use the tool to investigate data sets in an intuitive and visual manner, often conducting root cause analysis and decision support functions. This software market is relatively young, and competing companies are evolving and redesigning their products to suit changing tastes. Tableau, one of Qlik’s primary competitors, which I wrote about recently, is adapting its current platform to developments in hardware and in-memory processing, focusing on usability and opening up its APIs. Others have recently made their first moves into the market for visual discovery applications, including Information Builders and MicroStrategy. Companies such as Actuate, IBM, SAP, SAS and Tibco are focused on incorporating more advanced analytics in their discovery tools. For buyers, this competitive and fragmented market creates a challenge when comparing offers in the analytic discovery market.

A key differentiator is Qlik Sense’s new modern architecture, which is designed for cloud-based deployment and embedding in other applications for specialized use. Its analytic engine plugs into a range of Web services. For instance, the Qlik Sense API enables the analytic engine to call to a data set on the fly and allow the application to manipulate data in the context of a business process. An entire table can be delivered to node.js, which extends the JavaScript API to offer server-side features and enables the Qlik Sense engine to take on an almost unlimited number of real-time connections  by not blocking input and output. Previously developers could write PHP script and pipe SQL to get the data, and the resulting application is viable but complex to build and maintain. Now all they need is JavaScript and HTML. The Qlik Sense architecture abstracts the complexity and allows JavaScript developers to make use of complex constructs without intricate knowledge of the database. The new architecture can decouple the Qlik engine from the visualizations themselves, so Web developers can define expressions and dimensions without going into the complexities of the server-side architecture. Furthermore, by decoupling the services, developers gain access to open source visualization technologies such as d3.js. Cloud-based business intelligence and extensible analytics are becoming a hot topic. I have written about this, including a glimpse of our newly announced benchmark research on the next generation of data and analytics in the cloud. From a business user perspective, these types of architectural changes may not mean much, but for developers, OEMs and UX design teams, it allows much faster time to value through a simpler component-based approach to utilizing the Qlik analytic engine and building visualizations.

vr_Big_Data_Analytics_06_benefits_realized_from_big_data_analyticsThe modern architecture of Qlik Sense together with the company’s ecosystem of more than 1,000 partners and a professional services organization that has completed more than 2,700 consulting engagements, gives Qlik a competitive position. The service partner relationships, including those with major systems integrators, are key to the company’s future since analytics is as much about change management as technology. Our research in analytics consistently shows that people and processes lag technology and information in performance with analytics. Furthermore, in our benchmark research into big data analytics, the benefits most often mentioned as achieved are better communication and knowledge sharing (24%), better management and alignment of business goals (18%), and gaining competitive advantage (17%).

As tested on my desktop, Qlik Sense shows an intuitive interface with drag-and-drop capabilities for building analysis. Formulas are easy to incorporate as new measures, and the palate offers a variety of visualization options which automatically fit to the screen. The integration with QlikView is straightforward in that a data model from QlikView can be saved seamlessly and opened intact in Qlik Sense. The storyboard function allows for multiple visualizations to build into narratives and for annotations to be added including linkages with data. For instance, annotations can be added to specific inflection points in a trend line or outliers that may need explanation. Since the approach is all HTML5-based, the visualizations are ready for deployment to mobile devices and responsive to various screen sizes including newer smartphones, tablets and the new class of so-called phablets. In the evaluation of vendors in our Mobile Business Intelligence Value Index Qlik ranked fourth overall.

In the software business, of course, technology advances alone don’t guarantee success. Qlik has struggled to clarify the position its next-generation product and it is not a replacement for QlikView. QlikView users are passionate about keeping their existing tool because they have already designed dashboards and calculations using this tool. Vendors should not underestimate user loyalty and adoption. Therefore Qlik now promises to support both products for as long as the market continues to demand them. The majority of R&D investment will go into Qlik Sense as developers focus on surpassing the capabilities of QlikView. For now, the company will follow a bifurcated strategy in which the tools work together to meet needs for various organizational personas. To me, this is the right strategy. There is no issue in being a two-product company, and the revised positioning of Qlik Sense complements QlikView both on the self-service side and the developer side. Qlik Sense is not yet as mature a product as QlikView, but from a business user’s perspective it is a simple and effective analysis tool for exploring data and building different data views. It is simpler because users no do not need to script the data in order to create the specific views they deem necessary. As the product matures, I expect it to become more than an end user’s visual analysis tool since the capabilities of Qlik Sense lends itself to web scale approaches. Over time, it will be interesting to see how the company harmonizes the two products and how quickly customers will adopt Qlik Sense as a stand-alone tool.

For companies already using QlikView, Qlik Sense is an important addition to the portfolio. It will allow business users to become more engaged in exploring data and sharing ideas. Even for those not using QlikView, with its modern architecture and open approach to analytics, Qlik Sense can help future-proof an organization’s current business intelligence architecture. For those considering Qlik for the first time, the choice may be whether to bring in one or both products. Given the proven approach of QlikView, in the near term a combination approach may be a better solution in some organizations. Partners, content providers and ISVs should consider Qlik Branch, which provides resources for embedding Qlik Sense directly into applications. The site provides developer tools, community efforts such as d3.js integrations and synchronization with Github for sharing and branching of designs. For every class of user, Qlik Sense can be downloaded for free and tested directly on the desktop. Qlik has made significant strides with Qlik Sense, and it is worth a look for anybody interested in the cutting edge of analytics and business intelligence.


Ventana Research

QlikTech executives unveiled the future of what I cover in business analytics at its recent industry analyst summit in what they framed as natural analytics and how it underlies the company’s next major release in 2014, and with what they call QlikView.Next which they have outlined publicly. Anthony Deighton, SVP Products and Donald Farmer, VP of Product Management, did most of the talking, but it is clear that the idea unifies the business and technology strategy for its future.

In a nutshell, natural analytics is a design philosophy that taps into the human being’s innate ability for complex thinking and augments that thinking process with user-centric software. For instance, humans are very good at categorizing, detecting patterns and identifying outliers, and these abilities help us quickly process information and make decisions in environments of change and uncertainty. Natural analytics aims to complement this higher-level thinking, not replace it, with the power of technology. It is obvious that QlikTech has been thinking about this idea for a long time, and in fact the concept is consistent with the company philosophy and culture,which I assessed last year.

QlikTech is among a new generation of so-called discovery tools that enable faster and simpler exploration which empower business analysts to drive increasingly important time-to-value (TTV) metrics.  The new product release looks to leverage this legacy by putting natural analytics philosophy into practice. The product team overhauled the interface and streamlined it to work within the context of user workflows. Various workflows such as sales or operations intuitively appear on the left side of the screen as the user enters the hub, and the user can add to, change or delete them as needed. While the various workflows allow users to go into different Qlikview applications, the ability to search across the entire data set is enabled through search. The ability to search information in a dynamic fashion directly from the initial entry point helps analysts get started on their discovery journey especially when they are not sure where to start. Information discovery, as described by my colleague Mark Smith in his piece on the four types of discovery technologies, is one of the foundations of discovery and is becoming more important to organizations. Another key component of time-to-value and usability is mobility and it is another key design element of QlikView.Next. All data renders in HTML5 on the client side, which enables a responsive design based on the screen size and independent of the user platform. This strategy addresses the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend as well as the objective of design once and deploy anywhere. While I have not had a chance to use the product, the demo appeared responsive, with labeling and other contextual attributes appearing or disappearing based on the particular view.

The new product also has a redesigned architecture that is more modern and extensible. Incorporating QlikView Expressor, its metadata and integration technology, QlikView is targeting larger enterprise deployments with metadata, broader governance, and more advanced administration and security features. Customers may be concerned about the transition from QlikView 11 to the new architecture, but Jeff Boehm, VP of global product marketing, assured those in attendance that all data layer QVDs, scripts and models would be transferable into the new open architecture format. The company will also support QlikView 11 for another three years, which is longer than industry norms. This is a smart strategy for QlikTech since major migrations like this are often disruptive, and current customers have investments in detailed metric calculations throughout the enterprise, so there will likely still be some work to do in the transition. The extensibility of the platform facilitates partner development on the APIs, external visualizations through JavaScript APIs, integration for Windows applications through OCX extensions, and capabilities for websites and portal integration through Visual Studio plug-ins and SharePoint Web Part. Extensibility is an important element, as our research and client contacts show that customers want BI to be embedded into applications and workflows.

Collaboration is a key focus area of QlikView.Next, and the company is right to make it a priority. vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiesOur benchmark research into business technology innovation shows that collaboration (across top three ranked priority in 59% of organizations) is second in importance for technology innovation only to business analytics (across top three ranked priority in 74% of organizations). The QlikView.Next builds in storytelling presentation capabilities with annotations and record selections made by users during sessions and enables navigation back and forth through previous selections. Specific points in the process can be bookmarked including annotations that can be shared with other users, thus helping communicate both the analysis and the reasoning behind it. This is another example of the natural analytics design at work that will be quite effective with business analyst and knowledge worker personas that I have outlined.

From a business perspective, QlikTech has chosen a more revolutionary path for its next generation of technology than the evolutionary path we are seeing with others in the discovery category, such as Tibco Spotfire or Tableau. As these and competing companies move toward central IT from a distributed user-base position, their grand challenge is to balance optimizing with satisficing; the difference is also explained by Occam’s Razor. That is, deliver the complexity that is necessary but avoid putting in so much that simplicity and usability are negated. This balance for next-generation BI tools is particularly tricky as our research into next-generation business intelligence shows: For 64 percent of companies, usability is the number-one buying criterion, but functionality (49%), manageability (47%) and reliability (46%) are also important buying criteria. QlikView.Next is the first analytics discovery tool to take the bold step of trying to address this challenge head on, and I applaud the company for that.

As QlikTech moves into more of an enterprise posture, channel partnerships and how they address the specific verticals that are using their tools will become increasingly important. Currently, the company is well diversified across industries and has developed solid use cases to meet line of business needs too. It will need to apply these use cases along with partners’ consulting expertise to educate companies how Qlikview.Next fits into overall company workflows and enables better vr_ngbi_br_importance_of_bi_technology_considerationsprocesses and analytic collaboration. Our recent research shows that innovative technologies and new information sources are outpacing the maturity of people and the processes in organizations. If vendors cannot show how specific software supports business outcomes by enabling people and processes, they will have a tough sell.

From what I’ve seen, QlikTech’s management team understands the challenges they face with Qlikview.Next and has their eyes open to the reality of today’s enterprise business market. The company has a solid vision centered on natural analytics, and from the first look at the software, QlikNext is on track to deliver something unique and possibly disruptive. Companies looking at enterprise implementations of business intelligence managed by IT or those expanding the potential of analytics in line of business will like the innovative methods for discovery and exploration coming with QlikView.Next.


Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

I recently returned from Sweden, where QlikTech International hosted its annual analyst “unsummit.” Much of the information I was exposed to was under NDA, so I cannot talk about it here. What I can discuss, and what in many ways may be more interesting and more important, is the company’s focus on culture and philosophy.

Arguably, culture and company philosophy can provide a company competitive advantage by providing its employees, customer and partners a vision and a sense of engagement with the product and the company itself. Engagement and software usability have become important topics as companies such as Tableau and QlikTech have brought user-friendly, visual and iterative analysis to software that has heretofore been the domain of a few tool-oriented analysts. As such tools continue to gain traction in the organization I anticipate that these discussions around culture, engagement and the consumer-oriented idea of brand intimacy will become more important. In particular, I see two trends driving this: the consumerization of business technologies, which I discussed in a recent blog post, and demographic workforce shifts, which my colleague Robert Kugel discussed.

QlikTech CEO Lars Bjork gave us the initial chat regarding the company.  He spoke of the origins of the company and how the Swedish government gives favorable terms to Swedish startups, but then extracts high interest after a few years. He used this story to show how his company was able to overcome early stage difficulties in repayment of the loan, and how the Swedish government listened to its needs and worked to resolve the issues in a mutually beneficial way. Eventually it turned out that QlikTech became the most successful venture in which the Swedish government had ever engaged.

Bjork used this story as a jumping-off point to discuss the cultural backbone of the company, which is its Swedish heritage.  Sweden, he suggested, is interesting in two ways. The first is its design principles of simplicity and sophistication. The second is the consensus decision-making models in which its population engages.

Simplicity and sophistication are readily evident in Swedish architecture, and furniture. QlikTech and its user base make a strong argument that this is the underpinning of its software as well. (Interestingly, two of the new breed of BI software vendors were born and grew up in Sweden – Spotfire in the north and QlikTech in the south.) QlikTech uses a simple but powerful color-oriented approach to help users understand data.  Values in a data set can be highlighted in green, linked values are white, and excluded values are gray. This approach provides users an exploratory environment in which to iterate and visualize data. This approach was inspired by spreadsheet environments, where color coding is often used for analysis and alerting on differentiated variables. While QlikTech has advanced significantly from its spreadsheet roots, the color design principles remain intact and usability remains a key tenet of its strategy.

Perhaps the more interesting cultural aspect of Sweden is its societal and political culture. It is a democracy with a measure of shared responsibility in government and society that isn’t really found in the United States. The US is much more aligned with Teddy Roosevelt’s idea of “rugged individualism” and of the self-made men. In business, this American mindset tends to create a chain-of-command culture in which decision-making is pushed up the organizational pyramid, and once a decision is made, it is then disseminated through the organization. European business, and Swedish organizations, it can be argued are less hierarchical in nature.

This discussion of Sweden and its culture naturally flows into how business intelligence is becoming more collaborative by nature and how decisions are being pushed down through the organization. It also brings to light the different philosophies of locking down data and controlling data versus the ideas of openness and information sharing. As our benchmark study around next-generation business intelligence shows, these are key points for the future of business intelligence. As cultures become more open with mobility and collaboration, and decisions are moved down through organizations, employees become more empowered.

vr_ngbi_br_benefits_realized_from_collaborative_biThe entire premise, however, revolves around openness toward information sharing and a balance of controls within the organization. The idea of democratizing analytics makes a lot of sense, though democratization pushed to the extreme leads to anarchy. Much like Sweden, QlikTech intends to walk that fine line inspired by democratic ideals and consensus governance in its quest to bring analytics to the organizational masses. At the end of the day this may just may be the secret sauce the appeals to the millennial generation and beyond.


Tony Cosentino

VP & Research Director

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