Monday, December 06, 2010

QlikView's New Release Focuses on Enterprise Deployment

I haven’t written much about QlikView recently, partly because my own work hasn’t required using it and partly because it’s now well enough known that other people cover it in depth. But it remains my personal go-to tool for data analysis and I do keep an eye on it. The company released QlikView 10 in October and Senior Director of Product Marketing Erica Driver briefed me on it in a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what’s up.

- Business is good. If you follow the industry at all, you already know that QlikView had a successful initial public stock offering in July. Driver said the purpose was less to raise money than to gain the credibility that comes from being a public company. (The share price has nearly doubled since launch, incidentally.) The company has continued its rapid growth, exceeding 15,000 clients and showing 40% higher revenue vs. the prior year in its most recent quarter. Total revenues will easily exceed $200 million for 2010. Most clients are still mid-sized businesses, which is QlikView’s traditional stronghold. But more big enterprises are signing on as well.

- Features are stable. Driver walked me through the major changes in QlikView 10. From an end-user perspective, none were especially exciting -- which simply confirms that QlikView already had pretty much all the features it needed.

Even the most intriguing user-facing improvements are pretty subtle. For example, there’s now an “associative search” feature that means I can enter client names in a sales rep selection box and the system will find the reps who serve those clients. Very clever and quite useful if you think about it, but I’m guessing you didn’t fall off you chair when you heard the news.

The other big enhancement was a “mekko” chart, which is bar chart where the width of the bar reflects a data dimension. So, you could have a bar chart where the height represents revenue and the width represents profitability. Again, kinda neat but not earth-shattering.

Let me stress again that I’m not complaining: QlikView didn’t need a lot of new end-user features because the existing set was already terrific.

- Development is focused on integration and enterprise support. With features under control, developers have been spending their time on improving performance, integration and scalability. This involves geeky things aimed at like a documented data format for faster loads, simpler embedding of QlikView as an app within external Web sites, faster repainting of pages in the AJAX client, more multithreading, centralized user management and section access controls, better audit logging, and prebuilt connectors for products including SAP and

There’s also a new API that lets external objects to display data from QlikView charts. That means a developer can, say, put QlikView data in a Gantt chart even though QlikView itself doesn’t support Gantt charts. The company has also made it easier to merge QlikView with other systems like Google Maps and SharePoint.

These open up some great opportunities for QlikView deployments, but they depend on sophisticated developers to take advantage of them. In other words, they are not capabilities that a business analyst -- even a power user who's mastered QlikView scripts -- will be able to handle. They mark the extension of QlikView from stand-alone dashboards to a system that is managed by an IT department and integrated with the rest of the corporate infrastructure.

This is exactly the "pervasive business intelligence" that industry gurus currently tout as the future of BI. QlikView has correctly figured out that it must move in this direction to continue growing, and in particular to compete against traditional BI vendors at large enterprises. That said, I think QlikView still has plenty of room to grow within the traditional business intelligence market as well.

- Mobile interface. This actually came out in April and it’s just not that important in the grand scheme of things. But if you’re as superficial as I am, you’ll think it’s the most exciting news of all. Yes, you can access QlikView reports on iPad, Android and Blackberry smartphones, including those touchscreen features you’ve wanted since seeing Minority Report. The iPad version will even use the embedded GPS to automatically select localized information. How cool is that?


millgenius said...

Any thoughts on why Qlikview haven't got any kind of custom grouping/tagging functionality yet that is so good in Spotfire and Tableau? Does most of the BI community set all this up in the source data?

David Raab said...

QlikView is basically designed to work with data as entered from the source system and modified during the data load by QlikView scripts. I'm not fully current on the product so there may be some ways to actually change data, which is what tagging requires. But the methods I can think of would either be very awkward (e.g. select and extract the records to be tagged, then reimport them with the tags) or require technical skills (write to the API). I'd say this is partly a function of the database engine, which was designed to be read-only, and partly a matter of philosophy: end-users should not be changing BI data because that raises issues of integrity and control.

In practice, it's not very hard to tag data outside of QlikView and then import the tags: you would just create a file with the IDs of the tagged records and the tags themselves, and QlikView would automatically link the tags to the records.

millgenius said...

Thanks for the quick response. I thought it may be an approach based on philosophy...I can see the capacity for mistakes if you don't keep up to date on the manual groups. I'm still surprised there isn't more push for it in the user community.