The Changing Face of Business Intelligence – a Q&A Spotlight with Jeff Boehm of QlikTech

Originally published 7 November 2011

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as a Q&A-style article, these interviews with leading voices in the industry including software vendors, end users and independent consultants are conducted by the BeyeNETWORK and present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Jeff Boehm, Vice President of Global Marketing at QlikTech. Ron and Jeff discuss the importance of BI collaboration and platform independence, as well as the newest features of QlikView 11, QlikTech's recent release.  

Jeff, when we talked a few weeks ago, you shared with us the tremendous growth that QlikTech is experiencing. In fact, the growth seems to have accelerated dramatically over the last 12 months. To what do you attribute this surging growth?

Jeff Boehm: I think the surging growth is a response to how we’re meeting the market needs and bringing business intelligence [BI] to its promise of serving the business users. I think for years, or even decades, business users have been frustrated by the limitations of traditional BI solutions that often get stuck in a quagmire of requirements and backlogs in the IT department and ultimately don't serve the business users’ needs for flexibility and agility. In addition, especially over the last few years with people bringing their consumer expectations into the workplace, people are just fed up with the limitations of traditional enterprise software.  QlikTech and our QlikView product meet that head-on with our approach to business discovery – it’s all about bringing business intelligence to the business users. I think it's a question of being in the right place at the right time and meeting a chasm in the market need.

It seems that more and more business users are adopting business intelligence tools and obviously, a BI tool or a BI product has to be very easy to use and easy to understand. There doesn't need to be a lot of education, and I believe one of the keys for success for QlikView has been the rapid adoption of the product by business users. Could you elaborate for us?  Who are those business users and what is it about QlikView that makes it a popular choice by that group?

Jeff Boehm: I think you hit on what makes it a popular choice and on some of the key points in terms of ease of use. You don't need to go to a training class before you update your profile on Facebook or before you start collaborating with people via LinkedIn other social networks. In the same way, you shouldn't have to go through a two-week training class to use business intelligence. The ease of use of QlikView is certainly very appealing to the business users as is the flexibility of the product. You're not limited to simply viewing predefined questions or pursuing limited drill paths that somebody else has set up for you. You're able to really work with the data, as we say, the way the mind works. In terms of who's using QlikView, it's really everyone across the organization. This gets to one of our central goals – to provide insight at the edges of the organization while maintaining the control at the core.

Everybody across QlikTech uses QlikView, whether it's our sales leadership to manage and understand what's going on with our sales performance, our marketing teams to understand campaign effectiveness, or our HR teams to understand the recruiting pipeline. And when I look at our customer base, it's the same way. There are financial analysts heavily using the product, and there are even police departments in many areas of the world that use the product now. It’s being used in areas that you wouldn't think of for traditional BI and that's because it's not traditional BI – it’s business discovery and everyone in just about any organization needs access to information to make decisions. That's where QlikView fits in.

I know you recently launched QlikView 11, which was a major release, and the stated goal of that release was “simplifying decisions for everyone everywhere.” Could you elaborate on that?

Jeff Boehm: There are three parts to that. First, there is simplifying decisions, which I think I touched on a little bit already. That makes the whole process of accessing information and getting insights for information much easier – simplifying that whole process. The second part is “everyone.” Everyone across the organization needs access to information to make decisions. The third part of that is “everywhere.” The workforce and people in general are much more mobile these days, so it’s being able to bring data to the point of decision, wherever that decision takes place – on the shop floor, in a meeting room, at a customer site or at the factory. You need the ability to access that information and make decisions then and there, not wait until you get back to your desk or wait until you can call into headquarters to get information. And that's what we mean by simplifying decisions for everyone everywhere.

Again, Jeff, QlikView 11 is obviously a major release. Could you share with us some of the exciting new features in QlikView 11 and tell us more about them?

Jeff Boehm: I think what's really exciting about QlikView 11 is it's looking beyond the traditional view of business intelligence. It's simply about making sense of the data in your organization. If you look at how people make decisions, you’ll find they don't make a decision purely based on data. It's very important to be able to get access to your data; but when you see something interesting in the data, you want to get other people's perspective on that. You want to collaborate. We increasingly live in a social and collaborative world, and we want to be able to do the same thing with business intelligence. So QlikView 11 brings some key new advances in the area of what we call social business discovery. We're integrating the world of collaboration with business discovery. These are things like asynchronously collaborating with other people across your organization through annotations or discussion threads within a business discovery app, or a very exciting new feature called "Shared Sessions" that allows you to collaborate in real time with any number of people across your organization. You’re actually sharing a QlikView app and exploring the data together to understand new trends and insights. I think the collaboration capabilities are probably the  most exciting features in QlikView 11.

How easy is it for two people to collaborate in QlikView 11?

Jeff Boehm: It's extremely easy. Again, there are asynchronous as well as synchronous forms of communication. In terms of the synchronous communication, there is a new button within QlikView called "Share Session." For example, when I click on that button, I can send you a link via email, Twitter, or instant messenger. When you click on that link, you come right into the app with me, and you and I are then in the QlikView app together. We're not looking that the same app side by side. We're actually in the exact same app. When I click, you see the results of my click and vice-versa, and it becomes a whole new way of integrating our decision making and our insight process.

Obviously, a lot of the organizations that visit the BeyeNETWORK are very large. They've been working with the traditional BI players for a long time – established the procedures and did a lot of the education and training to understand those tools. So if I were working with their platforms, would it be valid to assume that QlikView is more of a business analyst tool or a departmental solution? Or does QlikView 11 provide all the BI capabilities and enterprise needs?

Jeff Boehm: That's a great question and a common question. The short answer is enterprises are standardizing on QlikView today. It's a transition process away from the big infrastructures, static reports and fixed dashboards companies have put in place. But in terms of delivering end-user or business user capabilities, QlikView is increasingly becoming the standard. That being said, QlikView absolutely works side by side with the major data warehouse infrastructure investments and a lot of the data preparation investments that these companies have made.

Along those lines, we recently announced a partnership with Informatica to provide even tighter integration with those types of infrastructures and tools. So when you think about the business user capabilities or the end-user capabilities, businesses and very, very large enterprises are absolutely standardizing on QlikView as a tool for everyone, and they're complementing some of the other tools in the broader BI spectrum, if you will. In most people’s minds, BI encompasses a lot more than just those end user tools. From that perspective, we complement those other platforms and focus on driving that front-end business value.

What is required for a successful BI implementation?

Jeff Boehm: Well, I think first and foremost – and this goes back to where I think QlikView is filling a real need in the marketplace – is that you need to have business users driving the demand for what they need. In the old days, it was a completely IT-driven process, in which IT would define the reports and the dashboards and push them out to business users. I think we're increasingly seeing a better collaboration and partnership between IT and business users. Business users need to be involved throughout to ensure that they are defining – and responsible for creating in many ways – what they need to make business decisions and drive their business. I also think that it's critical to have a much more flexible iterative design and usage process.

Again, the old process of stating requirements and waiting a couple months only to be disappointed by what's delivered to you simply won't fly anymore. You need to have a much shorter loop of design, implementation feedback, and a lot more flexibility for the business users to ask new questions on their own. As I mentioned earlier about QlikView 11, I also think that being able to be much more social and collaborative in your decision-making process is very important. Again, it taps into the trends that we are all seeing outside of the business environment.

I usually wrap up these interviews with a question about the future of BI – my “crystal ball” question. What do you think are the biggest changes we'll see in BI in the next year or two?

Jeff Boehm: Well certainly, two of the big trends we're driving and watching right now are things that I've talked about today. One of those is collaboration and the other is platform independence.

I think from a collaboration perspective, you will see real integration of collaboration and decision-making capabilities. We're driving that in two areas – one is adding in collaborative capabilities into QlikView and making sure QlikView integrates very nicely with collaborative platforms from Microsoft SharePoint to Salesforce.com Chatter, and providing a way for people to drive collaborative decision-making. I think we're going to see an acceleration in that area over the next few years.

The other area is that the notion of platforms is blurring – I have a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop on my desk right now. I think we're going to increasingly see a variety of devices that span different form factors, and you need to be able to get insight and answers on any one of those platforms. Of course, I don't want to look at my entire dashboard on my little smart- phone here, but I want to be able to see key elements of that and be able to interact with it just as I can interact on my laptop or on my tablet. So I think this blurring of platforms is going to become a key trend, not only in business intelligence but in enterprise computing, and it's important that your BI platform be able to support that environment and not lock you into specific platforms or make it difficult for you to support a very heterogeneous environment.

Well, I fully concur. We too are seeing collaboration and mobile devices as waves of the future. Thank you very much for talking with us about QlikView, current BI trends and how QlikView is meeting the needs of business users.

SOURCE: The Changing Face of Business Intelligence – a Q&A Spotlight with Jeff Boehm of QlikTech

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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