Qlik Makes Sense of its Analytics and Business Value

At the 2015 technology analyst summit in Austin, Texas, analytics and business intelligence software vendor Qlik discussed recent market and product developments and explained its roadmap and strategy for 2016. Discussion topics included its Qlik Analytics Platform and QlikView 12.0, Qlik Sense and Qlik DataMarket, applications built on the platform but also how it is expanding its analytics experience for business.

The engine of Qlik Analytics Platform is Qlik Indexing Engine (QIX) provides sophisticated correlation analysis, or what the company calls an “associative experience.” Qlik uses a simple but powerful visual approach to help users understand and explore data. For instance, values in a data set can be highlighted in green, directly linked values are white, excluded but still related values are light gray, and completely unrelated values are dark gray. The key differentiator from other tools in the market is in the light gray areas, which lead users to natural next steps in investigation of the data or what we call guided analytics. Put another way, this associativeVR_AnalyticsandBI_VI_HotVendor_2015 experience enables users to explore all of the data relationships and avoid confirmation bias, which results from having a predefined idea of how data should be related. Most other visual discovery tools are still beholden to confirmation bias since the data model is based on a specific hypothesis of data relationships put forward by a developer or business user. Neither visual exploration nor human intellect alone can discover all patterns, especially the most complex ones. To make sense of large data sets, however, data mining and statistical techniques such as correlation can find patterns, relationships and anomalies in the data. The associative experience helped contribute to Qlik earning a Hot Vendor rating in our 2015 Analytics and Business Intelligence Value Index.

Qlik Sense is the company’s flagship visual analytics software that combines the associative functionality with easy-to-manage, high-performing and scalable approach. Its aim is to give business users a simplified visual analytic experience that takes advantage of modern technologies that can operate in cloud computing environment. The Qlik Sense architecture allows a choice to do visual design on the server or on the client and provides users with streamlined management capabilities and an intuitive user experience. Other ease-of-use functions include probabilistic search capabilities and automatic linking of objects within newly created dashboards. The user experience in both design and in consumption is important; our benchmark research on analytics software in the last four years consistently finds that usability is the most important product evaluation criterion for companies. But the importance of manageability and reliability is critical to which is why organizations should broaden its evaluation to not just be about the features of the product.

Qlik Sense, at time of this analysis is version 2.1, is complemented by announcements Qlik made over the last year. They include Qlik Sense Cloud, which provides cloud hosting services for Qlik Sense, and Qlik DataMarket, which offers enriched analytic data sets that are integrated and ready for consumption by analytic users. This service, often called data as a service (DaaS), provides information to be used in both descriptive and predictive analytic scenarios. My colleague Robert Kugel has written about this in what is called Cryptic Data and where Qlik is removing the hassle of integrating relevant external data into analytics.  Using a cloud-based architecture, vr_DAC_07_importance_of_external_data_sourcesQlik is able to easily bring together data from external sources, which according to our data and analytics in the cloud benchmark research include cloud-based business applications (61%), social media (49%), Internet information (48%), government sources (33%), market sources (29%) and data brokers (27%). Preintegration of data sets is an emerging trend that helps address the most formidable challenge in cloud computing, which is data preparation (cited by 55% of organizations).

Qlik was a pioneer in the visual discovery market with QlikView. More recently, it took time to rearchitect Qlik Sense to take advantage of technological advances such as cloud computing. That move temporarily disrupted the company’s momentum in the market but has rapidly accelerated forward and is approaching to be a billion dollar provider of analytics software. Now Qlik appears to have gotten much of its momentum back in company revenue growth but in the adoption and deployment of Qlik Sense.

Qlik’s partner strategy continues to advance where they have been embedded in a significant number of applications across industries. Having a modern architecture, the company can take several directions, such as entry into various platform-as-a-service (PaaS) ecosystems and be part of those environments. The Qlik Branch tool provides resources for embedding Qlik Sense directly into applications, enabling developers to build extensions using modern RESTful approaches. The site provides developer tools, community efforts such as d3.js integration and synchronization with Github for sharing and branching of designs. This provides an advantage to Qlik as these community assets can be used by innovative enterprises and independent software vendors (ISVs). Furthermore, Qlik can use these development efforts to decide where to invest its own resources in product development and support. The ability to also combine DaaS into its efforts reinforces the company’s competitive position and unique differentiation with these innovative efforts for enterprises and application assemblers and developers including ISVs.

Organizations considering self-service visual analytics software should put Qlik on their shortlist. For companies that already use QlikView, recently released version 12.0 is a logical path especially if they are exploring accompanying deployment of Qlik Sense. With the release of QlikView 12.0, both Qlik Sense and QlikView will utilize a common QIX engine to provide the associative experience. For first-time implementations of Qlik, Qlik Sense will likely be the best option except in some industry-specific cases in which QlikView offers sophisticated tailored solutions. Qlik Sense Cloud provides sharing of Qlik applications in a hosted and managed environment. While the company has made improvements in developing its capabilities and partner ecosystem for Qlik Sense, these should be closely examined in conjunction with the specific business objectives in mind. For developers, Qlik Sense provides a fully featured cloud platform on which to build and well-documented APIs to create extensions and customize the product. Partners, content providers and ISVs should consider the Qlik platform and Qlik Branch for embedding resources directly into applications. Every class of user can download Qlik Sense for free and test it directly on the desktop.

Overall, we find that Qlik Sense’s flexible approach can support various technology directions for analytics and is a strong choice especially for analysts and also application-oriented approaches that are needed.  Qlik has focused on the broader analytic experience and what is required to streamline analysis but also to ensure that it is comprehensive and easily shared with others in the enterprise. If you have not looked at Qlik lately, now is the time to try it out.


Mark Smith

CEO and chief research officer

Digital Technology Agenda for Business in 2016

Technology innovation is accelerating faster than companies can keep up with. Many feel pressure to adopt new strategies that technology makes possible and find the resources required for necessary investments. In 2015 our research and analysis revealed many organizations upgrading key business applications to operate in the cloud and some enabling access to information for employees through mobile devices. Despite these steps, we find significant levels of digital disruption impacting every line of business. In our series of research agendas for 2016 we outline the areas of technology that organizations need to understand if they hope to optimize their business processes and empower their employees to handle tasks and make decisions effectively. Every industry, line of business and IT department will need to be aware of how new technology can provide opportunities to get ahead of, or at least keep up with, their competitors and focus on achieving the most effective outcomes.

Let’s review the digital disruptions that are impacting businesses of every size in any industry.

Analytics is at the top of the list. It has become indispensable not just for measuring performance and efficiency but also for guiding effective actions that make critical differences in an organization. Once just an ad hoc part of business intelligence efforts, analytics now can have a continuous role in Untitledstreamlining business processes. Historical analysis – measuring the past to inform the present – is no longer sufficient; looking forward with predictive analytics can help organizations anticipate future behavior and outcomes. Our benchmark research on predictive analytics shows that nearly half (49%) of organizations expect to gain significant impact from utilizing it, and another one-third (32%) said it can have transformational impact.

However, to develop continuous analytics organizations first must prepare for use the data to be analyzed. Typically this requires significant amounts of time from analysts, data and vr_DAC_20_justification_for_data_preparationoperations professionals – time that could be used more productively. Today they can regain that time by using data preparation tools designed for this purpose. In 2016 we will perform in-depth market research on data preparation to assess the variety of ways in which it is used and where it can offer the greatest benefit to analytics and operations. Our research in 2015 found that preparing data for analysis is the most common impediment in the analytics process for more than half (55%) of organizations, as it has been for the past five years. We also will conduct and publish new research on the role of analytics in the sales, finance and human resources functions. In these and other lines of business we assert that organizations must develop competencies in analytics and begin using them continuously to improve their performance and competitiveness. Look at your own organization to determine if you have made analytics a priority and is being used effectively.

Another precursor to continuous analytics is collecting and processing what is commonly called big data, the huge volumes and broad variety of data that organizations encounter. Advances in computing technology including in-memory processing and storage of big data are now cost-effective and can be readily accessed and used through cloud computing. Because not all data is the same, ranging from structured data to unstructured content, documents and text, how businesses vr_DAC_07_importance_of_external_data_sourcesmanage their information assets is just as important as the guidance they receive from analyzing them. To further investigate the impact of big data on business, we will perform new benchmark research to determine where investment can have the greatest impact in terms of value and time savings. Managing data effectively enables organizations to optimize their information, and there are other sources of data that can add to what they know. My colleague Robert Kugel has named this “cryptic data”; typically it is out of reach of business users, tucked away on the Internet and in external sources, but accessing it could enrich the value of existing information and analytics. Last year our data and analytics in the cloud benchmark research found that Internet information sources are important to 42 percent of organizations.

It is important to remember that big data is not just about data management but also about how it is interconnected and used for business purposes. Industry jargon that isolates it in “data lakes” and other ridiculous terms do a disservice to its full potential for analytics and any range of applications, extending even to advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects whole networks and myriad devices to each other.   Beyond this data science has intersected with expert systems to produce cognitive computing systems that can learn from past and present decisions and interactions to answer questions in natural language and guide decisions to optimal results.

In the excitement over big data and analytics it’s easy to forget that they are useful only when people work with them, and businesses rely on their people to interact and collaborate to reach agreement or better understand opportunities and situations to be resolved. Through a new generation of digital technologies, workers and managers alike can engage in discussions interactively online, through videoconferences that can share applications and presentations and with mobile technologies that make it simpler to collaborate at any time from any place. Our next-generation learning management benchmark research found that social collaboration is critical for more than half of organizations to share learning socially through activity streams. Technology enables even digital “town hall” meetings in which workers anywhere on the planet join in interactive scdiscussions. But collaborative technologies must be used in context of business processes that rely on business applications in which information must be shared, assessed and acted upon to achieve specific goals. Thus the idea of embedding collaboration in business application is taking hold among large application providers, although some just make it available separately. Our research in the past several years has identified collaboration as one of the most widely recognized digital technologies to advance business processes; for example, more than one-third (38%) of participants in our data and analytics in the cloud research are using it, although fewer than that (30%) are satisfied with how they collaborate, which is not surprising when many are still using email as the primary mode of collaboration. The good news is that new methods are gaining traction: Almost half (47%) are planning to use or are evaluating discussion forums, and nearly as many (48%) are interested in wall posting. New research we’ll produce in 2016 will identify the further adoption of collaboration and best practices in contact centers, sales, human resources and finance groups. Furthermore, to better engage workers in the organization, a new generation of digital feedback techniques used in consumer applications for easy-to-rate feedback is migrating into business. In general collaboration using digital techniques is still one of the most underutilized methods in organizations, but it can have large returns on investment since it engages and should motivate workforces to interact with others and management.

Another major new digital technology that has reshaped the way organizations use information is cloud computing, which enables applications or services to operate beyond an enterprise’s own premises. It can help organizations simplify access to and use of software by removing barriers of resources and vr_DAC_04_widespread_use_of_cloud_based_analyticsskills, allowing any size of organization to exceed its previous computing capabilities. Simplifying the ability to onboard a range of software whether business applications or other tools and to manage them easily in any area of business in conjunction with IT policies provides a radically faster time to value. We have also seen this in the use of analytics, as almost half of organizations in our data and analytics in the cloud research already use cloud-based analytics in some manner and another one-fifth (19%) will use it in the next year. Now organizations are shifting to integrating business applications in the cloud and in the enterprise, a process that requires integration software designed to help streamline interoperability. Underlying this transition of business computing is a movement toward the platform as a service (PaaS) and messaging that interconnects business and consumers in a range of cloud environments – public, private and hybrid. The enterprise architecture of the future is centered in the cloud; much of the software industry has shifted to this approach, and business organizations will be required to adapt or be left using and managing their own software. It is only a matter of time until they will not have a choice as new applications are rapidly becoming available only in the cloud.

Until recently many businesses have worried about the security of systems they don’t deploy and control themselves. Our data and analytics in the cloud benchmark research vr_DAC_13_impediments_to_deploying_cloud_based_analyticsshows that lack of confidence in security is still the most frequent impediment to deployment cloud-based analytics, in more than half (56%) of organizations. Arising from these worries is new digital technology designed to ensure cybersecurity and protect intellectual assets (systems, internal data and customer information) from being hacked and compromised. More than a few large-scale incidents have shown that such attacks can significantly impact not only financial profitability but an organization’s credibility. Alert organizations now realize that just protecting the network that connects their computers and systems is insufficient to ensure that the full range of threats is mitigated. For example, most organizations have not effectively inventoried and assessed their IT assets to identify outdated software that might have known cyber exposures that can create wormholes that work from inside the organization to the outside. Building on IT asset management is the ability to identify legacy systems that increase threats and put data at risk in databases or from systems and tools that access them from more than one location. Such vigilance requires a sophisticated set of technology that not only detects and responds to threats but can recommend and even act on cyber exposures before situations reach crisis levels. The data within databases and analytics also needs to be secured. This challenge will require a new generation of cyberintelligence that is managed directly by the CIO’s office and understood by business management.

As if all this was not complicated enough, now we have the Internet of Things (IoT) emerging. Devices, machines and networks that are interconnected to the Internet through sensors and messaging are no longer just for monitoring but also for interactive dialogues that notify and take action on threats or malfunctions. As we evolve to this technologically sophisticated world, even things we wear, from watches to certain types of clothing, also can provide information on business and personal activities that range from responding to requests to the wellness of individuals. The underlying connectivity comes from the use of Bluetooth and RFID for cellular or WiFi connections directly onto the Internet. As we find ways to miniaturize and embed sensors and related technology that can provide data, we also find that the processing is operating at the edge of the network and within machines, even automobiles. These Internet-level bots do not just operate at the edge of the network but can also transport themselves to where processing needs to happen. IoT will require applications that can monitor systems and also be used to manage monetization as in subscription to services and interact across any range of services. Such a change will require advanced skills in IoT analytics and capabilities for real-time processing; we call this the next generation of operational intelligence and are conducting new market research to determine the rate of innovation and emerging best practices in adoption of the technologies.

As we all can see, smartphones and tablets are vr_DAC_17_mobile_access_to_cloud_based_analyticseverywhere, connecting people and the Internet. The potential for businesses is enormous, and it will be a necessity for them to equip and support their workers and managers with applications that can easily operate on these devices. Unfortunately so far many business software applications and tools provide only lip service to using their capabilities; few of these vendors have a “mobile first” approach to supporting workforce effectiveness. Working across devices from Apple or Android has plenty of nuances, and many applications require a lot of “pinching” to interact with them rather dynamically sizing in response to the device on which it operates. Additionally, a new generation of notebooks that operate through touch screens and tablets that use Microsoft Windows is emerging. Giving ineffective software to mobile-enabled workers can lead to employee dissatisfaction and become a factor in why they leave an organization. Ensuring that mobile apps provide a contemporary user experience and easy usability is more important than just the app’s capabilities; don’t listen to analyst firms that rate them on the number of customers or amount of revenue they have generated. Such recommendations have led many organizations to select the wrong software and weaken themselves for years to come. With new research in 2016 we will continue our decade-long analysis of the mobile revolution and its impact on business; we advise that embracing mobile-ready applications is essential to maximize the value of the workforce.

Mobile technology advances have paved the way for a new generation of wearable devices, most evidently the new kind of watch, which is now ready for businesses to use to consume and act on information and make decisions. Wearables can support business productivity by increasing the responsiveness of individuals in any role. A new generation of smart watches that are easier for technology providers to integrate with business applications is available and will begin to establish new workflow and interactivity capabilities. Our upcoming research into the new generation of human resources management systems (HRMSs) and into workforce management will assess the demand for these applications. This generation of wearables will come with location information that can be used to promote situational awareness and be optimized for a variety of uses. For many organizations and workers, using wearables provides immediate visibility on the wellness of individuals that not just helps the individual maintain personal health but helps organizations ensure that workers are able to conduct their job responsibilities in ways that minimize risk and ensure safety.

As you see, this will be a big year for technology and potentially just as big a one for business in learning to take advantage of these advances. We have put together a formalized set of research agendas covering all of these areas for more depth on our direction in 2016. Please rely on Ventana Research to help guide you in understanding the challenges and making the decisions that will serve your organization best.


Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer