Natural Analytics Transforming QlikView

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 driveincreasingly 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_prioritiesOurbenchmark 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.


Ventana Research

IBM Social Business Bets on Key Application and Technologies

I recently attended an IBM event about its new social business products and services. I was skeptical at first: I have seen another vendor’s “social enterprise” come and go, and although companies need to address customer use of social media, I don’t think “social” is the path businesses should take; it is more to do with collaboration. However, I quickly learned that IBM sees things rather differently. Its starting point is the need for companies to make their workforces smarter – something I agree with. Employees are the heart of a company; for example, according to my research into customer service and the agent desktop, not only do happy, empowered employees twice as often deliver superior customer experiences, but they also meet customer-related targets more often, and deliver or retain more satisfied and more loyal customers who spend more.

IBM joins up the two sides of the equation – a smarter workforce and superior customer experiences – with its platform for social business. Companies can access it through the IBM SmartCloud, a private cloud, on-premises or using a hybrid model. IBM sees SmartCloud for social business as a way to connect business users more efficiently and effectively. It supports business-grade secure messaging in the cloud (mail, calendar and contacts); mobile access to systems and information; file sharing; chat and project management; integration with traditional social media sites; online meetings; the ability to produce, edit, share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations; and cloud-based mail archiving.

The platform itself consists of four components: social networking, social analytics, social content and social integration. Despite the heavy use of “social,” these components are not about what most of us think of as social media, and they certainly aren’t just about using traditional social media sites to network and analyzing posts on Twitter and Facebook. IBM uses the term in a much wider context, more closely aligned with sharing information, collaboration among employees, managing content to support customer-related activities and analyzing customer-related data (especially about customer interactions). Some of the components in the platform include: IBM Connections, IBM Notes and IBM Domino (Special Edition), IBM Sametime, IBM WebSphere Portal and IBM Web Content Manager.

These components underpin IBM’s Smarter Workforce initiatives and connect them to the exceptional customer experience. Smarter Workforce is made up of two main components: the IBM Employee Experience Suite and talent management applications from IBM Kenexa; the first takes care of strategic talent management and the second focuses on the operational side. Kenexa, which was acquired by IBM early this year, makes products that support end-to-end workforce management, including recruitment, assessment, onboarding, learning, performance management, compensation and employee surveying. The IBM Employee Experience Suite adds the social component to talent management, once more from a collaborative rather than a pure social media perspective. It supports social sourcing of talent, onboarding, learning, performance recognition and performance analytics, and includes mobile and video-based capabilities.

The exceptional customer experience concept involves supporting new vr_inin_types_of_interactions_in_contact_centercapabilities that take into account that customers now want to interact with companies through the channel of their choice and at the time of their choosing, and they expect responses to be personalized, in context and consistent across touch points. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows this is no easy task, as companies now must support an average of seven channels of communication, and almost every business unit except IT now interacts with customers. IBM supports these requirements with its Customer Experience Suite, which includes a range of capabilities focusing on understanding and interacting with the digital customer through mobile and social channels. It enables companies to create rich content, personalize responses, integrate content and applications, and ensure information is consistent across channels. The suite supports the mobile consumer and enables companies to build applications on any smart device and utilize capabilities such as location, connecting with business applications and raising notifications such as offers available near the user’s location. A new addition to the suite is available through IBM’s acquisition of Tealeaf, whereby companies can collect data on website and mobile usage and analyze it to improve the customer’s Web and mobile experiences.

At the event, and indeed at IBM BusinessConnect 2013, there were four constant themes: mobile, data, social and cloud. IBM sees these areas – especially mobile – as the drivers behind companies innovating in the ways they do business going forward. The IBM social business platform brings together several existing products as well as products it has acquired and makes them all more social and mobile. Ventana Research agrees on the importance of the four themes and adds analytics and collaboration to them as key technology trends. My research shows that companies need to provide superior customer service and experiences to increasingly digital and mobile consumers. I am not convinced that the best way to describe this is as social business. I see it more as collaborative business, as companies have to find ways to share data and information, have a better, more complete view of employee performance and customers, connect disconnected processes, and make information-driven decisions. Call it what you want, companies seeking to achieve these objectives should evaluate how this new offering from IBM can help with their efforts.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director