During the second half of last year and what has already passed this year, the Pennsylvania-based software company QlikTech has undergone a number of important adjustments, from its company name to a series of changes allowing the company to remain as a main force driving the evolution of the business intelligence (BI) and analytics scene. Are these innovations enough to enable the in-memory software company to retain its success and acceptance within the BI community?
From QlikTech to Qlik
One big shift in the past few months was with the company’s name, from QlikTech to Qlik; though a mainly cosmetic change, it’s still worth being taken into account, as it will enable the software provider to be more easily identified and better branded, and also to reposition its entire product portfolio stack as well as all the company’s services, resources, and communities.
Having a name that is simple to identify, as the biggest umbrella of a product stack that has been growing over time, is a smart move from business, marketing, and even technical perspectives.
Qlik goes Big… Data
A second recent event within Qlik’s realm is the revelation of their strategy regarding big data, something that Qlik had been quietly working on for some time. During a very interesting call with John Callan, senior director of global product marketing, Callan took us through some of the details of Qlik’s recently revealed strategy to help users make use of the company’s big data initiatives. Two starting statements could not state more clearly the role of Qlik, and many other BI providers, in the big data space:
This certainly is true, as many new big data projects find their motivation in the data analysis and discovery phases, and it’s also true that an offering like QlikView can lower some of the technical and knowledge barriers when implementing a big data initiative.
“QlikView as the catalyst for implementing big data”
The second statement was:
According to Qlik, it grants access to a wider number of users, augmenting the potential use of big data and providing implicit benefits—access to a wider number of data sources while at the same time having access to QlikView’s in-memory computing power.
“QliKView relieves the big data bottleneck.”
True to its goal of bringing BI closer to the business user, the approach from Qlik is to enable the use of big data and offer a new connection and integration with technology provided by some of the most important big data players in the market: Cloudera, Hortonworks, MongoDB, Google BigQuery, Teradata, HP Vertica and Attivio.
What makes QlikView so interesting in the context of big data is that, being a long-time provider of an in-memory architecture for data analysis and having a unique data association model, it can not only ensure a reliable architecture for a big data analysis platform, but it can also add speed to the process. Plus, QlikView’s data association model, along with its business user orientation, can provide an ease-of-use component, often hard to accomplish within a big data initiative.
So, while QlikView provides for its users all the necessary connectors from their big data partners, it also makes an effort to maintain simplicity of use when dealing with information coming from other more common sources.
On this same topic, one key aspect of Qlik’s approach to big data is the vendor’s flexibility regarding data sourcing; Qlik provides users with three possibilities for performing data exploration and discovery from big data sources:
Having this three-pronged approach could prove to be effective for those organizations in initial phases of big data adoption, especially while undergoing initial tests, or those that already require big data services with a certain degree of functionality, but it would be interesting to see if it brings about some difficulties for users and organizations regarding finding the appropriate schema or identifying when and where to apply which approach for better performance and effectiveness.
Loading the information within Qlik’s in-memory computing engine;
Performing data discovery directly from big data sources; and
A hybrid approach, which includes the possibility to combine both previous models, configuring which data should be in-memory and which should be based on direct discovery.
New “Natural” Analytics
Recently, a blog written by Donald Farmer, VP of product management at Qlik, established what Qlik has been up to for some time now: working towards bringing a new generation of analytics to the market. In this sense, two things seem to be particularly interesting.
First, Qlik’s continuous work towards changing and evolving analytics from its traditional role and state and delivering new ways analysis can be performed, thus improving associations and correlations to provide extensive context. As Farmer states:
Second, regarding providing users with the necessary abilities to, beyond predict, actually anticipate and help discover:
Consider how we understand customers and clients. What patterns do we see? What do they buy? How are they connected or categorized? Similarly every metric tracking our execution makes a basic comparison.
These artifacts may be carefully prepared and designed to focus on what analysts used to call an "information sweet spot"—the most valuable data for the enterprise, validated, clarified, and presented without ambiguity to support a specific range of decisions.
Particularly interesting is how Farmer addresses a core aspect of the decision-making process, which is to anticipate, especially in our modern business world which operates increasingly in real-time, ways to get away from traditional operations in a linear sequence with long time latencies.
It's not enough to know our quarter's sales numbers. We must compare them to the past, to our plans, and to competitors. Knowing these things, we ask what everyone in business wants to know: What can we anticipate? What does the future hold?
Of course, little can be said here about Qlik’s future vision, but we can get a glimpse—Qlik has built a prototype showing its new natural analytics approach and much more in QlikView > next, Qlik’s own vision of the future of BI.
This is a vision in which analysis is carried following five basic themes, to accomplish, according to Qlik, two main objectives: 1) an understanding of what people need, and 2) an understanding of who those people are.
These five themes are:
Gorgeous and genius—a user interface that is intuitive and natural to use, but aiming to be productive, improving the user’s visual and analysis experience.
Mobility and agility—having access to the Qlik business discovery platform from any device and with seamless user experience.
Compulsive collaboration—providing users with more than one way to collaborate, analyze, and solve problems as a team by providing what Qlik call a “new point of access”.
The premier platform—Qlik’s vision for providing users with improved ways to provide new apps quickly and easily.
Enabling the new enterprise—Qlik aims to provide IT infrastructure with the necessary resources to offer true self-service for their users while easing the process of scaling and reconfiguring QlikView’s infrastructures to adapt to new requirements.
Qlik, Serving Modern BI with a Look Into the Future
It would be hard not to consider Qlik from its inception, as an in-memory computing pioneer in the business space, and Qlik is keeping that pioneer status two decades later, innovative both in backend and forefront design, and able to wear more than one hat in the business intelligence space. An end-to-end platform, from storage to analysis and visualization, Qlik is both adapting to the increasingly fast-paced current evolution of BI and looking into the future to maintain and gain markets in this disputed space.
However, to maintain its place in the industry it will be crucial for Qlik to maintain the pace on the many fronts where QlikView, its flagship product, is front-and-center: business-ready for those small to medium-sized customers, as well as powerful, scalable, and governable for large organizations. These days Qlik is surrounded by other innovation sharks within the BI ocean, so remaining unique, original, and predominant will prove to be increasingly difficult for Qlik and the rest of the players in the space. As with nature, let those more capable of fulfilling their customer’s need survive and prosper.
It comes as no surprise that Qlik is already looking forward to anticipating the next step in the evolution of BI and analytics. Qlik has a brand that stands for innovation, and certainly, Qlik is working to make QliView newer, better, and bigger. It will be really interesting to see how the company’s innovative vision will play out, and if it will gain the same or more traction as Qlik’s previous innovations in the market.
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