I joined QlikTech seven years ago last year. No, that is not a typo. You see, at QlikTech we measure our time in dog years. "Move Fast" is one of our key cultural building blocks and we work and innovate at the speed of thought. (See more about our core values here on our website.) I thought I had enough Kool Aid during the good old days of the boom times of the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, when I joined QlikTech, I found myself drinking Kool Aid from many fire hoses at the same time. And, it was green in color.

 

 

When I joined QlikTech in July 2011, I quickly realized that I had joined the best BI company in the world that no one had heard of! However, numbers do not lie:  today we are over 1,100 employees, ably supported by an even bigger number of partners. You can go to almost any part of the world and will come across some QlikView connection. At our Qonnections partner summit in Miami in April, we had representatives from all over the world including not-so-well-known countries like Burkina Fasso! We have now over 25,000 customers and over 81,000 members on the QlikCommunity. At any given time, avid QlikCommunity members, spread across the globe, are actively creating content.

After I joined QlikTech, I would proudly tell my friends about our company and our product, QlikView. They would respond by saying, ”QlikWho?” Other times, they would completely mangle the name and pronounce it in various ways, most commonly, “Que Lick.” (Gasp!)

One thing that we are crystal clear about is the importance of the culture that makes QlikTech hum. Every new employee goes to Lund, Sweden where it all started, for a week of QlikAcademy. We are an innovative global company with a Swedish soul.  We do not believe in honoring the select few sales people by sending them to expensive “quota clubs” but in celebrating success as a whole.

As you can guess, teamwork is yet another one of our core cultural values. This year, the whole company packed up and relocated itself for a week in Cancun to collaborate and plan for our continued growth. It comes as a shock to many outsiders to find out that we even have our own professional rock band, “Qlark.” The band, based in Lund, travels to wherever in the world we are having corporate summits or partner events.

I have had the honor to represent QlikTech at a number of prestigious industry events this year such as Gartner, TDWI, and Computer World. One word that describes us at these events is “Qliksanity.” We have such a fun and passionate cadre of customers that many times they have interrupted my demos to wax poetic about how QlikView has changed the face of BI in their companies.

The BI industry is once again the sexiest place to be. At QlikTech we have built and established our own market category, which we call "Business Discovery" and Gartner calls "Data Discovery". However, QlikView is more than a platform for Business Discovery. It is a platform for enterprises to discover business discoverers! Stay tuned – I’ll be writing more about this in future posts.

People often ask me how we use QlikView internally here at QlikTech. The answer is that we use it to run nearly all aspects of our business – from something simple like managing the topic pipeline and publication calendar for the QlikView blogs to more complex processes like customer support.

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In fact, during the past 18 months we completely revamped our customer support process using QlikView. I recently spoke with QlikTech’s VP of global support, Xavier Oleron, to find out more. When Xavier joined the company in early 2011 he immediately began to use QlikView to implement performance management systems with an emphasis on measuring customer satisfaction.

“Our support organization underwent a mindset shift during this past year and a half,” Xavier said. “We shifted our focus from managing the volume of support tickets to focusing on customer success. We now use the KPIs we’ve created to help make our customers successful.”

Xavier’s team created a performance dashboard in QlikView that was aligned with his organization’s objectives for delivering the best customer service. The team uses a methodology closely aligned with the SCP (Service Capability & Performance) methodology that is in place at many large technology companies. After every closed support ticket we send the customer a survey asking them to grade us on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest. We constantly strive to increase the percentage of customers that score us in the Top 2 (a 9 or 10 out of a max score of 10)). This focus enables us to achieve a high level of excellence.

And it’s working. This screen shot was taken directly from the support metrics dashboard Xavier’s team created in QlikView. Since we put our new processes in place in early 2011 and began to manage them using QlikView, we’ve seen customers’ satisfaction scores rise, most specifically with regard to the percentage of customers that are extremely satisfied with support (Top 2).

With QlikView, Xavier’s team can quickly and easily gain deep insights into customer satisfaction. Team leaders and members can assess customer satisfaction any way they want to, such as by industry vertical, partners vs. customers, region, and level of support purchased. They can break satisfaction down by product (e.g., QlikView Desktop, QlikView Server, QlikView Publisher), the overall support experience, or the individual support engineer.

With the ability to explore the data and identify patterns and outliers, Xavier’s team can identify areas where they need to focus additional resources to drive improvements. “QlikView helps us understand the types of issues our customers have. With it we can explore the data to come up with new ways to address these issues.” The support team also uses QlikView to monitor its service level compliance. The team projects QlikView dashboards on large screens in all of our support offices around the world. Every issue coming in is tracked against its severity level and response time. With this approach, our support organization has been able to speed up our response time and ensure service level compliance.

“When I joined QlikTech and got to know QlikView,” Xavier said, “I was amazed. I was never able to gather this kind of intelligence and conduct this kind of analysis before QlikView. And my organization was able to build this dashboard ourselves because QlikView is so easy to use. Our performance dashboards were built by us, for us. We use our own product to run our business, which is incredibly unique and powerful.”

People ask all the time what the difference is between Business Discovery and business intelligence. Donald Farmer, QlikTech’s VP of Product Management, recorded some of his thoughts about this in a video, and I thought I’d pull out some of his key points here.

With Business Discovery, it’s not just about finding new answers; it’s about finding new questions . . . new hypotheses. Think about a typical traditional business intelligence report that shows your top 10 customers, for example. This is a common type of dashboard. You may discover something interesting in the report, such as, “This American bank isn’t as big a customer as I thought – it’s number 12. But this French grocery retailer is on the top 10 list, which I hadn’t realized.” This may be something new you discover, but it’s not unique. You’re just finding a new answer to an old question.

One of the first QlikView customers Donald spoke to when he joined QlikTech was a doctor who built a dashboard. The doctor built the dashboard himself – not an administrator or analyst. With the dashboard, the doctor could analyze operations and procedures and the drugs he was using with particular procedures. With QlikView he could see the gray area – the drugs he was NOT prescribing. He discovered that there were cheap, good drugs available that he had not been using. This is a discovery.

The way Donald describes it in this video, to do Business Discovery you need two things:

  1. Technology for making discoveries. QlikView is well understood by QlikView customers but is quite unique in the business intelligence world. QlikView enables users to browse through the data. We often talk about the green, white, and gray colors of QlikView. These are very important. Data highlighted in green represents the user’s selections. Data highlighted in white is associated with the green selections. And data highlighted in gray is NOT associated with the selections. Another aspect of this is search. With QlikView, users can search directly or indirectly – for example, searching for “legal” in the “employee name” field to quickly find all the employees that have the term “legal” associated with them. (For more info, see the white paper “What Makes QlikView Unique.”)
  2. Collaboration capabilities. Most business intelligence tools offer users the ability to publish something (e.g., an annotation). But publishing alone is not collaboration. People work together collaboratively in a variety of ways, and Business Discovery software must support all of these ways. QlikView has a capability called shared sessions. If I make a discovery in a QlikView app, I can invite you to join me in the app straightaway. I can send you an app link (a URL) and even without a QlikView license, you can join me in the app. You can click around in the app with me, and together we can advance our discoveries. Also, in QlikView, users can make notes and comments that result in threaded discussions. As part of these threads, users can post snapshots which preserve the state the app was in when the user had an observation. When another user clicks on the snapshot, the app goes to the tab the snapshot creator was looking at, with that user's selections highlighted in green. (For more info, see the white paper, “Social Business Discovery: Optimizing Decision Making.”)

QlikView is a Business Discovery platform that enables all kinds of people throughout an organization to make discoveries in the data, on their own and in teams and groups. It’s not just for business analysts or data scientists; it truly is for everyone. Take a look at Donald's video and hear his perspective in his own words.

Or maybe not. But what do you think of when you hear the term Big Data? Volume, right? Massive, huge, enormous quantities of digital stuff. But it’s not just the volume that makes Big Data difficult to manage and analyze – it’s also the variety and velocity.

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I talked about this recently with Rik Tamm-Daniels, VP of Technology at Attivio. Attivio is a QlikTech partner that provides a unified information access platform called the Active Intelligence Engine (AIE). With Attivio AIE, IT professionals can assemble data of any type – structured, unstructured, or semi-structured – into a central universal index, where it is processed and structure is applied.

A financial services organization might bring together news, email, research reports, and portfolio performance data so portfolio managers can make better decisions about buying and selling stocks. A pharmaceutical company might bring together patent filings, articles from medical journals, and results of clinical trials to help investment teams decide whether to move into a new area of research.

By extracting derived text analysis metadata (e.g., key phrases, topics, sentiment scores, entities, classifications, etc.) from Attivio AIE and bringing it together in QlikView’s in-memory data model with data sourced from other enterprise or external systems, IT pros can deliver to business users previously unheard-of opportunities to explore and discover.

Rik Tamm-Daniels said, “Business users don’t care whether data is ‘structured,’ ‘unstructured,’ or ‘semi-structured,’ they just want their questions answered and their problem solved. It’s a lot of fun to make things that had been thought impossible come true for our customers.”

With QlikView as the analytic front end to the Attivio Big Data back end, users can explore data, pursuing their own path to insight. On their own or in teams and groups they can ask and answer whatever streams of questions occur to them -- they don't have to go back to IT for a new report or a new query every time they want to pursue a new line of questioning.

Imagine that you are able to  associate sentiment analysis on product review sites with customer complaints and sales figures. You identify a pattern that will undoubtedly affect future warranty claims. You fire up a QlikView shared session and invite your boss into the app. Both of you can click around in the app and he is able to validate your findings right then and there. Your boss immediately sets up a call with the executive leadership to get the ball rolling on changes needed to product and service to prevent a flood of warranty claims. You are now a rock star.

Blog post updated July 29, 2013.

 

I’ll never forget the Spanish words for yellow light bulb: bombillo amarillo. On the first day of his Spanish class at Harvard University Extension School, my favorite professor of all time, Douglas Morgenstern, brought in a big bag of items, dumped them out on the table, and taught us the names of things.

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Professor Morgenstern structured his classes around the Destinos educational television program. Destinos took on the format of a telenovela (Spanish soap opera). There was romance and betrayal and all the other things that make up a good story. After a few semesters of Spanish classes I was able to travel around Mexico, soaking up the culture and communicating with people in even the most remote of regions

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to teach, learn, and persuade. As social creatures, we love telling stories and sharing in a good laugh with others. It doesn’t matter how dry or boring or mundane a subject inherently is, if someone can tell a good story about it, others will listen and enjoy it.

The same is true with data. Numbers may look dreary in black and white rows and columns. But if you see numbers represented in colorful, visual ways and can interact with the images to find meaning – and, even further, if someone tells you a good story about the numbers, numbers can become the most interesting thing in the world.

I recently spoke about this with Mikael Jern, professor at Linkoping University in Sweden and director at NComVA AB Sweden.* Prior to its acquisition by QlikTech, NComVA was a QlikTech partner that specialized in data visualization storytelling. The company was focused on turning large statistical, scientific, and business data sets into shared knowledge with interactive data visualization, time animation, and storytelling.

Mikael Jern described the process of creating data stories using NComVA Statistics eXplorer – none of which requires programming skills. (See figure below.) The first step is data gathering. The person who is visually exploring and analyzing the data discovers something of interest. He then applies a visual snapshot with associate textual information to make the discovery and easier to understand. He creates a story using a set of tools for editing the story and creating snapshots. Once the story is completed, the storyteller can publish it on the web using Flash or HTML5 so others can visually interact and gain knowledge about the data.

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I asked Mikael Jern what the difference is between visual data storytelling and simply talking from a PowerPoint slide containing bar and pie charts. He focused on the importance of the communicator being able to use interactive visualization and save snapshots showing data in certain states, or certain subsets of data, and provide an accompanying written or verbal narrative. The storyteller must be able to save all of these bits and pieces into a cohesive whole so others can “replay” them to read / hear the story in an interactive way. This is an important point because for most forms of storytelling, the author / creator isn’t in the same place at the same time as those who are reading or hearing the story.

Interested in data storytelling? See these related Business Discovery Blog posts:

• “Enchanting with Data,” May 30, 2012

• “Data Brings Joy to People,” May 24, 2012

• “Storytelling with Data to Rally Support for Your Position,” March 5, 2012

• “Storytelling with Data Helps Us Internalize Meaning,” July 21, 2011

• “Tell Me a Story,” May 25, 2011

• “QlikView and the Power of Storytelling,” March 8, 2011

 

* Update July 29, 2013: On May 6, 2013 QlikTech announced that we acquired NcomVA. We are in the process of integrating NcomVA's technology into QlikView.Next.

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