Gartner recently published a new research note called ‘Market Trends: The Collision of Data Discovery and Business Intelligence Will Cause Destruction.’ (Data discovery is Gartner’s term for Business Discovery.)
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A helpful team of operatives stood by to produce reports and make changes to the old BI platform’s semantic model…

The Gartner report sets out two possible scenarios:

 

1) "Data Discovery Becomes a Feature." In this scenario, Business Discovery would become subsumed in broad BI platforms as traditional BI vendors copy or buy lookalike functionality.

 

2) "Data Discovery: The Leading New Analytic Architecture". According to the report, "In this scenario, data discovery muscles out and replaces the BI platform for a majority of analytical/diagnostic use cases."

 

In this second scenario Gartner highlights a key shift in priorities "Whereas previously, users were looking to have a portfolio of: (1) a BI platform (semantic layers providing the end-to-end spectrum of reporting, ad hoc query and OLAP functionality); (2) data discovery in a tactical fashion, adopted individually or in workgroups; and in some cases (3) statistical/predictive analysis tools; the selection criteria has shifted to look like this: (1) data discovery (now the central norm for analysis on all data sources, and where most BI budget goes); (2) production and external reporting tools for systems of record; and (3) additional statistical/predictive analysis capabilities."

 

Business Discovery is now being viewed by industry analysts as a viable mainstream alternative to traditional BI, which should prompt thinking about the investments organizations are making to meet their analytic needs. Do they want to continue to spend the majority of their BI budget on top-down reporting led approaches, or switch over to user driven discovery and diagnosis? For many QlikView customers, Business Discovery is already the "Leading New Analytic Architecture."

 

Gartner gives no indication as to which scenario it expects to prevail in the long term.

 

It’s obvious what QlikTech believes will happen.

 

What do you think?

Every year, QlikTech executes several strategic initiatives. These are cross-functional programs that are funded out of a special budget and are blessed with executive sponsorship from the highest levels of the organization. An example of a QlikTech strategic initiative is QlikMarket, which we launched last year. One of QlikTech’s strategic initiatives for 2013 is called Customer Success.

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This initiative is very exciting for me on a couple of levels:

  • Focusing on the customer first is mandatory. Based on recent research from Temkin Group, most B2B (business to business) companies – whether they are in technology, financial services, aerospace and defense, or any other industry – are still mastering the basics of customer experience.* If in your role at work you deal with people from other companies, you probably see evidence of this yourself. But we live in a world where business customers have high expectations, often set by what they’re used to getting as consumers. B2C companies know that customer experience drives business loyalty. In my personal view, the software companies that will be around in 15 years are the ones that deliver a fabulous customer experience.
  • Your success is my passion. After more than 2½ years in QlikTech’s product marketing group, I have moved into a new role at QlikTech heading up a function called Customer Advocacy. The Customer Advocacy team is focused on measurement and accountability. As you might expect for a company that makes analytics software, we are firm believers that what you can’t measure, you don’t do. So we are launching quarterly customer relationship surveys and putting processes in place to act on your input. We expect the first survey to launch in May. If you see one come your way, please take a few moments to share your open and straightforward feedback with us.

So the focus of my posts here on the Business Discovery Blog will change. Rather than writing about Business Discovery and trends in the BI market, I look forward to sharing updates with you about the Customer Success initiative. Stay tuned.

* See “Best Practices in B2B Customer Experience,” Temkin Group, April 2013 (by subscription or for purchase).

I’ve been an advocate of the consumerization of BI for a number of years. Business Discovery platforms like QlikView that embody consumer oriented characteristics are more acceptable to a broad range of people, and so see higher adoption. At core, the consumerization of technology is about empowering people to do what they need, themselves. To be able to do so any technology must possess the three key consumerization attributes of speed, usability and relevance. (For more on these see Jeff Boehm’s 2011 post on my definitional research note whilst at Gartner).

 

However, driving back from taking my children to school on Tuesday morning I heard a discussion, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the 2013 UK Design Awards, that brought home to me that there’s a fourth attribute of consumerization, as important as the others: aesthetics. For some people how something looks or feels will overcome the three other consumerization attributes, no matter how strongly they’re made available. It’s worth noting that while usability and aestethics are closely related they’re not the same. Something can be very usable, but not look pleasing. I suppose that’s the difference between satisfaction and delight.

 

During an interview on the radio show Professor Josh Silver, of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), described the Child ViSion self-adjustable glasses his organization is distributing through schools. The glasses have fluid filled lenses that are adjusted using pre-attached syringes. 

 

 

The glasses are a powerful example of the consumerization of an established technology:

• They’re fast; adjusting the lenses to correct someone’s vision takes a few minutes at most. 

• They’re usable; each glasses wearer self serves by fitting their own specs – no optometrist needed. 

• They’re relevant, directly to the individual life chances of the person that gets a pair, and broadly to the estimated 60 million young people that suffer from uncorrected myopia in the developing world. 

 

Crucially though (and unlike earlier versions) the glasses are designed with aesthetics in mind. Their shape is pleasing. They come in a variety of colors. The syringes on the arms used to alter the focal length are easily removable. Why does this matter? Because the target group for these specs is 12 to 18 years old! Image conscious teenagers the world over won’t wear something that doesn’t look good, no matter how useful it is. I’ve personal experience of this – when I was at school the UK National Health Service (NHS) provided one style of glasses frame in black for children. Nowadays these NHS specs, my 16 year old son tells me, are the height of ‘geek chic’. Back then, kids would do anything not to wear them, even if they couldn’t see the teacher’s writing on the blackboard from their desk. That’s why my short sightedness went untreated until I learnt to drive…

 

We can learn lessons from the development of CVDW’s inspirational project. 

 

It’s obvious that QlikView embodies the three attributes of speed, usability and relevance directly in how the technology works. The fourth one, the crucial aesthetic element, is largely up to the people who design the QlikView apps. It’s up to you to appeal to the consumers in your organization through the pleasing design of the apps you make available. Beautifully designed apps, styled to the users in question – a web site analytics apps for marketers should embody a different aesthetic to one for financial analysts – mean higher adoption, better perception of value delivered, greater return and more questions answered. The opposite means a less focused outcome.

 

A final thought on the Child ViSion glasses project: it’s a massively disruptive technology and extremely cost effective compared to the long established way of doing things. Sound familiar?

In the Harvard Business Review blog article by senior editor Scott Berinato, “Your Business Needs Insight, Not Just Pretty Pictures” (March 19, 2013), the author identifies an important trend in business communication. “Data comes first,” he wrote, “and it’s increasingly visual.” 

Berinato describes the two drivers behind this trend as Big Data and the democratization of tools for creating good data visualizations. I agree about Big Data. But I would describe the democratization trend a little bit differently; it’s not just about broader availability of and access to tools for creating good data visualizations – because as the title of the HBR blog post says, your business needs insight, not just pretty pictures.

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What’s even more important here is the democratization of easy-to-use, interactive apps that anyone people can use to quickly and easily ask and answer the next question that comes to mind, and the question after that, without having to create a new visualization or report . . . without having to create anything at all.

By its very nature, a data visualization can answer only a limited number of questions. In contrast, a Business Discovery app provides multiple ways for a user to interact with information. It provides many different data visualizations – charts, graphs, list boxes (the most basic object in a QlikView app), tables and much, more more.

With each click, tap, or lasso, users can always see what data is associated with their selections and – importantly – what data is not. They make a selection in one chart or graph and all the other charts and graphs in the app update instantaneously to reflect the new selection. It is this rich, straightforward interactivity, with a full data set behind it (often drawn from multiple back-end systems), that empowers users to discover insights in their data.

I recently read an interview on the Harvard Business Review blog with Amanda Cox, who is a trained statistician and the graphics editor at the New York Times. I appreciate the perspective she shared with author Scott Berinato.

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A few key takeaways:

  • Data visualization improves storytelling. “Most everyone here [at the New York Times] would agree the best way to tell some stories is through data,” Cox said. “Some think very rarely, some think most of the time, but they would concede telling the story with data is accepted.”
  • The primary data visualization skill needed: ability to ask good questions. I often hear people talk about data scientists. I find the term intimidating; it implies that to be able to create excellent data visualizations you need a PhD. I’m sure that’s true for some types of data analysis – but Cox contends that the primary skill needed to create good visualizations is the ability to ask good questions. Right on.
  • Visualizations for visualizations’ sake really don’t matter all that much. Data visualizations only matter when you can do something useful with them – when they are actionable. “There's an ‘Aha!’ moment sometimes,” Cox said. “Even on the most obvious things.”

Data analysis is becoming a bigger part of more peoples’ lives. Amanda Cox mentioned in the interview that the people she works with are journalists, biologists, urban planners, and mapmakers. If I think about my own role in customer advocacy (and formerly product marketing), I am similar—I come from a background as an industry analyst, not a statistician. No matter what our profession or background, we can all benefit from data visualization – a key aspect of data discovery software – to help us tell compelling stories, ask and answer more questions, and take the right actions.

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