Business Discovery Blog

5 Posts authored by: Jeffrey Boehm

Since joining QlikTech last year, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the passion and excitement QlikView users have for the product. I wrote about this in my first blog post here, and it underlies a core theme that we are seeing in the market: the consumerization of business intelligence stemming from a growing population of empowered consumers within the enterprise.

 

EmpoweredConsumer.png

Earlier this month James Richardson from Gartner published an excellent piece on this topic: The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption (available here for Gartner subscribers). Reiterating many of the comments I have made in previous posts (here and here), James states that because traditional BI tools are too complex, too rigid and too slow, well below 30% of the potential BI users actually use the technology today.

 

James then lays out three key recommendations for organizations (and BI vendors), drawing from new technologies and models found in the consumer space:

 

  • Usability:  As James points out, consumers today just pick up new technology and use it. They don’t read a user manual for Facebook or Google, and they have come to expect that ease of use from their enterprise software. In fact, according to Gartner “ease of use for end users” is now the most important selection criterion when choosing BI tools. At QlikTech ease of use for business users means the freedom to interact with the data the way your mind works: search, drill anywhere and navigate across data sets. Don’t be constrained by rigid hierarchies and predefined selection options.

 

  • Performance: Google has taught us to expect answers to all our questions in under a second. If it takes more time than that we assume something has gone wrong and we stop and rerun the search. If users are to truly adopt BI, they must get that same performance when querying data. James identifies in-memory processing as a key technology here, but his main point is that quicker is better: by making BI quick, users will ask more questions and test more hypotheses before making a decision.

 

  • Relevance: At a recent Gartner conference, one of the keynote speakers quipped that traditional BI tools have become sophisticated ETL tools for business users: they use them to pull data out of the data warehouse into Excel where they do their real analysis. Part of this is due to the usability issues outlined above, but part of this is because the users have other data they want to combine with the standard corporate data to get a complete picture. As James points out, if the BI platform omits critical information, users won’t use or trust it. Thus, BI platforms need to support data mashups, allowing business users to combine their own data sources without relying on formal data integration.

 

I am certainly seeing the consumerization of BI software in the QlikView customer base and I think James has made some great points about what is necessary to make this happen. What do you think? What will it take for BI to become a daily productivity tool for your business users?

Since joining QlikTech last year, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the passion and excitement QlikView users have for the product. I wrote about this in my first blog post here, and it underlies a core theme that we are seeing in the market: the consumerization of business intelligence.

Earlier this month James Richardson from Gartner published an excellent piece on this topic: The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption (available here for Gartner subscribers). Reiterating many of the comments I have made in previous posts (here and here), James states that because traditional BI tools are too complex, too rigid and too slow, well below 30% of the potential BI users actually use the technology today.

James then lays out three key recommendations for organizations (and BI vendors), drawing from new technologies and models found in the consumer space:

·         Usability:  As James points out, consumers today just pick up new technology and use it. They don’t read a user manual for Facebook or Google, and they have come to expect that ease of use from their enterprise software. In fact, according to Gartner “ease of use for end users” is now the most important selection criterion when choosing BI tools. At QlikTech ease of use for business users means the freedom to interact with the data the way your mind works: search, drill anywhere and navigate across data sets. Don’t be constrained by rigid hierarchies and predefined selection options.

 

·         Performance: Google has taught us to expect answers to all our questions in under a second. If it takes more time than that we assume something has gone wrong and we stop and rerun the search. If users are to truly adopt BI, they must get that same performance when querying data. James identifies in-memory processing as a key technology here, but his main point is that quicker is better: by making BI quick, users will ask more questions and test more hypotheses before making a decision.

 

·         Relevance: At a recent Gartner conference, one of the keynote speakers quipped that traditional BI tools have become sophisticated ETL tools for business users: they use them to pull data out of the data warehouse into Excel where they do their real analysis. Part of this is due to the usability issues outlined above, but part of this is because the users have other data they want to combine with the standard corporate data to get a complete picture. As James points out, if the BI platform omits critical information, users won’t use or trust it. Thus, BI platforms need to support data mashups, allowing business users to combine their own data sources without relying on formal data integration.

 

I am certainly seeing the consumerization of BI software in the QlikView customer base and I think James has made some great points about what is necessary to make this happen. What do you think? What will it take for BI to become a daily productivity tool for your business users?

Since joining QlikTech last year, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the passion and excitement QlikView users have for the product. I wrote about this in my first blog post here, and it underlies a core theme that we are seeing in the market: the consumerization of business intelligence.

Earlier this month James Richardson from Gartner published an excellent piece on this topic: The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption (available here for Gartner subscribers). Reiterating many of the comments I have made in previous posts (here and here), James states that because traditional BI tools are too complex, too rigid and too slow, well below 30% of the potential BI users actually use the technology today.

James then lays out three key recommendations for organizations (and BI vendors), drawing from new technologies and models found in the consumer space:

·         Usability:  As James points out, consumers today just pick up new technology and use it. They don’t read a user manual for Facebook or Google, and they have come to expect that ease of use from their enterprise software. In fact, according to Gartner “ease of use for end users” is now the most important selection criterion when choosing BI tools. At QlikTech ease of use for business users means the freedom to interact with the data the way your mind works: search, drill anywhere and navigate across data sets. Don’t be constrained by rigid hierarchies and predefined selection options.

 

·         Performance: Google has taught us to expect answers to all our questions in under a second. If it takes more time than that we assume something has gone wrong and we stop and rerun the search. If users are to truly adopt BI, they must get that same performance when querying data. James identifies in-memory processing as a key technology here, but his main point is that quicker is better: by making BI quick, users will ask more questions and test more hypotheses before making a decision.

 

·         Relevance: At a recent Gartner conference, one of the keynote speakers quipped that traditional BI tools have become sophisticated ETL tools for business users: they use them to pull data out of the data warehouse into Excel where they do their real analysis. Part of this is due to the usability issues outlined above, but part of this is because the users have other data they want to combine with the standard corporate data to get a complete picture. As James points out, if the BI platform omits critical information, users won’t use or trust it. Thus, BI platforms need to support data mashups, allowing business users to combine their own data sources without relying on formal data integration.

 

I am certainly seeing the consumerization of BI software in the QlikView customer base and I think James has made some great points about what is necessary to make this happen. What do you think? What will it take for BI to become a daily productivity tool for your business users?

Since joining QlikTech last year, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the passion and excitement QlikView users have for the product. I wrote about this in my first blog post here, and it underlies a core theme that we are seeing in the market: the consumerization of business intelligence.

Earlier this month James Richardson from Gartner published an excellent piece on this topic: The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption (available here for Gartner subscribers). Reiterating many of the comments I have made in previous posts (here and here), James states that because traditional BI tools are too complex, too rigid and too slow, well below 30% of the potential BI users actually use the technology today.

James then lays out three key recommendations for organizations (and BI vendors), drawing from new technologies and models found in the consumer space:

·         Usability:  As James points out, consumers today just pick up new technology and use it. They don’t read a user manual for Facebook or Google, and they have come to expect that ease of use from their enterprise software. In fact, according to Gartner “ease of use for end users” is now the most important selection criterion when choosing BI tools. At QlikTech ease of use for business users means the freedom to interact with the data the way your mind works: search, drill anywhere and navigate across data sets. Don’t be constrained by rigid hierarchies and predefined selection options.

 

·         Performance: Google has taught us to expect answers to all our questions in under a second. If it takes more time than that we assume something has gone wrong and we stop and rerun the search. If users are to truly adopt BI, they must get that same performance when querying data. James identifies in-memory processing as a key technology here, but his main point is that quicker is better: by making BI quick, users will ask more questions and test more hypotheses before making a decision.

 

·         Relevance: At a recent Gartner conference, one of the keynote speakers quipped that traditional BI tools have become sophisticated ETL tools for business users: they use them to pull data out of the data warehouse into Excel where they do their real analysis. Part of this is due to the usability issues outlined above, but part of this is because the users have other data they want to combine with the standard corporate data to get a complete picture. As James points out, if the BI platform omits critical information, users won’t use or trust it. Thus, BI platforms need to support data mashups, allowing business users to combine their own data sources without relying on formal data integration.

 

I am certainly seeing the consumerization of BI software in the QlikView customer base and I think James has made some great points about what is necessary to make this happen. What do you think? What will it take for BI to become a daily productivity tool for your business users?

One of the hottest buzzwords in business intelligence these days is mobile BI. Nearly every analyst firm is publishing a report on mobile BI, most BI vendors are announcing capabilities or partnerships in the mobile arena, and the 2011 prediction reports list mobile as a key trend. At the recent NRF show mobile was a key topic. But lost in much of this hyperbole is the fact that mobile isn't just another delivery platform for BI - it is a new world.

The discussion about mobile BI today seems to be centered on what platforms are supported, the debate over native vs. browser-based approaches, and the advantages of tablet displays vs. smart phones. While those are important technical considerations, there is a much bigger question and opportunity that is being glossed over: why do I need mobile BI?

To look at many of the mobile BI demos out there you might guess it is simply to take my sales performance application and view it on my tablet or smart phone. In other words, do the same thing on my mobile device as I do at my desk. There is certainly a use case for that, but I believe the real future of mobile BI comes in applications that have not been possible until now.

In a recent blog post, Forrester's Ted Schadler outlines three ways mobile devices will enter the workforce:

  • Displace - perform a task on a mobile device instead of a laptop in some situations.
  • Replace - start using a mobile device to improve a business activity, often replacing paper-based approaches
  • New place - identifying opportunities to do things with mobile devices that simply weren't possible heretofore.

While displacement and replacement activities are interesting, and are the low-hanging fruit of moving to mobile, "new place" opportunities will be the real fuel for mobile BI - and for the future of BI. Ted identifies some non-BI "new place" examples in his blog - what are the equivalents in BI? How about:

  • A retail store manager doing a floor walkthrough and reviewing promotional plans discovers that inventory for a key product is low. She is able to immediately check stock at neighboring stores and replenish.
  • A pharmaceutical rep sharing drug study information with a physician in the hospital cafeteria has the freedom to look at the information in new ways and answer the physician's unique questions (and follow-on questions) on topics such as prescription rates among key demographic groups.
  • A service technician checks availability of specialized parts and personnel for a suggested follow-up visit, allowing him to confirm with the client and close the appointment before leaving the site.

It is easy to simply port existing BI ideas, applications and demos to mobile devices - but I think the real opportunity is much greater. Where do you see mobile BI going?

As I'm re-immersing myself in the BI market after a few years in another technology space, I've had the opportunity to meet with several industry analysts to get their perspective on the current state of the market. The overall consensus that I've been hearing is that while the market is healthy and growing, it has not yet hit its true potential or original promise. Each analyst had their own take on the symptoms - and the solutions - but a few common themes emerged.

  • BI is too complex. The pendulum has swung way too far towards packing more and more features into a single monolithic application, leaving most users very confused, and leaving IT organizations scrambling trying to manage these behemoth stacks. Given the amount of BI shelfware out there, vendors need to rethink their strategies and focus more on enabling intuitive task or goal-centric BI apps vs. trying to cover all possible needs in one application. (See related post here.)
  • You can't conceive all requirements at the outset. Another commonly used term for BI is decision support - meaning a system that supports decision making. This implies answering questions I don't know the answers to today. Which in turn means I'm not 100% sure where the answer lies or how I will arrive at it. (See related blog posts here and here.) By requiring a heavy metadata layer to define all possible dimensions and measures, traditional BI systems are effectively pre-determining what questions the business users can answer. This imposes significant limitations on real-world decision making where you don't know what questions you want to answer until you start looking at the data. The BI app must be flexible enough to allow business users to conceive new questions and requirements as they are using it.
  • You need to start with the decision, not the data. When creating BI applications you need to be decision-centric, not data-centric. Too many BI deployments are focused on pulling together as much data as possible and shoving it into the mother of all BI applications. Instead, BI applications should be geared around specific decisions or needs and bring together just the data needed to support that area.

Here at QlikTech the mantra is "Simplifying Decisions for Everyone." We are clearly focused on the points above, making BI easier to use, more flexible, and focused on meeting business user needs. What else would you add? Where do you think we, or the market, need to go to ensure BI meets its full potential?

It's the Users, Stupid!

Posted by Jeffrey Boehm Nov 19, 2010

A few things crossed my desk recently that made me pause and question whether the BI sell-side community gets it yet. From blog posts to marketing materials to analyst reports, everyone seems to agree that "traditional BI" isn't meeting the need. But lost in much of this hyperbole is the most important thing that needs to change. BI needs to be about the users. For too long business intelligence has been viewed as a data problem, an IT problem, a corporate governance problem. Yes, there are real issues to tackle there. But the lack of focus on the user is what has kept BI back, and this is where the true next generation solutions will excel.

In a recent post on TDWI the author correctly points out the limits the data-centricity of the current generation of BI tools and why that needs to change. But the author then goes on to say that the next generation should be "network-centric." There are indeed changes in computing infrastructure that will shift how vendors and companies deploy all flavors of enterprise applications. But end users don't care how or where a BI application is deployed - they care about whether it meets their needs in terms of flexibility, performance, usability, etc.

A recent product launch invitation from a "traditional BI" vendor highlighted IT as a primary audience for the event. Were business users encouraged to attend? Not really - unless you are a "finance manager" or a self-proclaimed "business analyst." Average business people - the people out on the front lines making decisions every day - are not targeted because this vendor, and most other traditional BI vendors, still view IT and power users as their target constituency. This is further encouraged by the continual stream of BI grading reports that focus on deep infrastructure stacks and IT requirements, and not user issues around flexibility, time to decision, usability, cost of ownership, etc.

I'm not suggesting that infrastructure issues aren't important, nor should we ignore IT and power users. Not at all. Instead I'm suggesting that the next generation of BI needs to be user-centric. They need to be based around "build to think" rather than "think to build." End users get this and they are already voting for user-centric solutions with their feet and budgets. Progressive IT leaders are also moving in this direction, applying the adage of providing the tools and enabling users to fish, rather than trying to fish for them. Vendors, analysts and pundits needs to recognize this shift and get on board - or risk becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

This shift is happening in other markets: CRM (Salesforce.com), video conferencing (Skype), and mobile devices (Apple iPhone). Those tools meet the back-end requirements, but are built with the user as a top priority. And now it is happening in BI. Are you leading this charge, or stuck in "traditional BI" thinking?

Seeing Is Believing

Posted by Jeffrey Boehm Nov 15, 2010

I joined QlikTech about a month ago and had heard a lot about the company, the product, the culture, and the customer base prior to signing on. After nearly twenty years marketing software solutions in business intelligence, data warehousing and search, I was certainly intrigued by what I kept hearing as the "QlikView way." I've now had the opportunity to experience this first hand and am very excited by what I'm seeing:


The user community is passionate. From the thriving QlikCommunity to the excitement I saw among the users at Q-Days in Atlanta or the Boston Tech Days, I have never seen end users so passionate about enterprise software. QlikTech is focused on bringing BI to end users - and from what I've seen so far, the end users are reacting more like Apple users than traditional enterprise software users.

 

QlikView is truly reaching new audiences. I had heard that QlikView was more business-user centric than any other BI product, but I've been amazed to hear where it is being used. Mike Thompson from Children's Hospital of Atlanta told the Q-Days audience that an emergency room physician built a QlikView app to analyze patient visit data. I'm not aware of too many other enterprise platforms where physicians are "developing" new applications!

 

QlikView is forging a tighter relationship between IT and Line of Business. While QlikView is all about empowering line of business (LOB) users to more rapidly perform their own analyses, QlikView is also driving a better, more strategic dialog with IT. About half the audiences at the recent events were IT, and each customer presenter talked about how LOB and IT are working together: IT ensuring the right data is getting into the application in a secure, reliable way, and LOB deriving tremendous business value through new insights into their business areas.

 

Business insights in days, not years. Even before joining QlikView I downloaded the software and found it incredibly easy to create my first QlikView application. In less than a week I was more proficient in QlikView than I was after months of ramping up at previous companies. And I heard the same from customers: Tim Moore from Colonial Life relayed how he built his first QlikView app over a lunch break in the QlikView training. Colonial Life has now deployed QlikView apps to thousands of employees, agents and brokers.

 

I'm only a month in to my QlikTech journey, but I'm already hooked. If you are hooked also, tell me why. In my global product marketing role, I plan on engaging with our vibrant community and would love to hear about your experiences, what you think makes QlikView stand out, and how we can do a better job sharing that message with the world.

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