John Sands

Lost in Translation

Posted by John Sands Jan 14, 2014

Happy New Year everyone and as storms smash against my window and clouds just can’t seem to stop dumping water on my head I start thinking of travel and holidays (picture below shows how stormy it really is close to where I live).

BcLBvWXIQAAh1ar.jpg large.jpg

I live on the South Coast of England and I am lucky enough to be able to make frequent visits to Brittany in France with my wife. When we first started visiting our French was very basic. Whenever we wanted to order a meal we had to point at pictures and hope it was what we thought it was! This was ok to start with, the  pictures made our life easier when ordering a meal, but what if we wanted to find out more? Then it became clear that a nice picture had its limitations. So we went to lessons and learnt how to communicate in French. It’s not easy to learn a new language, but it’s very satisfying.  At last we can get behind the lovely picture of Croque Gagnet, and find out that it’s a toasted sandwich with Gouda Cheese and Andouille sausage!


So why the culinary tale of France? QlikView uses a scripting language to give access to some of the more powerful aspects in the platform. Some people feel that a scripting language is complicated and forms a barrier to the adoption of QlikView. “Au Contraire” I cry It is the power of the QlikView scripting language that leads us to more discoveries within our data. So let’s do some very simple scripting. I have a spreadsheet and it contains five pieces of information (fields), here is the script that QlikView uses to load that information.


LOAD Customer,
[C:\Data\prescriber data.xls]
biff, embedded labels, table is Sheet1$);

So to translate, we are asking QlikView to find Customer, Zip, City, Address and Customer ID in the prescriber data spreadsheet. It’s just a matter of getting over that initial trepidation when learning something new.

  I don’t expect everyone to be expert writers of QlikView script, the same as I am not an expert of the French language, in fact “je ne suis pas très bon”. So to get started on that journey here is how we help you out, we have free training and a free download of QlikView so what could be simpler! Start the New Year by learning a new language and explore the power behind the pictures.

Nope, this isn’t a pastiche on Harry Potter, but a reflection on the reality on how far GUIs can take you.


Wizard.jpgNot long after I joined QlikTech, I attended a dinner with a group of QlikView users.  One of my dinner companions, who’d been using QlikView for a long time, had also been trying out a visualization tool.  He said something about his experience of using the two that struck me as very insightful: “What I can build in QlikView in 30 minutes, I can build in 10 minutes in a visualization tool.  What I can build in a day in QlikView, I cannot build in the visualization tool.”


Based on my interaction with customers and prospective customers in the last few months, it’s increasingly obvious that people are beginning to get it.  In their evaluations they are starting to see past the initial ‘wow!’ of an easily built chart, and comparing based on front-end experience and back-end power.  Without the back-end power of QlikView to speed iterative, unconstrained analysis any front end would quickly lose its sheen anyway – pretty charts count for little if performance is poor, as users won’t or can’t wait.   (QlikView’s strength here was borne out by BARC’s recent BI Survey, which ranked QlikView #1 for query performance vs. other ‘Visual Analysis & Data Discovery Vendors’).


What I still hear however is the comment (usually originating from our competitors) that ‘scripting is bad/outmoded/old-fashioned/too hard’.   Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Scripting is an aspect and evidence of the power of any platform.  QlikView has always been a Business Discovery platform, not a single use tool, and will continue to be so with


Wizards are great – and QlikView has them too for data integration - but they’re an option for simpler scenarios.  It’s disingenuous to claim that a graphically driven wizard in any software product can facilitate building as broad a set of applications as a scripted development language can.   Any GUI or step-through wizard has to present a small set of options to the user – if not it becomes complex and confusing to use.  As such, at some point users inevitably come up against the edges of what they can do with a wizard: if they don’t, if all of the functionality of a BI product can be developed and deployed via a wizard, then that product must be limited in the value it can provide.  Again: “What I can build in a day in QlikView, I cannot build in the visualization tool.”


Finally, if users cannot build what they want in a simple BI tool due to its backend limitations, then they are going to have to do scripting anyway, just externally to the BI product probably using (yup – you guessed it) custom SQL code, and that comes with its own set of demands and limitations.  Just try writing the SQL to handle OUTER JOINS between multiple tables to display in a viz tool vs. the script to do so in QlikView (LOAD * FROM…).  I know which is simpler - but again that speaks to the power of QlikView’s backend – its associative engine.


For QlikView the answer is wizards and scripts, to access the power of the backend and deliver the widest value via the most appropriate interaction for each type of user.

John Sands

A Time of Growth

Posted by John Sands Nov 26, 2013

The title of this blog is not just about economic growth but also the growth of my mustache in support of the Movember charity! My wife will just be glad when it’s gone but I am getting rather attached to it.


OK, let’s get back on track and try to remove that disturbing image from our memory. I have just finished a tour of four countries presenting at the QlikTech Business Discovery World Tours.  The overall feedback has been really good. I have chatted to many people and one comment really stood out, and it was not about QV Next or Natural Analytics, but rather it was about the presenters. They said you all seem to have a real excitement and energy when talking about QlikTech – which is great to hear.

In my last blog I talked about it not just being features but also being the ethos of the company that make Qliktech special and this comment really underlined that. I presented in Spain and Portugal and even in a time of economic downturn we had nearly 700 attendees in the two countries. 


What makes so many people gather in one place and take time out of their busy days? Is it the offer of free food and drinks? Or that feeling of not wanting to miss out? I think it’s the latter. It is our natural curiosity and wanting to be part of something special and the potential that it might just make us a star.


A lot has been said about Natural Analytics and how it uses our innate human behaviors such as association, comparison, anticipation and narration. This is nothing new and those same natural behaviors drive us to seek out new things and want to be part of a movement that is disrupting the norm. Wouldn’t it be great to have the inside track on the next big thing?


Over the coming months there is going to be a lot of exciting things happening at QlikTech and the World Tours are just the start. Back in 1993 we started a journey driven by disruption. We are not about to stop that disruption in fact we are doing it again, based on the novel concept of creating a software solution that works the way we do rather than the other way round.


So trust your natural instincts, and I promise not to show pictures of me with a mustache again.

Managing a Business Intelligence (BI) deployment of any size is not trivial. Hardware, software, data and analytical applications, all require individual attention to ensure their stability and effectiveness. In order to ease maintenance, increase productivity and prevent an ‘out of control’ BI deployment, it is essential to implement standards and best practices as the groundwork for application governance.

The QlikView Deployment Framework (QDF) introduces a set of standards and best practices to QlikView. It’s a result of the combined experiences of our customers, partners and QlikView experts. Its main purpose is to address structure, organization and resource reusability within a QlikView environment, in turn reducing development time and increasing QlikView manageability.

So, what is a Framework anyway?



In its simplest form, a Framework can be described as an ideal structure of something. Something that can also be designed to reduce the most common and repetitive tasks. Let's take a moment and think of your home. Before it can provide shelter, entertainment or even privacy, you need a basic structure or frame (ah, ha) that will support … well, everything else. Without a frame, your home would be unprotected from the weather, there’d be no place to plug in your PlayStation, and you could not shut out your mooching neighbor. The frame enables you to develop your home into something suitable and of value. If your home’s design is found effective and provides the most common components and amenities desired by the mainstream population – it may become a model for building the perfect home. Furthermore, prefabricating some of the home’s most common components will make it even quicker and easier to assemble (think of pre-assembled trusses), in turn saving time and money. In comparison, this simple analogy describes the basic concepts behind a software framework.

Ah, I see, so, then what is a Software Framework?

mix_apps.pngThe objective of a software framework is to make it faster and easier for developers to build and maintain applications. Frameworks typically ‘bundle’ together a collection of components in a simple to use form. Notable software frameworks include Ruby on Rails (Web), .NET Framework (Microsoft), Prototype (JavaScript), Spring (Java) and the various iOS Frameworks (Apple). For example, iOS developers may use the iOS Bluetooth Framework to accelerate the development of the Bluetooth portions of their project.


The QlikView Deployment Framework builds upon the same light-weight application development model that makes creating QlikView analytics easy. Assembled with a set of standards, modules and QlikView tools, QDF introduces consistency, reuse and increased control across all QlikView applications.


The following is a list of standards and practices defined by QDF:


Resource Container Architecture – A core file system structure composed of directory folders (referred to as ‘containers’) bound to the framework. It organizes, secures and stores projects and various objects used by QlikView applications and other QlikView deployments. By using QDF, all different document types and functions have their own respective place in their own folder structure and can be moved easily without effecting the operation of the QlikView application(s).


Container Map – An internal structure which maintains links between containers in order for objects (scripts, language settings, color schemes, variables, expressions, data connections, etc.) to be shared and reused by QlikView applications. The container map is managed with the Container Map Editor.


Container Naming Convention – A set of standard and recommended unique names used to name the file system folders according to application, department, project or resource. These can be modified as needed without affecting the functionality of the application.


Centralized Variables – A repository that stores system, user expressions, and other variables as user defined names. These names are referenced in QlikView projects as variables or can be called with the QDF sub-functions. Variables can be local to a project or global to the entire deployment. They are created and maintained with the Variable Editor.


Initiation Script – A pre-defined QlikView Load Script which initiates QDF, common modules and sets variables used within all QlikView applications that are bound to the framework.


Sub-Function Library – A set of modules used by QDF that contain callable sub-functions and practical examples. These can be easily included in QlikView applications. Examples include sub-functions for advanced calendars, document and data migration, data parsing, data exporting and linking resource containers and variables.



Fig. 1 – Simple resource container logical diagram (left), physical file system structures (right)


What value will QDF bring?


There isn't always ‘one’ answer for best practices, but rather a collection of proven results from customers, partners and QlikView experts that provide enterprise scale, efficiency and governance for QlikView implementations. The QlikView Deployment Framework is the result of this collaboration. The value an organization realizes from the QlikView Deployment Framework will vary depending on the size, complexity and customizations of the deployment and its applications. Large and Enterprise QlikView deployments will greatly benefit from QDF due to ever-changing business requirements, data additions and organizational growth. It is recommended that smaller deployments investigate QDF but it may not be necessary to implement. Generally speaking, QDF will shorten development time for each new QlikView deployment, allow easier maintenance and reuse of resources and provide an overall application governance model.


How can I get started with QDF?


The QlikView Deployment Framework is available to members of the QlikCommunity under the QlikView Deployment Framework Group. Members may start a discussion, report a problem and receive the latest updates on the QDF software and documentation. After membership is granted, navigate to the Content tab to download the QDF Deploy Tool and review the QDF documentation to get started.

Join now:

Please review this Technical Brief (members only) for a deeper introduction on QDF


Michael Tarallo

Senior Product Technical Manager

QlikView and QlikView Expressor

Follow me on Twitter @mtarallo

As a kid I loved to play video games like Defender, Battlezone and Elite.  The games themselves had a lot in common – they all had blocky 8-bit graphics, involved shooting stuff, made loud explosions and used ishiness


Defender caption 2.jpgIshiness? 



Coined by QlikTech’s John Teichman, ishiness means having a quality that gives people the ability to maintain an overall sense of a data set and where they are within it.  (According to John the term’s a corruption of the way we use ‘ish’ as a suffix in English to denote that something’s broadly right.)   Whatever it’s called it’s a fantastically helpful when looking at large or complex datasets.


Below are two examples of ishiness in the pre-release version of QlikView.Next (and of course maybe subject to change as such).  The first is a video of a column chart with a grey ‘ishy’ window below it, showing which part of the overall data appears in the main visual.   It’s a simple idea, but very effective, particularly when paired with interactive selection methods, like those shown in the second half of the video.


The way it works reminds me of the side-scrolling maps in old video games, which gave orientation and situational awareness clues to gamers.  To put my old Gartner hat back on for a minute, I suppose you could say that ishiness is one aspect of the ongoing gamification of analytics.


The second example video shows what happens when zooming and panning a scatter plot.  Note the small dots that appear and move around the borders of the chart.  Without these small ishiness dots which appear around the main visual it would be all too easy for people to forget where they are in the data overall.  In other words to lose the ‘information scent’ they were following and most likely the insight they’d make.


QlikTech’s been thinking about this need for orientation within data for a while now, and it could be argued that the mini charts that can be put into tables in QlikView11 show some ishiness too


Capabilities like this are important - as the datasets people want to assimilate and analyse get ever bigger the analytic software we use has to help us navigate and orient ourselves in large information spaces easily and quickly.  Ishiness is one aspect of the natural analytic capabilities that do exactly that.


Oh yes, and it happens to be pretty cool too.  That’s ishy, man.

According to Gartner both CIOs and CFOs list BI or Analytics as their top priority.  Despite this focus, organizations have had a difficult time deploying BI successfully. According to the BI Scorecard, BI adoption rates have essentially hovered around the 25% mark since they started surveying companies back in 2005.   (That was the year that the first YouTube video was uploaded.  And, the iPhone wasn’t even introduced until 2007!)


This discussion is usually phrased as driving a more “analytical culture”: one where there is a general desire and willingness to make decisions based off of factual quantifiable data versus intuition.  Usually, I would say that culture is one of the hardest things to change.  But this time the likes of Google and Apple have done much of the heavy lifting for us.  Rather than rely on gut feel, many of us have become information junkies over this same time period.  So why is BI adoption so hard?


Multiple issues are at play of course and a successful BI strategy will need to address each of these.  Here are my top three factors contributing to lackluster BI adoption.  What would you add to the list?


IT Centric vs. User Centric Models of Delivery


A typical BI report, visualization or view can answer a question which is well understood in advance.  However, when business users have a follow-up question (which they will), they typically have to go back to IT.  In this IT centric model of BI delivery, users are unable to answer business questions in a timely manner so they become frustrated with the system and with IT.


In a user-centric delivery model, IT is still hugely important.  However, instead of asking “What question does my business want to answer?”, we instead focus on “What types of questions does my business want to explore?”.  In other words, IT does not focus on delivering a solution but instead a tool.


Lack of Business Partnership


According to a recent study that looks at the changing role of the CIO, one striking finding is that only about half of CEOs felt that CIOs understood their business and the problems that face them.  Long gone are the days when monolithic technology solutions are seen as long term investments.  On the other hand, evaluating and selecting tools department-by-department doesn’t leverage the economies of scale that large enterprises enjoy.

IT can still invest in stable centralized technology.  But rather than a one-size-fits all approach, IT needs to deliver flexible tools at the enterprise level that provide services which can be rapidly adapted to the changing needs of each individual line of business. In this way, IT can deliver stability as well as being seen as responsive.


If we want to grow BI beyond just a deployment of tools for our power users, we need to consider the skills of our entire user community.  In the U.S. where I live, this last point recently became painfully highlighted.  A study published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development places the United States as #17 out of 19 for numeracy skills.

As we race forward into what many refer to as an ‘information economy’ the ability to understand data and to think in numbers is becoming even more critical.  Training our employees on the data and the use of data is just as important (if not more important) than on how to use the tools themselves.


What would you add to the list? 

What issues do you think we need to address in order to improve our ability to drive pervasive business intelligence?

I recently came across an interesting blog post by Curt Monash entitled “Visualization or Navigation.”  In this post Curt proposes that ‘navigation’ is more important than visualization, and that this capability is a product of the platform technology that underlies a BI product.  A quote from the article..


“It might seem that a lot of the action in business intelligence revolves around ever-better visualization… But I don’t think that’s exactly right — rather, I see navigation as being a much bigger deal. And unlike most pure visualization, navigation usually depends strongly on underlying platform capabilities.”


We at Qlik couldn’t agree more.  That’s not to say data visualization isn’t important.  In fact, we have invested heavily in our visualization capabilities in QlikView.Next.  It’s just that visualization is only one piece of a broader set of capabilities that enable discovery and insight.


What Curt calls navigation we tend to think of as interactivity.  This means giving the user a natural and effective way to go beyond the information they are offered in the initial set of charts and graphs.  No matter how good a visualization is, it can’t possibly tell the entire story.  And furthermore, a good visualization will prompt more questions than it will answer.  That’s why we see visualization as a starting point, not the whole picture.


Another recent trend has been around the concept of data storytelling.  Several vendors including ourselves are moving in this direction.  We see data storytelling as a way to collaborate and persuade with visuals and narrative presented in a manner that articulates insights and opinions.




Again, interactivity is a key ingredient.  It’s not enough to publish static data stories that are still a form of one-way communication.  There is a need for interactivity and discovery even when telling stories.  The experience should be a dialog, not a monologue.  Data stories should allow for a user to seamlessly move between live, interactive analysis and presentation of pre-determined insights.


In the end, it all goes back to the strength of the platform.  Interactivity is only possible when the underlying technology supports it in a powerful and unique way.  QlikView’s Natural Analytics@ technology drives an interactive experience that is hard to match.

In my role as an enablement manager at QlikTech I am often asked the question, what makes QlikView Unique? Sometimes you reel off a lot of features like in-Memory, associative search and HTML 5 architecture. But is that truly what makes us Unique? Here is a list of features from two different Smart Phones.


Phone A                                                                               Phone B

8 Megapixel Camera                                                       41 Megapixel Camera

32 gb Memory                                                                   32 gb Memory

Touchscreen                                                                      Touchscreen

Blue Tooth                                                                          Blue Tooth

Wi-Fi                                                                                      Wi-Fi

Talk Time 8 hours                                                             Talk Time 13 hours         

A5 Chip                                                                                 S4 Chip


Now looking at these specifications you would think they were very similar phones but one of them sold 125 million in 2012 and the other 4.4 million. You will not be surprised that Phone A was made by Apple and Phone B Nokia. Most of the time people don’t just buy on features alone they also use their emotions. Apple has successfully made a product that many people don’t just need but have to have. From opening the box to the feel the phone gives you as you hold it in your hand, it’s the total experience of owning that product that many buyers choose.


In my opinion, it’s exactly the same thing that happens at QlikTech.  It’s not just a whole list of features and functions it’s actually how that company makes you feel and the relationship you have with it. I often coach at QlikAcadamy in Lund Sweden, everyone attends whether they’re an engineer or the CFO, the week long experience puts you in touch with QlikTech’s Swedish soul. When I stand up in front of the class (this bit sounds a little corny but it is true) I say “you are what make QlikView unique”.  From the website to the license key and all ways forward it’s all about the relationship with our customers. A testament to that is that we have over 100,000 people who frequently use our online community.


Before you think “oh dear here he goes on some big corporate rant” think about your own buying decisions is it purely based on features? Or is it because the salesman was helpful or the website was clear and easy to use. Don’t get me wrong features are important and keeping a close eye on the future and how we evolve is essential, please take a look at our natural analytic s theme if you want to see proof of the fact that as a company we are always evolving


I have worked at QlikTech for nearly 7 years now and that’s not because it has a better feature list it’s because of how working here makes me feel. So what makes QlikView unique? We all do.

I was talking with my ex-colleague Dan Sommer from Gartner on the train heading to Schiphol airport after we presented at the Business Discovery World Tour (BDWT) event in the Netherlands, when I noticed the young guy sat next to us was interested in our conversation.


He was nodding and smiling and then told us he’d been at the event and how he’d come to be a QlikView user and champion.


Evoluon with caption 2.jpg

Three years ago people in his company were struggling to do analysis of their business data with a mega-vendor BI tool.  So far, so normal.  At this point our young friend took the initiative. At home over one weekend he found QlikTech on the web, downloaded QlikView personal edition and learnt how to use it on some data of his own. He also used information from QlikCommunity to help him do so.


Here’s the key thing: the reason he did this at home was that he could not do so at the office.  His employer’s systems were locked down and it was forbidden to download and install any software.  However, he didn’t accept the status quo and found a solution for himself and, after showing them what QlikView could do, his company.


In doing so he demonstrated two key trends we’ve been talking about at the BDWTs – the rise of user information activism, and to a degree, BYOS (bring your own software).   Three years later, QlikView is a standard in his organization, used by many and managed by IT.


Did you need to do the same and be an information activist to get QlikView into your organization?



(If you’re the person we spoke with briefly on the train please feel free to comment.  I’m sorry I didn’t get your name when we met, as I found your story very interesting and relevant…)

John Sands

Please walk on the grass

Posted by John Sands Sep 28, 2013

Let’s start with a little brain exercise; please read the passage below, I think it will surprise you.



I bet every one of you could understand it and read it quickly and that’s because we do some pretty fantastic stuff naturally without even trying. The brain actually reads the word as a whole and not every letter. So as long as the first and last letters are the same the brain makes sense of the rest.


We do this when looking at any type of pattern because our eye actually has a bit missing. If you look at this diagram of the eye and the optic nerve, you will see that the optic nerve joins the eye at the back and at this point it has no rods or cones (photo receptors). This is in fact a blind spot and any image reflected on this point will not be transmitted back to the brain.


So the brain has to fill in the gaps, this is a totally organic process and needs no input by us. For all of the skeptics amongst you I have put a test at the end of this blog so you can see the blind spot for yourself (or hopefully not see it).


We are always on the lookout for patterns whether that’s in the tea leaves at the bottom of your cup or in the clouds in the sky. This recognition of patterns even has a name Apophenia. With very little help we are able to see natural patterns and even compensate when part of a pattern is missing.


So when we walk in to our place of work and start using software or exploring data why is so much effort put in to forcing patterns and paths of exploration upon us? Why aren’t we allowed to explore and discover naturally? Our decisions are much more organic if we are allowed to pull on our boots and make our own path, rather than being forced down a sanitized concrete path that someone else has designed and won’t allow you to “walk on the grass”. As technology catches up with our brain you will find more and more that it will reflect and not change the innate way we humans operate. After all we have been this way for thousands of years so if it isn’t broke why fix it.


So take off your shoes and get your feet muddy on a path that is less well trodden.



Test your blind spot


Over the past few months, I have seen the following quote from this year’s IDC Predictions publication. 

Growing Importance of Line of Business (LOB) Executives: By 2016, 80% of new IT investments will directly involve LOB executives, with LOBs the lead decision makers in half or more of those investments.

The paper goes on to state that the most dramatic changes will happen within customer-facing front-office functions.  And the focus of the recommendation appears to be that IT vendors will now have to think about the LOB as their customer.   

For me, I am less interested in the impact on vendors since they will follow the money fast enough.   However, I am very interested in the impact that this type of trend might have on traditional IT.  Let’s take a look.

A part of this trend is simply a sign of the digitization of business.  (E.g. moving from print ads to online impressions) But, it likely also includes SaaS (E.g. Sales Force) or even more “threatening” projects such as big data infrastructures to analyze click-stream data. 

But is this type of project even a threat to IT?  Although it might sound so at first, when you think about it, the money has never belonged to IT anyway.  In healthy organization, IT has always worked with the business to help set priorities and manage spend.

In fact, to be successful in technology, you have always had to be a jack of all trades. You have to know the technology, of course, but you also have to know the business and the operations just as well as anyone else at the table.   Without it, you wouldn’t be able to speak their language, ask relevant questions and proactively think about solutions that might bring the business value.


As we move into the Information Economy (from left to right), the role of IT professionals can expand, not shrink, for the rights kinds of roles.

As we move into the information economy all that is really happening is that this really cool space where the great IT people have always resided is becoming even bigger providing us with even more opportunity to add value to the business.

Being welcomed into that space, as it always has, is a matter of building trust.   And to do this, IT needs to proactively deliver solutions that meet the needs of the business.  In today’s information economy, a great place to start is to find a way to deliver on the long awaited promise of BI to assist the business in making data driven decisions.

Learn more about how to navigate the changing role of IT and generate stronger business partnership here.

One of the main themes for is Gorgeous and Genius. The Gorgeous part of this theme is not only about having a beautiful surface; it equally refers to a product that feels as good as it looks. With the next generation of QlikView our ambition is to create a user experience that supports the way people naturally approach data analysis, both when creating views of the data and when analyzing it. A very important part of this is to ensure that focuses on usability and by such provides a natural user experience.


So what is usability in


Usability Maze.jpgUsability is about people being able to quickly orient themselves and find what they are looking for. It ensures people can intuitively understand what to do and how to do it in order to achieve a certain goal. People will make mistakes as part of the learning process, which is natural and expected. However, good usability means that people will learn from these mistakes quickly and do not have to repeat them when learning what to do. If they take a break from their tasks in QlikView, they should quickly remember what they have learned previously.


Usability is also about being efficient on the job. After people have learned a new task, they should be able to do that task efficiently and effectively. When working with repetitive tasks they should not be forced to do unnecessary steps as part of their workflow. It also means that any unintended mistakes due to ambiguities in the UI are minimized. If a mistake has been done, it should be easy and quick to recover from.


How do we ensure that focuses on usability? has to be easy to use for everyone, regardless of your background or experience. Hence, we evaluate usability with people from complete novices to QlikView experts. The evaluations also cover all parts of the product: administration, modeling of data, building dashboards, data analysis, etc.


Our usability evaluations consist of observing people while they solve pre-defined business tasks in The tasks are representative of what they would do in the real world, which helps ensure that the observed behaviors are relevant. During this process we also ask them to express how they perceive solving tasks in and how they feel about the overall experience.


During usability evaluation we observe how long time tasks take, what the participants find confusing and what errors they might make. By looking at the time a task takes, we can determine if the task is as efficient to perform as we expect it to be. If something is experienced as confusing, it gives us an indication that we need to fine-tune its implementation to help the user learn what to do. Errors indicate that we are potentially giving mixed signals in the UI and that we need to improve it to minimize any errors. At the same time we also observe what is working well and we listen to potential improvements and suggestions from the participants. When working with passionate QlikView users they always have a lot of great ideas and useful suggestions!


Usability is a critical part of and by continuously performing in-depth evaluations it will help us ensure that it will be as natural and easy to use as you’d expect from a new generation of QlikView.

John Sands

Am I hungry?

Posted by John Sands Sep 6, 2013

I was reading a very interesting article in the NY Times by Gary Dark from Wired Magazine called a Data Driven Life (

In the article Gary talks of how we gather personal data from so many different sources. These include what we eat, how we sleep, how much we exercise, and how we feel. This data helps us make important changes to our lifestyle such as increasing our exercise, cutting down on how much coffee we drink or making changes to our mental landscape so we feel more positive about ourselves. The power to make decisions on raw data rather than gut instinct can be very enlightening and also cast a very stark light on uncomfortable facts (maybe I shouldn’t have that second glass of wine).


I now cue the inevitable Segway in to the business world (you knew I would). We are storing all of this data about ourselves and we do a similar thing in our business but we miss out one important thing. In our business we don’t always join the dots.


Bodyas a business.GIF.gif

So our body needs more fuel and the stomach needs filling but the brain doesn’t feel hungry or our eyes can see a tiger but can’t communicate this to our legs. Can you imagine a body where the neural pathways were non- existent? I think the human race would have been extinct a long time ago. It’s not a case of the information not being available it’s just not joined up. We live in a data rich and information poor world.


An example of this is when a company is acquired; it can take many years for the different parts of the acquired organisation to be joined up. This is due to different types of data and systems not being able to communicate, so in effect you have two pairs of arms and legs all working separately(a rather dysfunctional octopus). If only there was a Business Discovery Solution that took an agnostic view of the data and with the power of association could sort that in a few months rather than years, wouldn’t life be a lot safer?


So make sure your right hand knows what your left hand is doing, it might just help you get away from that tiger and not end up running around like a frightened octopus (no animals were harmed in the making of this blog).

Recently, I was fascinated by a story reporting that the artificial intelligence (AI) in a computer game had independently identified the futility of war: a “user set up a Quake 3 server with 16 AI bots on it, and left it running in the background for four years. Because the bots learn to re-use successful tactics, he was intrigued to find out what they'd taught each other in the 35,000 hours they'd been at war... In fact, they weren't fighting at all. Instead they were standing peacefully, watching as he walked around each map… [the] bots took less than four years to discover what humanity has failed figure out in a fair few millennia.”


Sadly the story turned out to be untrue.  But it started me thinking about machine and model-led decision making, and the critical importance of being able to think differently to compete effectively. 


As a child I was a fan of the long-running TV sci-fi show Doctor Who (geeky, I know).

In particular, I recall one plot in Police Box with caption.pngwhich the Daleks were at war with the Movellans (a particularly funky android race with silver dreadlocks – well, this was the 1970s…).


As purely logical technological beings neither side could outthink the other.  They’d programmed their “battle computers” so similarly that stalemate ensued as the computers spent years failing to come up with a winning strategy.  Unlike the supposed Quake 3 bots though, they didn’t simply hang up their lasers and declare peace.  Nope, they looked for a source of intuition and fast original thinking to break the deadlock, by co-opting the Doctor or, in the Dalek’s case, going back to their biological roots.


Now, it may be unfair to equate SAP to the implacable, inflexible Dalek race, but if companies using ERP apps implement their battle computers business intelligence platforms starting from the same pre-defined business schema, and those top-down models are rigid enough to restrict humans’ ability to think creatively, are they really helping them compete? 


I suppose it’s also unfair to compare Oracle with the soulless, unoriginal Movellans, but if you implement prebuilt BI apps on the same conformed dimensional model and use the same out-of-the-box reports as your competitors, aren’t you doomed to act within the same prescribed mind set as them?


In contrast, to help their organizations compete what decision makers really need is unfettered analytic creativity.  Creativity through technology so that they can analyse, compare and anticipate beyond standard models, question assumptions and make intuitive leaps wherever the data takes them. Perhaps that’s another reason why many BI customers are looking to business discovery and QlikView for help.

John Sands

Contextomy No More

Posted by John Sands Aug 1, 2013

If I was to give you a date; November 9th 1989, what would that mean to you? As a date on its own it means nothing.  However,  if I said Berlin November 9th 1989, would it become clearer? That was the date the Berlin Wall was torn down.   I am sure your head is now full of images of people climbing the wall with pick axes as the wall is slowly taken away piece by piece. You may even remember where you were at the time you heard the news. In this case just one simple addition of one  item of context provides the association you need to reach understanding.

Information with context removed can also lead to incorrect interpretation.  Take the act of contextomy (quoting out of context). By removing context, a whole sentence can change its meaning. A TV critic from Vanity Fair said of the TV program Lost "the most confusing, asinine, ridiculous —yet somehow addictively awesome — television show of all time." When this sentence was eventually published by ABC it read "The most addictively awesome television show of all time" — Vanity Fair.


Further,data in isolation and without context can lead to bad business decisions. If you were to base your purchasing decisions just on sales from the previous month you would be in great danger of either being stuck with unsold stock or paying for warehouse space you don’t need. But if you were to wrap context around that data such as last year’s sales figures or sales of similar products you would be able to make better business decisions.

A lot of the time, this data is available but is scattered around the business in isolated silos and in this form can actually be dangerous because it lacks context. By joining this data together we can extract meaningful information that helps us to drive the business.

For example in the following data model; if you only have sales data, you would not see which products had been sold to this customer, or what sales territory had made the sales.




Historically to do this you may have had to build an expensive data warehouse or invest time and resources in creating a cube. Now though, QlikView joins together the isolated silos of data dispersed within your company simply.  You have got the entire context you need in one app, and users just need to join the dots.

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