I was fortunate to attend QlikTech's annual Partner conference in Miami Beach in April, and I discovered a few things about the fast-growing in-memory visualization vendor.
Historically, QlikTech has sold QlikView to departmental business leaders and then used a "land and expand" strategy to spread its reach within an organization and grow revenues. This strategy catapulted the company to a successful 2010 initial public offering and 40+% annual growth.
With $320 million in annual revenues, QlikTech now is determined to eclipse the $1 billion revenue mark. To do this, it's pushing hard and fast into the enterprise BI market, which has been the province of industry BI heavy weights, such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, and MicroStrategy.
Enterprise Deployments. The good news is that QlikTech's customers are leading the way into enterprise territory. QlikTech is increasingly signing six- and seven-figure deals to support tens of thousands of users. As a result, QlikTech is working hard to transform what started out as a desktop and departmental tool into a bonafide enterprise platform.
The company took its first enterprise steps in QlikView 10 when it moved security and administration from individual applications to a shared server environment. QlikView 11, released last fall, makes incremental improvements to performance, administration, team development, metadata management, clustering, and security capabilities. But QlikTech still has much work left to do. In particular, QlikView needs more granular clustering, a bonafide semantic layer, graphical data design and mapping tools, native change control and version management, an improved administrative console, and rationalized global licensing.
Courting IT. As part of its push into the enterprise, QLikTech is trying to make nice with information technology (IT) departments, which tend to view QlikView as an invasive species that threatens to undermine information consistency and their control over corporate data. The real truth is that QlikView is an IT professional's best friend if it sources data from the data warehouse. Thanks to its intuitive visual interface, QlikView can help liberate data locked in the data warehouse and offload development from besieged IT staffers. There are 1,500 QlikView partner companies that have the technical expertise and project management skills to implement QlikView and can serve as extensions to the IT department. It would behoove IT departments to embrace QlikView and its partners if they want to stay a step ahead of the QlikView tsunami.
Here are a few other insights I picked up from the Partners event:
Mobility. Last year, QlikTech did an about-face with its mobile strategy, converting from native applications for iOS to generic Web-based mobile applications. A Web-based approach to mobile applications aligns better with QlikView's in-memory architecture which requires keeping large volumes of data in memory. Since memory is limited on mobile devices, native applications effectively turn QlikView into static dashboard viewer, which cheapens its value. However, many QlikView users are upset with the new Web-based applications because they lack native iOS features that aren't yet baked into HTML5 and Web-based mobile applications can't be used in disconnected mode. It will be interesting to see what fixes QlikTech makes, if any, to its mobile applications.
QlikView versus Tableau. The two darlings of the BI space these days are QlikView and Tableau, which many people lump together as visual analysis tools. In reality, these two tools are quite different, serving different users and purposes. In fact, the tools are complementary, making a nice one-two combination in any BI toolkit.
QlikView is an application development platform that requires an IT team (or QlikView partners) to set up, build, and maintain the applications. Companies use QlikView to build small, purpose-built, interactive dashboards for casual users. Architecturally, the tool creates in-memory data marts to ensure fast performance. Dashboards query these in-memory data sets rather than source data directly. IT administrators generally update the data marts in batch at night, although the tool supports incremental updates in near real-time as well.
Tableau, on the other hand, is a visual exploration tool designed for power users. It's primarily a desktop tool that users can download, install, and start visualizing data in minutes. Tableau recently added an in-memory cache to improve performance when querying large databases, but in-memory processing is an adjunct to its architecture, not the core piece, unlike QlikView. Although Tableau can be used to build departmental dashboards, it is a better exploration tool than an application development platform.
Basically, companies should purchase QlikView to drive their interactive dashboards, Tableau to support visual exploration, and a standard BI tool, like MicroStrategy or IBM Cognos, to handle scheduled reporting. That's a nice, modern day BI tool triumvirate. This standardization strategy also lower total cost of ownership and puts pressure on standard BI tool vendors to lower prices.
Future. QlikTech announced nice collaboration and comparative analysis features in version 11, and I expect more enhancements in these areas going forward. I also expect QlikTech to fill in some holes in its product lineup. These include things like predictive analysis, support for unstructured data, location intelligence, graphical ETL tools, a visual semantic layer, better support for near-real time data delivery, and printing. Software partners provide some of these capabilities today, but QlikTech will need to acquire or build such capabilities if it's going to assume the mantle of a true enterprise BI vendor.
Posted May 3, 2012 9:30 AM
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