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The "Consumerization" Of Business Intelligence

You might think that business intelligence is the last software category to be affected by the trend toward consumer technology eclipsing its business equivalents. But according to the CEO of BI vendor QlikTech, it's already happening.
You might think that business intelligence is the last software category to be affected by the trend toward consumer technology eclipsing its business equivalents. But according to the CEO of BI vendor QlikTech, it's already happening.Mans Hultman, chairman of Sweden's QlikTech, is not your typical modest Scandinavian. He freely asserts that his his company's QlikView BI software isn't just "better" than traditional business intelligence products, but "thousands of times better."

Maybe so, but that's not the most interesting part of the conversation we had here at bMighty's San Francisco HQ. For me, the key came when Hultman started talking about a trend that's near and dear to bMighty: According to Hultman, "end users are asking 'Why I have tools at home which are dead simple -- no training required -- but at work I have these dreadful tools tha require two weeks of training and busloads of consultants to maintain?' "

Given the consumerization of enterprise software, Hultman says, the role of the IT department is changing. 10-15 years ago, they seemed to be more powerful than they are today. But today, the average end user and business manager are more tech savvy than they used to be -- and less willing to accept excuses.

That's a double edged sword, if you ask me. On the one hand, IT departments face unprecedented challenges in managing expectations of a technologically "spoiled" workforce. On the other hand, that same technology can make a huge difference in the productivity of a company. And smaller companies are uniquely positioned to take best advantage of this tectonic shift in the technology landscape.

That's what QlikTech is trying to do. While Hultman's company dosen't make consumer software, it tries to emulate that model. So, instead of buying a stack of tools to mine your company's data warehoue and spending 12-18 months on an expensive deployment, Hultman claims, QlikView can be installed in less than 10 days by a single part-time consultant with no need for a data warehouse, database design and so on. And by using an associative model for the user interface instead of a hierarchical drill-down approach, 99% of users need no special training. And the whole thing is sold on per-user perpetual license, with the same prices list for all customers, big or small, anywhere in the world.

Great, but consumerized or not, is BI really so important for small and midsize firms? (Or see bMighty's The 5 Top Things Smaller Businesses Don't Know About BI.)

According to Hultman, "In my experience, it's wrong to assume that midsize companies have less need for BI. They may be simpler to deal with than a large company -- with fewer legacy issues -- but their business challenges are just as complex." The big difference, Hultman says, is that smaller companies are more open to the cultural changes involved in making detailed business data widely available throughout the company.

Once again, it's an opportunity for flexibility to trump size.

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