QlikTech Promises 'Gorgeous Genius' - InformationWeek

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Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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QlikTech Promises 'Gorgeous Genius'

The Business Intelligence vendor behind QlikView says next release will blend seductive interfaces with smart, comparative-analysis capabilities.

QlikTech says its next release, currently dubbed QlikView.next, will deliver movie-star good looks and the brains of a genius. These are terms not typically applied to a BI tool, but with the combination of gorgeous user interfaces and comparative analytics that speed decision-making, the vendor says QlikView will deliver.

The vendor revealed plans for the release, due in 2013, at its annual conference in Miami late last month, where more than 900 partners were in attendance.

Donald Farmer, VP of product management at QlikTech, laid out five themes in the next QlikView product release: gorgeous and genius, collaboration, mobile and agile, open platform, and enterprise ready.

Talking about the goal of making QlikView both gorgeous and genius, Farmer likened the software to Hedy Lamarr, a classic beauty and 1940s MGM actress who also co-invented wireless communications technology.

[ Want more on QlikTech's biggest competitor? Read Tableau Version 7 Challenges Old School BI. ]

QlikView has been winning deals based on its appealing user interface as well as its unique associative analysis capabilities, which help users readily see how data relates--or doesn't. For example, a doctor treating a patient can visualize which treatments have already been tried, as well as what hasn't been tried. These sorts of queries are difficult, if not impossible, in a SQL-only world because they require complicated techniques like double-outer joins, intersect queries, and many subqueries.

Farmer outlined how Qlikview.next would further improve on analysis and speed decision-making through context, colors, and the ability to tell a story with data.

QlikView 11, the current product, delivers primarily IT-developed applications and dashboards, but the demo of QlikView.next presented the concept of business-user-assembled dashboards. QlikView 11 introduced collaborative features (see my BI Scorecard in-depth review), but with the next release, Farmer says QlikTech wants to make collaboration more pervasive.

With fast uptake of tablet devices (Apple sold 3 million units of its latest iPad in the first three days of the product's launch), it's not surprising that mobility is a key theme for QlikView.next. What was surprising, though, is that QlikTech gave a nod to Windows 8 impact on both the desktop experience and mobile, whereas most other BI vendors seem to have largely dismissed Microsoft's influence on mobile.

QlikTech has grown as a company and QlikView applications have grown in scale, so QlikView.next will introduce more open API's for partners to develop applications. It was noteworthy that this was the first partner conference that included an exhibit hall for technology partners such as Panopticon, Informatica, and Expressor.

The Panopiticon integration, for example, brings real-time streaming into a QlikView dashboard. Expressor and Informatica integration brings more robust data integration and ETL than currently available in QlikView. Other planned improvements to enterprise administration include better tools for IT to manage large QlikView applications.

Noticeably absent from QlikTech's future product strategy were plans for cloud deployment or big-data analysis. Scalability of QlikView applications was a theme in a number of track sessions, but there was no mention of integration to big-data platforms such as Hadoop.

QlikTech's partner network, with numerous resellers that account for half the company's revenue, is a competitive differentiator versus QlikTech's chief rival, Tableau Software, which only recently began developing such a network. The network is also a differentiator versus mega BI vendors that have often failed to nurture such relationships. As one partner said, "with SAP we are a pawn, and they are the king. With QlikTech [the relationship] is direct, fair, and customer centric."

This marked the first time that QlikTech invited analysts to its partner conference, a reflection of both the organization's growing prominence in the BI space, but also its maturation in its ability to respond to questions and sometimes provocative criticism from analysts.

In some respects the conference was also a who's who in the BI industry, as a number of industry veterans have flocked to this fast-growing vendor. There's been a brain drain at some of the larger BI companies, and QlikTech has been among the aggressive smaller vendors attracting top talent.

Farmer, formerly a Microsoft executive, has participated in some of my bake-off events at TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute), but this is the first time I have heard him deliver a keynote. I was impressed by how inspiring he was, with a rare ability to convey abstract, potentially mundane technical concepts with humor and insight.

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