Briefly Talking Business Intelligence series Qlik

Terry Smagh,Managing Director and Vice President, Qlik Asia

Terry Smagh, Managing Director and Vice President, Qlik Asia
In my view, the success of QlikView can be attributed to its user-driven approach to BI. I first met senior executives from QlikTech Technologies a few years ago presenting a BI platform accessible from a mobile device. Analysts attribute QlikView’s continuing popularity to the company’s focus on ease-of-use for both IT professionals and non-technical staff. Another differentiation is its use of in-memory data store which allow the application to refresh data in real-time to support operational BI environments such as monitoring financial transactions.
We spoke to Terry Smagh, managing director and vice president of Qlik Asia about the company’s success and strategy in Asia.

DSA – What’s the difference between Business Intelligence tools and Big Data Analytics tools?

Terry Smagh: Let me use an example to illustrate this.
Suppose my job is to analyse metrics associated with digital marketing programs. We can run reports that give information like response hits and influenced leads. This ‘descriptive analytics’ gives answers to the question, ‘what has happened, where and when’. To probe deeper and understand ‘why’ customers don’t respond to promotional offers, ‘diagnostic analytics’ provides decision-makers the power to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’.
Lastly, we can see ‘what is likely to happen’ through ‘predictive analytics’, enabling decision-makers to anticipate ‘what may’ occur.  Business intelligence therefore allows you to understand your business data that is structured and not of huge volume or variety or velocity.
However, to provide more insights for campaign optimization, I may need to analyse customer behaviours correlating vast volumes of data from point-of-sales systems. Big data analytics tools provide capabilities to gather and store the huge and fast-growing data from various sources into one place and help you find the questions that you might not think of.
Data is nothing more than a source. Rather than having different tools to support decision making, what is needed is a platform that gives everyone the ability to explore data, even big data, and ask questions across all their data sources.

DSA – Should BI be put in the hands of ALL staff?

Terry Smagh: Most people are aware of the term “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, quoted by Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers of all time. This is because it suggests that people working together are routinely able to do more work than if their individual efforts were added together. 
Now, think of the decisions being made in your organisation every day. There will be multiple levels of seniority, from senior executives, through to people on the front-line. Everyone is making all kinds of decisions on a daily basis. High-level strategic decisions will be made by executives and cascaded down the ranks within the organisations where more decisions will be made to drive action. We will also need to allow people of any rank to make the hundreds of micro-decisions required to do their jobs – without having to be told what to do.  The reason is simple. In the time it takes to obtain permission to act, too often the opportunity is lost.
Therefore, giving everyone in the organisation the ability they need to make smart, accurate, timely decisions makes a huge difference to your organisation, especially when you consider the collective impact.

DSA – What can a BI product achieve that a spreadsheet cannot?

Terry Smagh: The key advantage over spreadsheet reporting is BI’s ability to provide solutions that address user requirements for spreadsheet reporting (and a whole lot more), while giving IT control and manageability over the data. Users can move away from manually creating and maintaining the spreadsheets by hand, as this is extremely error-prone. BI allows users to continue to access and work with enterprise-wide data through a common data model and governance framework, increasing control, accuracy and reliability of data.
While self-service is often the reason users turn to spreadsheets, they ignore the fact that they have to continually maintain the spreadsheet on a regularly basis, updating the data and formulas. Without a data audit trail and control, it is impossible to manage the risks of inaccurate or inconsistent information being distributed within the organisation, posing major compliance risks.
Spreadsheets only provide finite sets of metrics or information from a limited set of data. They lack the visualisation and discovery capabilities that a BI product can provide, restricting the process of making discoveries through iterative exploration of data and the ability to deliver timely insights.  BI provides a set of techniques and tools to make analytical results easily available to decision makers as well as operational workers, and empowers everyone to see a bigger picture of their data.

DSA – What are the key considerations when choosing a BI Product

Terry Smagh: There are plenty of BI tools out in the market to choose from, and most will try to entice you with nice-looking visualisations and ease-of-use capabilities. Don’t be swayed by pretty pictures alone, remember that this is a working platform that people use as part of their day-to-day activities which can be an analyst at his desktop, an executive in a car, a management team in a boardroom or an employee who is using a workflow application as part of his daily routine.
When choosing a BI product, it is important to select one that can support a range of scalable BI use cases to meet your differing needs across the business, leveraging common data and security models, in a common governance framework.
Key considerations include:

  • Data integration and management to enable complex, scalable analysis
  • Data indexing to support freeform exploration and discovery
  • Governance and security to protect data integrity
  • Library of modern visualisations to visualise data
  • Open and standard API access to full capability to extend and embed
  • Toolkits to accelerate and simplify development and creation
  • Choice of on- and off-premise deployment models

Lastly, users should have access to a broad ecosystem and community to inspire innovation.

DSA – What’s Unique about your BI offering?

Terry Smagh: Qlik brings a completely different perspective to BI through a unique and innovative platform approach, giving everyone the ability to answer not just ‘what happened’, but ‘why’ and ‘what will happen’. 
Qlik supports a full spectrum of business intelligence and analytics use cases with centrally deployed guided analytics, self-service data discovery and embedded analytics in any enterprise or web application.  Qlik provides agility for the business from upstream data sourcing and preparation, through to visualization and advanced analytics, and onto downstream collaboration and reporting but importantly, all within a governed framework that drives enterprise scalability and trust for IT.
Built on the patented QIX Associative Data Indexing engine, the Qlik Visual Analytics platform allows people to probe all the possible associations that exist in their data, across all their data sources, to see the whole story instead of just the partial views offered by query based or hierarchical tools from other BI vendors.
Beside innovative technologies, Qlik also brings to market specific industry and functional-level experience, delivering exactly what the customer needs to address their challenges. With over 35,000 delighted customers, Qlik regularly ranks at the top of independent surveys on customer satisfaction and value derived from the solutions it provides. 

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