Private and open: Qlik visualises strong future

David Reed, director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ

When your customer event takes in 27 countries and lasts for three months, things are obviously going well for your business. When three separate analyst reviews in succession put your product in the leaders quadrant for business intelligence, it is a strong validation of your development roadmap.

Simon Blunn, QlikNo wonder, then, that Simon Blunn, UK managing director at Qlik, says that, “finally being recognised in the market and by the analyst community has really helped to accelerate innovation over the last year.” It is also a reflection of the bold - and $3 billion - decision which the business took last year to go private in an acquisition deal by Thoma Bravo. “Being a private company takes the shackles off what you can and can’t do and the market has responded,” Blunn told DataIQ.

He sees several important shifts in the market as helping Qlik to enjoy its current season in the sun. Business intelligence and data visualisation have emerged from the hype cycle of two or three years back and are now surfing the wave for investment into analytics resources. The self-service movement continues to push its solution into the hands of executives in lines of business. On top of this, a new push for artificial intelligence and machine learning projects is making organisations ensure they have their human decision-making locked down.

“Our customer base is increasingly using advanced analytics - machine learning or predictive analytcs - which they are feeding into Qlik to proliferate into their wider user community,” said Blunn. Projects with thousands of users are becoming more commonplace so the organisation as a whole can access and analyse data or see the output models from advanced analytics.

For the vendor, one of the challenges this creates is the need to continue to innovate around the data eco-system that its customer base wants to access. Where possible, open standards are being adopted to ensure data sets are accessible and Qlik is conscious of the need to ensure scalability of its solution. 

Customer demand has attracted new entrants into this market space, including Google and Microsoft as they continue to enhance their cloud-based data management and analytics services. But Blunn believes, “they struggle with integration, especially where they have made acquisitions, rather than building from the ground up.”

True end-to-end solutions still do not exist which can take data from cleansing through ETL into visualisation and analytics. But having a platform that can integrate with existing infrastructure and then become the access route for a wider community has majority appeal. “There is a demand for best-of-breed, integration and open standards,” he noted. Qlik is tapping into its 121,000 user base to understand its needs and the 2,000 members of its developer community to come up with new approaches.

Blunn added: “We have always looked at bolt-on acquisitions to add value for our customer base, as well as working with our technology partners and developer community. Our acquisition of GeoAnalytics in January was a logical move to bring in geo-mapping.”

Continuing this growth path depends in part on ensuring the “data literacy” of the business user community, something Blunn says he is passionate about. “I welcome Google, Microsoft and the new start-ups coming in because they bring more focus on this space. It means users can play with the data in their organisation and get serious quicker,” he said.

Not all sectors are benefitting at the same pace - Blunn identifies the public sector in particular as suffering from a dearth of new generation practitioners because of its pay freeze, although there are exceptions like Wolverhampton City Council. And it is not just younger executives who are demanding self-service visualisation and analytics - the impact of wearables and tracking technologies means even 40 to 60-year-old executives have become data literate.

As the scale of deployments continues to rise - Qlik recently installed its solution for 72,000 users in a global life sciences organisation of 100,000 - so the transformation of data and analytics continues to have momentum. As Blunn noted: “Everybody is getting empowered and having access to information. It is not just the 10%.”

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Knowledge and strategy director, DataIQ
David is developing the framework for soft skills and career development among data and analytics practitioners. He continues to be editor-in-chief and research director for DataIQ.