Data visualisation is a Qlik away: CEO Lars Björk sets his sights on Tableau

Offering a free data visualisation tool, Qlik Sense Desktop, appears bad news for Tableau. Was this a deliberate move to undercut them?

It will somewhat disrupt the market, but I think the most important thing is we want to attract more people to try out what a self-service visualisation means. We know for a fact that the power of this platform when you roll it out in a business is not just going to be the local client – it’s the server ability and being able to manage an environment. It’s making sure that the right people have access to the right types of data, that they don’t duplicate work, and having control of when and where people access data.

What I think we create with this when we come out with the paid version in September is a great opportunity of combining two forces that have never been done before: IT to have control and governance over the environment, and also giving the users the freedom and flexibility to do what every application they want.

I think this is one of the first software tools to do this in this space, which is very compelling. I think there have been others that have tried to do the ease of use, but if you don’t have any governance no big corporation is ever going to deploy it.

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So, yes, I think we will somewhat disrupt [Tableau], but more importantly it will put more light on where the growing part of this market is: getting to use cases that never before perceived analytics to be for them because it was too complication to get started.

I think both Tableau and us will be winners of that. The losers of this battle, and it’s been pretty clear for some years, are of course the stack vendor suites – very old, static and expensive solutions.

With this self-service solution, are you saying it’s unnecessary for businesses to acquire expensive skills, like data scientists?

Yes and no. You don’t need as much experts to build the application in the same way, but where I still think you will need to spend on this is on the data side. What is the data I want to pull in? What’s the quality of the data? How do I find it? Through our continued dialogue with some of the largest systems integrators, we have found that more and more of their clients want to be digitally led corporations.

To do that, they’ve got to put analytics on the agenda and the tools in front of everyone. If it isn’t that simple to use, you cannot broadly roll it out. Spend your time on how to interpret and understand the datasets – not the tool, which should be simple. There is a need for somebody there because it’s the same for any system : if you don’t know what you’re putting in, you can’t expect the quality to come out of it.

You count the NHS, Tesco Mobile, BSkyB and London City Airport among your UK customers. How sophisticated do you find UK organisations are around areas like data discovery and visualisation?

I would say they’re just as sophisticated as anyone else. It depends more on where they are in their journey and how much they’ve started to use the tools. Most companies do start at a very basic level because they’re coming off a very Excel type of experience and are looking at the next thing around the corner. As you start using it, you’re needs and expectations evolve and it becomes more and more sophisticated for your purposes. Look at what we’ve done with the NHS. I think we have around 120 hospitals now and there is a huge thing around patient care and procurement since the NHS, like other healthcare organisations, are under scrutiny when it comes to funding. It’s been a great help for them.

Where do you find organisations are up to in awareness around these tools and solutions? Presumably, by offering a free product, you feel there is more work to be done?

Totally. I still think that the broad user base have not yet had access to this. It’s still being driven by easier-to-use tools but hasn’t really been easy enough for the average business user to build something. That’s the big a-ha moment here. What if you could go from less-than-10% building applications to more-than-50% building applications, still in a controlled way? What can you then create in terms of improving performance?

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Coming back to that digitally led company, I think there are so many businesses that are now considering what their next wave of competitive edge is. It’s going to be around analytics and being more digitally aware.

Speaking of that digitisation journey, there’s been a big debate on the people-process side. How should an organisation, and its people and processes, be structured to instill a culture of digitisation that gets the most out of data?

It’s an interesting discussion. I think we’re seeing a trend where more of those roles are going to exist, but I think the question that will increasingly pop up is: who owns the data? Is it a certain function within the company, is it the corporation, or is it the individual who generated it? I don’t have an explicit answer, but we believe the infrastructure side of a system or tool should be managed by IT.

The whole application-building side – and making sure it’s populated – should be done more and more by the business. That’s where more of the dollars are going to the business for systems support – and less to IT. If IT were meant to build the best applications for the business, they would probably run the business and not IT.

A year from now, where do you hope your organisation will be?

I think we have made a big impact into the visualisation space. You will see users building applications that you couldn’t imagine today. You will see partners building more practice on top of this, large and small. And I think we have a great opportunity to show that we have reaccelerated growth into the sweet spot of the market, because there is where this market is going to go. It’s going to be continually driven by ease of use and access for the masses, and then extensibility for the ones that want to build it into more robust, complex and complete applications. But the starting point here is to drive a phenomenal pipeline that can accelerate growth.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...