As Qlik turns 30 this week, CEO Mike Capone opened the QlikWorld2023 keynote amid an almost tribal atmosphere for data enthusiasts.
Qlik may have re-invented itself since the release of its first product for Tetra Pak to help it improve data analysis, but it holds firm to the focus on problem-solving.
As information continues to multiply exponentially, organizations need a data-first mentality. It's time to stop making decisions based on anecdotes and gut feelings.
These were some of the keynote themes:
1. Connect everything – Qlik announced the release of The Connector Factory earlier this year to help customers access data from the ever-expanding range of enterprise SaaS data applications and sources. There are over 400 databases and thousands of packaged and legacy applications on the market – all with ever-changing APIs. By providing real-time data delivery to cloud repositories, direct access for analytics and linking to other applications, making direct connections is the place to start – whether you’re using on-premise, cloud or a third party.
2. Business-ready – Ensuring data is embedded in the workflows and on the devices people are already used to. The goal is to make data as pervasive as possible in every-day working life. Time and time again, conversations with customers and partners returned to the importance of embedding data in organizational culture.
3. Build trust – When people lose trust in data, they stop using it. The importance of data lineage, especially coming from so many different connections, is critical. Qlik’s recent announcement of its intention to acquire Talend, currently going through regulatory approval, should help customers further with quality data transformation and data governance, irrespective of their levels of data literacy or data maturity.
4. The power of foresight – Data has historically been about looking backwards. During Capone’s five years as CEO, no spreadsheet or forecast could have predicted the pandemic or the surge in demand for real-time data. This year, there’s a strong focus on bringing generative AI and ML onto the main stage of analytics. Customer examples on show at the conference ranged from embedding sensors to measure improvements in Sweden’s top division ice hockey team's performance and minimize injury, to reporting on over 300 late stage Global Clinical Trial Operations at Merck.
5. Act on data insights – Capone showed his long-term experience as a CIO and being on the other side of getting data ready for decision making.
Once you have the insights, every second that you aren’t acting on them means losing value. Don’t just tell someone – if you identify an inventory problem, you should be able to automatically open a ticket for the CRM system. With a transaction, you can light up dynamic pricing because you know there will be a surge in demand shortly. That is taking action.
As Crawford del Prete, President of International Data Corporation (IDC) observed:
Those that don’t embrace this technology will be doomed to be enslaved by it.
You don't have to tell a data thrill-seeker to embrace data, but a data skeptic might argue that this was preaching to the choir. Qlik isn't advocating that everyone needs to become a data expert, but according to a whole host of Qlik customers and partners, the commitment to learning at all organizational levels is critical.
Customer relationships are with data are changing
One example of many - 67% of Qlik sessions included a customer or partner - was Ford Motor Company. Caroline Buckley, Director of Global Marketing & Sales Analytics, explained how the company is using Qlik to improve the customer experience.
While a traditional gas vehicle dealership may tell customers to return after six months for an oil change, Ford is using sensors in their vehicles’ oil tanks that can trigger a reminder to customers a month in advance. Buckley cited an example of optimized vehicle charging for customer value:
I compare it to knowing that your phone will charge to 100% by the time you wake up. We have similar functionality for electric vehicles. Based on your driving patterns and your utility providers' terms for how much it costs to charge your electric cars at different times of day, we're able to make recommendations around when you should charge a vehicle. This helps to reduce customers’ anxieties around the cost of their electricity bill.
This sparked a drive to expand high quality decision making capabilities across the organization. Buckley elaborated further:
We’re moving what we lovingly call our ‘data swamp’ into our new Enterprise Data Factory. We’re about halfway through migration, and we’re really focused on how we enable digital transformation to have a high quality data catalog. We're immediately predicting quality issues in the data and fixing them before the user even sees that problem.
This capability isn’t limited to analytics users at Ford Motor Company:
We're building out that ecosystem to support every aspect of the company – the product development team, marketing, finance, HR – every team across the board will be able to use that enterprise data.
We have 25,000 users of Qlik Sense, and 4000 dashboards. And what I love is that only ten percent of those dashboards are built by analytics professionals. It is truly democratized across every aspect of the business.”
Although automation is top of mind for many data professionals right now, AI relates to Active Intelligence and the ability to make a difference. At QlikWorld, you walk around the exhibitions and hear excited conversations about the potential for data connectivity, solving problems and harnessing intelligence laced with predictive insights.
In the space of one hour I spoke to people in Banking and Financial Services who build their own applications as citizen developers, then actively pool their knowledge to gather feedback while encouraging customers to learn for themselves. This was followed by a lively discussion about whether baby puffins (pufflings) could use Flight Simulator in the future to make their first intrepid leap from a cliff in Iceland, amid the importance of ongoing learning and critical thinking for societal impact rather than dashboards.
Qlik has brought together a community of people who are sharing knowledge with each other and their customers to make a difference. As businesses are waking up to the fact that we all need to learn how to grasp data for ourselves, the impetus is turning towards empowering people rather than what the technology looks like.