Qlik helped pioneer the visual discovery market with its QlikView product. In some respects, Qlik and its competitors also spawned the self-service trend rippling through the analytics market today. Their aim was to enable business users to perform analytics for themselves rather than building a product with the perfect set of features for IT. After establishing success with end users the company began to address more of the concerns of IT, eventually creating a robust enterprise-grade analytics platform. This approach has worked for Qlik, driving growth that led to an initial public offering in 2010. The company now generates more than half a billion dollars in revenue annually, making it one of the largest independent analytics vendors. Of which based on their company and products was rated a Hot Vendor in our 2015 Value Index on Analytics and Business Intelligence and one of the highest ranked in usability.
However, as Qlik was experiencing that dramatic growth, the analytics market was changing from a Windows-based, desktop platform to a mobile, cloud-based one. As a result of these market shifts, a couple years ago the company introduced the Qlik Sense product line to offer a modern, cloud-based platform for its analytics. Thus the company embraced a two-product strategy consisting of QlikView and Qlik Sense, which my colleague Mark Smith wrote about earlier this year. When Qlik introduced this split in product lines, some customers had questions about whether it would continue to invest in QlikView. Any questions I had about both parts of its product strategy were answered a few weeks ago at Qonnections, its annual user conference – both by company executives and in my conversations with customers.
Qlik has continued its support of and investment in the QlikView product line and will provide annual updates to the product, which is now on version 12. Customers who are happy with their QlikView implementations – and I spoke with several at the conference – can continue to use the product and can expect enhancements, albeit less frequently than updates for the Qlik Sense product line. However, since QlikView and Qlik Sense share the same QIX analytics engine, customers can begin to make the transition to Qlik Sense without giving up their QlikView applications.
The company also introduced Qlik Sense 3.0, which is now generally available. It includes new features for self-service data preparation, enhanced search capabilities and an expanded set of application programming interfaces (APIs). The new data preparation features follow an industry trend toward providing more self-service capabilities for end users. Data preparation remains a challenge for many organizations. Our benchmark research on data and analytics in the cloud shows that this activity is where the majority (55%) of organizations spend the most amount of time in their analytics process. Qlik has done a nice job here. Its user interface is intuitive, using a “connected bubbles” metaphor. Data sets show up as bubbles and can be joined graphically to other data sets or bubbles. The software automatically detects the join field based on profiling of the data involved. Other products have used drag-and-drop techniques with an automatic suggestion of join fields, but Qlik has made the visuals more appealing and easier to work with. Date fields and geographic fields are also detected during the profiling process, automating more of the steps involved in working with these types of fields. The new version also includes a graphical interface for defining derived or calculated fields.
The search capabilities, historically a strength for Qlik, have been extended to include metadata and charts. Users can search for a particular measure such as profit by region and see thumbnails of the charts and graphs that reference this measure. Qlik refers to this feature as “visual search.” Seeing the thumbnails provides more context and should make it easier to find the appropriate measure or visualization quickly.
Qlik Sense 3 has bidirectional language support as well as more international versions. With this release the company has officially added support for Korean, Polish, traditional Chinese and Turkish in addition to 11 other languages already supported.
Outside of the Qlik Sense product improvements, the company also supports more connectors to additional data sources as a result of its acquisition of Industrial CodeBox announced at Qonnections. Users now have direct connectivity to Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Sugar CRM data. In addition to connectors, Qlik DataMarket provides access to a variety of free and subscription-based external data sources that can be used as part of an organization’s analytics. The new data sources include a financial services package with data from 35 major stock exchanges and indices including quote data and financial statement data from publicly traded companies.
The company also continues to invest in cloud-based analytics. Our research shows that two-thirds (67%) of organizations use cloud-based analytics today or expect to within 12 months. Later this year Qlik will extend its cloud offerings to include Qlik Sense Cloud Business. Previously the company had introduced Qlik Sense Cloud Basic, a free version for individual usage, and Qlik Sense Cloud Plus, which allows sharing of analyses with up to five individuals. The Business version will provide departmental and small business support with sharing of analyses among selected groups or individuals within an organization.
On an entirely different front, in early June the company announced that it has agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo. This is the latest in a spate of public technology companies being acquired by private equity firms. Tibco, Informatica and EMC are at various stages of going down a similar route. The transition to cloud-based products may be part of what is driving Qlik to go private. Cloud products are generally delivered on a subscription basis, which produces less revenue recognition up front, and it is difficult for a public company to meet the market’s revenue and profitability expectations as it transitions from large enterprise license deals with lots of upfront revenue.
Due to standard regulatory restrictions, the companies can’t say much about the acquisition and subsequent plans other than that the deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2016. These restrictions contrast with Qlik’s public disclosure of its product roadmap, which not many software companies do. It is helpful for customers to understand how the products might evolve over the next 18 to 24 months.
In terms of future developments, users could benefit from more investment by Qlik and its new owners in collaboration and mobile capabilities. A few years ago I noted that Qlik experimented with supporting collaboration capabilities like chat streams and sharing analytic displays, but these features have fallen by the wayside. On the mobile front, Qlik is in the middle of transitioning from QlikView Mobile delivered as a native app on mobile devices to Qlik Sense mobile capabilities delivered via HTML5. As a result, there are some gaps, at least temporarily, between the two sets of products.
Overall, Qlik has continued to demonstrate an ability to design and deliver products that are visually appealing and excel in ease of use. Qlik Sense 3.0 includes additional capabilities that will help users understand and analyze their data in a pure browser-based product accessible from the cloud and mobile devices. If you haven’t considered Qlik in the past, perhaps the new release is a good reason to consider it now.
SVP & Research Director
Follow Me on Twitter @dmenningerVR and Connect with me on LinkedIn.