Step Back for a Minute
I have been hesitant to write my thoughts on the new Qlik platform. This is partly because I wanted to be sure I was adding something insightful or at least interesting to the conversation. But, more importantly because I wanted a chance to temper my knee-jerk response with some thought and perspective. On the first point, I am still not sure I will be interesting nor insightful. On the second, I think I have stepped back far enough to see the big picture on what is a large step forward in the evolution of Business Discovery.
Scary First Impressions
As most everyone knows by now, I am a big fan of QlikView 11. I make my living developing QlikView applications, setting up QlikView environments, supporting QlikView customers and teaching developers to use QlikView. I am certainly living QlikView. But I have to admit when I first saw Qlik Sense (it was still called Qlik.Next at the time), I was disappointed. This was due to a combination of two forces. Firstly, I sensed that I simply would not be as sorely needed as I am today. Qlik Sense seemed so easy that a QlikView Developer was simply not needed. Secondly, the QlikView developer lost so much control over the look and feel of the application.
Misguided First Impressions
Fortunately, my initial impressions were either incorrect or misplaced. An enterprise level Qlik Sense application will still require a real QlikView developer. This is true because the backend is quite similar to QlikView 11. There is still QlikView scripting. There is still an associative data model. You still must build expressions. The only development piece that has been incredibly simplified is the front end design. And this simplification is a good thing considering QlikView’s stated aim of bringing Business Discovery to everyone. More importantly, all of us developers should endeavor to work ourselves out of jobs. We should not fear the increased ease of use of a platform. This helps all of us get more done and makes room for our next expertise. So this initial reaction was more about me than about Sense.
My second initial disappointment relates to the fact that we have lost a significant amount of control in the functionality of our applications. This is completely true, for now. For example, there are no buttons in Qlik Sense. There are no conditional dimensions or expressions. There are no variables. But this was likely by design. The shift of the onus from developer to consumer makes these features unnecessary for most use-cases. QlikView has made the visualizations incredibly easy to create and beautiful out-of-the-box. The obvious tradeoff is that items that might be considered unnecessary or too complicated have simply been eliminated.
A Tale of Two Qliks – Qlik Sense vs QlikView
At some point, QlikView made a decision to separate the development roadmaps for our beloved QlikView 11 and the new Qlik Sense product. Although this does create some initial confusion, I believe this is an appropriate strategy at least for now.
Most existing customers and organizations that already have or require a guided analytics application will stick with or purchase QlikView 11. QlikView has decided to continue development of QlikView 11 for the foreseeable future and possibly into QlikView 12. QlikView 11 will continue to satisfy intricate business requirements. Consider the case of a Pricing Scenario application that requires input fields at specific levels and global variables to create what-if scenarios for varying levels of volume and prices. This is possible to create in QlikView 11, but not possible in Qlik Sense. Organizations that require Guided Analytics (quoting Qlik personnel) will continue to rely on QlikView 11
Although the mechanics of the associative data model are the same, Qlik Sense is an entirely different animal. Sense will speak directly to customers that want to empower their users to create their own analytics. Featuring a simple and responsive interface, users can easily create beautiful visualizations. Tasteful color palettes are already there for us. The objects snap into place without need to move items pixel-by-pixel. Qlik Sense also features a library of dimensions and expressions the developer can build to provide a shopping cart of drag-and-drop visualization parts. Sense is the product that will bring Business Discovery to the masses.
I can see some customers actually running parallel environments, using QlikView 11 for intricate, business critical applications and Qlik Sense for more general use-cases that might also have a larger audience. So it is not really QlikVew vs Qlik Sense but more like QlikView and Qlik Sense in many situations.
Qlik Sense Highlights
So here are the features of the new platform that I am excited about.
– Although the server product is not yet available as of this writing, one of the largest changes is that development will take place on a server. This allows us to take advantage of server resources. It allows us to centralize data connections. It allows us to finely control security.
– Finally!!! This was a thorn in our sides for so long. Qlik Sense will not only shift objects as needed to respond to the aspect ratio of the screen. Sense will also shrink the visual detail of objects as needed in response to fewer available pixels. For example, a full circular gauge will shrink down to just a tilted and appropriately colored arrow. This happens automatically and fluidly as the screen shrinks. I don’t know what to call it other than “automatic consolidation”, but it is truly impressive.
Dimension and Expression Library
– QlikView 11 started down the path of user-enablement with the Repository. Sense has taken this to where it needs to be. Developers can create a list of commonly used dimensions and expressions and place them in a user library. This now gives users a set of hopefully fool-proof parts to drag-and-drop into their visualizations.
– I should say finally to this as well. QlikView has lagged behind in recent years in the area of visualization especially when compared to competitors like Tableau. But Qlik Sense has answered that call in a big way. Labels are not smashed together, placements are balanced, color palettes are coordinated. And we now have a native map object that will handle heat maps with kml shape files or bubbles with either Google Map tiles or Open Streetmaps. Sense keeps up the theme started in QlikView 10 of extensibility (was it QV10 or 11?). In fact, all objects in Sense are extensions. So although we will always rely on QlikView to keep up the standard visualizations, it is up to the larger community to fill in the gaps.
– Sense also touts a feature that allows users to place static visualizations or dynamic sheets into slides. These can be augmented with text and shapes to tell a story. This is a neat feature that gives the user the distinct advantage of being able to immediately navigate back to the data to answer questions arising from the story within the same tool. This is something we obviously cannot do with MS Powerpoint. Of course, one disadvantage of this feature is that it is NOT Powerpoint. There is no ability to add content that is not native to the QlikView application.
See the Forest for the Trees
We are early in this. We are seeing a brand new product, maybe currently missing some must haves. Maybe missing some of the fine control we have become accustomed to. But the items that have been implemented, have been implemented with a whole new approach. So maybe the pivot chart doesn’t exist yet, but when it is implemented, it will be done correctly with this concept in mind. R&D has fused the concepts of consumer enablement along with great design and has built the foundation to support it. So I am excited by this new platform. I am excited not only for what it is today, but more importantly, for the advancements that will be added to this foundation.
I think now I can go read what the other bloggers have written (I wanted to be uninfluenced) as I am eager to hear what the rest of the community thinks about Sense. And I am always eager to hear your thoughts here so please feel free to share your comments and feedback.