2017: Pushing the Boundaries

My previous blog talked about our successes in 2016. Now I’d like to focus on all that’s still to come in 2017.

If you have any questions about the topics listed here, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Qlik GeoAnalytics

At the end of 2016, we were evaluating third party add-ons for Qlik to enhance the out-of-the-box geospatial/mapping functionality. We concluded that the product from Idevio in Sweden was the best available, so it was great news in January to hear that Idevio had been acquired by Qlik!

The product has been renamed Qlik GeoAnalytics and is available to purchase via the Qlik pricelist, so now is the perfect time to talk to us about how it could enhance your location-based decision-making.

Qonnections 2017

Since we became a Qlik partner, we have always attended Qonnections, Qlik’s annual Partner & Customer summit. 2017 is no different and we’ll be taking a full team over to the US next month.

We’re looking forward to getting a glimpse of the new features Qlik are developing and bringing you all the latest information. You can stay up-to-date with all that’s going on at the summit via our social media channels, so if you’re not already following us, now is a great time to do so! Follow us on Twitter!

Events

There are lots of events in the calendar, here’s what to watch out for:

  • We’re exhibiting at Big Data Analytics on 22nd June. It’s the UK’s premier cross-industry event, showcasing the latest big data insights and innovations.
  • We’re hosting the Birmingham leg of this year’s Qlik Sense Tour event on 5th July at The Belfry resort. Come along to find out all about the Qlik Platform and how it can help your organisation. Register your place.
  • We’ll also be at IP EXPO Europe, 4-5th October – Europe’s number one enterprise IT event.
  • We’ll be hosting regular webinars to showcase all that Qlik can offer.
  • Roundtable events – the next one is on insurance on 11th May. Register here.

See all of our upcoming events here.

Partnerships

We’ve got some exciting partnerships to introduce you to. Firstly, we’ve teamed up with the guys at NodeGraph to offer our customers greater insights into the data lineage in their Qlik implementations.

Available for both QlikView and Qlik Sense installations, NodeGraph provides a clear way to assess where the data in your applications has been extracted from and where it’s in use. It also provides automated documentation to support your development teams.

Another fantastic partnership for 2017 is IN4BI. We now offer IN4BI’s Platform Manager for Qlik solution, which gives development teams increased control when developing and publishing Qlik applications. This is especially powerful if you have multiple environments (e.g. Dev, Test, UAT, Prod) as it helps users to manage deployment processes, rollbacks and changes across each server efficiently.

We’ll be adding more information to our website in due course, but please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about either of these new offerings.

Get Social

We’re committed to keeping you in the loop with all things Ometis, Qlik and data analytics related.

Make sure you check out our blogs each month on a variety of relevant topics, follow us on social for news, tips and insights plus subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know about the latest Qlik offerings.

Release of Qlik Sense 4.0 & Qlik Roadmap

Qlik Sense continues to follow the release schedule of 2 x minor releases (Feb/Sept) and 1 x major release (June) per calendar year.  The following schedule shows the expected release cadence across the whole Qlik Platform:

qlik

As well as expecting some great new functionality in Qlik Sense 4.0 this June, I was pleased to read the updated ‘Statement of Direction’ from Qlik about where they see their product development resources being focussed over the next couple of years.

It’s fantastic to see the level of continued commitment to innovate from the product team at Qlik. As expected, Qlik Sense and the Qlik Analytics Platform remain the key areas for investment in 2017 and beyond.

This is turning out to be another exciting year for Ometis. We’re very proud to be the UK’s largest, dedicated Qlik Partner and we’ll continue to grow our team of experts throughout the year to make sure we can continue to deliver the highest quality Qlik solutions available.

If you have any questions relating to the topics covered above, or would like to speak to one of our team about how we can support your adoption of Qlik solutions, then please get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you! Call us on +44 (0)330 363 9900 or email info@ometis.co.uk.

Ross Greig
Managing Director, Ometis Ltd – Elite Qlik Solutions Provider

Migrating from QlikView to Qlik Sense: The Pros & Cons of Each Approach

Last month, I discussed the five key elements of migrating from QlikView to Qlik Sense, from server requirements through to user training. Now, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the different approaches you can take to migration, weighing up the pros & cons of each to help you find the best path for your business.

The chart below illustrates the timescales you can expect each approach to take.

migration

The Altruist

This is typically favoured by large organisations with many users and applications, or those who must verify that every single binary digit has been consistently accounted for over a pertinent amount of time. This means running both solutions in parallel is crucial, not just for testing/cross checking but for your business-as-usual operations as well.

Pros Cons
Thorough testing Increased maintenance costs: running two solutions over a long period
Gives users a large amount of time to accept change and be comfortable with the new system Duplicates effort for applications which exist on both solutions for the duration of parallel running
Plenty of time to train the entire user base, with the potential to train them in smaller groups Distributed user base for a long period of time
No need to rush the redevelopment process. You can choose to redevelop one app or department at a time If a single user relies on applications which are not on the same solution, for long periods, it can cause frustration and waste time

The Pragmatic

This approach caters for 80% of implementations I have come across myself. A time scale of 6 months to have Qlik Sense implemented, running in parallel and looking to turn off QlikView is not only realistic but practical. This approach defines a healthy balance between time, cost and scope – all you need is a good project manager!

Pros Cons
Strikes a healthy balance between migration time, cost and scope Duplicates effort for applications which exist on both solutions for the duration of parallel running
Business as usual operations are unaffected Less time for users to accept and be comfortable with the new tool than the previous approach
Users can verify numbers using the legacy system for a limited time Depending on resource capacity and scope, an additional resource may be required to help with the redevelopment of applications
Enough time for the users to accept and be comfortable with the new tool

The Opportunist

I see this as being perfect for small implementations of QlikView; those with less than 25 users or a dozen applications. Providing you have performed thorough testing and users are happy and comfortable with Qlik Sense, there really isn’t much sense in running two systems in parallel for a medium to long period of time just because you can.

Pros Cons
Little time spent supporting multiple tools May double the effort for applications which exist on both solutions for the duration of parallel running
Reduces the cost of running two systems in parallel Little time for users to accept and be comfortable with the new tool
You can focus mostly on the new system Less time to test/verify the system, which can subsequently impact user confidence levels with the new tool
Less time to redevelop work
Depending on resource capacity, an additional resource may be required to help with the redevelopment of applications
User training may need to be run in parallel with the implementation of the new system
Higher chance at impacting BAU operations

The Autocrat

As you may be able to tell from the colour used within the visualisation above, this approach comes with a warning – implement at your own risk! No system is perfect on day one, but if you are limited on budget and resource then you may be forced into this approach.  There are some benefits but the risk, in my opinion, far outweighs them.

Pros Cons
You can focus purely on one system Potential high learning curve for users, with no comfort of having the legacy system
No need to support multiple systems No time to test/verify data before ‘go live’
Reduced costs Very high probability of affecting BAU operations
Can recycle the same server/s that were being used for QlikView Users forced to learn on the job
Potential period of down time
Depending on resource capacity, an additional resource may be required to help with the redevelopment of applications

With all that said, it’s down to you to pick an approach to suit your leadership and your company. You may find, depending on the size of your organisation, that you adopt multiple approaches for different departments – catering for the different working environments and skill sets you come across.

The only remaining question is ‘when?’The answer is simple: it’s now! Or, I should say, once you have a plan in place. If you need any help or advice, please do get in touch.

Chris Lofthouse,
Qlik Consultant 

Migrating from QlikView to Qlik Sense: What To Consider

The number one topic for organisations still using QlikView should be the migration to Qlik Sense. In my opinion, guided analytics (QlikView) have become outdated. Self-service analytics (Qlik Sense) are what is relevant now: analytics that put data at the fingertips of the user. Gone are the days of waiting on the IT department to produce reports: rapid development, using intuitive user-friendly interfaces, is here.

Switching to a self-service analytics tool such as Qlik Sense removes the bottleneck from IT, empowers the user and, in turn, the business. Establishing greater insights by having the freedom to visualise data differently, whilst still in a governed environment, is now the reality. Why do it any other way?

In this blog I will focus on the five key elements for any migration plan, starting with the infrastructure:

Server

Like QlikView, Qlik Sense is an in-memory application, so you will need a dedicated server/s. The servers will likely need to be a similar specification to your existing QlikView solution. The absolute minimum specification will require a Windows server with a 1gb HHD, 8gb RAM and Multi-core x64 compatible processors. The full system requirements can be found here. Please note, this is not the universal recommended specification as it varies depending on the size of the user base, data volumes etc. Contact us to find out more.

Licences

Our team of Qlik experts can help you understand if and how you can transfer licences. It is important to note that there are differences between the QlikView and Qlik Sense licencing models. The Sense model comprises of two types of licence: user access passes and login access passes (access passes are commonly referred to as tokens). The former is intended for frequent users and the latter for infrequent users. (A frequent user is defined as someone who consumes 10+ hours per 28 day period.)

Redevelopment

Scripting in Qlik Sense is no different to QlikView, therefore all code is transferable. Having said that, it’s not just a copy & paste exercise: you will need to re-establish the data connections and replace the connection strings in the script with the new ‘lib’ statements. Alternatively, for a quick win, you could use a binary load.

The bulk of redevelopment comes in the front end where you will need to recreate the visualisations. You will be surprised how fast this is achieved, thanks to the simplicity of Qlik Sense and how quick it is to create dashboards with the improved drag & drop/ click & select capability. Having come from a QlikView background myself, initially I found the snap-to-grid system annoying. I soon realised, however, that it was a blessing in disguise! It was after redeveloping an application in Qlik Sense (which I’d previously built in QlikView), that I realised the change really was for the better.

Security

Security in Qlik Sense is a little different but also a lot more flexible. In Qlik Sense you have the Hub (this is Sense’s version of the QlikView Access Point.) This is also the highest level of security – is the user authorised to access your Sense solution and do they have a licence?

Within the Hub you will discover ‘streams’ which mimics selecting a ‘category’ in Qlik View (essentially a collection of applications.) You would typically create a stream for a particular group of users – a user should have access to one or more streams. You can also apply security on an app, field and row level. Section access is still available in Qlik Sense but it works somewhat differently.

User training

For users to accept change they need to be made at ease with it. How do we make a user comfortable with a new tool? We train them! At Ometis, we provide a range of training courses which can be tailored to suit anyone. This varies from an hour long introduction to analysing data in Qlik Sense through to a three day course designed to turn individuals into Qlik developers or system administrators. Our flexibility can match your needs and current skill set.

What’s Next?

Once you have a list of what needs to be done, we can move onto the how and when. Take a moment to think about how you would implement a migration plan. Do you ‘rip the band aid off’ and leave the office on Friday as a QlikView user to return Monday with Qlik Sense, or do you run the two tools in parallel and drip feed users onto Qlik Sense over a period of time? As long as the end result is the same – does it matter? I think it does. It’s not just changing from one BI tool to another, it’s doing so in a manner which is accepted by the majority of the stakeholders, seamless for business-as-usual operations and beneficial to all users.

In my next blog, I’ll be discussing four approaches to Qlik Sense migration and weighing up the pros and cons of each, so be sure to check back.

Chris Lofthouse,
Qlik Consultant

What’s all this about Artificial Intelligence in Data Analytics?

The introduction of Artificial Intelligence into business processes is upon us. This will ultimately make businesses more streamlined, efficient and profitable. If you’re not at least evaluating what AI can do for your business right now, then you’re falling behind the competition.

Before we go any further, let’s de-mystify the tech speak. ‘AI’ is Artificial Intelligence and ‘NLG’ stands for Natural Language Generation. In short, it’s technology that will evaluate your data and return a written report back to you.

We all like to make life easier where we can and one way we can do this is by automating things that are done on a regular basis. We set up direct debits on our monthly bills and rules on our emails to automatically file them or sometimes delete them, we set our heating to come on when it drops below a certain temperature. These small and incremental improvements make our home lives easier to manage and give us time to get on with other things.

Now take a second to think about how long you took to prepare for your last meeting; where you had to explain what was going on and present your findings from the data available to you. Wouldn’t it be great if you could automate that part of your business life too?

This is where Narratives for Qlik comes in. If you have already invested in Qlik Sense Enterprise, or are thinking about what data analytics systems will serve you right in the short, medium and long term, then you should certainly be looking at Narratives for Qlik. It can save you time, provide enhanced insights and present you and your end users with a written report in a language that is easy to understand.

NLG is just one of the use cases for Artificial Intelligence being introduced into a business. This is all to do with structuring well-formed sentences, taking into account grammatical structures and company terminology. This is done programmatically based upon the data that Narratives is presented with. As Narratives for Qlik seamlessly integrates with Qlik Sense Enterprise, it is logical that the written report it creates relates to a specific chart on a dashboard.

narratives-report-writing-1

When users make their selections through the intuitive Qlik Sense Interface, the data in a given chart is reduced, focussing in on just a subset of data that relates to the particular selection made. As this happens, Narratives for Qlik recalibrates all the sentences based upon the new data set that is provided.

This takes things a lot further than any business analyst could manage in a reasonable time frame. What you’ll get out of the box is a written report, created in seconds on any permutation you can think of on your data. Now that’s got to be worth considering…

The Benefits

Speed

Narratives for Qlik, set up on a good solid Qlik Sense Enterprise deployment, can create written reports in seconds. Not only that, it’s also a hundred different reports in one. Every filter on every field or every different combination could show up something different in the data.  Narratives for Qlik will present its written report on that selection as quick as you can make the selection. This gives people the time they need to action those insights rather than worry about writing a report on their findings.

Consistency

Although data can stay consistent, the analysis of that data can vary. A number of factors can permeate on a written report: from who is looking at it and their frame of mind on that day to various external factors. If your business is data-driven and reliant upon the correct analysis of the vast amount of data it has access to, then getting the incorrect interpretations could potentially cost your organisation thousands of pounds. Automated report writing narrows the margin of error that exists with human input.

Redistribution of resources

Allow the talent in your business to work on more complex tasks. Report writing is boring – it must be done for a business to understand what’s going on, but it’s often repetitive. To write a good report you need to find a subject matter expert, data scientist and solid writer all wrapped into one.  By automating this process, you release the talent in your organisation to start adding value in other areas.

Understanding your business

Having sat in a finance team in my former career, I’m reasonably comfortable looking at numbers, but if I had to provide information for other departments, I would often deliver the information in written form. Written reports are much easier to understand and things are often more nuanced than ‘profit is going up/down!’

Next Steps

If this has sparked your interest and you want to find out a little more about Narratives for Qlik or Qlik Sense Enterprise, then get in touch and we’ll arrange a demonstration for you. If you already have Qlik Sense, then we could show you exactly how this would work over your live data.

You can also join us for our introductory webinar at 3pm on Tuesday 29th November 2016 – where we’ll show you how Narratives for Qlik can be utilised to drive your business forward.

Andy Patrick,
Sales Manager

Our Wealth Management Roundtable Event: A Summary

On the 20th October, we hosted our Wealth Management Roundtable event. Hosted in Qlik’s UK offices, on the 32nd floor of the impressive Tower 42 in London – it was a spectacular setting. Ruffer LLP’s Operational Risk & Control Manager, Stewart Lancaster, was our special guest speaker and the event was attended by representatives from various Wealth Management firms interested in understanding how organisations like Ruffer solve some of their most complex data challenges.

Becoming a data-driven organisation

Our Sales Manager Andy Patrick, started proceedings with a presentation on the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in their quest to become more data-driven and effective in making decisions. Another key element Andy discussed was how companies can be more self-service orientated when they have access to the right tools, such as Qlik Sense.

We know that a key concern of our clients is the pressures they face in trying to balance the need for data security while also allowing their business the “freedom” to explore data in a meaningful way. This was another theme explored.

A Client’s Perspective

Next, Stewart took us through Ruffer’s journey of transformation over the last 18 months. Ruffer started out with a largely ineffective business intelligence system which had been developed in an old version of Qlik View (version 8). The company were struggling to achieve any valuable insights in the areas required: Key Performance Indicators, Key Risk Indicators and Key Control Indicators.

Stewart then went on to cover some of the challenges faced in implementing a new solution. Many of these centred on the cultural challenges experienced: the shift from an over-dependence on IT and Microsoft Excel does not occur overnight. Stewart finished by explaining the roadmap for the solution, such as expanding Qlik to include N-Printing, in order to get to the next phase of adoption.

Throughout, Stewart was highly enthusiastic and praised the level of engagement and support he has received from Ometis in helping transform the vision into a reality.

The discussion

Following Stewart’s insights, we moved onto our Q&A. Some fantastic questions were asked by our guests on a range of topics. Some centred around the uses and capabilities of Qlik in various business aspects including market risk management. Others focused on best practice and how to effectively tackle business challenges.

Following a lively and interesting discussion, we agreed the below approach:

  • Choose a use case that is small but high value
  • Deliver a proof of concept
  • Get buy in from stakeholders
  • Expand to other use cases

The session concluded with a great demonstration of Qlik Sense’s capabilities, delivered by Andy. This showcased all the capabilities of the solution and touched on many of its benefits as well as exploring some specific use cases such as the Wealth Management dashboard and some specific Ometis use cases showing the use of Qlik Sense in real world scenarios.

We had a fantastic day and want to say a huge thank you to our guests who we know got a lot out of the event. Also a thank you to Qlik for allowing us the use of their brilliant office space. We’re already looking forward to the next one!

You can find more information on how we can help support Wealth Management organisations here.

Planning Your ETL in Qlik

Qlik has a powerful script engine which allows you to bring information in from a variety of sources. It’s included within Qlik and because you load all the data into memory, once saved it is effectively a portable business intelligence (BI) solution. Of course in the real world the file would remain on a server where all the decision makers can access the information held within.

Naturally, one would assume each dashboard would bring in the data needed from its sources and this can be the case. However, when you’re planning a larger scale strategic implementation this becomes less efficient.

Qlik has a simple yet effective option to allow you to develop these large suites of BI dashboards. As mentioned, Qlik stores the information into memory and also has the ability to export data tables in a special format which is already optimised in the standard Qlik file format (QVD). This optimisation reduces the data size without the need for compression. A Qlik dashboard file can now be seen as something different; it becomes a script which moves a set of data from one location to another and perhaps transforming it as well.

For large deployments we would recommend creating three layers (three Qlik dashboard files):

  1. Extract
  2. Transform
  3. Dashboard Load

The Extract layer would take information from the source systems and place it straight into a QVD file. Here, the latest information from the source system can be added to the data retrieved previously – also known as incremental loading. This method is far more efficient than taking the whole history each time you re-load. It’s important at the extract stage that no data is changed, combined or additional fields added. This way you can easily test that your saved data matches the source file.

The next step is Transformation.  Here we read the previously saved data and get it ready for consumption for a dashboard. As before we would do this incrementally for large tables that are added to over time. Transformation would include; joining tables together, adding flags and calculations.

Finally the Dashboard Loads the transformed data it requires. As the data is fully prepared in the transformation stage, it can be loaded as ‘optimised’ which means it happens very quickly.

When storing QVDs in the Extract and Transform layers it’s good practice to split large tables into manageable chunks. These tables typically contain your transactional data which grows over time (commonly referred to as FACT tables). These bite sized chucks depend on the data volume although we would typically recommend monthly files – this makes archiving data in the future easier. Also, if your dashboard only requires information from the last twelve months, you don’t need to load a QVD file which potentially could contain many years of data, which of course would slow down your process.

The benefits of this type of data load structure include:

  • Your source systems are only accessed once, reducing the demand on their resources
  • You can validate the accuracy of each stage of the process
  • QVD files are built up over time and are optimised
  • Several dashboards can re-use the same data which is both efficient and consistent

If you have any questions or you’d like more information on how Qlik business intelligence can help your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us on +44 (0)330 363 9900 today.

Thanks for reading!

Richard Pearce, Senior Consultant.

What makes a great Qlik Dashboard

What makes one Qlik Dashboard stand out from the rest?

It’s probably best to start at the beginning and ask the question: what is a dashboard? There are lots of ideas out there: “a single view, like the dashboard of your car, giving you the important facts you need in a clear, concise way” is probably the most popular definition. When it comes to business however, a single page dashboard often asks more questions than it answers. A simple set of dials doesn’t give you the full story, just the ending. So perhaps a single view is just one element of the bigger picture. This would take us neatly onto the “Dial to Detail” style of reporting, suggesting a top down approach to analysis. If the “dial” gives you the ending then it would make sense that the “detail” is the story, but is that the best approach to managing performance?

Qlik Dashboard Ometis 2

Effective Performance Management

Is performance management about investigating why something has happened (or possibly gone wrong)? Or should the focus be more on prevention and a continuous journey towards more efficient operational processes and increasing your organisation’s skills? Having the relevant data and being able to supply this information to the right person to analyse is key to success, although I’m always curious when organisations employ a team of analysts. In my experience these teams usually began life as report creators who churned out information by request. These teams are often asked to shift focus and spend more time analysing the information, they are analysts after all. The reason I find this shift somewhat curious is because I’m not sure how exactly that’s supposed to work. I believe that it is those who are managing the front line people and processes who are best placed to complete the analytical task and make effective changes based on their findings. I believe a front line manager knows their own area and information should act as an additional tool in this process.

Qlik Dashboard Ometis 3

Making It Personal

Mobile phone apps have been popular for a while but why is that? One reason is because apps allow every person to customise their phone to their own needs. Not too long ago when you bought the latest phone you were stuck with the manufacturer’s own calendar, calculator, task list etc. Now that’s changed with the advent of smart phones and what seems like a limitless supply of apps. My phone has become very personal to me. If I were to swap my phone with someone else’s, even though the phone may be the same make and model, the apps I inherit will probably be of little use to me in my daily life because they don’t meet my needs.

This makes me think that reporting performance information has to be personal to succeed. For example, let’s say we have three people as our internal information customers; the CEO, Sales Director and Operations Director. We could safely assume the Sales Director and Operations Director will want very different information in their regular reporting so two reports are created, one for each, and both reports also go to the CEO who has to then take the bits of information from both reports which interests them. People are asked to gather information far too often. Organisations I’ve been involved in have anywhere up to 100 regular reports being produced and few are aimed at an individual or role. Most cater to a service or department.

Qlik Sense Dashboard Ometis

Have you ever been on the internet looking for something slightly out of the norm? You cast your hook, see if anything bites then you reel back in and try again. That process can be very wearisome and it doesn’t take too long before you feel frustrated that the information you need isn’t at your fingertips. Information gathering can be very frustrating for an individual if they’re having to, in effect, create their own dashboard by collecting information from a variety of sources.

The takes me to what I believe is the answer. What makes a dashboard useful, usable and used is that it’s designed around the person or role, providing only required information in a format that is effective The fewer roles each dashboard is targeting at the better. with our Qlik Dashboards you can do just that. For more information on how we can help your business achieve effective data analysis, get in touch today.

What do you think makes an effective dashboard? Tweet us @ometis_ltd.

Richard Pearce, Senior Consultant