QlikView is a dashboard and ’associative’ analysis product based on in-memory technology, and was the first product in the ‘data discovery’ category. It is positioned as a solution for building guided analytic apps targeted at business users, enabling them to analyze data without going to an expert for a new report or dashboard.

Vendor

Qlik, originally founded in 1993 in Lund, Sweden, moved its headquarters to the United States in 2005 after raising funds from several venture capital firms. QlikView, the company’s virtually unknown product at the time, was very aggressively marketed after the VC investment. This created enormous attention and traction, and in 2010 Qlik went public on NASDAQ. Qlik was acquired by the private equity company Thoma Bravo and was delisted from the stock exchange in 2016.

Until the general availability of Qlik Sense in 2014, Qlik was a one-product company. Today, the vendor provides a portfolio of visual analytics offerings. With these, Qlik focuses on integrating different data sources and empowering data governance, supporting people with its platform and supporting analysis using its associative model. This product review describes QlikView.

Strategy

The vendor pursues a platform approach which aims to empower data usage by obtaining the governance, providing a platform to meet visual analytics needs, and helping to find innovative ideas by navigating data using an ‘associative’ model. Qlik’s products use a common data engine called QIX (Qlik Indexing Engine).

Qlik’s platform consists of several components including Qlik Sense Enterprise and Qlik Sense Cloud, as well as the Qlik Analytics Platform for developers, QlikView and Qlik NPrinting, acquired in 2015 for enhanced printing and page-based layout. The Qlik DataMarket was introduced as a marketplace providing external data for analyses such as weather and currency information. In 2017, Qlik acquired its Swedish partner Idevio to provide advanced features for spatial analysis. This solution is being sold as Qlik GeoAnalytics. This year, the vendor announced the acquisition of Podium Data, a data management and data cataloging solution.

The Qlik Sense product is positioned as a self-service data visualization solution providing immediate analysis results and the capabilities for business users to independently build appealing, interactive dashboards and quickly deploy analytical apps without extensive upfront effort. Qlik Sense has also been supplied with enterprise features such as a central library for common metadata and a single portal for accessing and reusing data assets and apps generated. Qlik NPrinting is a report generation, distribution and scheduling application which can be used to create reports based on Qlik Sense or QlikView content. It enables organizations to create reports in a variety of popular formats including Office and pixel-perfect PDF files.

QlikView was the vendor’s first analytics product and the tool it became famous with. It is a dashboard and analysis product based on in-memory technology to deliver exceptional performance for highly responsive analyses and interactive dashboards. It was the first tool marketed under the “data discovery” and “modern BI” tags to differentiate it from traditional BI suites. This effectively created a new market into which many other vendors have since followed. The solution was positioned as a self-service platform targeted at business users, enabling them to analyze data without having to consult developers for new reports, dashboards or analyses on new data. Based on the in-memory and ease-of-use heritage of QlikView, Qlik Sense is positioned as the strategic offering for new customers for most use cases. However, in June 2018 the vendor announced it was committing to at least one release of QlikView per year with product improvements (mostly technical) as well as work on co-existence with Qlik Sense and new features in Qlik Sense for guided analytics apps.

Some of Qlik’s success is due to its non-technical marketing and sales strategy (“land & expand”). Its visual analytics products are clearly designed to appeal primarily to business users, who can achieve results without waiting for assistance from IT. Qlik consistently emphasizes ease of use, rapid deployment and high performance over more complex technical, architectural and administrative strengths that are the strongholds of traditional BI suites. In the hope that the product’s simple and user-friendly features will convince business users to upgrade and help spread the product around the company, Qlik offers some versions of its tools free of charge (Qlik Sense Desktop without restrictions, QlikView with some restrictions and Qlik Sense Cloud, which is free for up to 5 users).

Qlik addresses accounts of all sizes: from desktop-based single user scenarios to enterprise standard deployments in large accounts. The vendor has an extensive partner channel and it addresses mid-market accounts largely through these partners. Qlik has a web-based program for direct sales to small companies, and shares the large enterprise market with the big generalized consultancy companies.

Architecture

QlikView was originally offered as a desktop solution with a Windows client (QlikView Desktop). It can still be used this way, and often is, but Qlik has moved away from the desktop to a web-based architecture (QlikView Server). QlikView applications (“apps”) can be hosted on the web as guided apps (e.g., dashboards or analytical applications), or delivered as complete apps with the data to users who use the local client to access server-based apps. The QlikView Publisher component is used to handle data reloads and the distribution of derivative QlikView apps to users. Qlik NPrinting provides centralized report creation and distribution using data and analytics from QlikView. Qlik DataMarket has provided Data-as-a-Service capabilities since version 12.

QlikView apps contain both data and interactive visualizations, delivered in a single file. The tool offers two main clients: a Windows client and an Ajax web client. QlikView Desktop is used for extracting and transforming data as well as for building applications. Compared to QlikView Desktop, the web client is more restricted for development, but there is also some freedom for non-technical users to modify the apps and share changes with colleagues. In addition, QlikView provides an HTML5 mobile client for accessing applications from Apple iOS and Android devices, and a native iOS app for iPad that wraps the HTML5 mobile client (a so-called hybrid app) and enables users to create views of data to take offline.

Data extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) processes with QlikView are usually done using a scripting language very similar to SQL. Qlik Sense is more user-friendly in this regard, with wizards for simpler data integration tasks, but complex transformation tasks still require scripting. These tasks are complemented by wizard interfaces and carried out in QlikView Desktop by IT or trained power users. In QlikView, loaded data is automatically de-normalized, removing the complexity that normalization usually brings with it. The product adds most value when it comes to disjointed data, because it links up the data logically with reduced manual effort based on common field names and the new data profiling features. Data is stored in a set of tables, which are connected by single columns with the same name. It is then compressed for efficiency and loaded into memory. For data sets too large to fit in-memory, QlikView offers a hybrid approach using a capability called Direct Discovery. Direct Discovery allows some data elements to not be loaded into the QlikView data model, but still be available for query purposes.

The data, an associative data model and visualizations are stored in QVW files in QlikView. In addition, the product supports QVD files, which are also used by Qlik Sense. Since QlikView 12, the product has used the same QIX engine as the Qlik Sense product family. To leverage QlikView data models, these files can be directly loaded into Qlik Sense. Note that only the data and data models are reused. Visualizations must be recreated as they rely on different technology.

With each new release Qlik seems to add more features to support large-scale scenarios, such as scalability, stability, auditing and administration features, and integration with existing environments.

Front-end functionality

QlikView Desktop is a single-mode design tool without a separate design mode. This makes it a little difficult to distinguish between application design and analysis, although Qlik did address this shortcoming with Qlik Sense. Each QlikView application is a set of charts, graphs, maps, list boxes and other objects organized into multiple tabs. QlikView keeps all objects in context across all the screens, so that dashboards can provide a highly aggregated view of the data with the ability to jump to detailed analysis in the same application. External content including other QlikView applications can also be called. The Bookmark function, which stores a data context and can contain user comments, adds additional power.

The main data display objects are interactive visualizations, including charts, graphs, tables and listboxes. QlikView offers a good selection of advanced chart types. It also has the ability to connect to third-party objects as so-called extension objects (any kind of visualization), which behave in the same way as native objects. Tables and pivot tables are also treated as a type of chart and share many properties with them. All in all, charts are strongly interactive. In general, the whole tool is optimized for an interactive user experience. To support spatial analysis Qlik recently added support of Qlik GeoAnalytics for QlikView (see Figure 1).

QlikView offers page formatting and formatted export. There are two main approaches for formatted printing output offered by QlikView: the built-in QlikView Report Editor or the newer Qlik NPrinting. QlikView Report Editor allows users to create simple reports by dragging charts and tables into the Report Editor design sheet. This capability does not have the depth and completeness of typical formatted reporting tools. Qlik NPrinting offers Microsoft Office, pixel perfect and web reports based on data and objects from QlikView, and supports centralized scheduling and distribution of reports with recipient specific data.

QlikView provides an interactive and intuitive user interface for app consumers. Information is presented to the user using a “green/white/gray” metaphor. Selections are highlighted in green, associated data is represented in white, and excluded (unassociated) data appears in gray. QlikView also provides a strong fuzzy search feature.

User & Use Cases

QlikView is mostly used for dashboards/scorecards and for enterprise/formatted reporting. 74 percent of respondents use it to query data, and 64 percent use it for basic data analysis. These results show the breadth of scenarios that can be implemented. The solution supports the creation of interactive web applications, which can be deployed to a number of end users. With NPrinting, customers can reuse visualizations built in QlikView to create print-oriented and (if needed) pixel-perfect reports and distribute them regularly (scheduled) to recipients in formats such as PDF or Excel.

Customers are evenly split between mid-sized and large companies. The scenario sizes are also mid-sized to large, with a median of 100 users and a mean number of about 800 users. The percentage of employees using QlikView is at a level fairly typical of BI product usage.

Current vs. planned use

N=194

5 products most often evaluated in competition with QlikView

N=188

Percentage of employees using QlikView

N=196

Number of users using QlikView

N=198

Tasks carried out with QlikView by business users

N=199

Company size (number of employees)

N=199

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QlikView

Peer Groups Dashboarding-focused products, Data discovery-focused products, Large international BI vendors
VendorQlik
Number of responses200
ProductQlikView
OfficesWorldwide
Employees2,500+
Customers45,000
Revenues (2017)n/a
Websitewww.qlik.com

Quotes from the BI Survey 18

This is an excellent tool that can yield massive business benefits. The tool provides great flexibility to respond to business needs in a speedy manner.
Solutions Architect, media/publishing, 101- 2,500 employees