I’ve been hearing more and more from my old friends in the business intelligence (BI) world about a product called QlikView, from a Swedish company, QlikTech, that was founded as a consultancy in 1993 and launched its product in 1997.
QlikTech’s war cry is one word: simplicity. And I like it.
Most mainstream enterprise software packages have been around roughly 15 to 25 years. Over those years two things invariably happen:
- The usual cycle of feature creep which, while well intentioned, results in hard-to-use bloatware.
- Massive, multi-level market consolidation
When you take these two factors in combination, it’s scary.
Business Objects, for example, was founded in 1990, starting as a PC tools company. Then the web came along and we created a fairly separate web version of the product (WebIntelligence). Then enterprise reporting became important and, lacking the ability to build a nice enterprise reporting product, we bought our way out of the problem with the $1.2B acquisition of Crystal Decisions. Then software consolidation started big time and the company (I left in 8/04) bought I’d guess a dozen or so additional companies/products such as Acta, SRC, eXcelsius, and Cartesys.
Thus, when SAP bought Business Objects last year, they didn’t buy one company / product; they bought literally dozens, each presumably with its own cycle of feature creep and none of them terribly well integrated. And if you think that’s scary, then think about the state of affairs at Oracle, who’s been much, much more acquisitive.
As I’ve ranted in this blog, I think the industry is starting to resemble the conglomerates of the 1960s. That leaves room for innovators of several types:
- Business model disruptors. People like Salesforce.com and the SaaS crowd. Or people like MySQL, Alfresco, and the open source types.
- Focus disruptors. People who want to do one thing very well. QlikTech is here, and I’d say that Mark Logic is as well.
The focus disruptors offer a different value proposition than the modern enterprise software “value proposition” which, sadly, has devolved to something like:
We have a suite of stuff that we’ve accumulated over the years and across the board it does a pretty good job of covering everything you want, most of it not too well, and in many cases we actually have 2-3 different things covering the same space and our consultants can figure out which you need, and yes there’s a lot of redundant infrastructure that we’re slowly eliminating and no, no one will be left behind, so we’re going to maintain all those code lines for years, and because of that innovation will be pretty slow, but that’s OK with us because we bought all our competitors, and you shouldn’t worry because everyone’s using our stuff so you will neither get, nor generally lose, competitive advantage by working with us.
I sometimes wonder on the personal front: “when did we become our parents?” At work, it’s: “when did our industry become the mainframe business of the 1980s?”
I’m a big believer that much as a backlash erupted from the 1980s-era mainframe business so will a backlash (continue to) erupt from the current enterprise software business. Open source is part of it. So is SaaS. And I think focused best-of-breed product vendors will increasingly be part of it as well.
It’s working for QlikTech. In 2007, they say they grew 80% to $80M in revenues and have 7,306 customers in 82 countries. And it’s working for Mark Logic as well.