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.
For more on QlikTech’s thoughts on simplicity, check out the blog on SandHill.com that prompted me to finally write about them — Simplicity: What’s Next in Business Software.
Dave,I agree with your statement about becoming our parents. I joined a scrappy $100m software company and now I am working for a behemoth. QliKtech may find itself in the same boat before too long, swallowed and then morphed into a feature or product in a menu of products offered by an enterprise vendor. Rarely do I encounter Qlikview in competitive situations outside of Germany, but they are taking $80m a year at the low end of the market that belongs my market segment. That being said, they almost always win on price rather than simplicity; when a customer actually looks under the hood, anyone whose job is on the line over choosing the BI tool will shy away from QlikTech.But the fact remains, just as in fashion and investing, the pendulum will soon swing against the enterprise software vendors.
Dave,Thanks for a great post. I agree that simplicity is “the next big thing”, and it’s long overdue. The fundamental reason I started LucidEra was because of my frustration with the complexity of existing BI solutions — which you are obviously very familiar with. To drive home the simplicity mantra, Da Vinci’s quote that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is painted in big letters on the wall as you enter our offices.Regarding BI, people tend to focus on the complexity of the on-premise infrastructure that’s required. Yes, that an important contributor to the overall complexity, and it’s one of the main drivers behind the move towards SaaS-based or appliance-based BI solutions. But, people often forget that there is significant additional complexity related to building and maintaining your own applications on that infrastructure, even if the infrastructure is hosted elsewhere or comes in a neatly packaged appliance. That’s where the promise and the power of prebuilt analytic solutions comes in. Granted, the concept of analytic applications is not new, but the market’s increasing demand for simplicity is driving more interest and adoption of analytic applications than ever before.
Dave,After close to 9 years at Business Objects I’ve joined QlikTech 6 months ago…This company reminds me BOBJ in the early days. A single product, a very simple message and focus on simplicity for users.You actually have to see or use the product to understand how different and disruptive it is vs. the traditional BI tools. I would not refer to QlikView as a BI tool, it is way too restrictive. It took the founders quite a bit to focus on the – hot and lucrative – BI market segment, but quite frankly QlikView introduce a new paradigm in the way people interact with data – QlikView works the way your mind works… it’s called Associative Analysis.It’s so simple you could not even imagine. As a matter of fact, people are getting really addicted to the product once they use it! And I’ve never seen anyone addicted to Crystal Reports or Web Intelligence…So the strategy is very simple. Get the people to See the product, get the people to Use it on their own data and you have an order in more than 70% of the time.In this case simple = high number of users = $$$
Hi Eryk,Please let me know the reason for Qlikview not being accepted as a Bi tool.I feel, Its not that Qlikview is not a BI tool. There are some features which Qlikview lacks but there are certain very good features where Qlikview is better than others. I have mentioned some pros and cons of Qlikview in my blog. Read this and let me know if you still disagree to accept Qlikview as a BI Tool.http://businessintelligencedw.blogspot.com/2008/06/qlikview-vs-others.htmlManohar Rana
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