Traditional BI tools have 'underserved' customers

Business intelligence tools from vendors such as SAS and SAP are too slow and "bloated" for today's fast-changing enterprise environment, says QlikTech exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Traditional business intelligence (BI) tools such as those offered by SAS and SAP have "underserved" enterprise customers as these "bloated" software take too long to generate analyses and reports and are not readily accessible, according to mobile BI software vendor QlikTech.

Leslie Bonney, executive vice president of global field operations at QlikTech, said that traditional BI tools have their roots in the 30-year-old hypercube technology. This means the software will crunch data through "pre-aggregated" and limited search fields to generate the required report.

With such tools, business units (BUs) typically have to wait months before they can gain insight into their business performances, he explained in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

Furthermore, as the search fields are not determined by sales managers or the relevant BU but by IT executives, the results generated might turn out to be irrelevant to the business' needs, noted Bonney.

These tools also require a stack of infrastructure for the BI software to run on, which would mean more upfront and software licensing costs for customers, he added.

In contrast, QlikView, QlikTech's mobile BI tool, is meant to streamline the BI process by putting the IT resource and choice of what fields to search into the hands of business executives, he pointed out.

This is done through its proprietary "in-memory associative technology", which allows users to search out results based on how the mind thinks, said Bonney. For instance, its technology does not exclude data that are not within the search fields, but let users see the links between the results they searched for with information that might contrast with the data that was generated, he explained.

QlikView is also designed to be accessed by mobile workers, and reports can be generated and viewed using various devices including Apple's iPhone and iPad, Android-based smartphones such as the Motorola Droid and HTC Hero as well as Research In Motion's BlackBerrys, he said.

Strong IPO showing
In July, the Sweden-based software vendor successfully concluded its IPO offering on Wall Street, selling 11.2 million shares at US$10 per share and raising 11 percent more funds than planned, according to a Reuters report.

According to Bonney, a portion of the funds raised will be invested into research and development (R&D) for its BI tool, as the company hopes to develop a platform-agnostic software that will be accessible by workers, regardless of the device they use.

To complement its mobility strategy, the company is also working on a Web-based client that will allow users to configure their BI tools based on QlikView "on the fly", he added.

The IPO has also given the 17-year-old company the necessary "bandwidth and money" to support its growth in Asia, the executive noted. Previously, the company had focused its business first in Europe, due to its Swedish roots, and subsequently expanded to the United States. Increasingly, however, it finds itself "being pulled into Asia".

"Without any strong marketing push by us, we already have 1,200 customers in [the] Asia-Pacific [region]," said David Brierley, QlikTech's vice president for international markets.

Brierley, who was sitting in the same interview, said the company is keen to grow its clientele in a region where mobile technology is adopted rapidly and such technologies are "received well".

In May, market analyst firm IDC predicted that the BI software market in the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan (APEJ) region this year will grow 20.5 percent over 2009.

QlikTech, Brierley added, is also looking to win over small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with a cheaper, simpler alternative to traditional BI tools. According to him, this market segment had not been well-catered for by traditional vendors in the past.

Challenges to overcome
Bonney, however, admitted there are some challenges QlikTech will have to face to carve out a bigger share of the BI market.

One such challenge would be a "cultural" one, whereby companies tend to think that mobile technologies are "trivial" and are unsure how such technologies can help drive business growth, he pointed out. That said, mobile technologies are already being accepted as "mainstream" and these mindsets are changing even as the technologies mature, he added.

The other challenge would stem from the customers' "lack of trust" for traditional BI tools, Bonney said. Companies that have previously spent money to install separate servers and bought software licenses to run BI tools but did not receive returns from the investments are unlikely to migrate to a mobile BI platform, he explained.

To reassure customers there is still value in such investments, Bonney said his team meets up with potential clients in Asia to explain the difference between QlikTech's offering and the "static reports" generated by traditional BI tools that have gone mobile.

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