Qlik at BBBT. QlikView Expressor: Come for the ETL, stay for the Data Governance

Last Friday’s BBBT presentation was by Qlik and the primary purpose was to discuss QlikView Expressor, but that was just a foundation for what really caught my eye, a great advance in data governance.

Qlik bought Expressor Software last June and the presentation was the chance to show the re-branded products to the analysts in the group. Expressor bring baby ETL to Qlik. The presenters, Donald Farmer and Bill Kehoe were very honest and clear that the product is intended for those who start with basic self-service BI and find they need to get to multiple sources as they begin to expand their use. I’ll be clear, this is a baby product. Their public case study was, according to the slides, using ODBC and Salesforce.com’s very open API. How they can, and even if they should, handle access to more complex and proprietary systems remains a big question.

As Informatica and other major players in the ETL space have strong partnerships with Qlik, it’s a careful game Qlik has to play. On one side, they have to provide some basic ETL functionality to a key portion of their market, on the other side they have to not alienate the big players. Often products acquired in such a middle ground either fail from the lack of a clear solution or cause problems with partnerships, but only time will tell how Qlik will handle this. For the time being, I don’t see this product being a threat to their partners.

The presenters waffled the early message about ETL being a way to govern access to data and why became very clear as the presentation entered the second section. QlikView Expressor is being used as a component driving Qlik’s new QlikView Data Governance Dashboard. The company has done an amazing job at blending ETL, their existing and well known BI presentation software, and a smart overview of the full architecture to take a very good step forward in helping companies understand where their data is being used.

As Donald Farmer pointed out, only half humorously, “Microsoft Office for the iPad has killed data governance.” KPIs defined in multiple departments, different reports on different computers and the growth of laptops made data governance difficult in the previous decades. The boom in tablet use has expanded that challenge exponentially. Having the leading business productivity suite now available on the leading tablets means company reports, spreadsheets and more are spread even further through the business ecosystem. Data governance becomes vastly more difficult to achieve.

The Data Governance Dashboard is a first step in helping IT and business users understand what information is out there, where it’s residing and how much of it is used how often.

This isn’t a blog about the features, but one must be mentioned because it is critical. Knowing what data fields are being accessed by what BI reports is important by itself, and Qlik and others have been looking at that. The extension that matters is their reports that begin to link the report labels users see to the internal fields. Think about the ability to see that two divisions both use the label “Gross Profit” and then understand that they’re using different fields, definitions and underlying data to create the displayed numbers.

Self-service BI is reaching the point where desktop computers were in the early 1990s. The 1980s saw business users run away from what they saw as a controlling IT infrastructure. It helped and it created confusion. IT and business had to find new ways to work together, reintegrate and help both sides help the company. The Governance Dashboard is something that can help lead the BI industry into that same step to help both sides provide improved and consistent information to business decision makers. Well done.

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