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The new face of business analytics

o F.Y. Teng
12.07.2012 kl 23:38 | MIS Asia

Donald Farmer, VP for Product Management at business intelligence (BI) technology provider QlikTech, spoke with MIS Asia recently about the new face of business analytics. Find below the expurgated transcript of the first part of our interview.


Donald Farmer, VP for Product Management at business intelligence (BI) technology provider QlikTech, spoke with MIS Asia recently about the new face of business analytics. Find below the expurgated transcript of the first part of our interview.

Talk about organisations in Singapore and Malaysia as markets for BI technologies.

One of the things that are obvious with Singapore as opposed to the rest of the Asia Pacific is the strong emphasis on analytics here and I think that comes from the fact that this is a centre for so many regional headquarters. There is an analytic culture here that comes from the US influence, frankly, that you have here.

If you go to other parts of Asia Pacific such as China, you will find that there is probably an emphasis more on dashboards and reporting at a fairly more basic level because they will only be starting on that journey.

I think the Singapore market is just generally-and I wouldn't say that in terms of business intelligence but in terms of the business culture-more mature, and that drives the change. So the patterns we see are really more a reflection of that than any technological difference.

The other thing that you do find in the Asia Pacific as opposed to the rest of the world is the importance of mobile devices, particularly smart phones here as interfaces to enterprise and information systems. Because one thing that is very distinctive is the role of mobile devices, which are the primary means of accessing information.

It will be very common here, for example, to find people with very sophisticated smart phones and great data plans, which is also very important for accessing data, but who do not have a PC at home. In contrast, what find in the US is typically people would have a PC at home but not have smart phones. That's changing now, but the US is way behind in the smart phone market compared to Asia.

Now that creates a very distinctive and cultural trend where mobile becomes very, very important. Even more important than it is in the US. And important for every business user, not just for executive business users.

So those kinds of trends are interesting and different.

What exactly is it that you think that you guys have that makes you different from your competitors and makes all your customers come to you?

That's a really interesting question and nobody has ever asked me that before. That's kind of unusual because that's one of the reasons I joined the company.

What convinced to move over from Microsoft was the way in which the QlikView product was developed.

It's very focused on the customer.

I used to say that your customer is just like the product. They're like the company. And I don't mean to focus on the customer in the sense that we just get simple feedback. With us, if a customer asks for something, they will get that feature.

The product was really developed in close collaboration with the customers.

We're based in Sweden. That's where we came from. That's where IKEA is from. In fact, in Sweden, it's everywhere. Now, why is IKEA everywhere and why is Scandinavian design so successful? Because IKEA does two things very well. It puts out products that are very functional; you buy a chair from IKEA, it's going to be a great chair, it's going to be comfortable. And it's also a beautiful object. That is very much part of the Scandinavian design tradition of creating functional objects that are also beautiful and attractive. So it is no accident that our design headquarters and our development headquarters are right in the heart of the region of Sweden and Denmark which is most famous for design. We're halfway between Copenhagen, which is often described as the design capital of the world, and the IKEA headquarters in Helsingborg. We're right there and the reason that's important, of course, is that the universities are very focused on design. Even the schools and all the technology are very design focused. So we have this very strong design culture and that's a part of the thing that I like and the philosophy that I have.

To give you an idea of the kind of people we have working on the QlikView product right now: we have a guy that used to be a furniture designer; we have a guy that used to work on developing games; we have people who developed user interfaces for televisions and video recorders; and, we have people who developed applications for smart phones. Note that none of these people comes from a BI applications background. Instead, they are all part of our design philosophy if you like.

We also have people who used to develop video games. We have a guy who developed an application which enables fathers who are travelling to read books with their children while they are on the road. If you're a businessman travelling around the world, you can still read a book with your kid collaboratively every day.

We recruit people from all those different backgrounds, put them together and then say to them, "How are you going to help business users to tell stories about their data to each other?" and now you get an experience that you never would have gotten if you had gone to a Microsoft or MicroStrategy or SAS. Because they would be all about: "What is the IT department going to say and how do I structure this with all the IT type of issues?"

We're taking a completely radical different approach.

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