Today, the new holy grail of BI and Analytics lies in providing instant answers to business questions through self-serviced data discovery and visualization. Most traditional BI vendors have added some form of data discovery tool to their product suite. However, in the recent times, vendors have been focusing on empowering their business users to take advantage of these tools by providing self service capability instead of having to rely on IT thus reducing their time to insight.
Qlik Sense from QlikView is the newest entry in this ‘Self-service data discovery” space. Having worked with Lumira for the past few months, I was curious to explore this new tool. In this blog, I will be highlighting some of the features that both the tools have to offer and a few observations that I gathered during my initial exploration.
Both Lumira and Qlik Sense offer a fresh modern user interface with an easy and intuitive drag and drop feature for visualizing and exploring data within minutes.
Users can quickly access data sources through simple connections to local databases and flat files by using the “Quick Data Load” feature in Qlik Sense. To connect to external sources Qlik Sense has a set of standard ODBC/OLEDB/Web Files connectors. For other types of datasources, custom connector SDK can be used. “Data Load Editor”, which in addition to importing your data, also lets you to control and transform data using Qlik Sense scripting, where having some skill on expression syntax would come handy.
Lumira similarly provides an easy data connectivity and import feature and lets the users clean up or format the data using the prepare tab. Also, Lumira supports a bunch of data sources including Excel, CSV, SAP HANA, SAP Business Objects Universe, JDBC and ODBC SQL Queries, IBM DB2, Sybase, PostgreSQL, Apache Hadoop, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Netezza,,GreenPlum, SAP Hana, SAP ERP, SAP R/3 and Teradata.
Associative Relationship Of Tables:
In Lumira, the pre-requisite for joining two data sets is the presence of a key field having unique rows on which the merge can be performed or by creating composite keys which satisfy the same unique condition. This ends up being a challenge for most types of datasets. Qlik Sense makes the associations/joins between tables based on common field names and especially when there is more than one common field between two or more tables, synthetic keys are automatically created. The “Data Model Viewer” in the “Navigation” tab provides a comprehensive view of the loaded datamodels by source table and internal table view structure. This feature is essential and very useful for understanding the association of related datasets in order to make sure that the joins are done logically when there are multiple datasources involved.
Data Model Viewer
Measures and Dimensions:
While Lumira creates both measures and dimensions automatically from every column in the dataset, Qlik Sense requires the user to specify the fields to be either measure or dimension while creating the chart in the “Edit” tab. “Master Items” in QlikSense is an interesting feature that lets you add custom dimensions/measures and also complete visualization objects which can be added or reused whenever needed. Global changes to visualizations, dimensions or measures can be easily done using the master items instead of having to repeat it for every sheet.
Field Formatting ‘ON THE FLY’:
When it comes to formatting the fields in both the tools, Lumira lets you format the fields (converting to date, text or number) in the “Prepare” tab after which, the fields can be used for visualization. Qlik Sense lets you format the fields while creating charts in the “Edit” tab. The formatting options are many and easy to control. A single click can convert the values to money (which is by default “$”) or number, that provides further formatting for the decimal places. However there are a few things that still need to be worked on. For instance, the option of formatting it into percentage does not convert the value to percentage, but just prefixes the “%” sign to the value.
‘INTUITIVE VS COOL’ Visualizations:
Both Lumira and Qlik Sense generate stunning and visually appealing charts. However, a few notable differences in the two are worth mentioning for making an informed decision of which tool to use to ensure that the right information is conveyed to the user.
Lumira provides a greater variety of visualizations like tag clouds, numeric points, radar charts, funnel charts, box and whiskers charts, heat map, amongst others, while Qlik Sense has the basic charts coupled with innovative user interface. Both Lumira and Qlik Sense allow you to extend their visualization options with extensions using visual libraries such as D3 and open standards such as HTML5.
Tree Maps in Lumira include an explanatory legend which makes it easier to identify the range (low to high) of values for the various colors. This is a useful feature for the users and makes the chart much more intuitive especially when both size and color is used to represent two different measures. Similarly the axis label colors in lumira charts correspond to the chart series color thus making it easier for the user to read and interpret chart information. However, Qlik Sense is very flexible with respect to formatting and layout giving us the option to modify chart colors, legend and position/alignment unlike Lumira.
Lumira allows us to add multiple dimensions/measures while creating charts, unlike Qlik Sense which restricts the number of dimensions/measures that can be added. You can either have multiple dimensions and a single measure, or a single dimension and multiple measures while creating charts.
The drill down functionality in any tool is a powerful one for business users especially when analyzing a huge dataset and then narrowing it into a data category that is relevant for answering their business problem. Lumira supports multiple hierarchy drill downs, whereas Qlik Sense lets you create multiple hierarchies but activate only one in the chart. Consider a factory having two product types and factory outlets in many regions and we create hierarchies for both in Lumira and Qlik Sense. When a business user wants to view the sales figure for a specific product brand and state, Lumira lets the user drill down both the hierarchies(Region and Product) to get the information whereas Qlik Sense limits the drilldown to the first hierarchy level(region in this case).
Both Qlik Sense and Lumira have a great storyboard feature that lets you include content such as text, images and annotations that allows you to bring your story to life. Lumira’s storyboarding option lets you organize your visualizations into board, infographics or a report. Storyboards in Qliksense additionally allows you to enhance the visualizations with various charting effects to highlight the content such as the highest values and lowest value.
Filters and Selections:
Filters cannot be added locally to specific visualizations in a sheet in Qlik Sense unlike Lumira. ‘Clear all selections’ option in Qlik Sense is missing in Lumira – Lumira requires the user to manually deselect the controls for visualizing the data without any filters.
Interactivity provided by Qlik Sense in selecting data is worth mentioning. If the dataset is huge and is difficult to fit into a chart on the desktop, scrollable chart will be displayed with the capability to skim through the content and zoom into the area of interest. While analyzing the data, there are different ways to make selections including lasso select, free hand drawing to select several data points, range selection and legend value selection. While trying to select data on my touch screen system, it allowed me to select the data set that I was interested in by swiping. Lasso selection is disabled at that time so as not to interrupt the swiping action and avoid any accidental selection. This is a well thought out feature that would definitely be useful for any user on a touch device.
That pretty much ends my rapid and initial review of Qlik Sense. There is so much more to explore than what I have written here and I will be sharing more in my future posts. I would like to add that both Qlik Sense and Lumira are still in their early days and I am sure that both tools will have lot more to offer in the near future.
Before signing off, it is important to understand that every self-service tool is bound to produce fantastic results, provided you are the captain and the tool is your ship. By this I mean it’s important to understand the tool and its features; but your ability to leverage the tool to get the best possible outcome is equally important for driving your business decisions in the right path.