Wednesday 9 May 2012

Becoming a QlikView addict

My introduction to QlikView isn't that different to many others. I started out as a customer back in 2005, QlikTech had just opened their UK office and there wasn't many people around who you could describe as an expert in QV. Because of this we made a ton of mistakes along the way and banged out heads of a fair few walls too. But for me the most interesting part of  getting to grips with QV came before we'd even brought the software.

My role at the time made me the interface between the outsourced IT partner and the business, running around trying to tie everything together to ensure projects got delivered and if possible on time and budget. One day a senior manager dropped me an email with a link to the QlikView website and a note asking me to let him know what I thought. He'd been told about QlikView and wanted to know if it could do what the "marketing gumf" said it could. After a quick read through the material I replied to the email with a large dose of scepticism but was told they were coming in to give us a demo.

Back then, BI tools were all what I'd now refer to as "Traditional BI". Complex, cube based tools that required a life time and a small army to implement successfully. I'd worked on a couple of BI projects and didn't have a very high opinion of their value for money. The day of the demo dawned and I'd been having a terrible week. Several projects had hit problems, I was getting pressure from all sides and I could have done without losing an hour to someone trying to sell me a tool I was convinced we didn't need. In the end I resolved myself to the fact that at least I'd be able to ask a few technical questions and enjoy watching them squirm trying to answer.

What happened instead wasn't so much a demo as an hour of consulting and it truly blew me away. This pre-sales consultant sitting before us had managed in an hour to show us how to load a relatively large volume of data from our own systems into QlikView and built some rudimentary charts on top. Admittedly the end result wasn't pretty or efficient but it worked and if that could be done in an hour, pretty and efficient couldn't take long either. I was hooked on the spot and went away with a trial license in my pocket (long before the days of personal edition) and an intent on having a go myself. The rest as they say is history and needless to say it didn't take us long to decide to buy.

What made me decide to write this post was a discussion I was having with a customer last week who had recently purchased QlikView. We were discussing his introduction to the tool and how his experience was different from my own. There are now a plethora of traditional BI, data analysis and visualisation tools available with each claiming to be better than the rest. Customers have seen and done it all before and so achieving that same awe factor is much much harder.

Over the last few days since, I've continued to play over this idea in my mind. The conclusion I've come to is that whilst some aspects of introducing a person to QlikView may be different today, there are a lot of similarities too. And most importantly of all I am convinced that the similarities are the most critical aspects of the process. Much like I thought, most potential customers believe they have seen and heard it all before; that fundamentally all BI tools are the same. They don't want to be sold to, are too busy to listen to yet another pre-rehearsed sales pitch, and have other problems they'd rather be concentrating on.

What any QlikView salesperson needs to do most of all is to NOT sell QlikView. No, I've not gone mad (I've been that way for quite a while), what they need to do is to help the customer. Don't waste their precious time, help them to understand how QlikView can instead save them time and a massive headache. Make it relevant to them; anyone can demo a pre-made application that they know inside and out. If possible, build something with their own data, or at the very least have a demo application that is relevant to what they do and don't just demo it, develop it. They don't want to believe you, why the hell should they, they want to see for themselves.

QlikView must stand apart from the mass of BI tools available. Forbes last week placed QlikTech at number 3 in their Fast Tech 25 List of the fastest and strongest growing companies in the US. They come behind only Apple and LinkedIn and ahead of many great technology companies. They are also the only BI software vendor listed. Help the customer to see this for himself, and I don't mean send him the think to the Forbes website, I mean SHOW him how QlikView is different. Again, don't just tell him and expect him to accept you know what you are talking about, he doesn't know you anymore than the other sales people who cross his path on a daily basis.

Looking back, that's basically what the pre-sale consultant did for me. He helped me to see how QlikView was different, how it could be implemented so quickly, efficiently and not just be another expensive, painful IT project for our business. That was why I was blown away in 2005, and that's not changed an iota between then and now.

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