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BI Scorecard provides you with detailed insights on tool capabilities, strengths and weaknesses so you can better manage your BI tool investments. Watch this short video from founder Cindi Howson on the expertise we offer.

BI Scorecard founder Cindi Howson has joined Gartner!

For more than a decade, BI Scorecard has helped customers evaluate BI tools, based on exclusive hands-on testing. Effective January 5, 2015, Cindi Howson has joined Gartner as a Vice President of Research on the BI team. This site is provided for existing subscribers and we are not able to offer new subscriptions.

Changes at BI Scorecard: Joining Gartner

I am excited to announce that I will be joining the BI research team at Gartner in the new year. I have had a wonderful 12+ years working independently and with great organizations such as TDWI, Information Week, and Myers-Holum to name a few. However, the pace of the BI industry has gotten to the point where I feel I can no longer reach all the customers I want to, with the standard of quality I expect, on my own. From 12 years ago, the number of vendors I cover has grown from a handful and four core modules to now 14 vendors in-depth, with new modules such as mobile, visual discovery, dashboards, and cloud. BI Scorecard has provided customers with detailed insights on product capabilities to support your BI investments. Gartner and I recognize this continued need. Recently, Gartner introduced a new style of report, Critical Capabilities. If you are a Gartner customer, you may be familiar with the report Critical Capabilities for Data Integration. As Gartner introduces something similar for BI, my hope is that this content will serve the needs that BI Scorecard has served in the past. As part of my employment there, the Gartner team will have access to the BI Scorecard detailed scorecards and reports. The BI Scorecard website will remain available for the time being but we will not be accepting new subscriptions or making further updates after January 5. This is to avoid any conflicts of interest and/or content. I will still be teaching at TDWI in Las Vegas in February, but that will be my last TDWI conference. You most likely will see me at the Gartner conferences in London March 9th and in Las Vegas March 30th. In the meantime, I wish everyone happy holidays and continued success, excitement, and connections in the New Year! Sincerely, Cindi Howson      

Qlik Launches Next Generation Product: Qlik Sense

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Last month, Qlik unveiled its next generation product, Qlik Sense, at its first ever global user conference in Orlando, Florida. Qlik Sense, previously code-named QlikView.Next, was touted to be as disruptive to the BI market as QlikView initially was. That was the vision initially laid out in the spring of 2012. But along came Tableau, boasting an easier, prettier interface, and a successful IPO with the accompanying cash and publicity to further that frenzy. Meanwhile, the release of QlikView.Next was delayed, and customers got jittery about major migration headaches. Can Qlik Sense recapture a market that Qlik once dominated and re-ignite the enthusiasm of its loyal customer and partner base? Judging by initial reaction from customers, the answer is "yes," but also, that they are just fine with QlikView.

Two Products: Qlik Sense and QlikView

With the release of Qlik Sense, the company announced a two product strategy, repositioning Qlik Sense not solely as a next-release, but rather, more squarely as a self-service visualization tool. QlikView, meanwhile, is being positioned as a platform for developing dashboard applications, or as Qlik calls them, "guided analytics." I agree with this positioning (see detailed product review on BI Scorecard) and have long advocated that QlikView was better described as a next-generation dashboard application, different from the likes of Tableau, TIBCO Spotfire, and SAP Lumira. Customers consistently cite the in-memory engine and its ability to act as a kind of data mart as one of the key buying criterion. Qlik's two-product strategy also serves to address customers' migration concerns. With this approach, existing QlikView customers can run Qlik Sense applications on the same data models (QVD files) built within QlikView. This provides a powerful and relatively painless transition strategy. To this end, Qlik committed to further supporting and enhancing the QlikView platform, for as long as there is customer demand. There will be a Qlik View 12 in 2015.

First impressions

First impressions matter, particularly when trying to tap new users, and here, Qlik Sense has gotten it right. The user interface is clean and intuitive. The visualizations have some baked-in smarts, such as automatically labeling outliers, rather than every data point, which would make for a busier chart. There is a smarter use of color. The new visualization concepts come from a small acquisition NCom VA that Qlik completed in 2013. Qlik has also relied on design thinking from UsTwo.com, winners of the Apple design award for the app Monument Valley. Qlik Sense also has new architecture with web-based APIs, something that its already strong partner network can more readily tap into. Vice president of products, Anthony Deighton, says, "The APIs and extensibility are the killer capabilities in Qlik Sense that will move the needle next year."

More To Come

While first impressions are positive, this is not to say that Qlik has gotten everything right in Qlik Sense 1.0. Out-of-the-box mapping capabilities show room for improvement, and there were a number of partners at the conference that have stepped in to address those limitations. Crosstabs and printing are absent. Qlik has a number of things on their roadmap, and, now that version 1 has shipped, expects to move to three releases a year. The beta of Qlik Sense cloud was also released in September, currently available only for U.S. customers. The cloud version supports sharing of applications, not web-based authoring.

A Conference with Star Power

Conference attendees were most excited about the product roadmap keynote on day one, but also, the star power packed into day two keynotes. Adam Savage of Myth Busters opined on the convergence of art and science, and the danger of politics overruling science. I loved the Q&A portion in which one attendee asked how we can do more to recruit women in high tech (my view in this blog). Savage was blunt in his answer: "I don't know. It's hard when the internet is ruled by a bunch of white dudes." Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and an investor on the TV-show Shark Tank, shared his journey to success. Perhaps I live under a BI rock, but I confess, I didn't know him (my office manager and family educated me before the conference so I could catch at least one episode of the show). I was most impressed by his rise to success, talking about selling garbage bags door-to-door in high school. Much of his early days in IT were self-educated by reading books (me too!), and then anonymously dropping into business classes as he paid his way through college. It shows that with enough determination, hard work, and guts, it's possible to achieve those big dreams.      

Tableau: On a Mission for Everyone to See and Understand Data

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard The Tableau conference rocked Seattle last week with a record 5500 customers, partners, and employees in attendance. Tableau has rapidly become the darling of Wall Street and data lovers, growing at a rapid 82% year-over-year, faster than any other BI vendor. And yet, co-founder and vice president of product development Chris Stolte says, "We're in inning number one. We are constantly thinking about what's the next big thing we need to address to fulfill our mission" to help the world see and understand data. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Tableau conference user count over the years[/caption]  

Their Secret to Success

Tableau's success to date can be explained by three main factors: ease of use, agility, and visualization. BI adoption has been stubbornly flat for years, in part held back by hard-to-use tools that remained predominantly in the hands of power users. Tableau is easy to deploy, easy to learn, and easy to use. At the same time, the need for faster access to data, new data sources beyond a centralized data warehouse, and a fiercely competitive business environment have led agility to trump perfectly architected. As one customer summed up at the conference this week, "Business questions have a shelf life." The window of opportunity from a decision or insight seems increasingly shorter. Finally, while many BI tools have long supported the ability to create charts, Tableau's charts have been the primary display rather than an afterthought. With its origins in Stanford and Disney's Pixar, their visualizations have combined entertainment with expertise in visual perception. A number of other visual data discovery vendors, namely Qlik and TIBCO Spotfire, have gained traction for these same three reasons, but with varying strengths. In the last few years, BI platform vendors have been adding visual data discovery capabilities to their portfolios, but it is hard to hit all three high notes equally well. And Tableau has had an eight-year head start.

Key Investment Areas

Much of the product news centered on incremental improvements, with perhaps one item I would dub a break through. CEO Christian Chabot kicked off the keynote declaring the company is on track to invest more R&D in the next two years than it did in the last ten. He outlined seven main investment areas:
  1. Visual Analytics
  2. Performance
  3. Data preparation
  4. Storytelling (see my article on 4 approaches to storytelling)
  5. Enterprise
  6. Cloud
  7. Mobile
Here is my take on three of those areas.

Data Preparation

The three areas that most got my attention were data preparation, enterprise enablement, and mobile. In the era of big data and agility, business needs access to more data sources, faster. Data can come from the web, machines, suppliers, and customers. That data can be messy. Tossing it over to IT for extensive ETL does not lend itself to agility. Giving business users the ability to do simple clean up, such as split columns or unpivot crosstab tables is a better approach, particularly for departmental data sources and/or data sources of unknown value. These are areas that competitors SAP (in Lumira) and Microsoft (in Power Query) have been a step ahead of Tableau. The biggest wow, though, was the ability to take web-based data with blank rows, merged cells, and distributed tables (think of an SEC 10Q) and import it into Tableau in a single click. While I was impressed with the demo, I will remain skeptical that it's truly that easy until I've tested it. At first blush, I thought the new data prep features could be bad news for partners Alteryx, Paxata, and Trifacta. But these vendors are able to do such business data preparation across multiple data sources, whereas Tableau seems to be working off a single source.

Visual Data Discovery Across the Enterprise

Enterprise enablement and balancing control with freedom was a theme of many of the track sessions at the conference. Customer Deloitte is one of the largest deployments, with 40,000 named users. Maintaining permissions for so many users is not an easy task in any BI tool. Here, Tableau showed how they are using their visualization expertise to better help administrators visualize those permissions and usage. The following image shows a screenshot of a heatmap of user permissions and how they got it: either explicitly or inherited via a group membership. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="401"] Tableau improves enterprise management capabilities; see security permissions graphically[/caption]


Mobile has been an area of relative weakness for Tableau. Customer Ancestry.com cited limitations in mobile as a specific reason they have multiple BI tools. Tableau expects to add offline capabilities in the next release, with a scheduled synchronization. However, the initial release for the offline dashboard is expected to be static. The company also introduced project Elastic. In their mission to help all people use their data, Tableau is targeting mobile users who receive tabular data via email, Dropbox, or apps that use Health Kit on a tablet device. Project Elastic is a Tableau app that takes that tabular data and immediately renders it as a bar or line chart. Users can swipe the data to filter and drill. This app goes far beyond the current business user base to casual consumers.

Room for Improvement

Tableau is focusing on improving its core capabilities, but I was disappointed there was no mention of Search or of better scheduling options. Customer Facebook gave a presentation on how they have developed their own scheduling solution and intends to share it with the community via their blog. Other attendees were frustrated by the lack of clarity on release dates and capabilities, a transparency they have enjoyed in the past when the company was privately held. In this regard, Tableau has said that its next major release, version 9, will ship in the first half of next year. They won't say for sure what's in that release as they have moved to a more agile development methodology.

Combining Inspiration and Education

As user conferences go, Tableau knows how to capture the spirit of a passionate group of customers. It's not just an educational and networking experience; it feels more like a pep rally, with Tableau employees manning the conference. Quite frankly, it is reminiscent of a number of BI conferences before the industry consolidation in 2008. One of my favorite parts is the Tableau Doctor where developers meet one on one with customers on their particular questions and dashboard designs. The guest speaker keynotes were inspiring, starting with Dr. Tyson, host of the Cosmos TV series, talking about telling stories with science. Author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, BlindSide, and Flash Boys) shared his experiences with disrupters and the backlash when people don't like what the data is saying. (Did you know the Blind Side almost wasn't made, as producers cited no commercial potential? The film was bootstrapped?!) I missed author John Medina of Brain Rules, but his book is a must read for understanding how we learn, think, and retain information. And for those of us who wish we could clone ourselves to attend competing track sessions, all of them were recorded to be viewed on demand post conference. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="289"] Dr. Tyson[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="291"] Michael Lewis, author and proud dad, brings his son on stage[/caption]

Getting Girls into IT: Don’t Blame Silicon Valley

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Since Silicon Valley released their diversity numbers in June, I've watched the reactions with a mixture of optimism and dismay. As a woman in IT, the disclosures have heightened my hope that there will be a more concerted effort to improving diversity. But I'm dismayed that everyone is blaming Silicon Valley when the blame lies squarely with the girls, present party included.

Girls Are Leaving IT, so the Boys' Club Grows

Women once accounted for 37% of computer science degrees in the mid 1980s, to now less than 20% (source: NCWIT.org). Yet people are crying foul about the low representation of women in high tech companies, particularly in technical jobs and leadership roles. Complainers are saying the Silicon Valley demographics should reflect their respective customer base. Um, is anyone demanding more female car mechanics simply because more women drive cars? I don't think so.
Company Women in Tech Jobs Women in Leadership Women Overall
























(source: table at http://pxlnv.com/blog/tech-company-diversity-stats/ and individual company web sites).

Sparking an Interest Earlier

Part of the problem is that these next-generation companies say they represent a meritocracy, where all have equal opportunity and succeed on merit, versus the old boys' network. Frankly, I think there is an equal opportunity for women, but not an equal interest or awareness. My niece, who will be starting her degree in Computer Science at Northeastern University in Boston this fall, is a prime example of why girls are not majoring in computer science. Jennie has always been a math whiz and gadget girl. She could command the table in Poker, assemble a 1000-piece puzzle or Lego set faster than anyone. But until she began looking at colleges, she was never aware of computer science as a particular field to major in. A campus tour sparked her curiosity and led to her taking a class in computer science her senior year in high school. It bothers me that her guidance counselor never before suggested the class. Bothers me too that she was but one of only 3 girls in a class of 14, a record high at the school, and very much consistent with the Silicon Valley demographics. How can we expect girls to major in computer science when we aren't introducing them to the subject in high school? And even though I work in IT now, my path to business intelligence and big data has not been a direct one. I have always enjoyed and excelled at math, but my first passion was writing. As high school electives go, my high school did offer a computer science class back in the 1980s, but no way would I have opted for that over a writing class. For sure, neither my counselor nor parents ever recommended computer science as a way to use my analytic skills. It was only through writing classes in college and multiple crashes of the then new Local Area Network, that I learned how to recover those 50-page documents I was so desperate not to retype. In my first job, writing and tracking proposals for a consulting company led me to discover Lotus 123, Dbase, and personal computers. An avid reader, I devoured user manuals and my career hummed along, self-taught with a few vendor-specific certifications. Yes, those Novell Network Administrator manuals were as engrossing as a Ken Follett spy novel. I did eventually go back to school and get an MBA in Management Information Systems; the rest is history.

Glimmers of Success

High tech firms are not the ones to blame here. In part, I fault our education system for not exposing students —girls and boys—to computer science at an earlier age. Given the U.S. Education system is so poorly ranked in the basics of math and science, perhaps it's too much of a stretch for them to tackle technology too. Here is where Silicon Valley can do more by offering after school clubs and early camps to interested students. A few groups have emerged in the last two years to address this challenge. For example, She++ started in 2012 at Stanford University for female computing engineers. She++ founder Ayna Agarwal was one of the Millenial speakers who kicked off SAP's Sapphire conference this year. Girls Who Code was also founded in 2012, and this summer offered camps in 19 tech companies around the country. Sponsors included some of those companies such as Twitter and Facebook who have recognized the diversity problem. And don't let the names of these organizations mislead you: coding is but only one possible job in information technology. While college students seem pressured to declare a major increasingly earlier in their secondary education, I've been impressed with those universities that guide students to their talents and to the job opportunities. University of Texas System recently launched an application to provide prospective students, parents, and the public with access to data on degrees, salaries, and jobs. For example, the below bubble chart nicely shows the higher earnings for a grad in computer science (the blue bubble) versus an English major (the red bubble).

Silicon Valley could also take a page from software giant SAS, based in North Carolina. The company has long tracked its diversity numbers and been recognized as one of the best places to work by multiple rankings. Everything from flexible work hours, to on-site gym and day care, to keeping non-core jobs like landscapers in house pays off in attracting talent across multiple demographics. SAS does significantly better for women in tech and leadership roles (data for U.S. based employees only; global data not reported for international privacy laws), as the table below shows. At North Carolina State University, only 9% of computer science graduates are women, so SAS actively works with the university to foster interest through an R3 summer student program: Recognize, Recruit, and Retain. Women and minority students have the opportunity to work on projects to gain real-world experience in analytics and technology.
Company Women in Tech Jobs Women in Leadership Women Overall




  The University of Miami also recently launched an initiative to pair current STEM college students with high schools in low-income neighborhoods. Students partner with high school teachers to enhance the curriculum, give guest lectures, and mentor high school students.

Hire a Girl … or Not.

Diversity is important for creativity and equal opportunity. Recognizing the problem is an important first step for companies recruiting and hiring, and the outcry from the published demographics has raised awareness. It's up to minorities – whether by gender or ethnicity – to seize the career opportunity. Silicon Valley and high-tech firms can partner with universities and high schools to spark minorities' interest in such careers earlier in their education. Ultimately, I don't ever want to be hired because I'm a woman. I only want to be hired because I'm good at my job. For that to happen, we have to foster a more diverse talent pool, beginning in high school. Silicon Valley has a vested interest in making that happen; so do the girls. Postscript, October 31, 2014: Thank you to USA Today for continuing to cover this topic. Hear my podcast with them on my thoughts on women in IT.  Thanks to podcast, also discovered another great organization code.org who is actively working on improving early computer science exposure to high school students.  

What’s in a Story (and a Name)?

By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard Story telling capabilities are fast becoming table stakes in visual data discovery tools, but not all stories and storyboards are the same. Here's a look a look at four vendors' approaches. It would be nice to think that most data analyses end with a value added decision or action. But really, many BI analyses end with a Power Point, finely tuned for board room presentations. Data is explored, analyzed, filtered, transformed, and then exported into a story telling medium where it becomes static. The PowerPoint may be used to support or refute a hypothesis or to provide a status update. But what if that same data could remain within the BI tool, with board room presentation quality? Could those meetings of death by PowerPoint become more effective, interactive work sessions? Can the data be better presented not only to support a hypothesis, but also, to guide a decision-maker to a logical conclusion that compels action? This is the vision behind recent innovations in a number of visual data discovery tools. Tableau and Qlik call them story points and storytelling, respectively, SAP calls it storyboards and infographics. SAS, meanwhile, brings live integration within Power Point itself. While each vendor's feature has slightly similar names, the capabilities differ greatly.

Tableau: Story Points

Tableau released the concept of Story Points in version 8.2 in June this year. With a story, a user can insert a visualization onto a canvas, with the saved filters. The idea of story points is to provide users with the ability to present the data as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. The banner of the canvas can include a long-text that is clickable. For example, in the below story, "Profits are increasing" is a clickable title. Multiple visualizations can be linked together to create a PowerPoint-like slide show. Within each page, users can adjust the filters. "The data tells you what's happening, but the story guides you to an understanding of why," Tableau says in its white paper, "Data Storytelling."

Qlik: Story Telling

Qlik Sense Desktop was released in July 2014 as a free, desktop visual discovery tool based on the vendor's next-generation interface. The vendor has not announced release data for Qlik Sense for the enterprise, currently in beta. In Qlik Sense Desktop, dashboards and individual visualization can be added to a story. Compared to Tableau, Qlik Sense has a few more bells and whistles to its stories. First, each page of the story can contain multiple visualizations and/or snapshotted images, with the drill and filter saved. Also, there is an "effect" option that automatically recolors a chart so top (or bottom) performers stand out (in the below image, higher salaries are highlighted). Additional text can be added to the story, whether a simple annotation or a full paragraph. Images and shapes can also be added to the canvas to create a type of infographic. In play mode, each slide nicely transitions to the next. Dashboards remain interactive.


SAP Lumira: Storyboards and Infographics

Earlier this year, SAP added the concept of storyboards to Lumira. While the name may suggest similar capabilities to Tableau and Qlik story telling, in SAP, storyboards are better described as dashboards with multiple visualizations on a single page. Up until that release, Lumira lacked the ability to create these simple dashboards, a capability in most other visual data discovery tools. In addition to visualizations and filters, Lumira storyboards also support text boxes for titles or paragraphs, and images.

Meanwhile, in version 16, released in June this year, SAP added infographics— the ability to add pictograms and shapes to the storyboards. As shown below, there is also a preview ability to see how the infographic will appear on various devices. With infographics, users can also set the color options for the images, background, and some charts. This, of course, should be an expected feature in any BI tool but was lacking in earlier Lumira releases. The infographic capability is an interesting concept, but I found the capabilities too immature to replace PowerPoint. For example, in trying to add a callout, the callout does not natively support text; the text has to be added in a separate text box. As well, the callout pointer cannot be repositioned to connect to the particular image or outlier within the chart.

SAS Visual Analytics: Power Point

The SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office is a little-known but powerful add-in that lets users access and interact with BI content directly from within Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. With this approach, users create a visualization within SAS Visual Analytics. Then within PowerPoint, there is a Visual Analytics toolbar that lets them insert the visualization onto the PowerPoint canvas. The visualization is a direct query, not a static export, so it can be refreshed. Users have all the PowerPoint abilities to add text and additional images.

Stories: More to come?

While each of these innovations goes by a similar sounding name, the capabilities differ. All reflect a growing trend of how to better present data, findings, and inflection points into a cohesive story. I suspect story capabilities will continue to emerge in other visual data discovery tools. Like any first novel, I suspect the second releases of these stories will only improving over time.
Dashboards: multiple visual indicators on a single page
Infographic: visual representation of information, used beyond quantitative data such as in subway maps, weather patterns, and so on
Story: collection of thoughts with a beginning, middle and end
BIScorecardCindi Howson
Final tweet before time off, so wishing all happy holidays & safe travels! U might get a tweet or 2 from Packers game, if not 2 frozen! :)
1 month ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
Holiday spirit 3: 6 execs paying, 5 dashboard blings, 4 buzz words, 3 data friends, 2 maps I love, and a visual tool so easyyyy! #BI12days
1 month ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
Holiday spirit 2: 11 partners partnering! 10 leaders leading, 9quants prancing, 8 modelers modeling, 7 server savings #BI12days
1 month ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
Holiday spirit: On the LAST day of Christmas, my BI vendor gave to me, 12 data lovers discovering! (r u singing along? #BI12days
1 month ago
BIScorecardCindi Howson
Holiday bustle in BI: and for subscribers, some preliminary detailed scores on Microsoft new Power BI in CTP http://t.co/pfSO2VcrtL
1 month ago