Reflections on Qonnections

Qonnections Keynote New CEO Mike Capone addressing the Qlik masses
Thoughts on Qonnections 2018

The last (and only previous) time that I was at Qonnections was in 2014, so I thought I would look at my notes from that conference and see how the vision then compares to the reality of what has happened since, and what the future holds for us as Qlik developers and users.

In 2014 it was all about “QlikView.Next”. QlikView.Next was the name given to Qlik’s as yet unreleased new product (Qlik itself was a new name, with the company also announcing their rebranding from QlikTech). The feeling at the time was that QlikView.Next would, sooner rather than later, replace QlikView, or that QlikView would merge into this new product.

QlikView.Next was later released as Qlik Sense and as we now know the current strategy is very much to support and enhance both Qlik products. Even though the message at the time was that QlikView would continue to be supported, I doubt even Qlik predicted how entrenched QlikView was and how strong customer support for it would remain.

In 2014 I noted that QlikView.Next would have a web based development and management environment and a “develop once, deploy anywhere” model that would cater for mobile users. In 2018 we’ve seen how the deployment options are growing: enterprise on-premise, cloud, hybrid-cloud, micro-service containers. The licensing model discussed in 2014 was that tokens would replace a server licence. In 2018 we now have tokens being replaced by Professional and Analyser licences and what I find most interesting, the talked-about introduction of a unified Qlik licence. This can’t come quickly enough for me, the potential for QlikView customers to introduce users to Qlik Sense through the same licence and to have a single licence that gives them access to apps in QlikView, Qlik Sense, Qlik Sense Cloud, their own private cloud and open NPrinting reports all through a single hub is huge. Details on this were thin though, I’m looking forward to some detail on when this will start becoming available. In some ways this may delay customers thinking of migrating to Sense, as they wait to hear what better licensing options may become available, so the sooner the better.

Also mentioned in 2014 was how Qlik would become a platform as much as a product, and the importance of open APIs and of extensions. The increase in the number of partners demoing their extensions for budgeting, reporting, mapping, mashup development as well as the cutting-edge developments on Qlik Branch show how much it is possible to extend Qlik Sense. As well as building on Sense as a platform, Qlik also announced the upcoming availability of Qlik Core, essentially allowing developers access to the Qlik engine with the ability to build their own frontend using open source libraries.

“Self service BI - user driven development", was something else I noted in 2014 and this has been a big part of the Qlik Sense implementations I have done in the last two years. 2018 takes that to the next level with the introduction of the Insight Advisor, which suggests charts and analytics to the user when data is added. It takes the concept of creating the data model and associations when data is added and extends that to adding an entire dashboard of potentially useful charts that the user can keep, discard or edit. Drag a measure onto a dashboard, it becomes a KPI. Drag a dimension onto the KPI, it becomes a bar chart. The next versions of Qlik Sense will make it remarkably easy for a user with basic data literacy to create their own dashboards and apps. The concept of “data literacy” in organisations was in fact a big focus of the keynote session on Day 1.

It was easy to get caught up in a lot of the hype that comes from attending these sessions; hybrid-cloud, implementing on Linux in docker containers, Kubernetes, automation with DevOps, visualisation development with picasso.js, but as important right now to us as Qlik consultants were the improvements coming to the base Qlik Sense product, including

  • Custom grid size: you will be able to select from different design grid spacing options, which will allow more control over the layout of your sheets.
  • Conditional show/hide on table columns: like in QlikView, you'll be able to show / hide a table column based on a variable or a condition being met.
  • Custom numerical abbreviations: No more G for Billions!
  • Only one selected value on fields.
  • Default state.
  • Layers in maps, as in Geo Analytics, which will allow for multiple area, point and line layers in one map, with drill down, e.g., from Country to City. The basic map chart is going to be much more powerful.
  • Scrollable sheets; you’ll be able to specify that a sheet is vertically scrollable, to allow for more space for charts and tables. Not sure how I feel about this one, as it “breaks”the fixed screen size Sense model, but it will probably allow for more detailed analytics sheets.

Release by release Qlik Sense is offering more of the features that we’re used to from QlikView, as well as improving the additional charts that are available. In particular it is great to see some of the features of Geo Analytics filtering down into the base Qlik Sense map chart.

In 2014 as a QlikView developer, from a technical skillset point of view, it was enough to know QlikView. What we saw at Qonnections is that from 2018 on, to be a fully rounded Qlik developer, you will need to up those web skills - HTML, CSS, JavaScript as well as R and Python for predictive analytics. I don’t believe you need to a be fully-fledged web developer, but you need to be able to copy-and-paste wisely. In other words, you need to be able to take templates, demos and have enough knowledge of the technologies to tweak, edit and debug them in order to confidently create your own web based content - mashups, extensions and widgets.

I found Qonnections 2018 far more practical than 2014, the only frustration was having to decide which sessions not to attend. We’re all looking forward to seeing the new features coming out over the next few months and the potential for the convergence of QlikView, Qlik Sense and Cloud licensing.

Posted by Colin Hancox

Senior QlikView Consultant. Currently providing Business Intelligence solutions for various large companies in the retail and manufacturing sectors, using QlikView on Oracle and Microsoft AX databases.