It was a long time strap line for QlikView, and an enticing proposition, but does it actually stand true? The answer, as often is the case, is it depends.
There is a long running thread on QlikCommunities with the subject “I Thought QlikView Was Supposed To Be Easy To Learn”. As you may guess the thread was started by someone who felt mislead by the marketing line and was struggling to use the tool. Many comments have been added, some echoing the sentiment and many others offering help and links to the many excellent resources out there. It makes for an interesting read.
The good news is that QlikView is incredibly easy to use – as a data user. I have often said to people that I can teach you to use your dashboard in ten minutes – if you can tell the difference between green white and grey. I’ve even been able to deliver on this boast with time to spare.
So where’s the problem? Well, that is being shown how to use a well constructed dashboard – hosted on a web server at the end of a ‘Favourites’ link. Building a document from scratch is a different matter – and requires different skills. Is it difficult? No. Are there pitfalls? Yes.
The first problem can come from connecting to the data source. QlikView can connect to virtually any data source – so it should be no surprise that some present more issues than others. The wizard added on opening QlikView 10 is a welcome addition for new users – but some data sources require a bit more ingenuity. If you are able to import data into SQL Server or Excel and deal with rogue values etc. then you should be well equipped to do the same in QlikView – if not it may take bit more persistence, or a helping hand. This is in no way a fault of the tool.
Once the data is in then there are other challenges ahead. To create a truly first class dashboard a number of very different skills are required. A good understanding of data, maths and the business are all required. Understanding charts and rules for using them is also essential – all too often I see line charts across non-linear dimensions, averages being added together, pie charts of unrelated items – the list goes on. The dashboard designer is presenting important data – they have a duty to treat it right.
Similarly, design and layout are critical to a successful dashboard. The QlikView developer needs to have an eye for presentation in the same way a web designer does. Crimes against design can lead to completely unusable dashboards.
Fortunately for both data presentation and design there are good books out there that can teach you the basic rules.
The final pitfall I want to mention briefly is performance. Again this is only a pitfall due to expectations. We are told that QlikView offers lightning fast analysis, which it does, but what works for a small data set may not work for a wide set of data with millions of rows. Again you need to know what you are doing. There are many tips and best practices for tuning – too many to list here, but there are good articles out there.
So, in short, QlikView is wonderfully simple to use as an end user of a pre-built dashboard, but you should not assume just anyone can build a dashboard. As someone considering QlikView, or as an existing user, you should be evaluating how you should invest in getting the most from your data. It may be sending staff on the QlikTech training courses, investing time in using the on-line tutorials, just having a go (with QlikCommunities for guidance) – or engaging the help of experts. Any of these are valid approaches. What ever you do, be realistic about what can be achieved in a given time-frame and seek out good advice.
Do these things and you will soon be enjoying the simplified analysis you have been promised.