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Tibco recently introduced Spotfire 4.0, the most recent version of its interactive discovery and business intelligence (BI) tool. Spotfire comes at BI through visualization. It uses in-memory processing and good user interface design to develop highly interactive displays of data. Version 4.0 attempts to enhance Spotfire’s dashboard capabilities and offers integration with enterprise collaboration tools. The former capabilities are necessary to broaden Spotfire’s appeal and applicability for more BI projects, but the latter capabilities are more interesting since they represent a fundamental shift in the way enterprises use business intelligence.

I’ve written about the trend toward consumerization of collaborative BI that is part of new benchmark research in 2012. Spotfire 4.0 supports integration with Microsoft SharePoint and Tibco’s own collaboration tool tibbr. SharePoint integration will earn Tibco points with IT organizations, but tibbr integration is more likely to resonate with end users. SharePoint represents the “old school” model of portal-based collaboration, while tibbr represent the newer message-based form of collaboration. If you are not familiar with tibbr, it is similar to Twitter and Salesforce.com Chatter, but it is designed exclusively for use in an enterprise environment. For example, Spotfire’s analytics are nicely integrated with tibbr. While viewing a Spotfire 4.0 analysis you can send a message with the analysis embedded in it. Within tibbr the reader of the message can interact with the analysis and delve deeper or explore other aspects of the data. Spotfire 4.0 dashboards can include tibbr chat streams bringing together the notion of analyzing data and capturing the discussion about the information.

It remains to be seen if tibbr will grow sufficiently in popularity to help fuel the revolution in BI that we identified earlier this year. Critical mass of collaborators is a key ingredient to success in collaborative BI. If Spotfire or tibbr supported bridges to other social media tools, such as Twitter and Chatter, it could broaden the appeal of the new capabilities. IBM and SAP have taken a similar approach with their collaboration platforms, but some vendors without their own collaboration platform have no choice but to support third-party platforms. As I indicated in a recent post, one such vendor, QlikTech, is working to integrate its QlikView with Chatter.

In regard to new dashboard capabilities, Spotfire 4.0 introduces display objects and provides more finely grained control over existing objects. New objects include sparklines, which are small line graphs that can fit in a row of data, and conditional icons that are often used to give a visual indication of the value relative to its target as well as whether the value is trending up or down. These types of icons are common to performance management applications. Users now can control the display of dashboard objects more precisely. Because of Spotfire’s interactivity, in previous versions the dashboards sometimes appeared cluttered with various controls for altering the data selections. With the new capabilities, the dashboards can have a cleaner look that makes it easier for casual users to focus on the relevant data. It also is easier to embed Spotfire components in other portals and dashboards.

It is disappointing that version 4.0 does not enhance mobile capabilities in any significant way. While Spotfire supports the Apple iPad with a native application, that is really just a wrapper around its browser-based capabilities. When I worked with the application I found the user interface awkward relative to native offerings from competitors. For example, you could not pinch, zoom or pan with gestures. I expect we’ll see more investment in mobile capabilities going forward, especially since mobile and collaborative technologies are closely intertwined.

The bottom line is that Spotfire 4.0 incorporates key collaborative capabilities that can help organizations transform their business intelligence processes. It also includes incremental improvements in its dashboards that should make the product easier to use. If you are already using Spotfire or tibbr, you’ll likely appreciate what version 4.0 adds. Others who are looking to expand their collaborative BI capabilities should consider the combined offering.

Regards,

David Menninger – VP & Research Director

QlikTech recently introduced QlikView 11, the latest version of its business intelligence (BI) software, which emphasizes new collaboration features as well as enhancements to its user interface. In an about-face, though, in its approach to mobile access, the company has moved away from its native iPad application to a browser-based app using HTML5 technology.

It has been a year since QlikView 10 was launched and I assessed it. During that time, we’ve seen the popularity of social media drive a rising interest in collaborative BI. But QlikTech is not yet explicitly linking the two. While it has announced integration with Chatter, the social media tool from Salesforce.com, and is demonstrating those capabilities, they are not part of QlikView 11. The collaborative features of this release include new interpretations of well-known features such as annotations and threaded discussions. Version 11 also adds a unique collaborative BI capability to share the QlikView environment with others, much as you might share your desktop in a WebEx session. In fact, as part of my briefing about the new release, I was given a link to see the new version and interact with it even though I had no installation or QlikView license of any kind on my computer. One way in which QlikTech has reinterpreted annotations is to allow the user to save a snapshot of the system at the time the note was taken. In this way readers of the note can understand the context in which the note was written.

QlikView 11 also includes expanded comparative capabilities. Beginning with QlikView 10, users could create custom groupings of data to include in the display, but they were static. The comparative analysis capabilities of this release enable users to continue to navigate and perform selections within the groups. For example, a custom grouping to compare the northeast region with the southeast region can be further refined to see how individual product sales compare within those groups. The product also has some easy-to-understand visualizations of how the groups and their sub-selections relate to each other and to the larger group from which they were selected.

The company has added more application development capabilities in this release as well. QlikView 11 exposes application objects in a more granular fashion, making it easier to control the display and interaction of objects on the screen. The new version also supports third-party objects more fully, allowing them to execute custom code which the previous version could not do. QlikTech has also partnered with data integration vendor Informatica to build QlikView data files using Informatica’s products. This integration should help speed up the data preparation process, which our analytics research shows is where people spend much their time.

As QlikView has gained more enterprise customers, the company has been adding features to appeal to the IT organizations that must support its deployments. In this release, the product reloads faster. It has more load-balancing options, and the management consoles of the previous versions have been consolidated. More of the administrative APIs are available so these tasks can be automated. Security has been enhanced with more granularity. Now the auditing feature does not have to be applied at a system level but can be applied to individual applications, which eliminates some of the overhead associated with auditing.

While QlikTech continues to add interesting features, there are some omissions from its product. For example, it has no specific features to support Hadoop for large-scale data. In fact, QlikView’s memory-based architecture will make it challenging for the company to support Hadoop as a data source, and our recent Hadoop benchmark research shows that many enterprises are adopting Hadoop. A QlikView Community poll also shows interest in Hadoop as a data source. Predictive analytics is another area lacking in the QlikView product line. (Discussions in the QlikView Community suggest only a moderate level of interest in adding these capabilities.) Our analytics research indicates that 37% of the 2,600 organizations studied said predictive analytics are important although only 13% have deployed such capabilities so far. We are currently conducting research specifically on predictive analytics to understand this dichotomy better.

With respect to mobile capabilities, one of our five key technology trends for BI, QlikView has opted for a cross-platform approach rather than continuing to provide or expand its native applications. While some BI vendors such as Information Builders are adopting a similar strategy, others such as IBM, which recently introduced a native iPad application, are going the opposite direction. The key advantage to enterprise users in QlikTech’s choice of HTML5 is cross-platform support, which enables organizations to support a wider variety of devices. However, as I worked with the HTML5 version from the demo site, I found the browser-based version much less appealing than a native application. For example, my stretch gestures were often interpreted as selections. The browser-based drop-downs were harder to work with than native application controls, and the need to dedicate a portion of the screen to non-BI browser functionality (such as entering URLs) leaves less space for BI-specific functionality.

QlikTech deserves credit for continuing to enhance its product’s ease of use and providing new collaborative capabilities. Enterprise IT should welcome the new administrative and security enhancements. It still has more work to do on the big-data and predictive analytics fronts, which are not addressed in this release. And it will be up to users to judge whether QlikTech has taken a step backward on the mobile front.

Regards,

David Menninger – VP & Research Director

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