The Path to Analytics Modernization Begins with SaaS
Everyone is used to operating in the cloud. Most of us have stopped storing assets on a local device, from document sharing and collaboration to vacation planning and photo storage. It saves space and improves accessibility. What’s not to love?
Businesses have also leaned into cloud adoption, but the story isn’t quite as cut and dry. Even though 94% of modern organizations utilize at least one cloud platform, 98% of companies still rely on their on-premise server hardware to accomplish daily tasks, despite the possibilities of full-cloud operations.
This transition between on-prem and cloud-based infrastructure can be especially hard for financial operations like Ikano Bank, who manage sensitive data. Ikano Bank is an online bank without physical offices open for customers, with branches spanning across Europe. We currently manage operations in the Nordics, Germany, Austria (cross-border from Germany), Poland, and the UK, and support seven separate branches with more than 1,000 employees. Ikano Bank offers simple and fair banking and financing solutions for the many people and businesses. Our offer to consumers includes cards, personal loans, mortgages, and savings accounts. We deliver sales finance to retail partners and provide businesses with leasing and factoring solutions. Today, Ikano Bank manages more than SEK 60,968 million.
As a digital bank, data and analytics needs to be at the core of everything that we do, and our data strategy goes hand in hand with our business strategy. As a modern bank, we both have to consider the increased regulatory needs of having control of our data while at the same time utilizing data and analytics to create fantastic products, offerings, and experiences that live up to the expectations of consumers.
Our data and analytics strategy sets out to put the right data, at the right time, into the hands of the people of the bank, and give them the analytical tools and knowledge to use it. To be able to do so in a flexible and cost-efficient way, we are dependent on utilization of modern technology typically utilized as cloud native components and/or SaaS.
Ikano Bank had created a digital transformation plan that would revolutionize the business—and it was just becoming a reality when I joined 2.5 years ago. We were determined to become more data- and analytics-driven and realized that a cloud/SaaS strategy would be a necessary part of this change.
The Benefits of SaaS
Our Qlik partnership began in 2006 when someone downloaded QlikView to help them with daily workflows, and the trend quickly spread to other users.
We’ve come a long way since then. We chose Qlik to be the target business intelligence tool for our global operations in 2015, and created an extensive footprint of users, apps, and reports. We reached the point where we had 500 active users across our global locations, 30 of which were Qlik developers. They created more than 250 apps to manage our data, with at least 60 data sources housed within Qlik for analytics and reporting. We had eight servers supporting our development, testing, and production environments servicing both internal users and external partners.
QlikView is powerful, but it had its limitations. Even though we had accomplished so much with the platform, we started looking into SaaS options for several reasons.
- First, we wanted less IT technical competence required to maintain software. Our banking environment is complex enough, and we didn’t want to waste internal resources or slow our operating speed due to a lack of training.
- Second, we needed a modern interface and additional functionality that could scale with our team as we grow. With such a wide-reaching impact and so many international locations, the bank would benefit from more scalability.
- Finally, a cloud-based platform would improve the availability and accessibility of data and could boost operational efficiencies. Upgrades would be implemented quickly and seamlessly, and our team would have access to trained support if problems arose.
Since we were already heavily invested in Qlik, it felt right to start exploring their offerings first. It didn’t take long for us to settle on Qlik Sense as the next chapter in our banking evolution.
Moving from On-Premise QlikView to the Qlik Cloud
We had a few hurdles to jump before the migration, including getting approval from the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA), ensuring we adhered to GDPR and data storage requirements, and creating a Data Processing Agreement. We also had to get approval from our high-value stakeholders, which happened surprisingly fast. We began the development process in September 2020 and finalized the contract just a few days before the new year.
We started with one of our smaller countries to begin the migration process. A person in that country was selected as head of migration, and we presented them with a full list of all active QlikView applications. Together, we sorted through this list and decommissioned all unnecessary apps to simplify the migration process. We also merged certain apps to simplify things further, and established priority and complexity ratings.
Once an app is migrated to Qlik Sense, we lean into training sessions to help users become more familiar with working with a new interface in the cloud. App owners and users receive half-hour training sessions that walk them through the basics of Qlik Sense and compare its differences to QlikView. There are a few weeks between the time we migrate an app to Qlik Sense and remove the QlikView instance entirely, allowing our users to familiarize themselves with the changes while still having a safety net.
Easing Our Way Into Our New Setup
These days, the most heavily used Qlik apps for us are within the Finance and Commercial area, but we have Qlik apps for just about every department.
Now that we’re using Qlik Sense, the team at Ikano Bank has changed how we work. For one thing, we’ve needed to rethink our development process and chain of command. It’s now imperative to share data with users rather than just apps alone. We also realized that continuous updates meant our teams need access to training materials and other documentation to make the most of Qlik.
We still miss a few features from QlikView, but new features such as extended rule management and application automations have helped our team move forward. With application automations, we can accomplish many tasks with a single click. For example, we send an onboarding email when users log in to Qlik Sense for the first time. We also have an app called the application catalogue, where users can browse available apps in Qlik. They can apply for access to an app using a button, which automatically creates a ticket within our IT service portal.
We’ve decommissioned some QlikView environments, saving time and money on maintenance. We’ve also eliminated the need for virtual desktops used for QlikView development, which has improved our bottom line even more.
Becoming an Analytics-Driven Organization Starts Here
Our migration to SaaS has enabled us to deliver data much better than we could in QlikView. We have faster updates, faster onboarding, and accurate data accessible from anywhere. We’re looking forward to implementing more alerts and automations in the future, and our goal is to stay on top of new platform updates, which are released weekly.
Qlik has enabled Ikano Bank to take advantage of a new concept: data democratization. We firmly believe in providing data for the people, which opens a two-way dialogue, encourages access to new features, and enhances our user community. We hope this will alleviate the burden on our developers to offer all the answers and encourage a self-service approach wherever possible.
The progress of our migration is slow but steady. Of our 500–600 users, there’s still an even mix of Qlik Sense and QlikView users. The average or advanced analytics consumer has a much faster onboarding process, and we’ve seen a couple of teams create dashboards without any training, which shows us we’re on the right track.
We launched Qlik Sense in January 2021. Since then, our main goal has been to eliminate QlikView, get as many users as possible aware of Qlik Sense, and to democratize data. For a team with just six developers, this task is a big lift that will take a few years to complete.
Our stakeholders are also quite pleased with the migration:
- “Our commercial dashboard has democratized access to data! It has enabled us to share information with all colleagues who need data to drive our business forward, monitor progress, and make decisions. The visualization capabilities of the tool also make it easier to understand the data, generate insights, and use them to help take the right actions. This has been an important piece of the puzzle in our ambition to become more data-driven! —Jessica Svantesson, Chief Commercial Officer
- ”Qlik Sense has enabled us to monitor transactions on a much more granular level, leading to on demand monitoring and deviation analysis. This has given us the opportunity to be ahead of the data streams and reply faster to internal and external demands.” —Robert Eberhardt, Central Accounting Manager
Moving to SaaS analytics was something Ikano Bank had to do to achieve our digital transformation goals. Qlik and our partners have offered the best support and guidance, going out of their way to support our team during this ongoing transition. We’re still not at the finish line, but having already realized significant benefits and we are confident of achieving our aim to be truly data driven as we explore further and make use of the Qlik Sense SaaS platform.