To Enable Your Workforce, Put Data Within Reach
My dream is to make myself obsolete. A less dramatic version of that is to enable businesses to come up with solutions that allows them ease of use and reduced complexity, but making myself obsolete is catchier.
As Senior IT-Manager at Siemens Healthineers, my job centers around business intelligence.
When it came to business intelligence software, there was a growing demand for it — especially around the topic of self-service. So after working for years in various teams on the business side, I decided to switch to IT and build up this service. Moving between an IT and a business mindset gave me a unique perspective, but it took some doing to get everyone in IT to see it the way I did.
In a 45,000-employee company like Siemens Healthineers, having the chance to think like an entrepreneur is extraordinary, and to create something that did not yet exist is even better.
But many people have a hard time facing change. In fact, some are notoriously averse to it. So when change is necessary, have an arsenal of hard facts. In this case, IT, who are the kings of data, probably saw using QlikView as a threat to losing that control over data. But ultimately, it’s the business side that owns that data. IT’s role is to make sure the data is accessible and secure. Once IT’s approach moved from eventualities to a “if it’s good for end users, it’s good for IT” state of mind — we nailed it.
Numbers and metrics don’t lie. Between October 2014 and March 2015, we had the bulk of our processes defined and our best practices fleshed out. We had 700 users using QlikView, with 50 developers, and 20 live applications. Today, we have over 4,200 users, 120 developers, and 110 applications being used in 70 countries around the globe. We’ve scaled better, and our reach to thousands of users allows people to analyze millions of data.
The Flexibility for Problem Solving
Siemens Healthineers are known for enabling healthcare providers around the world to meet their current challenges and excel in solving problems. When it comes to BI and staying relevant and competitive, change is necessary. Change is all around us. In business, as in life, it never stops.
Qlik products are integral to our IT-portfolio moving forward. We have achieved so much with them, and usage is still growing. The requests are there. People want it. Our success with QlikView comes down to easy adoption and it being a great product with a lot of customer-oriented opportunities to tailor it to our needs. Beyond this, two key benefits are:
1. Qlik's products solve the biggest complaint people have when analyzing data, which is speed. It’s the performance of the dashboard itself, and how the software handles that in the back-end, that allows users to drill into data without having to wait minutes for the data to load into the dashboard.
2. Qlik products' flexibility gives us solutions that allow us to focus on being creative, across all domains. In the past, we struggled with more basic tasks. Now, we are able to answer questions we would not have even dared to ask a couple of years ago.
With QlikView, my team is able to support our clients collaboratively and with agility. When we help a business build their solution, it’s a partnership. We bring a lot to the table: We are not blindly executing on requirements, we are consulting, even challenging the business. All with the overall goal to continuously evolve our BI activities to create the best possible impact.
A group might say they want a chart that shows revenue development. Our response is: "Sure, this is something we can build for you. But first, tell us about your business. Tell us about the actual questions you want to have answered." This single idea — more than any other — triggers thought. This is where they say, "Well, actually, I don't want to just see revenue development. I want to know right away which countries I have to get in touch with because they're in danger of not meeting their forecasts." As they manually scroll through 180 countries, they would eventually find their answer, but why not identify those critical countries right from the start?
Challenging businesses with tactical, “let’s build this” know-how gives us better results.
Thinking Ahead with Data
Qlik goes beyond addressing immediate, here-and-now concerns. Customer profiling applications allows R&D and marketing departments to better understand their customers — they combine various data sources to derive incredibly useful information. It helps us decide how tailoring future products effects and influences R&D decisions, marketing decisions, and sales decisions. Which in turn allows us to create better solutions for our customers and everyone wins.
With Qlik Sense we're also moving forward into statistical analysis using R as the statistical language to go into cluster analysis and predictive analytics. We are doing this with the Qlik's software to make advanced statistical analysis ready for the masses. We are getting closer and closer to offering solutions where people can tweak some of the analysis in statistics and, using prepared code, allow them to derive their own conclusions on the data. There is movement in reporting front-ends and we need to react fast to stay ahead of the curve.
If you’re thinking about how to prepare your company for the future with Qlik, there are a couple crucial things to think about:
1. Think about how you want people to use it. This clearly links developers and end users. Without this sort of alignment, you won’t be able to get anything done.
2. Think about the support structure you want to offer your people. This includes data extraction processes, the support for data modeling, et cetera. Without a plan to properly support your employees, they won’t be enabled to make the most of the data.
Self-Service Doesn’t Mean No-Service
During on-boarding of new users, I articulate that QlikView is a powerful and flexible tool. But every new tool requires a certain amount of investment and training. I make it clear that self-service does not mean it’s easy. There's no one big red button you push and you get an amazing dashboard out of it.
But by using QlikView, they can handle it themselves and evolve even further. Over the first few months, I’ve put together our Qlik Wiki, which shares a lot of best practices. The goal is to give users the best start possible. My intention was to write not only what to do, but why to do it. To really transform their way of thinking and working. Today, I’m proud that all 120 developers that we have are following these best practices to the letter.
Those clearly defined processes — along with working together with all parties involved on an open, pragmatic and innovative basis — helps us to make sure that everything we’re doing is scalable. At the point we’re at, I can answer 95% of any questions that come in by just sending a link.
Getting Comfortable with Qlik
People get it. Qlik’s content covers everything from reporting to basic analytics — soon to also include advanced analytics — and these solutions are increasingly approachable. BI tools are not what they were 10 years ago. Back then, a background in computer science, or at least someone in IT, was needed to work with it. Of course it also helps that more and more non-IT people bring some tech know-how to the table.
I wouldn't expect everyone to build dashboards like some of the ones we build, but developers in the business world often do have the required experience. They grew up with Excel, and although Excel is not at the level of QlikView, it’s a complex tool that allows you to do a vast amount of analyses. Having this ingrained, maybe even with some basic experience in macro scripting, gives them enough confidence to start building their first QlikView solutions and to scale quickly from there.
One of our earliest success stories was producing an interactive dashboard from static data. We took a highly manual process that took days to complete every month, with data from several different Excel documents, and put that into SharePoint. Then we replaced it with a fully automated solution. The content was basically the same, but now it was transformed into an interactive Qlik dashboard.
This first iteration gave users faster access and added flexibility; there was so much potential to drill down — and we could update the data weekly, or even daily. From this first dashboard, it was clear we had the right tool to move forward.
Today, my job is far from obsolete. But what we’ve seen are new groups of users — thousands, in fact — that have been enabled to take charge of their data and be better at their jobs. So maybe I should still stick around.