BI Wars: Tableau growth spikes while Radnor-based QlikTech's slows; a look at area user groups

Tom Paine

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Data visualization software vendor Tableau Software reported 90% quarterly revenue growth to $61.1 million last week as its headcount topped 1,000 and it filed for a secondary offering of $450 million. Tableau did its IPO, which brought in about $250 million, about four months ago.

Meanwhile, in the previous week Radnor-based QlikTech reported somewhat disappointing results, with revenue growth slowing to 21% ($104.1 million) on weakness in Europe and Asia, and its shares fell 19% the following day. There are different clusters of business intelligence vendors, but many industry analysts consider Tableau, QlikTech and Tibco's Spotfire to be grouped fairly closely together as competitors. Spotfire's revenues aren't broken out by Tibco, but are said to be growing in the 30% range. QlikTech at an earlier stage of its history was growing at a rate close to what Tableau is experiencing now, but Tableaus' latest results reflect a somewhat surprising surge of growth.

All three use in-memory processing and other techniques to enable users to analyze data quickly without excessive IT staff involvement to find answers to questions. They are distinguished from many earlier generation BI tools by faster setup times, faster processing, and the ability to do more on-the-fly ad hoc analysis. But they are not all the same. Tableau is the leader in data visualization, the ability to represent analysis visually and graphically in a variety of ways. Although QlikTech's QlikView certainly has "DataVis" capabilities, they are still playing catchup to Tableau in this category and made a small acquisition earlier this year as part of that effort. On the other hand, QlikView may be better for hard-core data analysis and has better scripting tools for building models. But Tableau may require less IT knowledge or support.

Another distinction between Tableau and QlikTech is geography. Tableau is a west coast company which, at the time of its IPO, had very little penetration outside of North America. QlikTech was founded in Sweeden and its revenue base reflects a broader global distribution, although the Americas continues to be its highest growth area. QlikTech now has over 1500 employees, although they are geographically dispersed and the last I heard only a little more than 10% were based in Radnor. (Update: an Inquirer article on QlikTech today puts its total employment at 1600, 200 of whom are in Radnor.)

Many in the QlikView and BI community in general seem genuinely excited about the upcoming release of QlikTech's next generation product, QlikView.Next.

Tableau has a Philadelphia area user group founded by Bruce Segal, principal of E*S*Q Unlimited, a former attorney who found data analysis a more interesting field. The group regularly draws 20 to 30 people to each meeting, which is held in a variety of locations around the area, including occasionally the Comcast Center (they also meet in the burbs).
Segal has turned over active management of the group to two others, but remains heavily involved in it. While Philly does not have one of Tableau's super whiz "ninjas" in the area, they are accessible to some and Tableau does have a rep here. Segal told Philly Tech News overall support is excellent.

Segal said one of the biggest challenges in setting up databases for Tableau is often converting what was once on spreadsheets into usable formats. Data is often laid out illogically, or not at levels that can be easily manipulated. Also, the original data sources upon which spreadsheet items are built are often inaccurate, out of data or out of sync. More fundamentally, Segal says he often has to answer the question of whether the data address the basic issue his client is trying to find answers for.

QlikTech (Qlikview) also has a Philadelphia User Group. Both the Tableau and QlikView groups require approval for new members on LinkedIn, presumably so members don't get spammed. I haven't been able to locate one specifically for Spotfire, though I imagine there probably is one. Spotfire gets a good deal of use in the biomed and biotech communities. Also I don't mean to omit the Pentahos, Jaspersofts, and Birsts of the world, as well as the larger enterprise vendors who have some excellent tools.

Both Tableau and Qlikview offer free personal editions which you can download and use to get familiar with their products. (Correction: while Tableau's personal edition is available for a limited trial period, QlikTech's is available for unlimited use.)

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