Qlik Sense Developer Step #2a: Qlik Sense Extension Basics

Learning a new skill while on the job is difficult. For the past 6 months, I’ve been swamped doing what I’ve happily done for the last 12 years: QlikView. Luckily, I’ve involved others like Julian Villafuerte in my decision to become a Qlik Sense developer and that makes it easier. At the time of writing this post in December, I’ve come a long way since my last post about Web Dev Fundamentals, but let’s look back at my experience of applying these fundamentals to Qlik Sense development.

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Qlik Sense Developer Step #1: Web Dev Fundamentals

icons8-new-40 I’m continuously updating the list of learning resources at the end of this post, and tag my latest updates as new.

As a QlikView developer, I relish the freedom that QlikView gives me to customize the look and feel of a single chart or the layout of an entire dashboard. On the surface, Qlik Sense simplifies the creation of visual analytics at the expense of this freedom. However, if you dig deeper and take advantage of its APIs, you will discover that Qlik Sense lets you do more than you could ever do in QlikView.

Qlik Sense Web Developer

The only catch for QlikView developer’s is that they have to add web development to their skillset. In my last post, I created a 10-step plan for QlikView developers to become Qlik Sense developers.  The first step is to gain a general understanding of the essential elements of web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In this post, I’ll share with you my experience with this first step and the lessons I’ve learned so far.

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Can a QlikView developer be a Qlik Sense developer?

QlikView developers (as per the book QlikView 11 for Developers) were those of us who wrote load scripts, designed data models, formulated expressions, and manipulated QlikView objects. Qlik Help has now left that group of people nameless and deemed developers to be those who work with either QlikView or Qlik Sense APIs using some third-party code. Even so, I still consider myself a QlikView developer because creating extensions, or any other use of QlikView’s APIs, is not an integral part of the software. However, Qlik Sense APIs are at the forefront of what the software is and the title of Qlik Sense developer implies some ability to work with them.

Can QlikView developers upgrade their skills and become full-fledged Qlik Sense developers? After some reflection on my days as a QlikView developer and some cheerleading to motivate myself to make this transition, I’m going to share with you my plans to learn the answer. I alone am a horribly small sample for this experiment, so I invite anybody who is up to the challenge to perform the same feat or anyone who has already done so to share their experience.

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Robot in the Cloud: Automatic File Upload to Qlik Sense Cloud

In my previous post about my company’s migration to Qlik Sense Cloud Business, I described my frustration about having to manually upload data to my company’s workspace. I also expressed my belief that Qlik Sense Cloud would grow as fast as Qlik could develop data connectors for it.  In his comment to the post, I think Aaron Couron summarized this sentiment well.

“I have to extract the data manually from the database into a file (qvd or otherwise) and put it up on the cloud. I guess that is an issue with any cloud vendor where I have on-premise data to feed it, but because BI, in general, relies so heavily on these kinds of resources, it becomes the “Elephant in the Room”.”

At some point, Qlik looks prepared to make this elephant disappear by adding the myriad connectors it acquired from Industrial CodeBox. Since December 2016, you can extract data directly from Salesforce and just last week Michael Tarallo posted a quick preview of the soon-to-be-released REST connector in Qlik Community.  He also purposed a neat way to upload text files from Dropbox through it.

In the meantime, I’ve created a temporary solution to automatically upload data files using a robot. I finished it two weeks ago and it has run well 80% of the time. Barry Harmsen experimented with using a robot in Qlik Sense Cloud to invite users in November 2015. In a comment to the previous post, he shared his experience and remarked about the hassle it was to maintain the robot given how often Qlik Sense Cloud changed its UI flow and even the names of its UI elements. A year and a half later, I assume there are less drastic changes. Over the last 2 weeks, the few issues I’ve had were because my script was in need of some fine tuning and were not due to any change in Qlik Sense Cloud.  Regardless, I’ll keep you up to date on the feasibility of using a robot while we wait for a more permanent solution.

Of course, the permanent solution is using a data connector to automatically refresh data directly in Qlik Sense Cloud. I recommend that you stayed informed about Qlik Sense Cloud updates, and that you swap the robot for a connector when the one you need becomes available.  While we wait, I will do my best to keep the core script that I share in this post up to date in GitHub, and I will also show you how to maintain it yourself.

The steps we are going to take to create the robot are the following.

  1. Set up Selenium Webdriver
  2. Set up AutoIT
  3. Configure the AutoIT and Selenium code to your environment
  4. Create and schedule a Windows Task

Before last week, I had never heard of Selenium or AutoIT, so you don’t need to have any previous experience to go through these steps. It took me about 8 hours to get everything up and running including the time I invested in researching which tools to use and creating the script from scratch. I hope that people can be up and running in less than 4 hours with the help of this guide.

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Qlik Sense Cloud – Finally Getting Down to Business

Last week I accidentally published this post before going to bed and woke up the next morning with a nice surprise that people had visited the post when it was still supposed to be a draft. I apologize for this leak and plan to catch those brain cells responsible for wasting your time.

As a small business owner, I am a big fan of cloud software.  At this point, I almost have more tabs pinned in my browser than I have shortcuts on my dock.  For example, you can find my project management tool (Jira), my knowledge management tool (Confluence), my file management tool (Dropbox), and my team communication tool (Slack) pinned at the top of my browser. As such, I’m excited to see Qlik Sense Cloud approaching the critical moment when it will be a veritable competitor of Qlik Sense on-premise.

Over the past two years, I’ve kept an eye on Qlik Sense Cloud. Qlik employee Michael Tarallo sums up these years and what the future may hold in his blog post Keep Your Head in the Clouds.  Well-known Qlik enthusiasts Stephen Redmond (Low down On Qlik Cloud 2.0) and Steve Dark (Qlik Sense Cloud New FeaturesQlik Sense Cloud Plus Is Here) have also shared the milestones it has reached in their blogs.

According to Michael’s post, Qlik Sense Cloud has almost 100,000 users in 170 countries, but I think it would be fair to ask him how many of those users use Qlik Sense Cloud on regular basis. It may be true that they are active users, but if I were to make a bet, I would wager that many of them acted as I had over the past two years.  They created an account, played around for an hour, and only returned when there was an announcement to see what was new. Even though 100,000 users may not be an accurate measure of Qlik Sense Cloud usage, the measure does speak for the initial interest many have had in what it offers. It also represents an opportunity for Qlik to convert them into paying customers once Qlik Sense Cloud adds more features and matures.

Released in December 2016, Qlik Sense Cloud Business is Qlik’s first serious attempt to provide a cloud service for businesses. In all fairness, there are a few kinks that need to be worked out and a few features that need to be added before I would consider it ready for most users. However, my overall opinion is that it’s a great start, and as an early adopter, it finally convinced me to use it internally in my company.

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Exponential Distributions in Qlik

Last week, I gave the business case for using an exponential distribution to predict a customer’s purchase frequency and detect at-risk and lost customers, Sales Analytics in Qlik: From the Basics to Statistical Modeling. In this week’s post, we go over the details of calculating and visualizing the exponential distribution in QlikView using the following chart.  I also add some final thoughts on how to use the information it tells us in a real-world sales dashboard.

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Sales Analytics in Qlik: From the Basics to Statistical Modeling

The basics

The most common Qlik application involves sales data analysis. Period.

Well, I don’t have enough information to back that up, and since data analysis is my life, I can’t make unsupported claims without some major nervous facial twitching (or so my wife says). However, I would bet based on personal experience that it is one of the most common applications, and moreover, I’d go as far to say that it is often the first analytical application that businesses develop after buying Qlik.

One the most obvious reasons that this could be true is that sales data is huge, low-hanging fruit. Sales is what drives most businesses and the data trail it leaves is usually the most readily available data to analyze. When a company purchases Qlik, it is often after continuous investments in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, a customer portal and/or numerous Excel reports – all of which make sales data ripe for harvest.

Many of you are probably familiar with the following sales metrics.

MetricDefinition
Gross Sales RevenueSales before discounts measured in monetary units
Net Sales RevenueSales after discounts measured in monetary units
Sales VolumeSales measured in non-monetary units such as an individual item, boxes, pallets, kilograms, tons, etc.
Unit SalesAlso referred to as Average Price, it can be defined as Net Sales Revenue divided by Sales Volume
HitsNumber of sales transactions or invoices
Gross ProfitNet Sales Revenue minus the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
Gross Profit MarginGross Profit divided by Net Sales Revenue

If you are familiar with these metrics, you’ll also be well acquainted with the series of dimensions that often slice and dice them.  Catalogs that describe customers, sales representatives, products, dates, branches, stores, promotion codes, and channels answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how that surround the sales numbers.  You’ll also recognize the importance of using some type of reference data that comes in the form of a budget, a forecast, or at the very least, historical data.

Almost immediately after businesses start to take advantage of this basic, yet powerful, sales data analysis, they start to adjust their business questions. We can answer some new questions by adding a new metric, a new dimension, or a new visualization, but some new questions involve more advanced analysis techniques.  One of the most popular questions that I encounter and that requires a more sophisticated approach is the evaluation of customer retention and the detection of customers that the business is endanger of losing.  For here on, we’ll refer to this type of analysis as customer churn.

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