Mastering QlikView Data Visualization

Mastering QlikView Data Visualization
Mastering QlikView Data Visualization

The book, Mastering QlikView Data Visualization, happens to be my lost adventures as a QlikView consultant. I haven’t promoted it much because after two years of writing, I was too anxious to run off to learn other skills. A year and a half after its publication, QlikView is still popular and customers continue to look for ways to squeeze everything they can out of QlikView like a tube of toothpaste. If you need help in doing so, I recommend that you read my book.

You’re Not Alone

A current Google trends analysis of Qlik-related search terms shows that “qlikview” keyword is still more popular than the tool-neutral “qlik” or the keyword for “qliksense” or “qlik sense.” Its relative popularity is in decline from its peak in June 2015 and will likely be surpassed by “qlik” in 2018 and by “qlik sense” in 2019/2020.  However, these trends, along with my own personal experience working with companies that have invested much capital into QlikView, tell me that it will continue to be an important tool for many companies over the next several years.

A Bucket Full of Ideas

Mastering QlikView Data Visualization is my bucket full of ideas for these companies that have QlikView and are looking for new ways to analyze and visualize their data. Here are some highlights from the book.

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Qlik Sense Developer Step #2b: My First Extension

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At this point, I have the motivation to become a Qlik Sense developer, a basic understanding of HTML, CSS and JavaScript and rudimentary knowledge on how to create a simple Qlik Sense extension. The only piece I’m missing is an idea about what great purpose my first Qlik Sense extension would serve.

I thought about creating a 4-dimensional bar chart and make my Calculus IV professor proud. Another idea that came to mind was to create an extension that develops itself so I would never have to develop an extension again. Lastly, I got a random message some Saturday afternoon (because we have nothing better to do) from Julian Villafuerte taunting me and begging me to help him develop an idea he had for a sheet in his very cool Qlik Sense app about Mexico City’s bike-sharing program.

Obviously, I went with Julian’s idea, and here’s the story how it came to be.

The Iterative Development Process

Before I explain the lessons I learned and share a few tips, let’s review the iterative development process between Julian and me.  It was a great collaboration between a Qlik Sense Developer and a Qlik Sense Data Architect / Business Analyst that’s worth replicating.

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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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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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Let the Chain of Inpirations Continue

As Qlik Sense comes of age, I anxiously wait for the day when we will talk about the good ol’ QlikView days when we used to make map charts using a background image and a scatterplot chart.  In the meantime, I’ve been finishing up one last, great QlikView adventure with Mastering QlikView Data Visualization and seeing how far ol’ QlikView can still go.  Although, we have not seen a major update to its native visualizations in 5 years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there are still a few new tricks to be learned and boundaries to be pushed.

Stephen Redmond was the first to make a cookbook on tips and tricks, and he inspired us to look for ways to squeeze the most out of QlikView. More recently, I was inspired by a QlikFix blog post Barry Harmsen wrote on macros to create a my own macro that generates design layout grids and I called it the QlikView Grid System Tool. In turn, Barry was inspired to create a improved GridMaker. (Yes, he even improved upon the name.)

That, and to add insult to injury, he has a uncanny knack for making the most hilarious memes.  I’ll leave the meme business to my fellow consultant Qlik Freak Julian Villafuerte, but as far as QlikView is concerned, I thought I’d return the favor and continue the chain of inspiration.

While writing my book, I was recently inspired by an excellent QlikFix blog post written by Frédérique Verhagen about creating bar chart target lines in QlikView.  This post was the piece of the puzzle I was missing to finally create a single object, native bullet graph in QlikView.  If you convert Frédérique’s bar chart into a combo chart with stacked bars, an error bar and a stock chart expression then you have a native bullet graph that is as robust as any other normal QlikView chart.

BulletGraph

By the way, you can learn the trick on how to add a stock chart expression in Stephen Redmond’s cookbook.  I’ve left the rest of the details in my book because otherwise Packt will blame me for plagiarizing.  No kidding, they’ve already done it once.  I bet some of you can figure it out by yourselves, so I’ll also keep the rest of the tricks for the book.

And of course, the bullet graph isn’t perfect.  It would be impeccable if only we could change the line width of the stock expression.  If you like the idea then vote to add this feature in this Qlik Community idea. Though, in all honesty, what I’m really hoping to do is to inspire one of you to take it that little bit further.

Karl

Data Visualization for Accounting and Unicorns

Recently, I’ve been reviewing the financial analysis part of my new book and I’m reminded how hard it is to create data visualization for an area obsessed with calculating every amount to the exact cent.  When we develop our visual analysis it is so easy to get trapped in this labyrinth of detailed tables and numbers.  We hit our heads against the wall and try to imagine one omniscient visualization that captures every detail and we only succeed in creating something more impenetrable than the table we were trying to replace.  So, let’s step back and think about what we need to do to create a successful visual analysis for an accounting department. Continue reading “Data Visualization for Accounting and Unicorns”