Qlik Technologies last week took a major step to boost its positioning against key competitor Tableau Software. It introduced Qlik Sense Desktop, an application targeted at the fast-growing, self-serve data visualization market.

Qlik Sense is the initial piece of Qlik’s .Next offering (the main Server edition is scheduled for a September launch), which aims to make tools for business intelligence (BI) easier to use for a wider variety of enterprise employees. The Server edition will feature server-side deployment, a mobile-first focus,  collaboration and expanded enterprise capabilities.

Stepping into the Spotlight

According to Qlik CEO Lars Bjork, the company is bringing “BI out of the back office and into the front lines of business.” Bjork sees Qlik Sense, downloadable now for free, as a lead-generation source for the company because it’s expected to seed demand ahead of the upcoming launch of Server.

With Qlik Sense, users can create simple drag-and-drop dashboards to help them better analyze and understand Big Data flowing across an organization. No Qlik-specific skills are needed, even for users who want to create their own apps. 

More sophisticated users will be able to tap into the skills of a huge group of Web developers to build out more complex visualizations, according to Bjork. Qlik partner Deloitte was actively engaged with the Qlik Sense R&D team to help make the solution more compelling. A key feature: open APIs that will bring advanced Web development capabilities to industry-specific analytics applications.

Bjork emphasizes that the company’s core QlikView solution, a platform for guided analytics applications, will remain a key part of the portfolio. No one will be forced to move over to Qlik Sense/Server, meaning Qlik will now have a two-product focus.

While QlikView will still be the solution of choice for Qlik analytics gurus, Qlik’s new data visualization offering expands the company’s reach to a greater pool of potential buyers--those who want to quickly get up and running with an easy-to-use BI solution that’s capable of being accessed solely from a smartphone or tablet.

One important feature of the new solution is Storytelling, which allows users to go beyond static pictures to share their data visualization insights with others. Storytelling brings data visualization to life, enabling a live conversation between the creator of the story behind the data and the audience. Those viewing the story will be able to interact with the prepared narrative, question the supporting material and help guide the decision-making process surrounding the data, says Bjork. 

Recent Performance Above Expectations 

Ahead of the .Next product cycle, there had been concerns on Wall Street about execution risks at Qlik because customers often defer purchases of existing solutions if they know a new one is set for imminent debut.