Qlik's new CEO Mike Capone has joined a company that has faced big challenges and changes in recent years.
The data analytics giant held an IPO in 2010 that helped revenues and profits to grow, but after three consecutive years of net losses, the company was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo in 2016.
Qlik's early growth was built on offering user-friendly analytics at a cheaper price than bigger rivals such as SAP, but the company now faces challenges from a new breed of affordable alternatives. Capone believes that Qlik's future success will be based on the superior results it gives to customers.
"Ultimately we don't sell technology, we sell outcomes," Capone tells Computerworld UK in Qlik's central London office.
"When our salespeople ask me how we compete, the answer is to talk to them about what outcome they're trying to achieve. And also make sure that is repeatable. You don't just want to solve one problem at a time.
"It is easy to use, and we have that, but we really try to also focus on enterprise-class problems, like how you run your business. That's how we think about it, it's all about value."
Effects of Qlik's buyout
When Thoma Bravo acquired Qlik for around $3 billion, Capone's predecessor as CEO Lars Björk said the deal was agreed that the new owners had "an excellent track record of investing in outstanding technology businesses for the long-term."
Björk's successor echoes those words.
"It's allowed us to make the right decisions for the long term," says Capone.
"What I tell people is we're not playing for the next quarter, we're playing for the next 10 years. It's allowed us to make the right investments, and not worry about standing up in front of Wall Street saying what happened this quarter, or last quarter.
"If I want to spend more money on R&D this quarter, I don't have to worry about anyone asking me questions other than the owners, and they give me pretty broad latitude to do those types of things."
The buyout had raised concerns that Qlik's new owners would prioritise extracting short-term profit over long-term investment in the product and the company's growth.
These concerns seemed somewhat justified when the acquisition was followed by a round of layoffs and then another reduction in staff numbers early in 2018.
Capone says the layoffs due to the company wasn't taking full advantage of its resell partners as their efforts were competing with those of Qlik's internal sales team.
"We have 1,500 partners around the world that resell our technology and add value - they will actually help customers use it," he says.
"We felt like that was being underleveraged and it was partially because we had overlap. The partners were selling, and there was some friction in the system. So we made a decision to focus our direct sales effort on larger customers, because it's more strategic. They're longer sales cycles.
"We're telling our partners, that market is yours and we're going to support you, we're going to give you all you need to sell. So we scaled back our efforts there, which did lead to some changes in terms of staffing, but it was the right thing to do. Our selling capacity went up, because we're enabling partners more."
Qlik and the competition
Capone joined Qlik in January 2018 after a three-year stint as Chief Operating Officer at Medidata Solutions, a software company that uses data analytics to accelerate clinical trials.
Qlik extends the benefits of analytics to any industry that wants it.
"It's the most beautiful, horizontal business in the world because every business benefits from data," says Capone.
"When I looked at Qlik's technology and what the vision was for the company, as well as the rich history of innovation, it became an easy choice for me."
He believes that Qlik has a unique ability to help companies change their business models, thanks to an "associate engine" that combines diverse data formats from an unlimited number of sources and indexes them to find the possible associations.
"We believe our associative engine and our ability to pull in disparate data sources, and make sense of them, is far and away unique in the marketplace today," he says.
"We've made a lot of advances in our product on the ease of getting started, ease of use, and user capability. Qlik is, as far as I'm concerned, on parity with the Tableaus and the RBIs in the marketplace, but we still have a lead in terms of that big engine associative data, and bringing the disparate data sources together."
Capone is confident enough to put Qlik's products to the test.
"Give us your hardest problem, and give it to us, and give it to the other guys, and let's see how we do. We generally always drive a better outcome."
Capone prefers the term augmented analytics to that of AI, as it provokes more realistic expectations while reducing public fears, by emphasising job assistance over replacement.
To support people in their jobs, Qlik is investing in a new cognitive engine with the aim of giving users insight suggestions while keeping humans at the heart of decision-making.
"The analytics are going to help people make better decisions, but in the end, we're going to augment the human process, we're not going to just replace it," says Capone.
"Managers who use cognitive are going to outperform managers who don't. That's how we view this world."
Capone is also excited about the potential of enormous datasets being generated by the internet of things and sensors.
Qlik will manage them through a Big Data Index that indexes summaries of data sets in the cloud or a data centre.
"What our Big Data Index will allow people to do is index and analyse data in one place," says Capone. "So they'll build it, actually go out and crawl your data, and do the analysis with the data in one place without having to go through all the pain and agony of ingestion and centralisation.
"You can put things in the cloud, you can do both. We don't care because, ultimately, our engine is the differentiator, not the hosting."