Business Intelligence, Technology

Try Qlik!

Having worked with SAP BW modeling and reporting exclusively for the last five years – and being very happy with this – I was quite hesitant to try out the QlikView world; after all, I thought that I had everything I needed in the SAP suite of products. However, having now worked with both QlikView and the SAP Connector Package, I have revised my beliefs – QlikView is useful both as a frontend tool and in the building process.

To start with, much can be accomplished with the free personal edition – especially as a data analysis tool – but to get the full benefits of this tool, the licensed version with the full SAP Connector pack is required.

QlikView and its SAP connectors make it very easy to get ahold of the data from SAP. For instance, the Bex Connector makes it possible to access the data directly from an existing Bex Query. In this way, all the work already invested in creating elaborate queries is reusable directly in QlikView. In addition connectors for DSO’s, SQL, BAPI, SAP Reports, extractors, and SAP Queries are also available.

When data is loaded into the QlikView interface, the modeling of nicely looking reports and data discovery can begin. As a longtime SAP BW user, I am used to my filters and predefined Bex reports. However, QlikView is employing an easy associative data model. The main reason why QlikView is fast to work with compared to other tools is that all the infrastructure objects like tables and associations (joins) are created on the fly. Associations are created based on column names, by default, but can be configured and optimized further if needed – but what you get as a baseline is already useful for initial data discovery and reporting. All the common functions and objects known from other products are available in the form of graphs, tables, formulas, formatting, etc.

Another great place to use QlikView is in the planning and modeling phase. Quite often in my time working with SAP BW, I have been presented with loads of data from external systems, including excel files and/or access databases, and then asked to create a nice BI solution. The task of doing so consequently leads to a long list of extra excel sheets to understand and transform the data, late discoveries of inconsistent data, missing master data and rules, etc. In this regard, QlikView comes in quite handy; due to the associative model, quick loading of data and fast access due to an in-memory database, it is easy to spot the inconsistencies and missing master data before starting to build the comprehensive data model in BW. Moreover, I also found that QlikView works as an excellent data transformation engine for preparing data to be loaded into Infoobjects and cubes.

If I get stuck, – and we all do at some point – I’ve found that the large amount of training material, examples, and templates available are a huge help. Given the extensive community and forum, it is hard not to find some kind of answer to pretty much any QlikView-related question imaginable.

There are many good things to say about QlikView, however a good product review will always address the limitations. With QlikView – and as is always the case when delivering data to a third party product – you lose direct control over the data and more importantly, control over who has access to what. It is possible to specify what users credential should be used when executing the load, but after that, all other accessing the QlikView document will see the same data as the executing user. The good news here is that it is possible to build an authorization concept in QlikView, and that it is even possible to reuse the authorization concept already implemented in BW. The bad news is that, unfortunately, this is by no means straightforward, as it requires customized loads form many table in SAP.

Finally, Qliks newest offshoot is called QlikSense (just been released in version 2), which is more oriented towards self-service, web, mobile platforms, and even quicker development. QlikSense does not directly support the SAP Connectors, but can in most cases be tricked into using them anyway by enable legacy mode for the application.

My suggestion to all my fellow SAP BW consultants is to give QlikView a try!

As of 2014, Stretch has been selected as a Qlik partner in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Read more about our partnership and the way we deliver new SAP connectivity together with Qlik.

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