Sprawl Walk Run

by Jay Cuthrell
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This week we take a look at silo spreadsheet sprawl and advisable alternatives from the Qlik ecosystem.

Getting Informed

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to attend Qlik Connect 2024. I’ve had a few weeks to collect my thoughts and go deeper on a handful of Qlik related topics.

As I walked the Qlik Connect Expo floor, several Qlik Partners were presenting what they do in booths and sessions along the edge of the show floor. Two major (Qlik Sense) related themes that I picked up on were the importance of writeback and visualizations to Qlik Connect attendees.

Writeback

First, writeback is not the name of a Nickleback math-prog-metal tribute band. But, perhaps it should be.

Why? Because, in a modern Enterprise, when you find yourself opening another spreadsheet or creating one that has nothing to do with the system of record (ERP, Salesforce, etc…) and begin adding data (or new columns!) to the forms knowing full well that someone else is going to have to re-enter or update yet another system of record (YASOR) by hunting and searching for an appropriate input field… manually… then…

“These 5-6 words in my head… scream, Are we havin’ real-time yet?

Stop the silo spreadsheet sprawl (SSS). Please!

Today, for most data platforms, writeback is simply a way to describe the real-time capabilities of end users for contribution, analysis, and visualization. As such, writeback is a growing collection of patterns that promote, empower, and advance the democratization of tools previously contained to business intelligence power users.

Without writeback, you are likely perpetuating silo spreadsheet sprawl. Of course, writeback has challenges for many organizations and it is not as widely adopted as it should or could be.

During the Qlik Connect event, a data art installation caught my attention. I believe these are called “attendee data sculptures” since they are an accessible and aesthetically pleasing attendee contribution art installation at a conference or event. My understanding of the visualization is a parallel coordinates plot which indicates the relationships of multivariate numerical data.

When I shared the art installation story with the folks in the Inphinity booth we had a short discussion on the key lessons on display.

  • Constraints and affordances matter when considering the creation of a spreadsheet or any input forms.
  • Data validation is important for accurate usable contributions that align intent with meaning.
  • Data input ease of access is important for end users. (I had to lean over to reach the “old timer” option 🤣)

This week I caught up with Inphinity to go deeper than a booth visit allowed. We went deeper on the topic of writeback in planning.

  • Real-time awareness is achieved when systems of record are accessible by end users.
  • Actionable insights are a North Star goal.
  • Closing gaps between analysis and action is highly valued.
  • Collaboration and feedback further enrich the feedback loop.
  • Data quality is everyone’s job.

During our discussion, I learned about multiple use cases where Inphinity enhances existing Qlik investments. I group these use cases into “planning” and “management”.

Planning for many readers might be that time of year when your superior or a peer in Finance sends over a spreadsheet for you to fill out (again). Maybe you are lucky to get a snapshot of last year or you do ZBB. But, does it have to be this way or could you both collaborate and communicate in real-time? Same goes for Sales but perhaps this is a weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. pattern. Again, does it have to be this way or could you both collaborate and communicate in real-time?

Examples:

Bad managers are probably the most prolific serial offenders for silo spreadsheet sprawl. Why? It’s easy for a bad manager to grab an old spreadsheet and offload the pain of ambiguity, errors, and re-entry frustration on others. Again, does it have to be this way or could you both collaborate and communicate in real-time in the context of the management task at hand?

Examples:

Of course, these use cases are just scratching the surface. These are early innings. ⚾️🔮

Setting aside silo spreadsheet sprawl for a moment, the phrase “if you see something, say something” is memorable. However, if there is no active listening party that can apply a discriminating filter, synthesize wider findings, and apply the “something was said” into actionable intelligence that raises awareness, it’s just a memorable phrase and not much else.

Memorable is less useful than actionable. Writeback applied in this “say something” example would include a few key qualities.

  • Knowing where to say something that needs to be said
  • Being empowered to say something quickly and easily
  • Improving situational awareness and decisions from shared analysis and actionable insights

Actionable insights from writeback experiences will be a hallmark of successful organizations. Stop the silo spreadsheet sprawl (SSS).

Visualizations

I’ve crossed my 1000-word limit for this edition. I’ll go deeper into visualizations next week.

As a preview, several booths at Qlik Connect mentioned “Vizlib” in their signage or marketing collateral. Sessions along the edge of the show floor involving the topic of Qlik native visualizations overflowed into the halls.

(Vizlib demo from 4 years ago)

Next week, I’ll be going into more depth on the Qlik community impact when insightsoftware acquired Vizlib a year ago. I’ll also share my thoughts on “Qlik Connect Rewind from insightsoftware” and where I believe the market is headed with low-code and no-code with CV models to enable en masse perceptual diff of visualizations.

Jay’s Reading List

That’s all for this week. As a reminder, Hot Fudge Daily is available as a $9.99 yearly subscription. 🤓

Disclosure

I am linking to my disclosure.


p.s. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate getting snail mail. If you have time to drop me a postcard, I’m going to be scanning the picture side of the postcards I’ve received and link to a Fudge Sunday Reader Postcards gallery (with suitable redactions and filtering for greater anonymity) as a newsletter trailer of sorts. Stay tuned! ✉️

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