Founded in 1993 in Lund, Sweden, as a small consulting project to analyze multi-dimensional data, Qlik has grown to become the worldís largest business intelligence vendor. The company whose global headquarters is in the Philadelphia suburb of Radnor, Pennsylvania, has nearly 2000 employees and a global partner network that supports more than 30,000 customers in more than 100 countries. The companyís core focus is to help its users transform raw data into refined information to analysis and conclusions resulting in relevant action.
Qlikís software platform, QlikView, combines enterprise-class analytics and search functionality. And its popularity is undeniable as the customers range from middle market consumers to large enterprises that include Swedbank, Campbell Soup Company, Colonial Life, The Dannon Company, ING, Kraft Foods and Nasdaq OMX.
The customer-oriented mindset has undoubtedly been one of the major ingredients for the success and has resulted in the corporationís first-ever global customer event, the Qlik World Conference, held November 17-20 in Orlando, Florida. The event features keynote speakers such as: Mark Cuban, internet pioneer and owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Adam Savage from the Discovery Channelís MythBusters; and the CEO himself, Lars BjŲrk.
SACC-Philadelphia met up with another keynote speaker, Donald Farmer, vice president of Innovation & Design, to discuss the event in more detail.

SACC: Can you tell us about Qlik World Conference?
DF: Previously we have had quite small, local events that have been good for building awareness and for educational purposes. But these days we have a need to address all our customers ó a wider range of our customers, and in particular what we call the "enterprise customers," the customers from large companies. They often need more information and more content than we can give in a small local conference. So we are actually providing a four-day event in Orlando, and people will be coming from all over the U.S. and probably from all over the world. They will get four days of great content with not only good speakers from within our company, but also from outside the company. The idea is to make it not only an educational and sales event, but to also make it a real community event for the users.

SACC: What makes it different from other customer related events in the Business Intelligence industry?
DF: One thing we do that is different from the other companies in the industry is be extremely open and collaborative. And I actually think that comes from our Swedish background, our Swedish culture. We often describe ourselves as an American company with a Swedish soul. We like to be just really straightforward, and the way in which that surfaces is how we put a lot more emphasis on mutual discussion. Our customers will be just as likely to meet our CEO in the corridor or the coffee line as they will see him on stage during a keynote. It is just as easy to see any member of the team, whether they are developers or CFO, and to be able to ask them any question. We manage the events content carefully, but we donít police the event. It is not about getting just the right message out to the customer in a very kind of pre-packaged form. It really is about building a sense of a community where everyone is open to interact with anyone else. It is not a one-way conversation of us telling our customers things; itís very much a two-way experience for our customers. They get to ask us, tell us and interact with anyone in our company.

SACC: What are the primary goals of this event?
DF: The big goal for us is to enable customers to get a comprehensive understanding of what the company is doing, our software, our direction and our vision of the future. But also to learn from each other about how people are solving problems with our software today. The local events by their nature canít give you that complete overview of what is happening and a complete picture of what we are doing in the future. By rolling together an event over many days you can give a very complete sense of what it is we are doing and why we think thatís exciting.
We have a new product this year, and we moved from being a company with one product, called Qlikview, to having multiple products, including our new product called QlikSense. That requires opening up to our customers about the future of these products. It is that transparency and that extra information that we have to give our customers. That is the purpose of the conference, to give them a very comprehensive understanding of what we are doing.

SACC: What are the key takeaways for your customers who attend the event?
DF: The big takeaway from this type of conference is the feeling of being a part of a community. Not just that they have bought a product and are getting support, but that they actually feel part of a community of users. People really benefit from understanding and learning that they are part of a community of users. Very often it is the community that helps the customer, even more than we do. The reason is that they are much closer to the understanding of each other's businesses. They get a wide range of context, a wide range of help, and they start network with other people. They might find the opportunity to exchange ideas, find new consultants or new services that they didnít even know about. And they will primarily do that within the community.

SACC: What can we expect from this event?
DF: First of all you can expect a lot of fun. There are a lot of activities, such as hackathons, to make this a pleasant experience for our customers ó not only a business experience. But they will also get a series of very insightful directions about the way we think about our company and the future of the company. That will give them a great sense of confidence in the direction we are going, which will help them with their planning and make their decisions about their investments over the years. But then they will also get a ton of hands-on experiences working with the product, by being trained directly by the people who design and build the product. And there is nothing quite like that.
It is that combination of having fun, which is a very big part of the community experience, getting a really good overall sense of our strategy and direction, and then having this hands-on experience of learning. Those are the things our customers can expect.