Soterre for Qlik Case Study

Post: Soterre Improves Visibility and Quality in Qlik Sense

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VTCT is a Qlik Data Intensive Company

Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) is a specialist awarding organization offering vocational and technical qualifications in a range of service sectors. Its objectives are for the advancement of education, research, and public dissemination of knowledge. And data overflows at VTCT.

Since 2015, they have grown from 3 to over 18 different sources that now create their data ecosystem. This allows data to
be used in context and provides deep insights that result in actions. This same year is when Sean Bruton, Qlik Luminary 2018-2019 and Business Intelligence Architect at VTCT, first discovered and implemented Qlik Sense.

Too Much Time Spent on Administration

With Qlik Sense, Sean was able to scale down the number of apps by roughly 80% while simultaneously expanding the variety of data worldwide. This enabled a richer story to be told through the data. The apps are accessible through dynamic dashboards that give employees throughout the organization quick and easy access to the data they need.

As Qlik Sense enabled Sean to create apps so much more quickly, he sought out a way to rapidly track all changes. Any change to a data point in a Qlik Sense app can have a ripple effect throughout the organization; there is no room for error. Initially, Sean relied on a “home grown” version control approach, which involved creating copies of each version of an app locally so he could restore a previous version if an error was found. This involved keeping each version and naming them “V1, V2, V3, etc.”

If a mistake was made, the BI Team would have to search for the last correct version and manually copy the information into the live Qlik environment. This could be quite tedious and take anywhere from hours to days. There’s the additional risk that any new information that had been added to the latest version could be lost if they needed to revert back to a previous version. This process required meticulous attention to detail on data entry and scripting. Rework and data entry takes valuable time away from analysis and taking action.

Working More Efficiently in Qlik

In 2018, Sean discovered a product called Soterre. Soterre, a solution from Motio, Inc., eliminates time-consuming and cumbersome administration tasks in Qlik Sense. Sean now uses it daily in his role at VTCT.

Soterre runs as a separate app within the Qlik Sense environment and offers complete visibility of additions/deletions, changes, etc. “It’s not just a cliché. Time is precious and there is a set amount of it. I am doing the design, the development, and the analysis. If I spend too much time on building an app, I will have less time to educate and empower others through the analysis and projections of its results.”

The version control capability in Soterre changed the way VTCT work in Qlik Sense:

  • Improved production rate of Qlik apps
  • Reduced similar content for a cleaner environment
  • Created a “safety net” as you can revert previous or deleted content

“Soterre removes the stress and anxiety of needing to track changes. It offers me peace of mind.” He now focuses on how a possible change can empower stakeholders, improve data quality or even quicken processes instead of worrying that making the change could cause a possible error and cost hours of time. Now, the BI team doesn’t have to weigh the risk of creative changes, they are at liberty to make alterations that will help anticipate trends and stay ahead of the data.

Beyond the day-to-day usage, Soterre’s version Control aids VTCT in their compliance. The qualifications that VTCT produces are regulated by government bodies. Version control offers a clear, comprehensive audit trail that can be understood by any external party.

“My job is to make data talk and empower my coworkers through those data insights. Because of Soterre, I am no longer restrained by administrative tasks and creating unscheduled backups. This enables me to focus on how I can empower people every day. And you can’t put a price tag on that.”

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As the BI space evolves, organizations must take into account the bottom line of amassing analytics assets.
The more assets you have, the greater the cost to your business. There are the hard costs of keeping redundant assets, i.e., cloud or server capacity. Accumulating multiple versions of the same visualization not only takes up space, but BI vendors are moving to capacity pricing. Companies now pay more if you have more dashboards, apps, and reports. Earlier, we spoke about dependencies. Keeping redundant assets increases the number of dependencies and therefore the complexity. This comes with a price tag.
The implications of asset failures differ, and the business’s repercussions can be minimal or drastic.
Different industries have distinct regulatory requirements to meet. The impact may be minimal if a report for an end-of-year close has a mislabeled column that the sales or marketing department uses, On the other hand, if a healthcare or financial report does not meet the needs of a HIPPA or SOX compliance report, the company and its C-level suite may face severe penalties and reputational damage. Another example is a report that is shared externally. During an update of the report specs, the low-level security was incorrectly applied, which caused people to have access to personal information.
The complexity of assets influences their likelihood of encountering issues.
The last thing a business wants is for a report or app to fail at a crucial moment. If you know the report is complex and has a lot of dependencies, then the probability of failure caused by IT changes is high. That means a change request should be taken into account. Dependency graphs become important. If it is a straightforward sales report that tells notes by salesperson by account, any changes made do not have the same impact on the report, even if it fails. BI operations should treat these reports differently during change.
Not all reports and dashboards fail the same; some reports may lag, definitions might change, or data accuracy and relevance could wane. Understanding these variations aids in better risk anticipation.

Marketing uses several reports for its campaigns – standard analytic assets often delivered through marketing tools. Finance has very complex reports converted from Excel to BI tools while incorporating different consolidation rules. The marketing reports have a different failure mode than the financial reports. They, therefore, need to be managed differently.

It’s time for the company’s monthly business review. The marketing department proceeds to report on leads acquired per salesperson. Unfortunately, half the team has left the organization, and the data fails to load accurately. While this is an inconvenience for the marketing group, it isn’t detrimental to the business. However, a failure in financial reporting for a human resource consulting firm with 1000s contractors that contains critical and complex calculations about sickness, fees, hours, etc, has major implications and needs to be managed differently.

Acknowledging that assets transition through distinct phases allows for effective management decisions at each stage. As new visualizations are released, the information leads to broad use and adoption.
Think back to the start of the pandemic. COVID dashboards were quickly put together and released to the business, showing pertinent information: how the virus spreads, demographics affected the business and risks, etc. At the time, it was relevant and served its purpose. As we moved past the pandemic, COVID-specific information became obsolete, and reporting is integrated into regular HR reporting.
Reports and dashboards are crafted to deliver valuable insights for stakeholders. Over time, though, the worth of assets changes.
When a company opens its first store in a certain area, there are many elements it needs to understand – other stores in the area, traffic patterns, pricing of products, what products to sell, etc. Once the store is operational for some time, specifics are not as important, and it can adopt the standard reporting. The tailor-made analytic assets become irrelevant and no longer add value to the store manager.