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Qlik Technologies: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

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This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series. Sean is co-manager of the Dada Portfolio.

Qlik Technologies (Nasdaq: QLIK  ) is one of my favorite investment opportunities, so it was with great pleasure that I got to speak with CFO Bill Sorenson about the company's future prospects. QlikTech is revolutionizing the business intelligence industry, but playing David in a field stacked with Goliaths is no easy feat. With this SWOT analysis, let's take a look at what they're up against, and why the Dada Portfolio thinks they've got more than just a fighting chance.

Unique technology -- associative search. Using "in memory" processing, Qlik is able to analyze data in a more "brain-like" way than traditional BI solutions like IBM's (NYSE: IBM  ) Cognos or Oracle's (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) Business Intelligence Suite.

Highly differentiated product. The entire architecture of QlikView is built in a way that's completely different from how the traditional BI products handle it. Sorenson believes they would have to completely rewrite their software to fully build in Qlik's feature set.

Leader in the "consumerization" of business intelligence. QlikTech has recognized this latent demand for intuitive, easy-to-use, and understandable analytical tools way before anybody else. That means that the company has had free and unfettered access to an entirely different (and potentially humongous) market segment of business users, not just IT techies, before any of its traditional competitors even realized what was going on.

And with this type of software, getting in first and getting entrenched raises the switching costs immensely, making it easier for QlikTech's first-mover advantage to transition into a sustainable competitive moat.

QlikTech spent just $13.5 million in R&D last year. Compare that with business intelligence giant SAP's (NYSE: SAP  ) $2 billion budget.

Undiversified product portfolio. At this stage, and for the foreseeable future, Qlik is focused entirely on its present market and not looking to develop higher-end enterprise products. To be honest, though, it's hard to ding it for its focus, especially when its present market could be so enormous. It's probably better that the company's not overextending themselves (as you can tell I'm practiced in the college "my weakness is I work too hard" essay.)

Lack of integration with existing business-user software. An interesting avenue that the discussion with Bill Sorenson went down was the comparison with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Excel product, how so much of non-IT/layperson/average business user "business intelligence data" was currently just stored in spreadsheets. To some extent it would make more sense if QlikView was more "backwards-compatible" with Excel.

Potential for integration with existing business-user software. While integrating QlikView is already quite painless and easy, getting people to think of it as simply an "upgrade" from Excel or whatever other archaic data management system they currently use could make the transition even smoother.

Moving up the value chain. As mentioned before, QlikView is primarily targeted toward this latent market of business users who never before realized how much they could benefit from business intelligence -- not the C-level executive with his army of IT analysts who already deploy multiple enterprise-class BI suites. But that doesn't mean C-level executives have absolutely no use for common-sense and accessible data analysis tools, either. Sorenson explicitly denied speculation that they were looking to expand their product offering, but is this a potential opportunity in the future? No doubt.

The unconverted in their existing market. This is last but certainly not least. There are still plenty of potential customers here who haven't "seen the light" yet, so to speak. QlikTech had 18,000 customers at year-end 2010, which is a lot for a company that started with 4,000 in 2006, but it's still nothing compared with the 360,000 establishments in the U.S. with between 100 and 500 employees -- all of whom could potentially use and benefit from QlikView.

While I'm convinced that it's harder for a large company to pivot and face down threats than most would make it out to be, I'm still not so naive as to imagine that these gorillas are completely harmless. New offerings like Microsoft's PowerPivot and IBM's Cognos Express are explicitly designed to get in on this new business-user market that QlikTech has unveiled. If nothing else, they may seriously constrain our hero's expansion potential.

As a good investor, it's important to be objective and in this SWOT analysis I've tried to be; but there is a reason I have bought the stock (both for the Dada Portfolio and for myself), and it's because I believe there is more upside here than down. But what say you, reader? Have I been fair?

Add Qlik to your Watchlist and let us know on the Dada boards what you think.

Sean owns shares of Qlik Technologies. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Qlik Technologies is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of International Business Machines, Microsoft, and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (7)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2011, at 11:57 AM, hawkfishrmgw wrote:

    "Lack of integration with existing business-user software"

    Indeed. The big boys all use massive data warehouses like Analysis Services, Oracle, Teradata, Vertica, ParAccel, Greenplum, VectorWise and Hadoop. Most other BI companies can work directly with these databases, many of which are optimised for data analysis.

    By contrast, Qlik requires users to create a separate copy for analysis. While copying can be useful, it is also time consuming and limited by the user's memory. If the customer already has a fast analytical database, why not use it? This seems like a major impediment to "Moving up the value chain" and makes me doubt their ability to execute in this "potential opportunity".

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