Qlik needed to scale its instructor-led and self-guided on-demand curriculum to accommodate more students and geographies with greater flexibility and lower costs.
Qlik experienced a 97% decrease in the time it took to deploy classes for students, improving instructor effectiveness, student experiences, and sales. A dramatic 65% infrastructure cost reduction freed up budget for new curriculum development.
Qlik is a leading data analytics platform that offers powerful, easy-to-use business intelligence tools, including self-service visual analysis, reporting, and guided, embedded, and custom analytics— regardless of where data is located. Qlik is highly flexible and adaptable to the user’s skill level. Non-technical users like the intuitive interface, while technical users take advantage of its scripting language to load and model the data and create expressions.
With more than 45,000 customers ranging from medium-size businesses to large enterprises in over 100 countries globally, the Qlik curriculum team must educate users with broad skill levels on a wide range of products in multiple languages. To keep up with this global demand—at the fast pace of product innovation—the team needed to increase their agility for creating new courses, as well as expedite and streamline the setup to deliver on-demand classes. Jay Rogers, Qlik Curriculum Technical Architect, recognized that the training program and infrastructure must be modernized to remain competitive.
Qlik’s expanding product offerings give customers the choice of working on their local desktop or in the cloud, and with or without server components. While customers gain great flexibility, this creates a challenge for the Qlik curriculum team to provide training for a broad number of offerings to a rapidly growing and diverse customer base.
Since on-site instructor-led training doesn’t scale well to a mass audience, the curriculum team decided to expanded their offerings to include:
- On-demand training — How-to videos available on-demand
- Instructor-led training — Live, in-person, instructor-led demonstrations and hands-on labs
- Virtual instructor-led training — Live, virtual, instructor-led collaboration and training
- Qlik Continuous Classroom — Flexible, virtual training curriculum, including self-paced videos, collaboration, live webinars, and coaching from expert instructors
Before Skytap, Qlik used a different cloud-based offering. The provider’s pay-as-you-go pricing model was prohibitively expensive. “The previous provider charged by the day, so we’d plan ahead and schedule each team member’s time to log in and out to maximize usage,” said Rogers. “It wasn’t just expensive, but also inconvenient.”
Lack of Integration, Access, and Agility
Qlik’s fast-paced development requires the training team to quickly and regularly update content and templates. However, Qlik’s previous provider locked down their VMs by default and charged for updates. While Qlik had a small number of “free updates” allocated to them, it was not enough and forced them to bundle updates in a less efficient manner in order to manage costs. “We had to explicitly instruct them to open up ports and whitelist domains, which was a really frustrating bottleneck that didn’t keep pace with our innovation cycles and prevented us from moving as fast as we wanted to go,” said Rogers.
The Qlik team also had ongoing trouble with their previous provider’s support process for creating new classes. Their approach relied on email and sharing images to capture technical specifications in order to build the classroom images for Qlik rather than enabling Qlik to self-serve and create images on their own. “This approach simply didn’t work, and we were nearly forced to cancel two days into a four-day course because they couldn’t get the setup right,” said Rogers.
Need to Scale
As the Qlik user base grew, the curriculum department needed to scale up to support the company’s overall sales, as well as to meet the department’s own revenue goals. “Training is a critical part of a customer’s success at Qlik, and key to our sales approach,” said Rogers. “Customers who are trained to get the most out of the product come back for more licenses.” Scaling up involves creating more content for more users, as well as implementing reliable infrastructure to deliver that content globally and on-demand. Previously, it would take the curriculum team a week or more to make a small change to a template, and incorrect templates were sometimes deployed in the classroom.
Diverse Technical Skills
Both Qlik customers and trainers vary greatly in their technical abilities. “Our users range from non-technical people who say, ‘Just show me where to click,’ to extremely technical users who want to implement it as a full-on, cloud-based offering to test run setups and install their own operating systems,” said Rogers.
Solutions & Results
To solve these issues, the Qlik curriculum team needed a cloud provider that would modernize their approach to enable online, on-demand training without requiring them to completely rebuild their training curriculum.
“We looked at AWS, but the front end was too heavy and not intuitive enough for the needs of our diverse user base,” said Rogers. “Then the new VP of our department who previously used Skytap suggested we look at it.”
As the team began testing Skytap, they quickly found themselves developing templates to replace their clunky existing solution. “We were initially experimenting with Skytap to see how viable it was as a solution,” said Rogers, “But everyone was really excited, and we all thought it was brilliant.”
The team used Skytap to create environments for their entire product line, including:
- QlikView® — Local windows-based .NET application
- Qlik Sense® Desktop — Standalone, Chromium-based application for product evaluation and training
- Qlik Sense® Enterprise — Server-side application for organizational roll out of analytics applications
With Skytap’s Course Manager add-on, the team has modernized their approach and can develop courses more effectively, so training is more consistent. “We’re not only able to share these environments,” said Rogers. “But we can easily prototype new ideas, quickly review them for team feedback, and test them before rolling them out.”
To service students around the globe, the team uses many Skytap data centers with their biggest presence in US East and EMEA. They also use Course Manager for smaller Q&A sessions with trainers, developing other setups.
Shortly after implementing Course Manager, Qlik went from 10,000 SVM hours in January to 80,000 SVM hours in December. “The speed of adoption and how fast it was moving was crazy,” said Rogers. “The only thing slowing us down was having enough resources to build and test the templates to make sure they were bulletproof.”
With Course Manager, the Qlik curriculum team can now focus on creating content and delivering the actual training, rather than spending hours troubleshooting technical issues.
The price point for implementing Skytap and Course Manager was an instant hit. According to Rogers, the cost reduction of 65% was so fast and dramatic in comparison to the previous solution that the Qlik CFO asked the VP of Education Services in disbelief, “How did you do it?”
Rogers praised the speed of deployment. For example, it’s not unusual for a student to turn up at the last minute. With Qlik’s previous vendor, setting up a new environment took an hour or more, but with Course Manager, the new environment is ready in a matter of two minutes — a 97% decrease. “Now it takes longer to fire up those machines than it does to deploy them from the template to the environment. With Skytap, we just don’t have to worry about last-minute, ad-hoc scenarios at all.”
The price point was immediately the star, and the speed of deployment is simply astonishing.
Jay Rogers, Curriculum Technical Architect, Qlik
“One of the things I love most is the flexibility of administration,” said Rogers, adding that “the level of auditability, reportability, and oversight that I have on the entire setup and infrastructure is beyond my highest expectation.”
Course Manager’s web interface gives users at all levels complete control over everything—from creating templates and setting up environments to deploying a classroom of students and accessing the API—far beyond anything Qlik had seen with their previous provider.
Course Manager fits everybody. It appeals to technical users wanting self-serve access down to the API level, as well as to non-tech users looking for easy, 1…2…click…and go.
Jay Rogers, Qlik Curriculum Technical Architect
Cost Management with Flexible Resources
To help keep costs inline, Qlik uses Course Manager’s quotas, schedules, and auto-suspend features to ensure instances aren’t left running. This helps Qlik avoid overuse of resources while still providing students, trainers, and curriculum developers the flexibility to access resources when they need them.
Course Manager has enabled the regional training delivery teams to take more direct control over scheduling image deployments, running VMs, and subsequently shutting down and removing the images. Being able to automatically spin up VMs before class makes starting the session more efficient. After the training session is complete, having VMs automatically shut down saves costs and gives trainers peace of mind knowing that VMs have not been left running. Trainers can go into the classroom more relaxed, as they do not need to worry about the delivery vehicle, and students can focus on learning without being distracted by system issues.
Course Manager has also dramatically reduced the administrative burden on Qlik trainers. The previous supplier’s pay-as-you-go model not only meant that a late-arriving student had to wait for a new image to be deployed, but if a student did not show up, then the trainer was responsible for immediately notifying the supplier in order for Qlik to recoup a portion of the cost of that image.
Easy to Use
Delivering live and online instruction to a growing, global customer base is a daunting technical task. Course Manager masks the complexity with its remarkably easy-to-use and intuitive web interface, and rock-solid implementation.
Qlik’s exponential growth meant the curriculum team needed to get to mass scale while ensuring the training content kept up with product innovation. A flexible, agile solution became a requirement, and the curriculum team turned to Skytap. “You know it’s right when people stop saying how good it is, because it’s the norm for them now,” said Rogers. “You’re thinking, “What did we do before we had the ability to just flip out a whole load of environments at the drop of a hat!’”
“Everybody who is using Course Manager is now raving about it,” added Rogers, adding that trainers in other countries are eagerly using Course Manager to develop templates to deliver training in their local languages.
Looking forward, Qlik plans to use Skytap APIs to provide hot instances for students who want a sandbox environment to use as they follow along with on-demand video courses.