Our aim at Qlik isn’t remote or technical, it’s about people and how they use information; our goal is “simplifying decisions for everyone, everywhere”. The NIHR Clinical Research Network began using our QlikView Business Intelligence (BI) software in 2012 in order to do just that – to help people make better informed, collaborative decisions about the UK’s clinical research efforts, based on a shared understanding of data.

For us at Qlik it’s been fascinating to see how the Network has quickly been able to climb the analytic maturity curve in just three years – not an easy thing to do as it involves changing behaviours around data as much as any technical capability. In 2010 the Clinical Research Network had local systems, slow data with little integration and islands of Excel everywhere. Fast forward three years and it had democratized data access by developing a stable of analytics apps, engendering an active culture around data internally, and in the wider NHS through the NIHR ‘Open Data Platform’.

The journey that Network has been on reflects a number of the macro trends driving changes in how organizations approach and use information.

Utilizing unbound human and computer interaction
Increasingly, we’re removing barriers between humans and technology. People don’t want to just view the data presented to them in static forms. Instead, they want to see the data visually and interact with it as fast as they think.  The Clinical Research Network’s interactive dashboards, for example the Coordinated System for gaining NHS Permissions (CSP) Study Tracker, exemplify this trend by providing visualizations combined with fast, in-memory processing and intuitive data exploration and search.

Coping with the ongoing, accelerating data boom
With vast amounts of (Big) data storable, organizations need a way to deal with the attendant complexity, and sort the signals from the noise. Users are demanding better, greater access to all of their data, regardless of where it comes from or what type it is. To do this effectively requires sound ‘information management’ practices. The work that the Network has done creating a reference data service, including a data dictionary, terminology definitions and a single map of organizational hierarchies, has helped it to take advantage of a broadening range of data sources, and to be ready for future changes in its information environment. Based on Qlik’s perspective the work the Clinical Research Network has done in this area could benefit many other organizations.

Taking advantage of rising user activism
It’s true that a new, tech-immersed generation is entering the workforce, but in the era of the smartphone the reality is that we’re all engaged with information tech as consumers. This ‘consumerization’ has set high expectations of technology. Software has to be fast, relevant and easy to use – no one reads the manual anymore! Further, people are no longer passive consumers of data.  They actively use it to live their lives, and express their opinions, and they have strong opinions about the software and apps they choose to use to do so. Choice is the critical point, and one that the Network well understands in its approach based on ‘fandom’.   Instead of trying to mandate the use of technology or forbid the use of another the Clinical Research Network decided to think of its BI as a product that has fans rather than customers, approaching culture change through the demand of the fan, and not through command and control. Many organizations struggle to achieve this approach – it takes an atypical, outside-in approach to technology deployment, quite unlike that which IT teams normally use when deploying software products. At Qlik we’re increasingly encouraging our customers to be far more marketing savvy and to behave like internal software companies, just like the Network did.

Evolving the Role of IT
The Clinical Research network’s approach to BI is about enabling its staff and the broader research community to help themselves through self-service apps. This is an example of how IT teams are transforming from gatekeepers to storekeepers, providing business users (or the researcher community in the Network’s case) with the tools they need to be find data and make decisions. To be a successful storekeeper, the Network needed to stock helpful tools and provide consumable ‘information products’ or apps, as it does through its ”Resource Centre” [link]. Doing so successfully is closely associated with a culture of openness – sharing data within a community for the collective benefit of all, something that the Clinical Research Network has as part of its core activity.

In conclusion, the Network’s progress around analytics has been fast, touching people, process and technology. In today’s connected and data intensive world, we succeed via our ability to exploit data well and quickly. To get maximum return from information though analysis it has be delivered fast enough, in sync with the operational tempo our organizations need. The fact that the Clinical Research Network can now gain greater insight into the performance of research and deliver information based feasibility analysis aids the UK’s clinical research delivery efforts. At Qlik we’re delighted to be part of what the Clinical Research Network has done by liberating its data, as we all benefit from the outcomes of clinical research, and we look forward to supporting it in future.