The Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, welcomed more than 30 employees from throughout the Corps of Engineers for a two-day training session May 8-9 for the data-visualization software called Qlik Sense.
Leading the training were six members of the USACE Data Visualization Services team, within which the Qlik Sense program falls. Coordinating the training was Huntsville Center’s Business Practices office, which has been the driving force in implementing the platform locally.
Qlik Sense gives users the ability to create and share real-time data visualizations and, by extension, empowers leaders to make better informed decisions based on that data. In Qlik Sense, this data is presented as a custom “dashboard” of whichever graphical elements and other key metrics the decision-maker deems pertinent.
Huntsville Center has been using Qlik Sense dashboards for more than two years. Since adopting the program, the center has automated many of its management control functions, such as the monthly Program Review Board and the line-item reviews at the project, program and division levels.
“HNC has been at the leading edge and forefront of not only Qlik Sense dashboard development, but also in utilizing those dashboards to brief local command,” said Ozzy Orwick, Data Visualization Services service owner and Visualization and Analytics Support Tools Community of Practice manager.
“We have found it to be very, very useful in our ability to manipulate and see data, and use it for good decision making at the executive office level here at the center,” Chip Marin, Huntsville Center programs director, said. “And it can do so much more than what we’re using it for. We are just barely scratching the surface of what Qlik Sense can do for us. The more we learn about its capabilities, the more we’re able to automate a whole bunch of things inside this center.”
During the Program Review Board, program managers from more than 40 programs provide updates to Huntsville Center leadership using a common Qlik Sense dashboard. Marin can ask any of the program managers, on the fly, to dive into a piece of data for a closer look or compare a set of data for one program with a similar set from another program.
“What they’ve found, and what we’ve heard, is that people really like to hear the story behind the data,” Orwick said. “They like to be able to what we call ‘drill down’ into the data in real time. So, if you want to learn more about a certain project, or you want to learn more about a certain division or district, you can do that on the fly. It’s not something you’d have to say, ‘Well, I’ll have to get back to you on that.’ If the information is there, it’s accessible.”
Orwick said this is where Qlik Sense’s advantage over more static software platforms like PowerPoint or Excel becomes clear.
“With PowerPoint,” Orwick added, “you may say, ‘We’re going to be briefing Mississippi Valley Division this week in this meeting.’ But when you get on the call, they say, ‘I’d really like to see the same information for Northwestern Division.’ If the dashboard was built as an enterprise tool, that data would be there and be available for you to learn more about the information on the fly, and you wouldn’t have to say, ‘Oh, we’ll have to put that report together and get back to you next week.’”