What QlikView Consultants can learn from the A-Team

By Barry Harmsen

The A-TeamGrowing up in the 80’s and 90’s, one of my favorite TV shows was the A-Team. Over-the-top, cartoonish action with huge explosions, cars flipping over in mid-air topped off with a cool theme song. And all without anyone getting seriously hurt. This was the perfect TV show for young Barry!

But I’ve grown up since, and my tastes have matured (somewhat). However, there is one thing about the A-Team which I think is still relevant today: the actual A-Team and the well-balanced blend of skills of its members. No matter what an episode’s villain (drug king-pin/shady land developer/corrupt senator/whatever) threw at them, the combined qualities of the A-Team always ensured that they came out on top.

In today’s post, I am going to take a closer look at the skills and qualities of the A-Team, and will explain how they can be translated to the role of a QlikView Consultant. (Or, alternatively, how these roles can be used to staff the perfect QlikView Competency Center.)

BA: Technical skills and a pragmatic attitudeB.A.: Technical genius and a pragmatic attitude

Let’s start with the character every kid in my class wanted to be: Bosco “B.A.” Baracus. Forget about the kick-ass hand to hand combat skills and bad temper, as a QlikView Consultant, it’s B.A.’s technical genius that you’ll want to emulate.

Invariably, the A-Team will get pinned down somewhere (usually a barn) by the episode’s bad guys. What follows is a 5 minute montage in which B.A. welds together an entire armored vehicle out of scrap metal. In the next scene, we see the A-Team using this vehicle and some make-shift weapons to defeat the villains. (Who, for some reason, never see this coming, despite the A-Team using the exact same tactic in every single episode)

For a QlikView Consultant, the takeaway is that you should strive to continually improve your technical skills. Besides that, when the situation calls for it, you need to be able to keep your head down and do the work. Doing the work is a lot easier when you have the right tools, in this case not an acetylene torch, but a toolbox of scripts and solutions (either your own, or a third party one such as QlikView Components or QlikView Addict’s Codebox) that you can use to quickly build a solution in a modular, maintainable manner.


Murdock: Out-of-the-box thinking and vision

Murdock: Analytical skills and general knowledge

Don’t let the goofball impression of H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock fool you. While he may seem to not be all there, he is in fact a deep and analytical thinker.

Every episode sees Murdock obsessing over a new subject, historical character or object. This greatly annoys B.A., who refers to Murdock as a ‘crazy fool’. (in reality, even though B.A. will never admit it, they’re the best of friends) Despite his strange behavior, throughout the series, it becomes clear that Murdock is an analytical thinker, has a broad general knowledge and is very aware of current events and trends in the world. More than once do his brilliant, out-of-the-box ideas save the team.

While as a QlikView Consultant you’ll probably want to avoid the “raving madman” association, in my opinion, you do need to possess some of Murdock’s analytical and out-of-the-box thinking skills. Not only to apply them to your client’s projects, but also to periodically apply them to your own way of working. There are always ways in which you can improve.

The Mr. T Model :)

That’s a Mr. T shaped profile to you! 🙂

Besides purely analytical skills, you also need to have a broad general knowledge of business processes and functions, as well as general market trends. Technical proficiency may be mandatory to get the job done, but real value is added when you understand the client’s business and market, and because of this, his/her problems and needs. There’s nothing wrong with ‘obsessing’ a little over a new field of knowledge if it helps you become more effective and efficient.

Combining the skills and knowledge of BA and Murdock leads to a T-shaped profile that I believe comes very close to the ideal profile for a QlikView Consultant; a deep, technical understanding of QlikView and peripheral methods, technologies and skills, combined with sound analytical skills, business knowledge and a broad general knowledge. As your experience grows, both the base and the roof of the T become broader and deeper, adding extra value for your clients and making you a more all-round professional.

Of course, we still have two more characters left, and as we’ll see, their skills and knowledge are just as important.


Face: Communication and persuasionFace: Communication skills and persuasion

Templeton “Faceman” Peck is the A-Team’s suave and smooth-talking con man and womanizer. He is always able to procure whatever supplies the team needs to get the job done.

The superiority of Face’s ability to convince others is demonstrated by the fact that he is able to break Murdock out of the same military hospital in almost every episode. Even after hundreds of successful escapes, each time using the exact same approach, he is still able to convince people that they should let Murdock leave with him. That’s an impressive display of persuasion, rivaled only by the Jedi mind trick.

Of course, womanizing and duping people aren’t really things you should be doing in a professional environment. However, as a QlikView Consultant, you will want to take at least a few pages from Face’s book. You can have best the best technical and analytical skills in the world, they’re useless if you cannot clearly communicate your ideas and are able to rally people around your cause.

Whether it be gathering requirements, getting access to various resources, designing interfaces, presenting your business case or just plain office politics (unfortunately a reality in many organizations), having excellent verbal and written communication skills and being able to present a convincing argument will greatly increase your effectiveness as a consultant.


Hannibal: loving it when a plan comes together.Hannibal: Project management and leadership

John “Hannibal” Smith is the leader of the A-Team. He is a master tactician, planning for every contingency and always ensuring that “the plan comes together”. His leadership ensures that the team is directed towards the common goal.

He also likes to wear very bad disguises, but nobody’s perfect.

One of the reasons for Hannibal’s continued success is the formulaic approach he takes to his projects. Every episode of the A-Team roughly plays out the same:

Bad guys harass innocent victims → Victims hire A-Team → B.A. says he won’t go on no plane → B.A. gets drugged and is put on the plane → A-Team confronts villains about their dastardly deeds and urges them to stop → Bad guys ignore the advise, take the A-Team by surprise and lock them up → A-Team builds weapons from scrap metal, escapes and beats up the bad guys in a fist fight Villains go to jail → Credits roll.

You may find a lot of faults in Hannibal’s plan (I certainly see a few) but at least he is following some sort of methodology and he consistently delivers within the agreed-upon 60 minute timeframe. As a QlikView Consultant, you should also be following a consistent methodology to deliver your projects. I prefer to use Scrum, but any method will do, as long as it follows a predictable and consistent process that results in quality output delivered in a timely manner, with the end result meeting the client’s expectations.

Besides Hannibal’s project management skills, the most important takeaway for the QlikView Consultant is his leadership and focus on the end-result. Hannibal is really the one who brings the plan together, by keeping the team together. Without Hannibal, the individual qualities of the  A-Team’s member would become unproductive; impulsive action (B.A.), paralysis by analysis (Murdock) and cheap talk (Face). Hannibal ensures that the team maintains just the proper blend of skills and qualities to get the job done, every time.


I love it when a plan comes together

And that’s how I think the skills of the individual A-Team members relate to those of an ideal QlikView Consultant. Unfortunately, like the A-Team, consultants that actually meet this ideal combination of skills and traits are very hard to find. Often one specific ‘personality’ will be more present than others. As a consultant, once you’re aware of this, you can work on developing the other qualities. The Magic A-Team Quadrant (shown below) can be a very useful tool to assess yourself, or your team.

A-Team Magic QuadrantBesides the ‘All-round QlikView Consultant’, the obvious hero of this story, I’ve added two profiles that I often encounter:

  • The IT Consultant: has great technical skills, but has problems understanding the business context of what they are doing. Often delivers exactly what the client asked for, but not what they need. Applications tend not to be used after they leave.
  • The Business Analyst/Management Consultant: knows exactly what the client needs, but has problems delivering a technically sound solution. Applications tend to fall over after they leave.

Where are you? And where are you going? Would be very interested to hear about your thoughts in the comments.

PS. Should you be based in the Netherlands and either feel that you already meet the ideal profile, or aspire to attain it; I’m hiring. Drop me a line and let’s chat. And no, unfortunately there is no company van 🙂