PayPal has become one of the world's biggest online payments companies since it launched in 1998, exceeding US$578 billion in payments across 9.9 billion transactions for over 267 million customer accounts by its 20th birthday, a meteoric rise that analytics has helped drive.
The company uses a range of analytics tools and techniques for personalised offers, targeted advertising and fraud detection, including the QlikView Business Intelligence platform.
"PayPal introduces new programmes all the time, so they're always looking for ways to quickly show their performance," Greg Anderson, senior architect of analytical data services at PayPal told Computerworld UK during the Qlik Connections conference in Dallas this week.
"Whether it's part of the transaction work, PayPal credit, existing offerings, or side-by-side comparisons, we do everything we can do to put that information close at hand. It's Qlik's ability to filter intuitively, by clicking on something, and it takes you right to the next level, that has been extremely useful. We call it slice and dice."
Securing the system
In its short lifetime, PayPal's value has surpassed established payment providers such as American Express by offering a disruptive service that users can trust. The same focus on security that led PayPal to pioneer identity verification measures, data encryption and transaction monitoring has been applied to its use of analytics.
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"The main benefits of Qlik are being able to distribute reports to a very broad audience in a very easy and controllable manner. So we can distribute reports worldwide, but make sure that only the people who should be able to see that data can see that data," says Anderson.
"We work with the stakeholders, the business units, the managers, the decision makers, and we let them define who can see the data, and then we have role based mechanisms that we can use to set up user access."
Setting up a new tool for a new unit
Anderson joined PayPal six years ago, just after the decision was made to use Qlik, but before the implementation process had begun.
The deployment took just six months to complete, which Anderson credits to the support of senior staff and consulting firm Access Consulting.
“We had very good support from management, and we had a director who was dedicated to getting it done," he says.
Anderson believes the most successful training methods involve letting staff work on real uses of the tool.
"Make sure they have three well-defined projects in mind and use those projects for their deployment," he says. "Rather than just trying to implement it as if it was a new tool that people had to learn, give them something practical to do, because all of our training worked best when we took actual examples, and walked our developers through creating an actual QlickView application."
The catalyst for future changes
Qlik has changed a lot since Anderson's team first used it six years ago.
Earlier this week Qlik CEO Mike Capone claimed that the recent acquisitions of Podium Data in 2018 and Attunity had transformed Qlik from a self-service business intelligence tool into the industry's first end-to-end platform. Read next: Qlik touts 'industry's only' end-to-end data platform after Attunity buy
Anderson was pleased to hear that Qlik has expanded its data management capabilities and believes it could be a useful addition to PayPal's analytics toolset.
"Qlik has always been an analytic and a visualisation tool, and the data management part of it has been left to the team. It didn't have very strong data management capabilities in itself - which is fine, it's not what the tool is for, it's for visualisations - but I am happy to see them expanding into the data management part because I think it gives them a stronger offering."
Qlik will hope the enhanced capabilities give it an edge over Tableau, its rival in the self-serve BI market. Anderson has experience working with both and believes Qlik has already surpassed its rival in its usability, visualisations and depth of functionality.
"I prefer Qlik to Tableau, although I think Tableau has a good place in the market," he says. "It's good for quick and dirty work, when somebody needs to get in and create something very quickly and present it in a straightforward manner, like in a table. I think Qlik is much stronger on providing friendly visualisations and a more intuitive experience for the user."