Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives provide unique fact-based insights and education on business, industry and technology vendor trends. Each Analyst Perspective presents the voice of the analyst, typically a practice leader and established subject matter expert,  reporting on new developments, the findings of benchmark research, market shifts and best practice insights. Each Analyst Perspective is prepared in accordance with Ventana Research’s strict standards for accuracy and objectivity and reviewed to ensure it delivers reliable, actionable news and insights.  

Who’s Hot in Analytics and Business Intelligence

Ventana Research recently completed the most comprehensive evaluation of analytics and business intelligence products and vendors available anywhere. As I discussed recently, such research is necessary and timely as analytics and business intelligence is now a fast-changing market. Our Value Index for Analytics and Business Intelligence in 2015 scrutinizes 15 top vendors and their product offerings in seven keyvr_VI_BI_2015_Weighted_Overall categories: Usability, Manageability, Reliability, Capability, Adaptability, Vendor Validation and TCO/ROI. The analysis shows that the top supplier is Information Builders, which qualifies as a Hot vendor and is followed by 10 other Hot vendors: SAP, IBM, MicroStrategy, Oracle, SAS, Qlik, Actuate (now part of OpenText) and Pentaho.

The evaluations drew on our research and analysis of vendors’ and products along with their responses to our detailed RFI or questionnaire, our own hands-on experience and the buyer-related findings from our benchmark research on next-generation business intelligence, information optimization and big data analytics. The benchmark research examines analytics and business intelligence from various perspectives to determine organizations’ current and planned use of these technologies and the capabilities they require for successful deployments.

We find that the processes that comprise business intelligence today have expanded beyond standard query, reporting, analysis and publishing capabilities. They now include sourcing and integration of data and at later stages the use of analytics for planning and forecasting and of capabilities utilizing analytics and metrics for collaborative interaction and performance management. Our research on big data analytics finds that new technologies collectively known as big data vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsare influencing the evolution of business intelligence as well; here in-memory systems (used by 50% of participating organizations), Hadoop (42%) and data warehouse appliances (33%) are the most important innovations. In-memory computing in particular has changed BI because it enables rapid processing of even complex models with very large data sets. In-memory computing also can change how users access data through data visualization and incorporate data mining, simulation and predictive analytics into business intelligence systems. Thus the ability of products to work with big data tools figured in our assessments.

In addition, the 2015 Value Index includes assessments of their self-service tools and cloud deployment options. New self-service approaches can enable business users to reduce their reliance on IT to access and use data and analysis. However, our information optimization research shows that this change is slow to proliferate. In four out of five organizations, IT currently is involved in making information available to end users vr_Info_Optimization_01_whos_responsible_for_information_availabilityand remains entrenched in the operations of business intelligence systems.

Similarly, our research, as well as the lack of maturity of the cloud-based products evaluated, shows that organizations are still in the early stages of cloud adoption for analytics and business intelligence; deployments are mostly departmental in scope. We are exploring these issues further in our benchmark research into data and analytics in the cloud, which will be released in the second quarter of 2015.

The products offered by the five top-rated com­pa­nies in the Value Index provide exceptional functionality and a superior user experi­ence. However, Information Builders stands out, providing an excep­tional user experience and a completely integrated portfolio of data management, predictive analytics, visual discovery and operational intelligence capabilities in a single platform. SAP, in second place, is not far behind, having made significant prog­ress by integrating its Lumira platform into its BusinessObjects Suite; it added pre­dictive analytics capabilities, which led to higher Usability and Capability scores. IBM, MicroStrategy and Oracle, the next three, each provide a ro­bust integrated platform of capabilities. The key differentiator between them and the top two top is that they do not have superior scores in all of the seven categories.

In evaluating products for this Value Index we found some noteworthy innovations in business intelligence. One is Qlik Sense, which has a modern architecture that is cloud-ready and supports responsive design on mobile devices. Another is SAS Visual Analytics, which combines predictive analytics with visual discovery in ways that are a step ahead of others currently in the market. Pentaho’s Automated Data Refinery concept adds its unique Pentaho Data Integration platform to business intelligence for a flexible, well-managed user experience. IBM Watson Analytics uses advanced analytics and VR_AnalyticsandBI_VI_2015natural language processing for an interactive experience beyond the traditional paradigm of business intelligence. Tableau, which led the field in the category of Usability, continues to innovate in the area of user experience and aligning technology with people and process. MicroStrategy’s innovative Usher technology addresses the need for identity management and security, especially in an evolving era in which individuals utilize multiple devices to access information.

The Value Index analysis uncovered notable differences in how well products satisfy the business intelligence needs of employees working in a range of IT and business roles. Our analysis also found substantial variation in how products provide development, security and collaboration capabilities and role-based support for users. Thus, we caution that similar vendor scores should not be taken to imply that the packages evaluated are functionally identical or equally well suited for use by every organization or for a specific process.

To learn more about this research and to download a free executive summary, please visit.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director


In the Digital Economy, the Customer Experience Is Critical

Advertising and marketers tell us we now live in a “digital economy.” That implies the economy is based on and depends on digital technologies. It certainly is true that many consumers, especially younger ones, have changed the ways they interact with each other and businesses; they are now more likely to use digital channels of communication, particularly email, websites, text messaging, instant messaging and social media. In this digital world, where customers can search globally for products and services and change suppliers instantly, it is critical for companies to focus on the customer experience.

Some years ago, customer relationship management (CRM) was supposed to produce better customer relationships and therefore more business. But CRM mostly managed internal marketing, sales and customer service activities and didn’t address the company’s actual interactions with customers. Customer experience management targets those interactions and focuses on influencing customer behavior. In simple terms the customer experience includes interactions between companies and customers, the outcomes of those interactions and critically how customers feel about the interaction and their willingness to have further dealings with the company. To succeed in the digital economy businesses thus need to understand how to deal most effectively with customer interactions and the customer experience.

Some aspects of the digital economy are well known. More people get their news online than from newspapers, and they shop for products the same way. Digital transactions are replacing many that used to be done by postal mail or in person. People increasingly use mobile devices instead of deskbound computers for activities ranging from email to social media, and mobile apps are invented to cover seemingly every conceivable thing. All of these changes impact the way customers do business, and they are ever less patient with old-fashioned, inefficient business practices.

Faced with the ubiquity of digital communications, companies vr_NGCE_Research_12_all_current_channels_for_customer_engagementcan’t just update their contact centers – they have to reassess their marketing, sales and service processes as well. And to be efficient they have to connect all these functions and all the channels of interaction. Our recent benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement reveals the breadth of these issues. As many as 17 channels of interaction are in play, and companies on average support seven. In addition research participants told us they expect the volumes of interactions to grow in all channels. Not surprisingly the smallest rates of growth are for postal mail (3%) and retail outlets (4%), and the highest rates of growth are for social media (30%) and Web-based self-service (25%). Regardless of growth rates organizations have to support ever more channels of interactions, and none is about to disappear.

vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionsThe research also shows change in who handles customer interactions. The top five functions are predictable, led by contact center agents, but significant percentages of mobile workers (in 34% of companies), finance departments (30%), home-based workers (25%) and even HR departments (23%) are involved in handling interactions; the only business unit not interacting with customers is IT. The research also shows that this pattern is changing: 12 percent of companies said they expect in the next 12 months to add customer service outside the contact center and mobile workers, 11 percent expect to add home-based agents, and 10 percent expect to add marketing and other business units. This diversity of roles interacting with customers demonstrates that handling interactions and thus managing the customer experience are enterprise issues. To address them as such, companies face three big issues: integrating systems, managing multiple interaction channels so they appear as one, and providing consistent information regardless of who handles the interaction or the channel of interaction.

Not long ago I discussed some of the technologies organizations should evaluate as they work to provide customers with easy-to-use, personalized, in-context and consistent experiences, but technology alone cannot do that. I recommend six steps toward achieving optimal customer experiences in this digital economy:

  • Stop thinking of interactions as isolated, one-off encounters. Instead think of the customer journey as people moving from being prospects, through sales to becoming customers who need support through an extended range of interaction channels.
  • Customers don’t think in terms of marketing, sales and service departments, so connect these and other business units in a seamless, consistent experience. This applies wherever people are in the customer journey and within each interaction. Processes should flow across organizational boundaries, and for this to happen everyone must share the same data.
  • Rethink the usability of all channels of interaction, and redesign them with the customer and the interaction in mind. This applies to every channel: call flows, IVR menus, self-service Web pages, mobile apps, social forums, voice-activated mobile apps, virtual agents and any others that may develop going forward.
  • As people use more digital channels, it becomes harder to differentiate among companies. Thus content is the key, so think carefully about the design of your website, the attractiveness of email marketing approaches and other text-based interactions, and of course social content.
  • Employees are key, so prepare and treat them well. The best plans can go badly wrong if employees who execute them are poorly trained, unhappy or unmotivated.
  • Rethink the metrics you use to monitor and assess the success of customer-related activities. Our research shows that many companies still focus on internal operational metrics like average handling times and not enough on business-related metrics such as customer lifetime value.

I don’t think organizations can complete any of these steps if they don’t know their customers and their thoughts about the company. In all but the smallest companies, advanced analytics systems can produce a single, comprehensive view of customers that includes maps showing the customer journey and the outcomes of interactions. Our recent research regularly shows that most executives understand the importance of the customer experience in the digital era. Getting it right is harder than many appreciate, so I wish you well in your endeavors and look forward to hearing your views on this critical topic.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director


Oracle Demonstrates Innovation in Human Capital Management

 

The 2013 Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco was unique in several ways. Against the background of the America’s Cup yacht races on the bay, which Team Oracle won in an amazing comeback, this VR_tech_award_winner_2013was the first year in which OpenWorld dedicated a separate track to the full aspects of human capital management (HCM). This emphasis helped to demonstrate Oracle’s increased commitment to HCM. That and several important innovations in the company’s Oracle HCM Cloud product suite led us to select Oracle as winner of this year’s Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for HCM. (For some background, see my colleague Mark Smith’s assessment of Oracle at its analyst day last spring.)

The overall theme of OpenWorld is that Oracle addresses business issues and opportunity, and this was evident in the HCM track. In their keynotes for the track, Chris Leone, senior vice president of applications development, and Gretchen Alarcon, vice president of product strategy, covered the strategy, the current state of the Oracle HCM products and the future roadmap. Their presentations showed that Oracle has a strong commitment to and understanding of the HCM market and the current trends within it. The picture they drew was of Oracle as a market leader with a great deal of resources available to compete effectively both to gain new customers and to help existing PeopleSoft customers advance and migrate to Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud.

In the presentations, the Oracle HCM team showed how these products can meet the needs of organizations looking for standard core vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiesHR applications as well as those that have next-generation HCM technology requirements. Oracle has learned from its competition and centered its HCM message around cloud computing, specifically in terms of the capabilities of the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud. Speakers differentiated its HCM Cloud by offering more flexibility than some competitors, allowing customers to stay one release behind if they wish. From HCM Cloud, the presenters branched out to three areas where the company is focusing development: mobile access, social collaboration, and big data and analytics (counted as one). All of these are top technology trends explored in our business technology innovation benchmark research and first ranked priorities with Analytics being the highest in 39 percent of organizations.

In the area of mobility Oracle’s major enhancement is improvements to Oracle Tap that appeared in release 7 of HCM; this native mobile application for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets is generally available now and provides an intuitive, feature-rich mobile experience for managers and executives.  Oracle Tap integrates talent management information, such as employee profiles, goal attainment and key performance indicators, with Oracle Taleo Recruiting Cloud Service in one mobile application. It also includes an intuitive org chart called a “spinner” that uses a set of concentric circles to show any person in the organization and their relationships to others in the organization. Beyond Oracle Tap, Oracle’s presentations and demos emphasized mobility, insisting that this is an important component of the products.

On the social collaboration front Oracle demonstrated how it is embedded in current Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud applications. To provide collaboration and social media capabilities withinvr_socialcollab_factors_driving_use_of_social_media the HCM suite, Oracle begins with the established Oracle Social Cloud infrastructure, which provides standard services that each of Oracle’s HCM applications can use. To that end, several of the presentations showed HCM applications with embedded discussion threads. Two major releases in social media were announced at the show. First, the next release of Oracle Taleo Social Sourcing Cloud Service is integrated into the Oracle Taleo Recruiting Cloud Service product and enables recruiters to use social media channels and social networks of fellow employees to market open positions. This functionality is important because it moves Oracle from offering only applicant tracking toward recruitment marketing, a direction that I see as increasingly important. Social sourcing products such as these help companies identify new talent pools, one of the top factors driving use of social media in companies according to our benchmark research on social collaboration and human capital management. Even so, I think that Oracle needs to do more in recruitment marketing; there are compelling new technologies on the market that help improve candidate flow and market more effectively to internal networks. I look for further progress here.

The other major step in social media for Oracle is the announcement of Workforce Reputation Management. This new product will provide a way to track key social metrics about employees such as influence, clout or influence and to provide behavioral incentives via gamification to improve online reputations, which my colleague Robert Kugel provided some perspective on. On the whole, I think Oracle has a good approach in both collaboration and social media. Using Oracle Social Cloud to socially enable the HCM applications provides uniformity in the user experience and will help people better connect the social information.

For big data Oracle announced two upcoming products that will help differentiate it in the market. One, part of the Workforce Schedule product, is a predictive modeling tool that can map future performance and chances of attrition based on a model that uses approximately 120 elements. This tool also includes what-if capabilities and scenario management based on Oracle’s core strength in analytics and big data; it should be useful for HR leaders. In addition, Oracle has taken the large set of Oracle Taleo recruiting data (which Oracle claims encompasses 15 percent of all U.S. hires in 2013) and created a recruitment benchmarking tool, Big Data Benchmark Modeling. Oracle’s differentiator here is that this is not survey data but actual statistics cut from its data, giving it a more factual basis. Recruitment and HR managers can use it to see how well their recruiting programs are doing relative to industry KPIs. These tools are similar to some of the big data tools I have written about. Oracle is one of the few vendors that understand and sell core big data applications and hardware and is in position to take advantage of that for HCM. I should note that the recruitment tool is more of a benchmarking tool than a strict big data tool.

It is clear from the general sessions in the HCM track that Oracle has made strong investments in its products, and improving its value to its customers. While I don’t see this as a mission accomplished on the HCM products, it is important progress. Competitors like SAP have strong products in cloud-based HCM, have socially enabled many of their products, and have intuitive embedded analytics; in addition many best-of-breed solution vendors have innovative products in their own areas, so Oracle needs to continue to stay on the path of innovation. It is equally important to be able to implement and support those products for customers consistently and as promised.

A couple of Oracle HCM customers at OpenWorld told me that Oracle is making strong efforts to ensure successful implementations of the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud products. One of the same customers also said that it learned important lessons during the implementation, specifically that it is important when using a deployment partner to make sure that the Oracle account team pairs you with a knowledgeable implementer. Oracle HCM Cloud is a relatively new technology, and apparently not all partners as yet have the expertise required to ensure the implementations happen on schedule and meet customer requirements.

Oracle’s investment in cloud-based human capital management has been impressive thus far, with technology solutions in the core HR areas, payroll and talent management; workforce management is scheduled with release 8, coming in the first quarter of 2014. Investments in new technologies such as big data, social collaboration and mobility will help its products appeal to more customers than its conventional ERP human resources applications would have. If you have not looked at the Oracle HCM Cloud applications, which are available on-premises or in cloud computing, they are worth considering in your organization’s evaluation process.

Regards,

Ventana Research


 

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