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.  

Oracle Customer Experience in the Cloud

vr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementOracle has a large and diverse set of products and now has most of its business applications operating in the private and public cloud. However, some recent acquisitions have enabled it to focus on cloud-based-products for managing the customer experience. Our next generation customer engagement research has found that customer experience is the top impetus for improving customer engagement as found by almost three quarters (74%) of organizations. Oracle has created a customer experience suite that includes marketing, commerce, service, sales, CPQ and social cloud. In particular the acquisition of RightNow has become the foundation of Oracle Service Cloud.

Service Cloud is a collection of products built on a common platform : Web Customer ServiceCross Channel Contact CenterKnowledge Management and Policy Automation. Each of these also has several components; for example, Web Customer Service is made up of Web self-service, Social self-service, E-mail support, Live chat, Virtual Assistant, and Smart engagement.  Self-service enables companies to build self-service Web pages which can be accessed on a laptop or a mobile device and can have embedded access to live help (a chat session) if customers need it. Virtual Assistant goes one step further and uses a rules-based engine to initiate a chat session based on the customer’s profile and data entered into the website, in order to provide more contextual responses. It can also be set up to automatically send a link to a document or send out a survey. All three cases make engagement more proactive and potentially more relevant to the customer.

Social self-service supports Facebook-like capabilities that enable companies to collaborate with customers, share information, or create and operate a closed social forum to, for example, gain input for product improvement initiatives. Live chat and Oracle RightNow Cobrowse Cloud Service provides extensions to Virtual Assistant and allows the agent and the customer to browse Web pages together. E-mail support provides standard email management capabilities but is linked with Virtual Assistant to provide more personalized responses; it also includes escalations and workflows to ensure that any required actions are carried out. Smart engagement pulls many of these capabilities together so companies can build guides that walk users through resolving issues, modifying the steps in real time as data is entered.

Oracle has built most of these capabilities on the original RightNow products. According to Oracle, customers can choose only those they need, which means customers and prospects have to understand exactly their business needs and carefully evaluate which products meet vr_NGCE_Research_09_plans_for_customer_engagement_systemsthose needs but there are so many products making it hard to find what you are looking for and understand all the capabilities. And Customer Service is only one-quarter of the customer experience portfolio. Cross Channel Contact Center is not a contact center in the usual sense. Its focus is systems to manage the operations of a contact center, as opposed to managing communications. Cross-Channel Contact Center does include integration capabilities to these technologies; it can, for instance, collect records of interactions that can be used in subsequent analysis and processes. It consists of nine components: Case Management, Guided Resolution, Social Engagement, Customer Engagement, Analytics, Telephony Control, Unified Agent Desktop and Mobile Desktop. Case Management is not for managing service cases but provides intelligent management of interaction queues; for example, it uses rules to route interactions to the agent mostly likely to meet a customer’s expectations. Guided Resolution enables development of scripts and prompts to guide agents through the process of resolving issues. Social Engagement allows companies to monitor social media activities and proactively reach out to help customers find information or resolve issues. Customer Engagement is what many people think of as customer feedback management; it uses rules to solicit customer feedback. Analytics provides canned reports and analysis, and capabilities that allow users to build their own to gain insights from a variety of customer data including across channels of interactions. Telephony Control provides integration with on-premises or cloud-based telephony management systems so that agents can manage calls from their desktop. Unified Desktop has development and integration tools so that companies can build a unified desktop that enables agents to access systems from a single desktop. Finally Mobile Desktop untethers the desktop from a laptop and allows any authorized user to access contact center systems from their smart devices. Mobile was one of the top areas planned for improving customer engagement (41%) as is analytics (38%) that can operate across channels.

Knowledge Management basically supports the end-to-end process of managing creation, distribution and access of content so the same content can be used by all the other systems, and Policy Management basically supports the end-to-end process of managing a company’s policies.

vr_NGCE_Research_08_systems_to_improve_customer_engagementThe Oracle CX portfolio consists of many products that support a very wide range of capabilities. It is true that customer experience management is not simple and requires multiple capabilities. My benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that to improve customer engagement companies have invested and today use a variety of systems; chief among them are CRM (48%), performance management (44%), business process management (43%) and Web-based self-service (39%). The same research also shows more companies looking for cloud-based systems (29%) and mobile systems (63%). My concerns about the Oracle portfolio is that it might be too broad and too complex for any but large organizations to understand; smaller companies with fewer resources might get lost trying work out exactly what they need. This is most likely a consequence of Oracle having to bring together various products from acquisitions. I suspect the same is also true in the naming of some of the products. For example, Web Customer Service doesn’t adequately reflect the capabilities it supports and Cross Channel Contact Center isn’t what many companies think of as a contact center. Companies that make the effort to work through these concerns will find many capabilities that are required to support what I call the omni-customer experience in which customers find it easy to engage with the company and receive personalized, contextual and consistent responses no matter what channel they use or who they interact with. Oracle has a robust portfolio of applications and technology for customer experience, just might take you a little longer to assess the portfolio and approaches.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Workday Bolsters Human Capital Management

In the past year Workday has been making efforts to improve its human capital management (HCM) suite focused directly on the core human resources management systems and talent management software. In my previous analyst perspective about Workday I looked at its mobile capabilities for HCM. These additions, in concert with the enhancements discussed here, offer useful improvements. I have also noticed changes in the HCM market that impact all large competitors in it, including Workday. Before discussing these changes, it might help to summarize the company’s past three major releases.

vr_HCA_02_key_benefits_of_human_capital_analyticsWorkday Release 20, which came out in September 2013, added a Big Data product to Workday’s current HCM and financial suites. This advancement can help HR use range of analytic discovery capabilities on big data that can exploit value from HR and external data. Workday provides a set of prebuilt templates companies can use to quickly analyze questions most commonly asked of the human resources department by management, such as who might leave or who the best performers are. In addition, Workday Big Data Analytics, which was launched with Workday Release 20, offers basic tools to import and analyze structured and unstructured data, allowing users to go beyond the packaged templates. Taken together these two tools and templates allow companies to see value quickly and encourage them to invest in skills needed to work with the data in ways that answer questions specific to their business.

The big data capabilities can benefit companies that invest in them. Organizations need to better understand the relationship between investments they are making in HCM software and business outcomes. In our research into big data analytics the most-often named benefit of big data analytics is better communication and knowledge sharing but if you look at our research in human capital analytics the top benefits are improve efficiency and productivity (61%) and engage and retain more of the workforce (52%) which indicate part of the opportunity and challenge for Workday to ensure it meets the HCM value of big data for HR. To be successful in human capital analytics will require more linkage from its big data analytics and its workforce planning and analytics and ensure these offerings are intuitive and provide guidance for HR professionals and not just present easier to read reports and charts.

Workday Release 21 came out in January 2014 and made major improvements to the Web browser user interface. It simplifies navigation and makes the application more intuitive to use. As with other human capital management applications, Workday’s new user interface utilizes design principles of consumer applications such as Google+ or LinkedIn, providing cleaner screens and graphical elements to cue users on where to find information quickly. Technologically this release moved the Workday user interface base from Adobe Flex to HTML5. This followed other Web-based applications moving in this direction; HTML5 offers more responsive design capabilities.

Workday Release 21 also improved application usability was primarily in its Performance Management application. It enables managers and employees to execute performance reviews on mobile devices. This will appeal to the increasing number of organizations that adopting mobile devices for HCM. According to our research on human capital analytics, one-third of organizations currently use mobile devices for talent management and roughly half (52%) are planning to adopt it in the future. As I have written in previous perspectives, product usability is a leading buying criterion for most HR applications, and mobile capabilities are increasingly part of that requirement. Workday is smart to continue to focus on usability within the suite and will need to demonstrate why they are simpler and faster than others in the market and their own previous releases.

Finally, Workday Release 22, which debuted in May 2014, features a new recruiting application. Workday Recruiting focuses on delivering applicant tracking capabilities within the recruiting process. Other HCM vendors have added similar features in the past 12 months. (I wrote about this trend in an earlier analyst perspective.)

vr_socialcollab_most_important_workforce_metrics_updatedWhile Workday Recruiting is fairly standard in terms of core functionality, the release includes a mobile capability as in Workday 21, which makes the application more usable for a significant percentage of people in talent management tasks. In addition, the recruiting application includes robust analytics including a dashboard to track important metrics. Templates in both Workday Big Data and Workday Recruiting can track metrics important to recruiters and the company overall. Two of our research projects, on social collaboration and human capital management and human capital analytics, find that employee retention and engagement are among the five most important recruiting metrics.

As we look ahead Workday and others will need to invest is in functionality for sourcing and recruitment marketing. While Workday has several partnerships with vendors such as Jobvite and Broadbean, applicant tracking vendors should make it easy to use these partners’ tools so customers gain the information they are seeking without feeling like they are managing multiple applications. Workday will also need to invest further into video interviewing technology like that from its partner HireVue, as leading vendors which offer applicant tracking applications and candidates can personalize their resume and interactions with HR and hiring managers. The use of video is important to HCM across the spectrum of manager and employee needs from learning, performance reviews to work scheduling and collaboration.

Looking at these releases in a larger context, I see Workday’s value proposition as twofold: first, a single complete HCM suite that provides market-leading functionality to drive more efficient processes and workforce productivity, and second, competitive total cost of ownership by offering it all through cloud computing. The three recent releases deliver on these value propositions, adding several pieces of competitive functionality on the HCM suite. Workday is missing a complete compensation management set of capabilities like that found in other HCM suites which is becoming increasingly important to integrate with payroll, performance management, recruiting, succession and overall employee retention efforts. But to fulfill on delivering the HCM suite Workday will have to make critical decisions in regards to the gaps it has and where it works with partners still makes sense. This becomes more important as going forward Workday will also be competing with their partner’s for both mindshare and products in the places they don’t partner. For example, Workday is partnering with Kronos for offering a complete workforce management offering as it only offers basic time and attendance tracking along with time-off capabilities but Kronos has its own HR, payroll and recruiting applications as part of its workforce management suite. In addition the partnership with Cornerstone OnDemand for learning management is another example where Workday is competing in its focus for providing its talent management applications in the cloud.

But as I said at the beginning of this perspective, I believe the HCM market is beginning to resemble the consumer applications market. Large vendors such as Oracle and SAP, and mostly midmarket focused vendors including Ceridian and Ultimate are all investing in cloud HCM suites and seeing results from doing so. In addition, cloud-based partners like Cornerstone OnDemand offer competitive, and in some cases stronger, functionality in some aspects of talent management. In sum, strong functionality offered on a cloud platform is becoming table stakes. Differentiation will now is likely to come from ease of use, intuitive applications and customer relationships with clients. Workday appears to be aware of this evolution and is investing in it, but the company will need to rationalize the reality of its partnerships and its product suite to provide better clarity to its customers and the market.


Stephan Millard

VP & Research Director

Businesses Must Make Self-Service Reporting a Priority

One of the charitable causes to which I devote time puts on an annual vintage car show. The Concours d’Élegance dates back to 17th century France, when wealthy aristocrats gathered with judges on a field to determine who had the best carriages and the most beautiful horsepower. Our event serves as the centerpiece of a broader mission to raise money for several charitable organizations. One of my roles is to keep track of the cars entered in the show, and in that capacity I designed an online registration system. I’ve been struck by how my experiences with a simple IT system have been a microcosm of the issues that people encounter in designing, administering and using far more sophisticated  ones. My most important take-away from this year’s event is the importance of self-service reporting. I suspect that most senior corporate executives – especially those in Finance – fail to appreciate the value of self-service reporting. It frees up the considerable resources organizations collectively waste on unproductive work, and it increases responsiveness and agility of the company as a whole.

vr_ss21_spreadsheets_arent_easily_replacedElectronic reporting began as a solution to paper print-outs, reducing the resources required to transmit information needed by individuals and making it easier for them to find information. Over the past couple of decades, these enterprise reports also have become much easier for IT professionals to create and maintain, but they are still time-consuming and aren’t particularly flexible. Rather than have their IT department create another version of a report, people often copy an electronic report, paste it into a spreadsheet, reconfigure the information to suit their needs and distribute the modified spreadsheet to a group of people. For this and other reasons IT departments have found it difficult to get business people to stop using spreadsheets. Our benchmark research on spreadsheets finds this is the number-one impediment to change. Spreadsheet users value control and flexibility. This is precisely what self-service reporting delivers without the time-consuming hassle of manually creating and distributing spreadsheet reports.

It’s useful to think of self-service reporting as an attitude and approach to using information technology than as a specific software product or category. It starts with the basic assumption that individuals in organizations must be able to retrieve information they need from the systems they use. This does not replace periodic enterprise reporting, dashboards, scorecards and other such “push” communication methods. This is not the once-voguish concept of “democratizing business intelligence” either; that was still too complicated for the vast majority of users. It’s more like replacing telephone operators with a direct dial system. (Note to readers under 40 years old: Once upon a time it required human intervention to connect your phone to someone else’s.) The goal of self-service reporting is to make broad sets of data readily available and give people the ability to access it (subject to permissions) as well as easily organize and display it in the form and format that works best for them.

In the early days of business computing, simply collecting and having access to company data was a breakthrough. Over the past decades, corporations automated and instrumented a broad range of functions, and the challenge lay in collecting and managing the data. Although companies still face many issues in data management, devolving reporting to the individual is now a critical issue companies must address. Well-designed self-service reporting improves the productivity of individuals in both IT and the rest of the organization. The controller of a midsize company recently told me people had been spending one-and-a-half days per month creating reports for senior executives and operating managers after the monthly and quarterly accounting close. Talk about unproductive use of resources! This is an extreme example but emblematic of time routinely wasted on something individuals ought be able to do on their own. From the IT side, far too much time is devoted to creating and maintaining reports – it’s akin to still having switchboard operators on staff to route calls.

Self-service reporting exists both as a feature of enterprise applications and in stand-alone products designed to work with applications that lack this capability. In deciding whether to replace existing software and in any vendor selection process, it’s important to assess benefits of self-service reporting capabilities. This is especially true as mobility increasingly is built into enterprise business applications. Anytime, anywhere access to information is one of the most important reasons why companies invest in mobility and demand this capability in the software they buy. Being able to drill down and around in the data contained in such reports provides a powerful incentive to replace spreadsheets. But there are also stand-alone products that can provide self-service reporting capabilities within legacy systems.

For our service organization this past year I still created a limited number of spreadsheets for individuals and groups that are not on our system. The only data issues we had were created when someone copied and pasted information from our reports into another spreadsheet. Errors are inevitable, and even in our local event there are unfortunate consequences when they occur. For example, telling someone who has just spent hundreds of hours preparing his or her car that the vehicle is not eligible for an award because it was not on the list of judged cars (even though our system showed that it was supposed to be judged) provokes the same level of irate response one might expect when a CFO is informed that there’s a material error in the published financial statements.

Self-service reporting is fast becoming a standard capability within businesses. It’s part of a generational change that is redefining corporate computing. People beyond a certain age still expect information to be given to them. Younger people want to get the information they need themselves and expect to have the ability to do so. IT departments must identify opportunities to offer self-service reporting and implement it wherever possible. Business users – especially those in finance roles – should familiarize themselves with self-service reporting – especially stand-alone tools that they can use and administer – and implement it wherever it is feasible.


Robert Kugel – SVP Research


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