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.  

Teradata Takes On Cloud and Developers with Big Data & Analytics

Teradata recently held its annual Partners conference, at which gather several thousand customers and partners from around the world. This was the first Partners event since Vic Lund was appointed president and CEO in May. Year on year, Teradata’s revenues are down about 5 percent, which likely prompted some changes at the company. Over the past few years Teradata made several technology acquisitions and perhaps spread its resources too thin. At the event, Lund committed the company to a focus on customers, which was a significant part of Teradata’s success in the past. This commitment was well received by customers I spoke with at the event.

I also had a chance to talk with Oliver Ratzesberger, Teradata’s EVP and chief product officer, about the company’s focus and product direction. For the near term, Ratzesberger said, its focus remains on selling to and supporting new and existing customers in the largest 1,000 global enterprises, but in the longer term Teradata wants to win over the development community, too. As a large-scale provider of databases and big data management tools, Teradata competes to some extent with the Hadoop ecosystem I have written about. Teradata likely has encountered new challenges in growing revenue since the advent of Hadoop, but the company also embraces Hadoop. Its Aster Analytics product now runs on Hadoop (and AWS), the company offers a Hadoop appliance as well as Presto for SQL on Hadoop, and Think Big, its analytics consulting group helps design, implement and manage Hadoop-based systems. Management took these steps after recognizing that the company needs to coexist with the growing Hadoop ecosystem.

Ratzesberger pointed to other developer-friendly changes as well. Teradata Query Grid 2.0 has become a platform for monitoring and managing a heterogeneous combination of data sources, not just a tool for routing queries. Workload management has always been a strength of Teradata, and it is now seeking to extend those capabilities to non-Teradata systems via Query Grid. Teradata Listener, for ingesting streams of information such as Internet of Things (IoT) device data, allows developers to simply register the service, get an API key and develop in their language of choice using a RESTful API and JSON data structures.

Concurrently with the event Teradata announced vr_dac_03_use_of_cloud_for_data_storagenew cloud-based offerings including for AWS and Azure. These options should make it easier for developers to get started with Teradata since there is no hardware to acquire and install. The company has been moving in the direction of embracing the cloud for several years and now offers a full range of private cloud, managed cloud and public cloud options. As part of the conference, I gave a presentation entitle Why Your Data and Analytics Should Live in the Cloud. Among the most significant findings from our benchmark research that I shared is that 40 percent of organizations reported that they expect the majority of their data to be in the cloud within 12 months and twice as many (86%) said they expect the majority of their data to be in the cloud eventually.

My key takeaway from the conference is that while we may not see changes overnight, there are signs that Teradata is seeking to extend its influence beyond the largest organizations in the world. Much of new development emanates from smaller companies that seek to embrace open source, low cost and easy-to-adopt technologies. The announcements Teradata made at the Partners conference help to move the company in that direction. If you are evaluating cloud-based analytical databases, I recommend that you consider Teradata as one of the options.

Regards,

David Menninger

SVP & Research Director

Follow Me on Twitter @dmenningerVR and Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Value Index Analysis Finds Workforce Optimization Market Mature

Ventana Research has published its Workforce Optimization 2016 Value Index. The Value Index provides a comprehensive evaluation ofvr_wfo_vi_2016 contact center workforce optimization vendors based on responses to our RFP-like questionnaire, which was constructed using insights gained from our recent benchmark research into workforce optimization and our knowledge of the market. In our definition workforce optimization systems include interaction recording, agent quality management, workforce management, agent compensation management, training and coaching, and interaction-handling analytics. The research shows that organizations have deployed many of these applications and by doing so have achieved efficiencies in handling interactions, improved outcomes of those interactions and improved both customer and employee satisfaction.

Managing the tasks associated with handling customer interactions has become more challenging. Organizations now handle large volumes of interactions through more channels of engagement; our benchmark research into contact centers in the cloud finds that the average number of channels supported by organizations has risen to eight. At the same time the interactions themselves have become more complex, and customer expectations of how well interactions are handled have risen. In addition, more employees throughout the organization – in all business units except IT – now handle interactions.

Workforce optimization technology is increasingly widely deployed. The types of systems in widest use are call recording (by 70% of organizations), quality monitoring (64%) and e-learning (44%); the systems most often planned to be deployed in the next two years are e-learning (36%), workforce management (32%) and coaching (30%). This contact center in the cloud research shows that companies now see analytics as a key tool for improving interaction handling and employee and customer satisfaction. To support decisions about interactions they seek comprehensive views of customers and use more customer-related metrics. They also attempt to link employee performance and customer satisfaction, track employee performance using operational metrics and develop customer journey maps showing the transition from one channel to another and from one employee to another. Vendors of workforce optimization systems and tools are under pressure to support all these capabilities.

The research shows that companies of all sizes increasingly are open to using cloud-based systems and that this trend is likely to accelerate as more small and midsize businesses choose to deploy workforce optimization technology. This trend is especially true for advanced analytics systems; more companies intend to deploy speech, text and event analytics in the cloud than on-premises. Mobility also is having an impact in supporting managers and team leaders working away from their desks, such as when walking a contact center floor to provide real-time coaching, and in supporting home-based agents. Advanced workforce optimization systems therefore need to provide access to key capabilities through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. We connect these preferences to another research finding, that usability is a key factor for organizations evaluating software for workforce optimization. In this regard, organizations want a user interface that matches the expectations of modern users – for example, by providing visualization and point-and-click capabilities.

The research also shows the growing importance of systems integration; almost half of organizations said that integration between workforce optimization applications is important. Such integration has a dual impact, making it easier to manage all applications “as one” as well as to share data between systems to automate what have been disconnected manual processes – for example, to connect analytics that identify needed training and workforce management to automatically schedule that training.

Using these and other insights and responses to the detailed questions enabled us to construct the 2016 Workforce Optimization Value Index questionnaire, in which we divided the questions into seven categories: adaptability, capability, usability, manageability, reliability, vendor validation and support for developing TCO-ROI. We invited 13 vendors to complete this based on the products they had in general release as of March 2016. Six decided not to respond due tovr_wfo_vi_2016_weighted_overall resource issues or because the company had been acquired, putting the future of its products into question. Thus the 2016 Workforce Optimization Value Index report includes seven vendors: Calabrio, dvsAnalytics, Envision, NICE, OnviSource, TelStrat and Verint. The findings of our analyses demonstrate the maturity of this market. All seven companies received our Hot rating, and first and last places are separated by fewer than five percentage points. The analysis shows that currently Verint is the top supplier, followed by NICE in second place. This mirrors our 2015 Value Index in which Verint ranked first and NICE third; since then NICE has acquired the 2015 second-place finisher, VPI.

Both Verint and NICE are well-established global vendors of workforce optimization systems and provide tools for capturing multiple forms of interaction, agent quality management, workforce management, agent compensation management, coaching, training, performance management and analytics. Each of the two built its suite through a combination of in-house development and acquisition, and each has invested to improve integration between the products, build a modern user interface for all modules, and centralize setup, administration and management of them. Each also has invested in providing cloud-based versions of the existing products.

The other five vendors – Envision, OnviSource, Calabrio, dvsAnalytics and TelStrat, in order of rank – are smaller companies that focus predominantly on the U.S. market, although all are expanding to international markets. Their systems were developed largely in-house and thus have the advantages of being tightly integrated, having a common user interface and being managed centrally. Each of these vendors also has developed cloud-based services based on its products.

We urge organizations to do a thorough job of evaluating workforce optimization systems and dig deeper than just the overall rankings as individual company requirements will differ and each will have its own priorities. We offer this Value Index as both the results of our in-depth analysis of these vendors and as an evaluation methodology. The Value Index can be used to evaluate existing suppliers and also provides evaluation criteria for new projects. Applying it this way can shorten the RFP cycle time and enable your organization to optimize its contact center workforce optimization efforts. To learn more and receive a complimentary copy of the report, please visit http://www.ventanaresearch.com/WFOValueIndex/.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

Follow Me on Twitter  and Connect with me on LinkedIn


Get to Know Enterprise Spreadsheets to Improve Business Effectiveness

Ventana Research coined the term “enterprise spreadsheet” in 2004 to describe a variety of software applications that add a desktop spreadsheet’s user interface (usually that of Microsoft Excel) to components that address the issues that arise when desktop spreadsheets are used in repetitive, collaborative enterprise processes. Enterprise spreadsheets are designed to provide the best of both worlds in that they offer the ease of use and flexibility of desktop spreadsheets while overcoming their defects – chiefly inability to maintain data integrity, lack of referential integrity and dimensionality, absence of workflow and process controls, limited security and access controls as well as poor auditability. All of these issues can cause serious problems for business use, which I’ll discuss below.

Companies should investigate enterprise spreadsheet applications that can address desktop spreadsheet issues because they can provide better results, save an organization substantial amounts of time and provide greater accuracy and security. Most products are designed to be a cost-effective replacement for the desktop variety. Enterprise spreadsheets fill various roles to suit specific business needs. Some take the form of a simple data collection program that maps the spreadsheet’s two-dimensional grid to a relational or multidimensional data store. Others offer business intelligence software capabilities that enable self-service automated reporting from enterprise data sources. Still others may be relatively elaborate applications that incorporate programmed workflows, access controls, audit trails and more sophisticated visualization methods than are available in Excel and utilize a relational or multidimensional data store. Dozens of applications that incorporate enterprise spreadsheets are available today.

Enterprise spreadsheets fill an important role in corporate computing environments. For example, the spreadsheet interface has become common in business planning applications because companies find it easier to train people to use this software when it has a familiar look and feel. It might servevr_ss21_combining_spreadsheets_is_a_chore_updated as an alternative user interface to an ERP system for specific tasks, where the object is to simplify and shorten data input or facilitate some analytical interaction (such as comparing two columns of numbers to spot matches or data inconsistencies). An enterprise spreadsheet also may serve as an automated conduit for moving data from one enterprise system to another, using macros to automate actions on the data as it moves between systems. Using macros makes it easier for business people, not IT specialists, to program these actions because far more people understand how to use them than are able to program applications or data connectors. These spreadsheets may serve as a data on-ramp or off-ramp to some process handled in an enterprise system such as ERP or CRM that requires human intervention. In this role, an enterprise spreadsheet provides the programmed workflows, security and referential integrity to fill a process gap that an enterprise system cannot address or is too expensive to implement and maintain in that core system. In addition to collecting data, enterprise spreadsheets may enrich data from an enterprise source in a controlled environment, federate data from multiple systems, perform checks or reconciliations vr_ss21_errors_in_spreadsheets_updatedbefore data enters an enterprise system or perform some analysis for decision support.

I regard the electronic spreadsheet as among the top five most important advances in business management to come along in the last 100 years. It revolutionized almost all aspects of running an organization. It was the original “killer app” that made it necessary for people to go out and buy a personal computer. Yet it has inherent technological defects when used in repetitive, collaborative enterprise processes. One is a lack of data integrity, which maintains the accuracy and consistency of data – spreadsheets are notoriously error-prone. More than one-third (35%) of participants in our benchmark research on spreadsheets said that data errors are common in the most important spreadsheet they use in their job, and another 26 percent said errors in formulas are common.

A related drawback is that desktop spreadsheets lack referential integrity; that is, the meaning and context of an individual cell is defined by row and column headers rather than being defined within the individual cell. This creates the familiar problem when a group of spreadsheets supposedly containing the same data are combined, but someone has added or deleted a row or column: The result is inaccurate. In our spreadsheet research more than half (56%) of spreadsheet users – even those who have been using them for more than a decade – said that they find it usually or always time-consuming to combine data from multiple spreadsheets.  Another problem is that desktop spreadsheets, being two-dimensional grids, have limited ability to manipulate and report data having three or more dimensions. While accountants can work around this limit, it’s a problem for most business users because businesses work in multiple dimensions such as organizational structures (regions or divisions, for example), products (from families down to individual stock keeping units), customers (national accounts down to drop-ship locations), dimensionality and time.

They also lack programmed workflow: People attach spreadsheets to email messages, making it difficult to keep track of the latest versions. More than one-fourth (28%) of research participants said that processes that run on desktop spreadsheets frequently break down because people using them don’t know what to do next or forget to pass them along. Likewise, they lack process controls to ensure that they are reviewed properly and that any deficiencies found in the spreadsheet are noted and automatically returned to the preparer for correction. Finally, desktop spreadsheets have limited security, access controls and audit functions as well as poor auditability. To address these deficiencies, people – especially those in finance organizations – have to spend a great deal of time reviewing and correcting spreadsheets. So while our Office of Finance research finds that the accuracy of information gleaned in desktop spreadsheet processes is acceptable, fewer than one-third of organizations said that the information the finance department provides is timely.

Because enterprise spreadsheets address these issues, they can reduce the incidence of errors and malfeasance that make using spreadsheets in repetitive, collaborative enterprise processes problematic. In many cases, enterprise spreadsheets support what we call “continuous accounting” in that they ensure data quality from end to end in financial processes. Of course, not every enterprise spreadsheet product addresses all the issues I’ve mentioned. But often this doesn’t matter if, for example, the offering is designed to perform a limited set of functions such as reporting or acting as a data conduit connecting two systems in an otherwise controlled environment.

Businesses should recognize that they no longer have to put up with the shortcomings of desktop spreadsheets. They have options to have the best of both worlds, allowing people to continue working in a familiar environment but without the drawbacks that spreadsheets impose when they are used improperly. There is no good reason not to consider adopting such an application. After all, people routinely spend time exploring application options for their smartphones but rarely spend any time getting to know business software that can increase their productivity. There are many forms of enterprise spreadsheet applications to solve a range of business issues. I recommend that businesses investigate options that give users the ease, convenience and familiarity of spreadsheets without the hassle and risk that often goes with them.

Regards,

Robert Kugel

Senior Vice President Research

Follow Me on Twitter @rdkugelVR and

Connect with me on LinkedIn.


 

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