Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

All Analyst Perspectives

Warning: Software Now Mandatory for Lease Accounting

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 16, 2018 1:00:00 PM

Accountants love electronic spreadsheets – and for good reason. They’re a powerful and versatile personal productivity tool and just about everyone knows how to use them. Spreadsheets are the default software tool for accountants because they enable autonomy (you don’t need to ask IT for anything) and they’re free (so you don’t have to make a business case to authorize buying something). Some accountants humorously (but earnestly) invoke the line “you’ll have to pry this spreadsheet from my cold, dead hands” whenever somebody suggests eliminating them.

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Pricing Software and the CFO

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 16, 2018 8:58:23 AM

Pricing is an issue that almost every for-profit company confronts – and usually agonizes over. Organizations’ approach to pricing can range from centralized to decentralized and from highly disciplined to lax. Whether pricing is best handled in a centralized or decentralized fashion depends a great deal on the markets the company is serving as well as its organizational structure and culture. However specific pricing policies are established, though, a disciplined approach to price setting and negotiation is always superior to an ad-hoc process. Discipline is key to preventing margin “leakage” caused by unnecessary price concessions. Configure, price and quote (CPQ) software is a critical component in any leakage-prevention strategy.

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SAP Highlights Its Blockchain Efforts

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 26, 2018 12:07:01 PM

SAP recently held a teleconference to highlight its blockchain strategy. Lately, the major business software vendors have been calling attention to their blockchain initiatives. While the focus on this technology might seem premature to those who still equate it with cryptocurrencies, evidence is pointing to a future pace of adoption similar to the rapid take-up of the internet in the 1990s. That blockchain is useful for a wide range of business functions isn’t news – just google “blockchain use cases.” Payment, provenance, testament and efficiency are four main themes driving a multitude of applications of the technology. That said, blockchain isn’t technology in search of a mission but is something more like the internet, both in its broad utility and in value multiplication through network effects.

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The Modern Finance Organization is a Technology Fast Follower

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 15, 2018 10:07:57 AM

Robots of the physical sort are not about to take over finance and accounting but we have arrived at the age of “Robotic Finance”. I coined this term to focus on four key technologies with transformative capabilities: artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotic process automation, bots and natural language processing and blockchain distributed ledger technology. Embracing these technologies will enable any department to redefine itself as a forward-looking strategic partner to the rest of the company.

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The Mission of Human Capital Management for 2018

Posted by Steve Goldberg on Feb 28, 2018 9:39:33 AM

The HCM software market continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace. The innovations we’re seeing are exciting new features and capabilities, but many have more profound impacts: They provide organizations with more effective ways to serve their customers and enhance their experience. HR’s customers –employees, managers, retirees, candidates, leadership and external partners – can now access and take advantage of native mobile apps, virtual agents and chatbots (via text or voice) as well as robotic process automation (“RPA”) technology for predictable-task execution and algorithms that prescribe best actions. We are also seeing increasing evidence of the power and potential of virtual and augmented reality to create immersive experiences (for candidates and learners) and the internet of things is helping organizations achieve an even more connected, data-driven workforce. We at Ventana Research recently released our research agenda for 2018, which outlines the ways we plan to track and evaluate these advances and innovations in the coming year.

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Make Data and Information Management Work for You in 2018

Posted by David Menninger on Feb 23, 2018 6:00:00 AM

We at Ventana Research recently published our research agendas for 2018. The world of data and information management continues to evolve, as does our research on the use of these technologies to improve your organization’s operations. Relational databases are no longer the only viable enterprise data store as more organizations adopt a polyglot database infrastructure. And while their exact form may still be changing, as I have recently written, big data technologies are here to stay. Our Data and Analytics in the Cloud Benchmark Research indicates that an increasing number of organizations are opting for cloud-based deployments: A modern data infrastructure includes a hybrid of on-premises and cloud deployments for 44 percent of organizations. Our upcoming research will track how these changes are affecting data- and information-management processes.

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Self-Describing Data Powers B2B Blockchain Distributed Ledgers

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 15, 2018 7:22:37 AM

The use of blockchain distributed ledgers in business processes is now a common theme in many business software vendors’ presentations. The technology has a multitude of potential uses. However, presentations about the opportunities for digital transformation always leave me wondering: How is this magic going to happen? I wonder this because the details about how data flows from point A to point B via a blockchain are critically important to blockchain utility and therefore the pace of its adoption.

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Research Agenda Explores Evolving World of Analytics in 2018

Posted by David Menninger on Feb 15, 2018 6:48:42 AM

We at Ventana Research recently published our research agendas for 2018. Analytics and business intelligence are evolving and so is our research on their use across practice areas. Earlier research has shown that analytics can deliver significant value to organizations; for example, our predictive analytics research shows that 57 percent of organizations reported achieving a competitive advantage and half created new revenue opportunities with predictive analytics. Waves of investment in self-service analytics have propelled the market for analytics tools, significantly empowering line-of-business organizations to create their own analytics and set their own analytic priorities. But organizations are also beginning to recognize some of the limitations of current analytics implementations – for self-service, for example. Our Data Preparation Benchmark Research reveals that fewer than half (42%) of organizations are comfortable allowing business users to work with data not prepared by IT. Our research this year will continue to explore both the successes and challenges organizations face as they continue to use analytics and BI.

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Predictive Finance Organizations Are More Valuable

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 12, 2018 4:31:44 AM

Ventana Research uses the term “predictive finance” to describe a forward-looking, action-oriented finance organization that places emphasis on advising its company rather than fulfilling the traditional roles of a transactions processor and reporter. Technology is driving the shift away from the traditional bean-counting role. The cumulative evolution of software advances will substantially reduce finance and accounting workloads by automating most of the mechanical, rote functions in accounting, data preparation and reporting. (I recently summarized these in a “Robotic Finance”)

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Predictive HCM: The Benefits Are Real, as Are the Cautions

Posted by Steve Goldberg on Jan 2, 2018 12:43:14 AM

Two of the most impactful contributions of any HR department are driving employee engagement and employee productivity, outcomes that are highly correlated of course. These contributions are meaningful because, for an organization of any appreciable size, even fairly small upticks in employee productivity translate into significant financial benefit. The math is simple: Increase revenue per employee (for example, via technologies that enhance productivity) from $150,000 to $157,500 (just 5 percent) in a workforce of 5,000 employees and you capture $37.5 million in incremental revenue. The magnitude of this business impact is several times larger than shaving even 50 percent off the HR operating budget in an equivalent-sized organization.

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The Untapped Potential of Data Preparation

Posted by David Menninger on Dec 29, 2017 5:53:44 AM

Ventana Research recently published the findings of our benchmark research on Data Preparation, which examines the practices organizations use to accomplish data preparation. We view data preparation as a sequence of steps: identifying, locating and then accessing the data; aggregating data from different sources; and enriching, transforming and cleaning it to create a single uniform data set. Using data to accomplish organizational goals requires that it be prepared for use; to do this job properly, businesses need flexible tools that enable them to enrich the context of data drawn from multiple sources and collaborate on its preparation as well as ensure security and consistency. Users of data preparation tools range from analysts to operations professionals in the lines of business to IT professionals.

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Welcome to the Age of Robotic Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 29, 2017 5:24:36 AM

For several years, I’ve commented on a range of emerging technologies that will have a profound impact on white-collar work in the coming decade. I’ve now coined the term “Robotic finance” to describe this emerging focus, which includes four key areas of technology: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), bots utilizing natural language processing, and blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT), each of which I describe below. Robotic finance will have a disproportionate impact on finance and accounting departments: I estimate that adoption of these technologies potentially will eliminate one-third of the accounting department’s workload within a decade.

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Robotic Process Automation is a Cornerstone of Digital Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 25, 2017 7:52:10 AM

Robotic process automation (RPA) relies on programming or the application of analytical algorithms to execute the most appropriate action in an automated workflow. RPA enables business users to configure a “robot” (actually, computer software) to interact with applications or data sources to process a transaction, move or manipulate data, communicate with other digital systems and manage machine-to-machine and man-to-machine interactions. This technology is gaining increasing notice by finance departments, with good reason: RPA represents an important step beyond simple process automation in that it uses software to execute routine but complex workflows that require judgment. Rather than making an individual check-off a step in a routine approval, a robotic system applies an algorithm that decides the next step. The system thus does what people spend an awful lot of their time doing every day: making judgments that most of the time could be done by a machine.

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NewVoiceMedia Invests for Contact Center in the Cloud Success

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 17, 2017 7:42:19 AM

2017 has been a year of major changes in the contact center market: several significant acquisitions, vendors expanding their capabilities to support more channels of engagement, a continued trend to move products to the cloud and, as a result, more vendors expanding their global presence. One such vendor is NewVoiceMedia. When I last wrote about the company I pointed out that when it was founded in 2000 it was one of the first vendors to move telephony management to the cloud and offer contact center in the cloud services. At the time I wrote my perspective, it had just raised considerable funding to help it further develop the product and expand its presence around the globe.

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SAP Data Hub Orchestrates Data for Business and IT

Posted by David Menninger on Dec 14, 2017 8:22:13 AM

I recently attended SAP TechEd in Las Vegas to hear the latest from the company regarding its analytics and business intelligence offerings as well as its data management platform. The company used the event to launch SAP Data Hub and made several other data and analytics announcements that I’ll cover below.

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Prophix – Financial Performance Management for Midsize Organizations

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 12, 2017 5:47:08 AM

Prophix is an established provider of financial performance management (FPM) software for planning and budgeting, forecasting, analysis and reporting, and managing the financial close and consolidation process. Its eponymous software is designed specifically for midsize companies or midsize divisions of larger corporations. These organizations are a distinctive segment of the market in that they have almost all the functional requirements of large enterprises but have fewer resources to apply to these critical tasks. Fortunately, the evolution of information technology over the past decade has been especially beneficial to midsize customers, bringing them expanded capabilities, substantially better performance and greater automation of routine tasks at an affordable total cost of ownership.

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NICE Brings Employee Engagement to Enhance Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 6, 2017 5:52:51 AM

2017 has been a year of major changes in the contact center market. There have been more acquisitions than in any year I can remember. There have also been more partnerships announced, which have at least in part been enabled by the advance of cloud-based systems. The move to the cloud has continued apace, along with the addition of new capabilities that allow employees to access systems from mobile devices. Vendors have of course announced many updates to existing systems, as well as exciting new developments around technologies such as video, collaboration, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analysis and bots. Moreover, several new vendors have popped out of the woodwork with innovative new products.

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Joining the Ventana Research Team and Community

Posted by Steve Goldberg on Dec 6, 2017 5:39:34 AM

I’m thrilled to announce to my HCM vendor and practitioner network as well as the ever-expanding Ventana Research community that I’m now directing Ventana’s HCM practice. I will be working closely with our CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark Smith, who is a fellow HCM enthusiast and thought leader.

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Oracle Demonstrates ERP Cloud Progress at OpenWorld

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 30, 2017 6:27:11 AM

Oracle OpenWorld is a fall event that sprawls over a lot of territory – figuratively in terms of the IT landscape and, if you’re in San Francisco, literally. My focus here is on the ERP portion of the company’s software portfolio.

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Kinaxis Kinexions Advances Supply Chain Value for Customers

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 23, 2017 8:52:40 AM

From my perspective, supply chain management (SCM) and sales and operations planning (S&OP) are two of the most underappreciated disciplines of modern corporate management. Properly applied, they can improve performance and competitiveness by increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs. A combination of more capable information technology with advances in operations research and analytics has made managing supply and demand chains potentially more impactful by making them more flexible and adaptable to market conditions. Consequently, companies can enhance profitability, reduce working capital and improve customer satisfaction by providing more reliable service.

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At Strata Data NY, Focus is on Machine Learning and AI

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 19, 2017 7:30:13 AM

The Strata Data Conference is changing and it’s changing in a good way. At the recent Strata Data Conference in New York, Mike Olson, chief strategy officer at Cloudera, which co-sponsored the event, commented that at prior events we used to talk about the “Hadoop zoo animals,” meaning the various components of the Hadoop ecosystem of which I have written previously. Following last fall’s Strata event, I observed that the conference was evolving to focus on the use of data. Advancing that evolution, this year’s event focused on a particular type of usage: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The evolution from a focus on zoo animals to a focus on business value using advanced analytics shows further maturation of the big data market.

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Intacct is a Sage Investment

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 14, 2017 8:54:40 AM

Sage Intacct recently held its annual user group meeting. The cloud financial management software service provider targets rapidly growing small- and midsize services companies. Within this broad category, Sage Intacct focuses on verticals including software, financial services, healthcare, nonprofits, wholesale and franchisers.

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Is Hadoop Disappearing?

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 9, 2017 7:45:05 AM

There’s been some speculation in the market that Hadoop may be disappearing. Some of this speculation has been driven by vendors that have recently downplayed Hadoop in their marketing efforts. For example, the Strata+Hadoop World conference is now known as the Strata Data Conference. The Hadoop Summit is now known as the Dataworks Summit. In Cloudera’s S-1 filing with the SEC for its initial public offering, the term “Hadoop” appears only 14 times, while the term “machine learning” appears 83 times. So, if some of the vendors that created the market appear to be pivoting away from Hadoop, does your organization need to do something similar, or is there a role for Hadoop in your IT architecture?

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Country-by-Country Reporting Challenges Tax Departments

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 6, 2017 11:13:58 PM

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report titled “Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” (commonly referred to as “BEPS”), which describes the challenges national governments face in enforcing taxation in an increasingly global environment with a growing share of digital commerce. Country-by-country (CbC) Reporting has developed in response to the concerns raised in the report. To date, 65 countries (including all members of the European Union but not the United States) are signatories of the multilateral competent authority agreement establishing CbC reporting.

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Business Applications

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 26, 2017 7:18:51 AM

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to business computing will have a profound impact on white collar professions. This is especially true in heavily rules-based functions such as accounting. Companies recognize the transformational potential of AI and ML, but the progression and pace of the adoption of these technologies is unclear. Some applications of AI and ML are already in use but others are a decade or more away from replacing human tasks.

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Why All the Fuss about Customer Journey Maps?

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 20, 2017 9:23:18 AM

A few years ago, we carried out benchmark research into customer service best practices. A key element of the research was to compare the approaches of the nearly three-fifths (58%) of organizations that described themselves as very customer-focused and the remaining two-fifths (42%) that are not so focused on their customers.

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Zuora Maximizes Potential of Subscription Billing Portfolio

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 12, 2017 8:59:00 AM

At the recent Zuora Subscribed17 London event, Founder and CEO Tien Tzuo took about 10 minutes to demonstrate that over the last 12 months the subscription economy has grown considerably and assert that Zuora is committed to supporting organizations that make the transition to such a business model. The numbers Tzuo presented were impressive but more striking still was the understanding that emerged during the event and at a lunch for analysts of the nature of the transition companies are going through: software companies moving from on-premises to cloud-based models, a major industrial vehicles-for-hire company moving from renting out machines to providing subscription-based services so the organization hiring the vehicles knows exactly what the machines are up to and how to get best value out of them, a car manufacturer moving to renting cars on a subscription basis based on miles driven, a utility company increasingly automating people’s homes, and a real estate firm providing access to legal advice and mortgage experts as needed.

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Continuous Planning Promotes Action, Accuracy and Agility

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 12, 2017 8:11:34 AM

Continuous planning is a term Ventana Research uses for a high participation, collaborative, action-oriented approach to planning built on frequent, short planning sprints. This enables organizations to enhance the accuracy of their plans because refinements are made at shorter intervals. Short planning cycles enable companies to achieve greater agility in responding to market or competitive changes. “Continuous” also means continuous across the entire organization – planning as an ongoing collaborative dialogue that brings together finance, line-of-business managers and executives. And because it’s high-participation planning and not silo-based, companies can plan with greater accountability and coordination in their operations. This ongoing dialog tracks current conditions as well as changes in objectives and priorities that are driven by markets and the business climate. Continuous planning promotes a forward-looking mindset in planning and reviewing that’s focused on performance improvement.

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SAP Leonardo for Finance: When AI Ain’t Enough

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 1, 2017 10:20:36 AM

Fra Luca Pacioli, a 15th-century Franciscan friar living in what’s now Italy, is credited with codifying double-entry bookkeeping, which is the foundation of accounting. Pacioli, a polymath, was well acquainted with his contemporary and fellow polymath Leonardo Da Vinci. So, given they were at times collaborators, it’s fitting that one of the most important applications of SAP’s Leonardo technology will be in helping to disrupt finance and accounting organizations in corporations.

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Verint Desktop Provides Omnichannel Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 1, 2017 9:43:43 AM

A lot is being written and said about the omnichannel customer experience and the role contact center agents play in providing such experiences. From the customer’s perspective, I think it boils down to four things: that the interaction is easy, personal to them, within the context of the relationship and previous interactions, and consistent no matter with whom or what technology they interact. From the agent or user’s perspective, it should be easy to find the information needed to resolve the interaction to the customer’s satisfaction, and he or she must be empowered to resolve any issues that arise.

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Unit4 Prevero Provides a Practical Alternative to Spreadsheets

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 22, 2017 8:15:14 AM

In 2016 Unit4 acquired Prevero, a financial performance management software company. The acquisition reflects a trend toward the convergence of transactional and analytical business applications. ERP and financial management software vendors increasingly are adding analytic capabilities – especially in financial performance management (FPM) – to the core functions of transaction processing and accounting in order to broaden the scope of their offerings. The integration of transaction processing and analytical software is especially valuable to Unit4’s core customer base of midsize organizations, which we define as those with 100 to 1,000 employees. Midsize entities have almost the same systems requirements as larger ones but lack the resources the latter enjoy.

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Workiva’s Wdesk Supports Expanded ASC 606 Disclosures

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 6, 2017 1:23:32 AM

Workiva’s Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity application for handling composite documents, will have a larger role to play as companies adopt new revenue recognition standards governing accounting for contracts. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which administers Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the U.S. (US-GAAP), has issued ASC 606 and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which administers International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) used in most other countries, has issued IFRS 15. The two are very similar, and both will enforce fundamental changes in accounting for contracts.

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Hortonworks Helps IBM Big Data Potential with Hadoop

Posted by David Menninger on Sep 4, 2017 9:35:27 AM

Recently Hortonworks announced some significant additions to its products at the DataWorks Summit. These additions reflect the fact that the big data market continues to evolve, as I have previously written.

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Five9 Launches Global Engagement Center

Posted by Richard Snow on Sep 3, 2017 10:01:00 AM

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows the telephone is far from dead as a channel of customer engagement. Although the research shows other channels are likely to grow more quickly over the next two years, nearly half (46%) of organizations said they expect to see significant or some growth in the volume of calls they need to handle. So, as well as supporting additional digital channels of engagement, organizations must ensure the way they handle calls meets customer expectations. Primarily this means that there are no delays, voice quality is good and customers get consistent responses no matter who they engage with.

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Centage’s Budget Maestro Version 9 is a Big Step Forward

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 3, 2017 9:43:03 AM

Centage recently released Budget Maestro Version 9, a complete revamping of its longstanding budgeting application designed for midsize companies. The software, now offered as a multitenant cloud-based offering, delivers several structural improvements that can enhance the effectiveness of a company’s planning processes and at the same time is easier to use. Budget Maestro Version 9 is designed to support what Centage is calling a “Smart Budgets” approach to replace traditional budgeting. This approach is consistent with what we have been calling integrated business planning.

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Natural Language Generation Broadens the Reach of Analytics and BI

Posted by David Menninger on Sep 1, 2017 10:09:02 AM

Natural language generation (NLG), the process of generating text or narratives based on a set of data values, can reach a broader audience. NLG narratives can be used for a variety of purposes, but in this perspective I focus on how NLG can be used to enhance business intelligence (BI) processes. In the case of BI, NLG can be used to explain what has happened and why it is happening, and even what actions to take. The NLG narratives can be understood by a broader range of business users than the tables and charts of data that are the typical output of most BI applications or analytics tools.

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NICE Integrates Cloud Platform for Customer Engagement

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 28, 2017 9:17:37 AM

Our benchmark research over the last couple of years confirms what we all instinctively know: Consumers engage with each other and organizations using an increasing number of engagement channels. Indeed, our latest research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows the average number of channels organizations now support has grown to almost eight. The same research confirms that organizations now realize the way to compete is to match or exceed customer expectations regarding how these interactions are handled. Summing these expectations up, customer engagement must be easy, personalized, in-context and above all consistent across all channels.

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Zuora RevPro Addresses Revenue Recognition Compliance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 24, 2017 3:26:29 AM

Earlier this year Zuora acquired revenue recognition software vendor Leeyo. Zuora, which initially focused on taming the complexities of subscription billing, has been broadening its software offerings to handle a wider set of the operational and financial requirements of a subscription business. Leeyo held a Revenue Recognition Summit in 2016 and the event was recently repeated. The need for the Summit reflects the impact new standards for accounting for contracts will have on subscription businesses. Compliance with these standards is proving to be a major challenge for companies that have subscription or recurring-revenue business models.

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Datawatch Gets Social with Data Preparation

Posted by David Menninger on Aug 24, 2017 3:06:55 AM

Many organizations continue to struggle with preparing data for use in operational and analytical processes. We see these issues reported in our Data and Analytics in the Cloud benchmark research, where 55 percent of organizations identify data preparation as the most time-consuming task in their analytical processes.  Similarly, in our Next-Generation Predictive Analytics research, 62 percent of companies report that they’re unsatisfied because data needed for access or integration is not readily available. In our Big Data Integration research, 52 percent report spending that in working with big data integration processes, they spend the most time reviewing data for quality and consistency.  And nearly half of companies (48%) report this same issue in our Internet of Things research. We are currently conducting further research into this critical issue with our Data Preparation benchmark research.

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Aspect Software Makes Progress with New Customer Engagement Center

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 2, 2017 8:56:04 AM

Not many years ago, building and running a contact center was a complex task. Organizations typically had to license all the systems they required (most of them proprietary and on-premises), customize them to meet their requirements and integrate them into a workable architecture. But beyond all the systems issues, the key to running the center was forecasting the right number of skilled agents that would be needed to handle expected interaction patterns and then routing calls to the most skilled agent for that specific interaction.

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RingCentral Integrates Contact Center and Unified Communications

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 2, 2017 8:40:00 AM

Customer engagement is undergoing its biggest transformation in decades. Consumers now use a significantly greater number and variety of channels to engage with organizations – everything from phone, email and the corporate website to social media, text messaging, chat, mobile apps and video. This is forcing organizations to change in order not to miss out on business opportunities.

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Amazon Web Services Introduces Turmoil to Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on Jul 26, 2017 10:01:28 AM

I have been involved in the call center market for around 30 years, first as a consultant building call centers for organizations and later as an analyst covering developments in organizations’ customer engagement best practices and vendor product developments. Looking back over the first 20, maybe even 25 years, it has been a slowly developing market. Early call centers essentially included an on-premises ACD or PBX, call routing software, computer telephony integration (CTI) software that could identify the caller and display a page from a selected system – typically CRM – on the screen of the agent handling the call. For the most part, agents were left to their own devices to handle the call, although some organizations developed scripts. Such centers were so successful, organizations began to see the true cost of handling all these interactions, so many started to deploy “call avoidance” systems such as IVR and FAQs on the corporate website to try and cut down costs.

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Verint Ups Its Game in Knowledge Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Jul 21, 2017 7:36:25 AM

Customer engagement is nothing new – organizations have been engaging with customers in one way or another ever since business began. Over the years, however, the nature of this engagement has changed dramatically, from largely face-to-face encounters and the written word to telephone, email, fax and text messaging and now to text-based applications, social media, mobile apps and video. These changes prompted organizations to create call centers to centralize the handling of phone calls, then contact centers that handle multiple channels of engagement, more recently, self-service channels like IVR and web-based FAQs, to the latest customer engagement centers that embrace all aspects of engaging with customers. Responding to these changes, Verint, best known as a workforce optimization vendor, has extended its suite of products to include a customer engagement center suite.

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Genesys Doubles Down on Customer Experience Platform

Posted by Richard Snow on Jul 17, 2017 12:54:43 AM

Today many conversations about contact centers and CRM focus on customer engagement and the customer experience. Customer engagement should be relatively straightforward, addressing how organizations interact with customers through different channels of engagement. However, when it comes to customer experience, I believe many miss the point. The key word is experience, which means it is ultimately about perceptions and emotions. Companies must consider how customers feel prior to, during and after interactions. A common example would be a customer who feels frustrated when he or she gets a bill and believes it is wrong, who then gets angry talking to an agent who can do nothing about it and, as a result, considers changing suppliers.

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Longview Solidifies Tidemark for Cloud-Based Planning

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 10, 2017 6:43:42 AM

Longview recently completed the acquisition of Tidemark Systems, a planning software vendor. Longview Plan powered by Tidemark is a suite of cloud-based applications that enable corporations to plan, assess performance and communicate results more effectively. The software facilitates what Ventana Research calls “continuous planning.” This is a highly collaborative, action-oriented approach to planning that relies on frequent, short cycles to rapidly create and update integrated company-wide operational and financial plans. This structural approach makes it easy for individual business functions to create their own plans while enabling headquarters to connect those plans to create a unified view. Viewed in the long term, this acquisition provides Longview with a platform that will enable it to apply its existing on-premises intellectual property to a broader suite of web-based performance management and tax applications.

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Choose Your IoT Technologies Wisely

Posted by David Menninger on Jul 3, 2017 5:33:02 AM

This is my second analyst perspective based on our IoT Benchmark Research. In the first, I discussed the business focus of IoT applications and some of the challenges organizations are facing. Now I’ll share some of the findings about technologies used in IoT applications and the impact those technologies appear to have on the success of users’ projects.

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Technology Improves Customer Experience: Does Yours?

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 29, 2017 10:11:41 AM

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that three-quarters (77%) of organizations participating in the research said it is very important to improve the way they engage with customers. The two main drivers behind this are improving the customer experience (cited by 74%) and im­proving performance of the custo­mer service organization (70%). This is important because most companies said their customers have good experiences, but only one-third said that experience is excellent.

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Broken Analytics and BI? Natural Language and Notifications Can Help

Posted by Mark Smith on Jun 15, 2017 11:43:55 PM

If we look at the focus of technology vendors for analytics and business intelligence or business applications providers deploying these capabilities in the last five years, we see that they have elevated the importance on the value of visualization and dashboards. These promotions might be understandable, but will they make business and the people using them more intelligent?

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Salesforce Fails Again in Customer Experience

Posted by Mark Smith on Jun 14, 2017 2:02:59 AM

More than a year ago I wrote from personal experience about the challenges our firm encountered with Salesforce’s cloud computing systems and customer service and if we can trust them for business in the cloud. That perspective covered a range of issues that the behemoth cloud computing applications and platform company is facing regarding its service and technology. While Salesforce has shifted its customers like us and others to a different cloud computing environment, as it did in moving us off its #NA14 cloud computing instance, core challenges of its customer experience and billing processes persist. After the last customer experience incident, I contacted its executives about the need for operational improvement; it was clear in the dialogue that they saw some but not all of our experience as issues important to improving its customer processes. It was good to get some immediate attention, but my hope was to speak for all SMB companies in pointing out the importance of effective communications and escalating notifications and interactions when those customer moments go sour, so the customer isn’t forced to turn to social media to be heard. This was an area where Salesforce had significant room for improvement in customer engagement, reflecting a pattern we see in our benchmark research, which finds the most common challenges in almost half of organizations are integration of channels of engagement and managing activities as silos.

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Customer Expectations Remain a Business and Technology Challenge

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 14, 2017 1:41:31 AM

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that companies use, on average, seven channels of communication to engage customers. It also finds that supporting multiple channels leads to several challenges for organizations, chiefly difficulty of integrating systems (49%), channels managed as silos (47%) and inconsistent responses across channels (33%). Today’s customers have little sympathy for such problems – they quickly lose patience, and customer satisfaction levels fall. This problem in customer satisfaction will likely intensify. In our research, organizations reported that they expect volumes of interactions to increase on all channels and more digital channels such as text messaging, chat, mobile apps and video. In addition, to resolve more interactions at the first point of contact, organizations are using more employees in back-office groups such as finance, HR and operations.

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NetSuite Presents New Suites at SuiteWorld

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 8, 2017 7:20:29 AM

I recently attended SuiteWorld, NetSuite’s annual user conference. In the opening keynotes and throughout the event speakers emphasized benefits for NetSuite users resulting from the merger of NetSuite and Oracle, completed last fall. I wrote about this at the time. NetSuite users are likely to benefit from Oracle’s sales and core technology infrastructure. Before the merger, NetSuite’s R&D spending was constrained by being a public company. The amounts needed to rebuild and extend its software on an accelerated timetable likely would not have been acceptable to stock market investors.

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The Year of Machine Learning

Posted by David Menninger on Jun 1, 2017 10:26:15 AM

This year various types of organizations are embracing machine learning like it is going out of style – or maybe it would be better to say coming into style. And now with a little investigation on LinkedIn finds over half million professionals with machine learning in their job title. Machine learning is the application of specific data science algorithms that become more accurate as the system records more outcomes and processes more data. This improvement is referred to as “learning,” hence the name. There are good reasons machine learning is growing so rapidly, but there are pitfalls to avoid as well.

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NICE Evolves Workforce Optimization Portfolio for Customer Excellence

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 1, 2017 10:14:55 AM

I recently discussed how NICE continues to invest in its core products while creating a full customer experience platform, combining its core offerings with products newly acquired  from inContact and Nexidia. During two recent briefings, I learned that these investments continue at quite a pace; the company announced a new product to address the ever-increasing number of channels of engagement, and another so that smaller centers with less sophisticated requirements can take advantage of a specialized workforce management product.

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Host Analytics Empowers Office of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 27, 2017 12:44:10 AM

Ventana Research defines financial performance management (FPM) as the process of addressing the often overlapping people, process, information and technology issues that affect how well finance departments operate and support the activities of the rest of their organization. FPM deals with the full cycle of finance department activities, which include planning and budgeting, analysis, assessment and review, closing and consolidation, internal financial reporting and external financial reporting, as well as the underlying information technology systems that support them.

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Informatica Asserts Its Commitment to the Cloud and Machine Learning

Posted by David Menninger on May 27, 2017 12:20:03 AM

Informatica reintroduced itself to the world at its recent customer conference, Informatica World, in San Francisco. The company took advantage of the event to showcase its new branding in an effort to change the way customers think about the company. Informatica has been providing information services in the cloud for more than a decade. Even though cloud revenue comprises a minority of Informatica’s business, in absolute terms, the revenue is significant, and company executives want the public to recognize Informatica as a leader in cloud-based data management services for enterprises. Presenters also made notable product announcements, discussed below, including the application of machine learning to the data management process.

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Pitney Bowes Innovates Customer Engagement

Posted by Richard Snow on May 23, 2017 10:10:40 AM

Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows that organizations are supporting more and more channels of engagement; an emerging one is video. Adoption rates suggest that use of this technology for customer service is still in its early days, but as more consumers make video calls using mobile apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype, we expect adoption rates and usage to increase. During two recent briefings I learned that Pitney Bowes has built a portfolio of products to support various uses of video.

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Zuora Acquires Leeyo for Revenue Recognition

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 22, 2017 9:17:52 AM

Zuora, a subscription commerce and billing software company, recently acquired Leeyo, a company that provides software that automates the revenue recognition and forecasting processes. The terms were not disclosed. The acquisition is relevant to subscription-based businesses because of changes to accounting standards about to go into effect that will have a significant impact on how they account for their revenue. Leeyo and Zuora already have been deployed together with multiple ERP systems. The combined company plans to tighten integration between the two going forward.

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Compensation Management Software Vendors Evaluated in Value Index

Posted by Mark Smith on May 22, 2017 8:22:23 AM

Compensation and the processes and systems to support it are at the center of success in every organization, as I have noted recently. In our view, an investment in total compensa­tion management software is a strategic step toward advancing human capital management. Our benchmark research on this topic found some prog­ress in attitudes about mod­ern­izing compensation practices. Almost three-fourths (72%) of organizations said that it is important or very important to have a total compensation management system rather than a piecemeal approach. Moreover, nearly half (49%) told us they are confident or very confident that their organization currently manages its compensation processes effectively.

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MicroStrategy Deepens Potential of Analytics and BI Platform

Posted by David Menninger on May 17, 2017 9:11:55 AM

I recently attended the MicroStrategy World conference, which was held in Washington, D.C. and it celebrate its 20th anniversary, which is why MicroStrategy hosted the event near its headquarters. Over the past 20 years, the market and technology for business intelligence and analytics have significantly changed, and in several changes, MicroStrategy has been at the forefront. Now is a good time to examine the company’s position in the market and its latest offerings in context of the analytics market direction that I recently presented.

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Supercharge Sales Analytics with Digital Technologies

Posted by Mark Smith on May 12, 2017 8:44:07 AM

Our firm regularly explores the impacts of new technologies on business. Analytics is foremost among recently emerging technologies, which our benchmark research consistently confirms. In our research on next-generation sales analytics, fourth-fifths (82%) of participating organizations cited analytics as the most important technology trend for sales; however, several other technologies also are adding power and flexibility to the use of sales analytics.

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Vendavo Brings Intelligence to Pricing and Profitability

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 9, 2017 9:54:20 AM

Vendavo recently held its annual Profit Summit, a combination of a user group conference and a forum for covering evolving trends and techniques in business-to-business (B2B) pricing. Especially in emerging categories like pricing and revenue management, this sort of event provides an opportunity to assess the state of the market and the maturity of the applications. As I’ve noted, adoption of price and revenue management software has been slow in the B2B segment of commerce due to multiple obstacles. The challenges include change management, as well as data and process issues.

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Imperative for Customer Engagement Needs Attention

Posted by Richard Snow on May 8, 2017 12:21:25 AM

Not long ago, organizations engaged with customers by meeting them in person, speaking with them on the telephone or writing to them. To be competitive today, however, organizations cannot confine customer service to those forms of engagement. Customers now engage with each other and organizations through a variety of digital channels that include email, corporate websites, text messaging, instant messaging, social media, smartphone applications and video.

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Prepare and Wrangle Data for Sales Analytics

Posted by Mark Smith on May 5, 2017 8:28:34 AM

The importance of analytics for sales organizations is clear and, as I pointed out in my recent analyst perspective on the next generation of sales analytics, these capabilities optimize revenue potential. However, utilizing sales analytics requires a set of data skills that most organizations still find challenging and are thus not fully prepared to support. The efficient access and preparation of data underlies any analytics processes, which must meet demanding needs that are not always automated. Our research into next generation sales analytics has found many impediments that must be addressed and is a critical part of our expertise agenda for sales organizations.

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mplsystems Optimizes Omnichannel Engagement

Posted by Richard Snow on May 2, 2017 2:14:47 AM

Our benchmark research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud confirms what many others are writing and talking about – that customer experience is now the business differentiator. This means that organizations need to get customer engagement right at every touch point, be it assisted by employees or digital. The same research shows that while organizations are supporting more channels of engagement, many are struggling to integrate systems and engagement channels; fewer than half of companies can offer omnichannel experiences. Making matters worse, many of their employees don’t have the full range of skills needed to handle all channels and types of interactions. To overcome these challenges, organizations need a systems architecture that integrates assisted and digital channels, workforce optimization and other business applications such as CRM and multidimensional analytics. Several vendors are working to provide such a suite, most focusing on in-system integration of channels, WFO and analytics, and integration with third-party CRM systems.

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Effective Compensation Systems Transforms Human Capital Management

Posted by Mark Smith on May 2, 2017 1:52:01 AM

Compensation management is essential for any organization that values engaging and retaining its employees. It is a fundamental component of a range of personnel-related activities – recruiting and hiring, assessing performance, and career and succession planning. Determining and providing appropriate compensation, which may involve base pay, merit pay, variable pay and incentives or bonuses, is equally important for all members of the workforce – full- or part-time employees, contingent or on-demand workers and contractors. Incentives are an important part of compensation. Business areas such as call centers, sales forces and field service frequently tie incentive compensation to performance objectives. Whatever the particulars, the effectiveness of compensation directly relates to the core challenge faced by human resources departments: keeping employees productive, satisfied and motivated.

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NGDATA Innovates on DNA of the Customer

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 27, 2017 11:36:37 AM

Ever since I became involved in the CRM and customer service markets, everyone – businesses, vendors, consultants and analysts – has been talking and writing about the “360-degree view of the customer”.  Despite claims from several vendors, I haven’t seen any products that produce a full 360-degree view, and user organizations haven’t had the time or resources to develop the technology themselves. As our research into next-generation customer analytics shows, the main issue is data – organizations have far more of it than most realize. The research shows that organizations on average use eight data sources as input to analytics, but there are more than 20 potential sources of customer-related data and the situation is getting worse. Beyond the sheer volume of it, data now comes in several forms – structured, unstructured (such as call recordings and text), event data (for example, video that customers download) and process data.

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New Generation of Sales Analytics Can Optimize Revenue Potential

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 27, 2017 11:22:52 AM

I have been following advances in sales analytics since the 1990s. Over the last five years, however, I have seen evolution, not innovation. In most cases the information that analytics provides is too complicated and not contextualized enough for sales people who are not analytics experts to understand, let alone take action on. As I pointed out in my 2017 research agenda on sales, analytics is essential for planning that improves the impacts of sales efforts and meets the goals of the organization.

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Anaplan Enables Connected Planning across Business

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 27, 2017 11:04:51 AM

Anaplan recently held Anaplan Hub, its annual user group meeting. The company offers a cloud-based business planning platform that incorporates a modeling and calculation engine. The tool makes it relatively easy to add or expand the scope of plans that can be connected and monitored as a central source. Companies typically use Anaplan software for financial planning or budgeting, sales, workforce, marketing and IT planning. These are the types of plans in which companies often need to create models that incorporate their specific requirements, their strategy and their business systems.

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CFO and Finance Should Take Leadership Role in Pricing

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 21, 2017 9:18:10 AM

Pricing is an issue that affects almost every for-profit company that doesn’t sell purely commodity products. A corporation’s approach to pricing can range from highly disciplined to ad hoc and from fully centralized to decentralized. The issue of centralized or decentralized depends a great deal on the markets the company serves, its organizational structure and its culture. However, a disciplined approach to price setting and negotiation is always superior to an ad hoc approach. This is especially true for non-commodity B2B businesses, which I believe have lagged other types of business in managing their pricing strategically. (Some would argue that there is no such thing as a pure commodity business, but that’s another issue.) Increasing pricing discipline in the company is one way for the CFO to engage more strategically in managing the business.

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Oracle Growing ERP in Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 17, 2017 7:22:28 AM

Oracle recently held its second ERP Cloud Summit with industry analysts. The all-day event wasn’t just about ERP. The company covered a range of its business applications, including financial performance management as well as its Adaptive Intelligent Applications. And it wasn’t just about the cloud. After more than a decade of steady developments, ERP systems have begun to change fundamentally, facilitated by the growing availability of new technologies including cloud computing, advanced database architecture, collaboration, user interface design, mobility, analytics and planning. Here are my key takeaways from the event:

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Domo Innovates Analytics for Business

Posted by David Menninger on Apr 15, 2017 12:37:06 AM

Some 3,000 people attended Domo’s recent customer event, called Domopalooza. That’s nearly double the attendance of the previous event, which my colleague Mark Smith covered. Formerly a bit “stealthy,” Domo has started sharing more information, some of which I’ll pass along, as well as observations about product announcements made at the event.

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Genesys Advances Engagement and Optimization of Customers

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 11, 2017 9:22:09 AM

In tracking Genesys for several years I have seen it grow through a series of product developments and acquisitions – from predominantly selling call routing and computer/telephony integration (CTI) software to providing a suite of products that manage inbound and outbound, assisted and digital channels of customer engagement. Continuing this expansion Genesys recently acquired Interactive Intelligence and Silver Lining. These new assets signal another round of transformation as the company builds support for what I call a customer experience hub – a combination of products to support all aspects of enterprise-wide customer engagement.

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ERP on the Brink of Change

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 7, 2017 10:26:49 AM

Ventana Research recently announced the results of its latest Benchmark Research, Next-Generation ERP. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is at the core of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. Its smooth and uninterrupted functioning is essential to an organization’s accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP manages inventory and logistics. Some companies use it to handle human resources functions like tracking employees, payroll and related costs.

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SAS Brings Portfolio of Data Science with Viya

Posted by David Menninger on Apr 5, 2017 9:46:58 AM

I recently attended SAS Institute’s analyst relations conference. There the company provided updates on its financial performance and its Viya platform and a glimpse into some of its future plans.

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Content Guru Brings Interactions to Cloud for Customer Engagement

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 31, 2017 8:19:11 AM

Until recently, the contact center technology systems market was straightforward. Vendors typically provided on-premises systems that fell into four broad categories: telephony management, workforce optimization, business applications (most noticeably CRM) and analytics. The advent of more digital channels of engagement ­– the cloud, mobile devices, and artificial intelligence – has muddied the waters somewhat, making it harder to compare vendors. The cloud has had one of the most dramatic impacts; while some vendors still provide on-premises systems, more are providing services through a private or a public cloud or a hybrid model that combines on-premises and cloud-based systems; some providing services based on other vendors’ systems.  More new vendors have entered the customer engagement market, and some established vendors have taken higher profiles in it.

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Cloudera Strengthens Big Data for Business and IT

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 30, 2017 12:56:45 AM

Cloudera provides database and enabling technology for the big data market and overall for data and information management. As my colleague David Menninger has written, the big data and information management technology markets are changing rapidly and require vendors to adapt to them. Cloudera has grown significantly over the last decade and now has approximately 1,000 customers and provides support and services in countries around the world. Its product and technology strategy is to provide a unified data management platform, Cloudera Enterprise, that can meet the data engineering and science needs for a range of analytic and operational database applications. Its primary focus is its Enterprise Data Hub, which as a data lake can handle organizations’ big data and analytical needs. As David Menninger asserts, the data lake is a safe way to invest in big data. It also helps shift the focus  away from the V’s (volume, velocity and variety) of big data to the A’s, which are analytics, awareness, anticipation and action.

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Digital Process Reengineering Drives Business Change

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 23, 2017 9:28:07 AM

Business process reengineering was a consulting fashion in the early 1990s that spurred many companies to purchase their first ERP systems. BPR proposes a fundamental redesign of core business processes to achieve substantial improvements in market and customer responsiveness, productivity, cycle times and quality. ERP systems support business process reengineering by guiding the step-by-step execution of the redesigned process to ensure that it is performed consistently. They also automate the handoffs between individuals and departments to accelerate completion of that process.

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NICE and the Customer Experience Platform

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 22, 2017 7:50:20 AM

In tracking NICE for a decade I have seen the company grow, through a series of acquisitions and product developments, from a vendor largely of workforce management systems to one that offers a full suite of workforce optimization products. It is now advancing what I call a customer experience platform that builds on top of my last coverage of it advancing its efforts. This includes systems to manage assisted channels of engagement (primarily the telephone), digital channels of engagement, workforce optimization, advanced analytics and tight integration with business applications such as CRM. NICE is on the road to building such a platform using existing and newly developed products and those that it recently acquired from Nexidia and inContact. It will take time before a fully integrated platform is available, but the company has already taken steps toward this goal.

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Optimizing the Business of Selling in 2017

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 20, 2017 9:22:16 AM

I am happy to provide my personal perspective on the potential of sales organizations, processes and technology to supercharge business activity in 2017. The sales processes of organizations – whether they involve digital commerce or direct or indirect physical selling – should be part of continuous optimization efforts to reach maximum results. To do this, the people leading and running sales processes must be able to use technology that supports their responsibilities and analyzes the crucial information coming into the business. For almost 15 years, we have advocated for sales applications and tools that are necessary to optimize sales effectiveness and improve the outcomes of their sales efforts. The available portfolio is much larger than sales force automation (SFA) and involves more than the continued use of CRM, which has clear limits in its ability to manage customer relationships. The applications on offer include many facets of sales:  coaching, compensation management, contract management, configure price quote (CPQ), forecasting, quota and territory management, planning and optimization, pricing and revenue optimization, and target or market intelligence. New applications designed for sales also enable digital effectiveness that can transform organizations. Let me provide my perspective on six topics that are shaping the way sales can and should operate in 2017, and which are part of our sales research agenda for the year.

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B2B Pricing Management Can Strengthen Bottom Line

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 20, 2017 8:45:22 AM

More businesses are using software to implement and support a strategic pricing strategy designed to optimize revenue and margins in business-to-business (B2B) transactions because it can help improve results at the bottom line. “Optimize” in this instance means managing the trade-off that usually exists between revenue and profitability objectives in order to support a company’s strategy and capabilities in a given market. Business-to-business pricing management is Ventana Research’s term for such processes and applications. Software built for this purpose centralizes control and enforces consistency in pricing while assisting sales agents in negotiating prices that achieve desired business objectives. It enables agents to use techniques that can increase the revenue from a transaction, the margin on the sale or the probability of closing the sale.

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Leaders in Workforce Management Software for 2017

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 17, 2017 9:31:47 AM

Workforce management is a key topic of expertise for Ventana Research. We define workforce management as the set of activities and processes organizations use to manage their hourly and salaried workforce for maximum productivity. It involves not only scheduling, tracking and paying for time worked but also aligning that work to the tasks and objectives of the organization. Workforce management is a critical component of every company’s operations, human resources and overall human capital management processes, as I recently pointed out. It helps organizations manage their workforces efficiently in such areas as scheduling, time and attendance, absence tracking and clocking work time, and ensures compliance with regulations and efficient payroll processing. Thus effective support of workers, managers, management and the operations and administration of the total workforce is at the heart of workforce management.

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ShoreTel Offers Communications and Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 16, 2017 9:45:50 AM

Until recently most organizations deployed systems on their own premises to build communications and contact center infrastructures, which often required them to integrate products from several vendors. In the past few years many vendors have moved their systems to the cloud, and others have begun as cloud-based suppliers. This trend has opened up the opportunity for more organizations to take advantage of modern communication systems and contact centers. Using the cloud for either, or both can save money and resources, reduce risk, and make available more integrated, multi-channel systems.  While the adoption of such systems has undoubtedly increased and is likely to continue to do so, our benchmark research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud finds that many organizations still prefer to remain on premises, and adoption of cloud-based systems occurs on a case-by-case basis. In addition, many organizations look for vendors that support multiple models so they have the option of starting out using one model but transitioning later to another, including to a hybrid model in which some systems are on-premises and others are cloud-based..

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IoT Challenges Organization and Technological Readiness

Posted by David Menninger on Mar 14, 2017 11:04:56 PM

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that extends digital connectivity to devices and sensors in homes, businesses, vehicles and potentially almost anywhere. This advance enables virtually any device to transmit its data, to which analytics can then be applied to facilitate monitoring and a range of operational functions. IoT can deliver value in several ways. It can provide organizations with more complete data about their operations, which helps them improve efficiencies and so reduce costs. It also can deliver a competitive advantage by enabling them to reduce the elapsed time between an event occurring and operational responses, actions taken or decisions made in response to it.

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New Potential for Human Capital Management in 2017

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 13, 2017 7:59:59 AM

Human capital management (HCM) offers a prime opportunity for organizations and their human resource professionals to make employee-related processes effective in engaging and retaining the workforce. Manual administrative processes often hampered HR in focusing on the workplace experience and employee satisfaction. Modern HCM applications can help them manage members of the workforce as critical assets and make continuous investment in people-related processes, deriving insights on issue such as health and benefits through analytics applied to HR information. This year we will examine attitudes and changes in how organizations approach HCM through a new research endeavor using our latest research product. We will further deepen the knowledge across six essential aspects of HCM as discussed below and outlined in our HCM agenda for 2017.

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2017 Big Data Prediction: A’s Replace V’s

Posted by David Menninger on Mar 1, 2017 11:11:24 PM

Big data initially was characterized in terms of “the three V’s,” volume, velocity and variety. Nearly five years ago I wrote about the three V’s as a way to explain why new and different technologies were needed to deal with big data. Since then the industry has tackled many of the technical challenges associated with the three V’s. In 2017 I propose that we focus instead on a different letter, which includes these A’s: analytics, awareness, anticipation and action. I’ll explain why each is important at this stage of big data evolution.

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Zendesk Puts Real Meaning Back into CRM

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 22, 2017 6:20:47 AM

One of the first applications I learned about in the contact center market was customer relationship management (CRM). The core capabilities of a CRM system were to manage customer data, marketing campaigns, sales opportunities and service requests. Vendors also touted them as the source for a comprehensive “360 degree” view of the customer, which they could never actually deliver because they did not include customer financial data, interaction histories or customer sentiment in the form of feedback. In any case CRM applications became integral to contact centers as a source of information to answer customer queries, but in reality they did little to actually manage the customer relationship, which was a factor in why they gained a bad reputation. Over time, many vendors adopted a different approach and broke the CRM category into marketing, sales and service clouds, which although they include additional capabilities basically do the same thing, with one big drawback – customer data is managed in three different systems, reducing the availability of a single source of customer data even further.

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The Office of Finance Research Agenda for 2017

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 16, 2017 6:33:20 AM

Senior finance executives and finance organizations that want to improve their performance must recognize the value of technology as a key tool for doing high-quality work. Consider how poorly your organization would perform if it had to operate using 25-year-old software and hardware. Having the latest technology isn’t always necessary, but it’s important for executives to understand that technology shapes a finance organization’s ability to improve its overall effectiveness.

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Research Agenda Will Track Big Data and Information Management in 2017

Posted by David Menninger on Feb 15, 2017 9:09:50 AM

Big data has become an integral part of information management. Nearly all organizations have some need to access big data sources and produce actionable information for decision-makers. Recognizing this connection, we merged these two topics when we put together our recently published research agendas for 2017. As we plan our research, we focus on current technologies and how they can be used to improve an organization’s performance. We then share those results with our readers.

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Customer Experience Research Agenda for 2017

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 14, 2017 5:33:01 AM

In 2016 Ventana Research saw a significant shift in the customer engagement and contact center software markets. Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows that for 70 percent of companies, customer experience is and will be an important way of competing; the largest growth in ways of competing is to introduce digital self-service, which will increase by 12 percent. To support those changes, organizations have introduced more channels of engagement, to the extent that our research shows the average has grown to eight channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that in nearly half (47%) of organizations these channels are managed as silos, which indicates that most organizations still operate multiple channels rather than supporting omnichannel engagement. The next-generation contact center research confirms that customer engagement is an enterprise-wide issue but one-third (33%) of companies struggle to provide consistent responses across touch points.

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Research Agenda Will Guide Business Analytics in 2017

Posted by David Menninger on Feb 8, 2017 8:19:39 AM

Ventana Research analysts recently published our research agendas for 2017. As we put together these plans we think about the forces that are shaping the markets that we cover and then craft agendas that study these issues to provide insights for our community. I’ve been working in the business intelligence (BI) and analytics market for nearly 25 years, and throughout that time the industry has been trying to make analytics useful to increasingly wider audiences. That focus continues to today. Better search and presentation methods, including visual discovery and natural-language processing, are promising ways to engage more users. We also see organizations supporting their users in specific functional roles with relevant and accessible analytics. My colleagues examine these issues as part of their agendas in the Office of FinanceSalesMarketingCustomer ExperienceOperations and Supply Chain, and Human Capital Management. While their agendas include analytics within specific domains, my own research focuses on a range of analytics issues across domains including cloud computing, mobility, collaboration, data science and the Internet of Things.

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Vertex Enterprise Addresses Today’s Tax Challenges

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 7, 2017 12:15:01 AM

I’ve long advocated the use of effective technology in the tax function, especially for organizations that operate in multiple jurisdictions or have complex legal structures manage direct tax provision and analysis using outdated or inappropriate tools. Our Office of Finance benchmark research reveals that most organizations use spreadsheets to manage their tax provision and analysis: Half (52%) rely solely on spreadsheets, and another 38 percent mainly use them. I recommend to corporations that operate in multiple countries and that have even a moderately complex legal entity structure that they consider establishing what I call a tax data warehouse of record.

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Nexidia Unifies Interaction Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 1, 2017 8:47:46 AM

NICE is a longstanding provider of contact center systems. At the beginning of 2016 NICE acquired Nexidia, a provider of customer analytics, which raised questions about the future of the acquired company, its products and its customers. During a recent briefing SVP of product management Larry Skowronek discussed these issues. Nexidia now trades as “a NICE analytics company,” which is unusual because previous NICE acquisitions have been absorbed into the overall company and the brand effectively lost. This arrangement, Skowronek said, gives the company the benefit of retaining the Nexidia brand while taking advantage of the scale, financial strength and market presence of NICE. Several of Nexidia’s longstanding customers have remained customers and are benefiting from new developments and access to the wider NICE portfolio. The company also has a series of new wins, both as a result of direct efforts by its own staff and joint actions with NICE.

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Pentaho 7.0 Brings Visualization and Data Preparation

Posted by David Menninger on Jan 27, 2017 7:21:43 AM

The business intelligence market is bounded on one side by big data and on the other side by data preparation. That is, to maximize their performance in using information, organizations have to collect and analyze ever increasing volumes of data while the tools available are constantly evolving in the big data ecosystem that I have written about. In our benchmark research on big data analytics, half (51%) of organizations said they want to access big data using their existing BI tools. At the same time, as I have noted, end users are demanding self-service access to data preparation capabilities to facilitate their analyses.

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B2B Price and Revenue Optimization Goes Mainstream

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 24, 2017 12:16:47 AM

Price and revenue optimization (PRO) is a business discipline used to produce demand-based pricing; it applies market segmentation techniques to achieve strategic objectives such as increased profitability or greater market share. In essence, PRO enables companies to surf the demand curve using dynamic rather than fixed pricing to achieve the most desirable trade-offs between revenue volume and profit margins. The trade-off is defined by strategic factors such as the company’s market position, product and service portfolio, and marketing strategy.

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USAN Integrates Management of Contact Centers and Communication Channels

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 22, 2017 6:53:15 AM

Over the last few years the telecommunications and call center industries have undergone radical changes. Telecommunications was mainly in the hands of national and regional telecom companies, which essentially owned all the cables in the ground. The call center market was dominated by a small number of vendors that provided on-premises systems to manage and route calls when they arrived at a company’s offices. The telecom model was in effect the first cloud-based service, though almost no one stopped to think about how a call made on one device arrived at another. The arrival of the internet and wireless technologies and the telecom companies’ willingness to lease capacity on their lines changed both models. Now almost any company can provide communication services, and the majority of contact center systems are cloud-based. In this evolution some organizations that previously were hidden behind the telecoms have emerged as suppliers of communications and contact center services.

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Kofax Kapow 10 Advances Robotic Process Automation

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 20, 2017 8:15:48 AM

Kofax offers Kapow, robotic process automation (RPA) software used to acquire information from a range of sources without human intervention and without having to write code. These sources include websites, applications, unstructured documents, data stores and desktop spreadsheets. RPA software does repetitive, low-value work that otherwise may be performed by person. It saves time in these tasks, completing them sooner and freeing skilled individuals to concentrate on work that utilizes their skills to the fullest. One of the earliest uses of software robots was “Web crawling,” which automated rapid collection of data posted on websites, for example, prices and locations. This was the Kofax Kapow’s original purpose, but its scope has expanded. When used to gather information from multiple applications, the software precludes the need for setting up and maintaining a separate data store. This saves time and money while ensuring that the information has come from the authoritative source and that there is no latency in the data. Rather than taking the time to write a program with broad applicability, a robot can be quickly configured to perform a specific task in a way that mimics how an individual does the job.

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MapR Takes Road Less Traveled to Big Data

Posted by David Menninger on Jan 19, 2017 8:52:00 AM

The big data market continues to evolve, as I have written previously. Vendors are attempting to differentiate their offerings as they seek to encourage customers to pay for technology that they could potentially download for free.

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Teleopti Targets Workforce Management for Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 18, 2017 12:25:49 AM

Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows that the telephone and other nondigital communication channels are far from obsolete: Participating organizations expect growth in all channels. As a consequence, contact centers are likely to remain a key channel to handle customer interactions, and it is likely that contact center agents will have to handle multiple forms of interactions, which are likely to be more complex. The research also shows that interactions are increasingly being handed by all business groups, not just the contact center. To meet these demanding customer expectations, organizations must continue to carefully manage the availability of skilled resources to handle these interactions.

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Financial Performance Management Software Vendors Face Challenges

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 13, 2017 12:05:24 AM

Ventana Research defines financial performance management (FPM) as the process of addressing often overlapping issues involving people, process, information and technology that affect how well finance organizations operate and support the activities of the rest of their organization. FPM software supports and automates the full cycle of finance department activities, which include planning and budgeting, analysis, assessment and review, closing and consolidation, internal financial reporting and external financial reporting, as well as the underlying information technology systems that support them.

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CallMiner Advances Customer Engagement Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 2, 2017 11:41:01 PM

Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud confirms what most people intuitively know – that consumers now engage with each other and organizations through more communication channels than a few years ago and that many of these are speech- and text-based. Companies are therefore generating large volumes of voice recordings and textual records. They contain vital information about what customers feel about issues connected to their dealings with the organization – marketing messages the sales process, product and service quality, and employee behavior, among others. The challenge for organizations is to extract insights from these unstructured records and take action to benefit the business based on those insights. When it was founded in 2002, CallMiner set out to support organizations in that quest, and in 2012 it won a Ventana Research Technology Innovation awards.

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Treasury is More Effective with Technology

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 2, 2017 11:09:28 PM

The treasury function in finance departments doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s a fundamentally important one: to ensure that all funds are accounted for and that there is sufficient cash on hand each day to meet operating requirements. Keeping track of and managing cash, especially in larger organizations, can be complicated because of multiple bank accounts, complex financing requirements and various methods of receiving and making payments; the complexity deepens when more than one currency is used across multiple jurisdictions, which also can pose regulatory issues.

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Zuora Empowers the Subscription Economy

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 2, 2017 10:47:55 PM

Zuora provides software that supports the rapidly expanding subscription economy. I recently attended the company’s user event in London, called subscribe16. During his keynote speech CEO Tien Tzuo insisted that the subscription economy is not only here to stay but is likely to grow substantially. In the U.K. alone, he said, 40 million users are using subscription services, including 14 million use video streaming services, 5.4 million use music streaming services, and perhaps most surprising, 78 percent of adults age 55 or older use at least one subscription service.

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IBM Watson and Cognitive Compliance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 2, 2017 10:30:51 PM

Ventana Research awarded our Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Business Innovation Award for 2016 to IBM for IBM Regulatory Compliance Analytics, powered by Watson (IRCA). This application of cognitive analytics is designed to streamline the identification of potential regulatory requirements and suggest methods for compliance. In so doing the cloud-based system can cut the time and cost of compliance while creating an effective means of ongoing management and control of compliance processes.

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Ventana Research Unveils New Digital Marketing Mastery

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 17, 2016 12:21:00 AM

Today’s rapid changes in technology have left many companies behind in the digital transformation that is shaping the future of marketing, sales, commerce and client engagement. At Ventana Research we have seen this change coming, having been close observers and analysts of technological shifts for almost 15 years, providing continuous research and guidance to the technology industry. Now the leading edge is the digital point of engagement with customers through websites and social media. Earlier this year I wrote about mastering marketing mayhem in a meaningful, meticulous manner explaining how organizations can adapt to the new digital reality. Well, we are taking our own advice. Ventana Research spent the first half of 2016 reflecting on lessons learned and best practices from our research and advisory efforts. The result is our new community and website, www.ventanaresearch.com that we have announced and is available for everyone on the Internet. With it we strive to set an example of simplicity in engaging an audience in need of insights and education on technology applied to business.

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IBM and The World of Watson

Posted by David Menninger on Dec 16, 2016 11:52:10 PM

IBM recently held its inaugural World of Watson event. Formerly known as IBM Insight, and prior to that IBM Information on Demand, the annual event, attended by 17,000 people this year, showcases IBM’s data and analytics and the broader IBM efforts in cognitive computing. The theme for the event, as you might guess, was the Watson family of cognitive computing products. I, for one, was glad to spend more time getting to know the Watson product line, and I’d like to share some of my observations from the event.

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Oracle Plus NetSuite Equals More

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 16, 2016 11:17:22 PM

Oracle and NetSuite have completed their merger. The combination is likely to be positive for customers because NetSuite will have access to “more,” a word repeated many times over the course of Oracle’s post-acquisition webcast. Existing NetSuite customers will benefit from increased investment as well as economies of scale that Oracle can bring to R&D and sales and marketing. Oracle has stated that there’s little overlap between its target customer base and NetSuite’s. However, there is substantial overlap with NetSuite’s application partner network because of Oracle’s own broad application portfolio. As such, many of these partners are likely to shift their attention to NetSuite’s cloud-only competitors (for example, FinancialForce and Intacct), which will benefit those rivals’ sales and marketing efforts.

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Tableau Prepares for Future with Data Preparation and Collaboration

Posted by David Menninger on Dec 10, 2016 6:17:36 AM

More than 13,000 self-described “data and visualization nerds” gathered in Austin, TX, recently for Tableau Software’s annual customer conference. In his inaugural keynote, Tableau’s new CEO, Adam Selipsky, said that nearly 9,000 were first-time attendees. I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the customers who had gathered for the event, cheering as company officials reviewed product plans and demonstrated new features. This enthusiasm suggests Tableau has provided capabilities that resonate with its users. Among other things, the company used the conference to outline a number of planned product enhancements.

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Verint Advances Voice of the Customer

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 10, 2016 5:46:46 AM

Verint is an established vendor of contact center systems. Its portfolio of products includes digital customer engagement, knowledge management, agent desktop, workforce optimization (for which it was recently rated the top vendor in the Ventana Research 2016 Value Index), voice of the customer and multiple forms of analytics - including text. Verint has built its portfolio through internal developments and acquisitions, the latest of which is OpinionLab. This merger adds two significant capabilities to its already extensive voice of the customer capabilities, giving organizations the ability to measure customer feedback across all channels, including digital.

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Taking Blockchain Beyond Bitcoin and Payments

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 10, 2016 5:13:33 AM

To the extent that they know anything about blockchain distributed ledgers, people associate it with bitcoin, banking or payment systems in general. However, as I mentioned in an earlier research note, blockchains have a range of potential use cases. Indeed, blockchain distributed ledgers can look like just another technology in search of a mission. However, that’s because there are many ways of putting the technology to practical use that complement and enhance established patterns of doing business. For example, Walmart recently announced it will be using blockchains to establish authentication and traceability in its food supply chain; a French financial services company started a project to facilitate compliance with know-your-customer rules; and there is an anticounterfeiting service that can be used for authenticating diamonds and luxury goods. Technology that conforms to how an organization operates and provides immediate, clear benefits usually is adopted broadly and quickly.

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NICE Robotic Automation Improves Interaction Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 26, 2016 9:02:17 AM

Robotics is nothing new to some aspects of manufacturing and the IT industry, but it is relatively new in the customer experience (CX) market. The term often conjures up images of little gray machines taking over tasks previously handled by humans – machines making cars, programmed vacuum cleaners and the like. In the CX space, however, we are not talking about machines but about software that can automate routine tasks. For the time being, I don’t believe robots will take over the contact center and replace human agents. Indeed our recent research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud strongly suggests the opposite. It shows that the telephone is still the top channel of communication and that almost two-thirds (62%) of organizations expect call volumes to rise over the next 24 months. Thus agents will continue to handle large volumes of interactions, which may become more complex.

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Big Vendors Deserve Some Respect

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 26, 2016 8:33:51 AM

Fall is a busy time for software industry analysts. It’s a season filled with vendors’ user conferences and some industry conferences. Throughout the course of attending these events I’ve come to the realization that big vendors are often considered the Rodney Dangerfield of the software industry: They get no respect. What I mean by no respect is revealed in snarky social media comments, less enthusiastic coverage by tech media than smaller vendors get and a general sense that big vendors don’t do anything new with their development efforts. However, I suggest this is a shortsighted view of the software world. Smaller vendors serve a valuable function as a source of innovation for the industry, but they get a disproportionate share of attention. I suggest the big vendors deserve businesses’ attention, too, when they consider new software purchases.

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Clarabridge Engages Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 26, 2016 8:04:31 AM

Analysts have been talking and writing about a “360 degree” view of the customer for years. Our own benchmark research into customer relationship management shows that only37 percent of organizations are able to produce analysis and reports that yield such a comprehensive view. Other research into next-generation customer analytics reveals that the main issue in this area for nearly two-thirds (63%) of organizations is data availability. To make the situation worse, customer-related data is getting ever more numerous and complex. A principal reason for this growth is the number of communication channels consumers now use to engage with organizations and the type of data these channels produce. It includes call recordings, text messages, email, social media posts, customer feedback surveys, chat scripts and event data such as videos that users download. All of these types of data are unstructured , which makes them harder for conventional analytics tools to access and analyze.

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Investigating the Potential of Data Preparation

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 21, 2016 9:15:20 AM

Data preparation is critical to the effectiveness of both operational and analytic business processes. Operational processes today are fed by streams of constantly generated data. Our data and analytics in the cloud benchmark research shows that more than half (55%) of organizations spend the most time in their analytic processes preparing data for analysis – a situation that reduces their productivity. Data now comes from more sources than ever, at a faster pace and in a dizzying array of formats; it often contains inconsistencies in both structure and content.

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Workday Planning Improves Control and Visibility

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 21, 2016 8:58:42 AM

Ventana Research recently awarded Workday a 2016 Technology Innovation Award for its newly released application, Workday Planning, because it simplifies and streamlines the budgeting and planning processes while facilitating collaboration, deepening visibility into spending and enabling tight fiscal control. These capabilities can help a variety of user organizations in several ways.

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SYSPRO Advances with Collaboration and CRM

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 10, 2016 7:21:54 AM

SYSPRO is a 35-year-old software vendor that focuses on selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configurations to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, SYSPRO adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy. The company’s development efforts follow a design philosophy that balances its target customers’ need for software capabilities that are on par with larger enterprises with their resource constraints (chiefly limited financial resources and technical staffs).  Its software can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

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SugarCRM Stays True to Its Vision

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 10, 2016 7:03:53 AM

In the late 1990s, CRM systems were launched to help organizations become customer-centric, to manage customer relationships from end to end, through marketing to sales to customer service, and to provide a “360-degree view of the customer.” For a variety of reasons (overselling, lack of proper adoption, missing functionality), they never lived up to many companies’ expectations, and so CRM got a poor reputation. I recently wrote that customer experience management has undergone significant change in the last 18 months, taking over the role of helping organizations become customer-centric, and that CRM vendors have played a part in these changes. Some of the larger ones have, in my view, taken a backward step by breaking CRM into three components to support marketing, sales and customer service; this makes it harder to support the end-to-end customer life cycle.

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Intacct Advances Subscription Billing and Reporting

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 9, 2016 7:32:11 AM

Intacct, a cloud-based ERP vendor focused on midsize companies, recently held its annual user group meeting. Two of its products that were covered in the keynote are worth noting. One, already available, enables companies to manage their order-to-cash process in a continuous fashion, from the time a salesperson begins to engage with a prospect to the time funds are collected. The other is a custom report writer, to be available in the first quarter of 2017, that will provide business users with the ability to create even complex reports from any data that resides within Intacct in a straightforward, interactive fashion that is similar to building reports in a desktop spreadsheet. The company also presented modules that will facilitate compliance with the new revenue recognition standards.

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NGData Delivers DNA on Customers

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 9, 2016 7:11:38 AM

During a recent briefing with NGData, I was initially put off by excessive “marketing speak.” The team began by describing its product, Lily Enterprise, as a “customer experience operating system.” Being used to having operating systems run entire computers, I wasn’t sure what this meant. This term was followed by a statement that NGData’s products help companies transition from being “B2C to C2B,” that is, to put the customer first, an idea that has been around for several years but in my experience few companies achieve. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is that most companies are organized into business groups, and each business group typically has its own processes, systems and metrics, a situation that makes it hard to have a single view of the customer and take actions based on the same customer view, and which lends itself to focusing on internal goals, not the customer. As an example, our research into next-generation customer engagement shows three key impediments to delivering exceptional customer experiences: systems that are not integrated (for 49% of organizations), communication channels managed as silos (47%) and customers receiving inconsistent responses at different touch points. The root cause of all these is data – customer data. Organizations have multiple systems that generate customer data, in multiple forms: for example, structured data in CRM and ERP systems, voice recordings, text data from multiple sources (letters, email, Web scripts, text messages, chat scripts and social media posts), video and event data such as a customer downloading a film. With so much data in so many formats, it is hard for companies to generate a single, “360 degree” view of the customer that can be shared across the whole organization.

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Splunk Delivers Insights from Machines

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 9, 2016 6:14:17 AM

I recently attended .conf2016, Splunk’s seventh annual user conference. Splunk created the market for analyzing machine data (shorthand for machine-generated data), which consists of log files and event data from various types of systems and devices. Our big data analytics benchmark research shows that these are two of the most common sources of big data that organizations analyze. This market has proven to be fertile ground for Splunk, growing steadily with revenues more than doubling over the previous two fiscal years. Machine data is also the backbone for the Internet of Things (IoT) and operational intelligence, which form the basis of forthcoming benchmark research from Ventana Research.

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NICE Advances Contact Centers for SMB

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 2, 2016 1:06:39 AM

Over the years, our benchmark research studies on contact center systems have shown that larger centers use dedicated contact center systems to support their operations nearly twice as often as centers that have fewer than 250 seats. Smaller centers typically lack budgets and technical skills to deploy and operate such systems. This situation is evident in the tools commonly used to support workforce management and analytics; smaller centers most often use spreadsheets. While spreadsheets have their place in limited ad hoc analysis for small groups, in an environment such as a contact center, they cause issues with regard to ingesting data from multiple sources and providing analysis in real time.

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Ditch Presentations to Improve Corporate Governance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 2, 2016 1:03:00 AM

The topic of corporate governance received renewed attention recently after the publication of an open letter signed by 13 prominent business leaders, including Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. The first principle the group advocated in the letter is the need for a truly independent board of directors. To achieve that aim, the letter suggests having the board meet regularly without the CEO and that the members of the board should have “active and direct engagement with executives below the CEO level.” From my perspective, translating this idea into reality would be helped by a change in the dynamics of most board meetings. I would eliminate the standard presentation of results and begin the meeting with questions and observations from the board members directed to company executives related to its financial and operating results and any other matters on the agenda. This could take place with or without the CEO.

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Big Data Grows Up at Strata+Hadoop World 2016

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 2, 2016 12:58:50 AM

I recently spent time at Strata+Hadoop World 2016 in New York. I attended this event and its predecessor, Hadoop World, off and on for the past six years. This one in New York had a different feel from previous events including the most recent event in San Jose at the end of March. Perhaps because of its location in one of the financial and commercial hubs of the world, the event had much more of a business orientation. But it’s not just location. Past events have been held in New York also, and I see the business focus as a sign of the Hadoop market maturing.

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Oracle Goes All In On Cloud

Posted by David Menninger on Nov 2, 2016 12:55:59 AM

I recently attended Oracle OpenWorld for the first time in several years. The message at this year’s event was clear: Oracle is all in on the cloud. I had heard the message, but I didn’t get the full impact until I arrived at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. All signage at the event contained the word “cloud,” and Oracle issued 18 press releases in conjunction with OpenWorld related to cloud computing. I also found out that Oracle has its own definition of “cloud.”

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Oracle Adapts Business Applications Intelligently in the Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 31, 2016 9:30:14 AM

The annual Oracle OpenWorld user group meeting provides an opportunity to step back and take a longer view of business, industry and technology trends affecting the company. Last year, after listening to Larry Ellison’s and Mark Hurd’s vision for the future of IT, I wrote that Oracle had to continue shifting its focus to business applications because the accelerating shift to cloud computing would lead corporations to outsource their IT infrastructures, services and security to third parties. Eventually, this would substantially shrink the market for corporate IT departments, which has been Oracle’s strength. At this year’s conference the company demonstrated how it is applying its technology strengths to create a competitive advantage that it can apply to its broad business applications portfolio.

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Evaluagent Focuses on Agent Engagement

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 31, 2016 8:22:34 AM

Evaluagent is a U.K.-based company founded in 2012 that is carving out a niche in the workforce optimization market. Whereas most WFO vendors offer broad portfolios of products that focus on operational efficiency to reduce the cost of agents, Evaluagent’s narrower portfolio focuses on the people side of interaction handling, particularly agent engagement and satisfaction. The company’s founders had in-depth operational experience of contact centers, and they set out to improve the job experience for agents over what they had encountered, which included cramped working conditions, demanding performance targets, hard-to-use systems and, worst of all, customers often shouting down the phone at them.

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Oracle Goes All In On Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 15, 2016 12:39:47 AM

I recently attended Oracle OpenWorld for the first time in several years. The message at this year’s event was clear: Oracle is all in on the cloud. I had heard the message, but I didn’t get the full impact until I arrived at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. All signage at the event contained the word “cloud,” and Oracle issued 18 press releases in conjunction with OpenWorld related to cloud computing. I also found out that Oracle has its own definition of “cloud.”

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Processes and Software Make Long-Term Planning and Investing More Effective

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 14, 2016 10:17:00 AM

Effective capital planning and capital investment are vital to a company’s long-term success. The choices a company makes in this regard – how much to invest and in which facilities or projects – almost always have a profound impact on its competitiveness and performance. Because they have limited financial resources, well-managed companies take pains to ensure that these decisions support their long-term strategies and are made as rationally as possible. To do this they must have a disciplined approach to assigning priorities to capital investments within the context of the company’s specific strategy and objectives, as well as the ability to easily identify and eliminate unnecessary projects or excessive spending. And since business environments are dynamic, companies must also continually review their investment portfolios to assess their performance to plan and their strategic value while they also consider new investments to support and expand the existing long-term portfolio.

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Industry Changes Shake Up Customer Experience Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 14, 2016 9:52:49 AM

I have been involved in the call center and customer engagement market for more than 25 years, first as a consultant and systems integrator and for the past 11 years as an industry analyst. There have been lots of changes in that time but never as many as in the last 12 to 18 months. A simple illustration of the change is how I group vendors.

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Aspect Provides Customer Engagement Center in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 25, 2016 1:35:43 AM

Aspect is a well-established global provider of contact center systems. Its portfolio of products includes applications for contact centers, self-service, workforce optimization and analytics. In May the company announced it has gained clearance for restructuring its debt, which means it is in a better financial position  to invest in its products and global ecosystem of partners, to the benefit of its customers and new prospects. In a recent briefing Aspect’s SVP and general manager of workforce optimization, Mike Burke, asserted that the restructuring will benefit its customers and cited healthy numbers around its pipeline, sales and revenue, including significant recurring revenue from sales of cloud-based products.

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ERP Can Help Transform Finance

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 25, 2016 1:04:04 AM

Like many other industry observers I’ve heard overblown claims for information technology for decades. However, I’ve also observed that – eventually – reality catches up with vision. Finance and accounting departments are particularly resistant to change, yet because almost no corporations use adding machines or typewriters any more, it’s clear that transformative change can happen. Nonetheless, because users of business computing systems are inundated with “it’s better than ever” promotions by vendors, journalists and industry analysts, may have grown jaded and disbelieving. In the case of ERP systems that help run many organizations, that is too bad because we are finally at the point of a fundamental change in this business-critical software category.

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Teradata Takes On Cloud and Developers with Big Data & Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 22, 2016 9:29:54 AM

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.

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Value Index Analysis Finds Workforce Optimization Market Mature

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 21, 2016 3:06:47 AM

Ventana Research has published its Workforce Optimization 2016 Value Index. The Value Index provides a comprehensive evaluation of 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.

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Get to Know Enterprise Spreadsheets to Improve Business Effectiveness

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 21, 2016 12:20:41 AM

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.

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Corporate Controllers: Always Be Closing!

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 9, 2016 9:51:08 AM

It strikes me that the motto of successful salespeople – “ABC: Always Be Closing!” – could apply equally to corporate controllers, albeit in the accounting sense. For a while now I’ve been advocating continuous accounting, a holistic approach to managing the finance and accounting function that, in part, emphasizes using technology to distribute workloads more evenly over an accounting period – in effect to always be closing rather than waiting until the end of the month or quarter. Continuous accounting also stresses improving efficiency by automating repetitive processes and enhancing organizational effectiveness by improving data integrity in finance processes.

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Verint Adds Robotic Process Automation to Its Portfolio

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 9, 2016 9:22:45 AM

Verint is an established vendor of workforce optimization products that was the top-ranked vendor in our 2015 Workforce optimization Value Index. However, like many other large vendors in this category, its product portfolio and capabilities extend beyond workforce optimization; indeed, from a glance at its home page it is not immediately obvious that workforce optimization is a main part of its portfolio. The portfolio includes actionable intelligence, customer engagement optimization, security intelligence, and fraud prevention, risk management and compliance. Workforce optimization is a key component of customer engagement optimization, as are process automation and an employee desktop system, both of which can make interaction handling and associated processes more efficient. Recently the company announced two new products that enhance these capabilities: Verint Robotic Process Automation and Verint Process Assistant.

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Research Finds Mobile Analytics and BI Reach Crossroads

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 9, 2016 9:04:09 AM

Ventana Research has newly published its Mobile Analytics and Business Intelligence 2016 Value Index. The Value Index provides a comprehensive evaluation of vendors and their product offerings across seven categories. In performing that analysis, I realized that this software category is at a crossroads. Once an optional capability often reserved for executives, mobile analytics is becoming a requirement of business users across organizations. The blurring of lines between work and personal lives has provoked a change from single device BI to BI on multiple devices including smartphones and tablets as well as laptops and desktops. From a platform standpoint, the adoption of HTML5 is contesting the prevalence of native mobile applications.

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Xactly Inspires Sales Performance with Coaching and Insights

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 2, 2016 10:05:22 AM

Imagine how the third Monday in next January looks to leaders in the sales department. That’s the first day of the annual sales kickoff and the excitement level won’t get any higher. New products and services are in the works, lucrative customer contracts are up for renewal, alliance partners are in the house, and qualified opportunities are already flowing through your pipeline. The executive team is expecting big things from sales in the new year and has approved hiring additional people to address opportunities that otherwise would be neglected. But despite all this activity, the organization faces two big problems in hiring and integrating new sales staff.

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Five9 Contact Center System Provides Omnichannel Customer Experiences

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 1, 2016 9:59:09 AM

Five9 provides contact center in the cloud systems. Its Virtual Contact Center is essentially communication infrastructure software deployed through cloud computing. At the heart of its products is cloud-based telephony software that replaces on-premises ACD and PBX technology. The software connects to public telephone systems and helps users receive, make and manage telephone calls while maintaining high voice quality. Being cloud-based provides a range of advantages: It opens up use of the systems by organizations of all sizes, requires fewer skilled resources than on-premises for implementation and administration, eases integration of the systems, provides flexibility and scalability, changes the cost model and above allows organizations to transition to omnichannel engagement that is consistent across all channels and touch points.

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Vendavo Builds Price and Revenue Optimization into Business Processes

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 1, 2016 9:01:55 AM

Vendavo is a vendor of business-to-business (B2B) price and revenue optimization software, which I have written about. A major focus of the conference sessions this year at the company’s annual user group meeting was on practical approaches to successful price optimization initiatives. While this category of software has been achieving increasing acceptance, penetration is still limited in the B2B segment, which includes, for example, industrial goods and services.

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Unit4 Adds Financial Performance Management with Prevero Acquisition

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 23, 2016 8:12:12 AM

Unit4, a Netherlands-based vendor of financial management software focused mainly on midsize companies, recently acquired prevero, a German vendor of performance management and business intelligence software. The acquisition reflects a convergence of transactional and analytic business applications, which I have written about. ERP and financial management software vendors increasingly are adding analytic capabilities – especially in financial performance management (FPM) – to the core functions of transaction processing and accounting to broaden the scope of their offerings.

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Upstream Works Delivers Omnichannel Experience for Customers

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 23, 2016 7:30:16 AM

Since I last wrote about Upstream Works it has expanded its focus on contact center agent efficiency and effectiveness to include omnichannel customer experience. Each of its core products has undergone a number of developments. Its main product now is Upstream Works for Finesse, which it classifies as a smart agent desktop. This is a desktop application that enables users of contact center systems to access the information and systems they need to resolve interactions, as well as prompting the user with next best steps to complete the interaction efficiently and effectively. Upstream Works has a close working agreement with Cisco so the product is only available for users of the Cisco Finesse product.

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A Recipe for Cooking with the Hadoop Ecosystem

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 23, 2016 7:00:36 AM

It’s part of my job to cover the ecosystem of Hadoop, the open source big data technology, but sometimes it makes my head spin. If this is not your primary job, how can you possibly keep up? I hope that a discussion of what I’ve found to be most important will help those who don’t have the time and energy to devote to this wide-ranging topic.

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Hive9 Helps Tame the Chaos of B2B Marketing

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 18, 2016 10:25:50 AM

It often seems to business-to-business (B2B) marketers as if the only people who understand them are other B2B marketers. They feel that salespeople don’t get what they do day-to-day, that friends and family don’t understand what they do for a living, and most of all that the executives to whom they report have no interest in what they do – that is, until the last day of the quarter. Then they require that B2B marketers deliver positive, lead-generating and revenue-producing results in reports that detail how their efforts supported sales in the previous 90 days. And they expect those results to be reported in a format understandable to all.

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Denodo Makes Data Virtualization Relevant to Big Data and Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 18, 2016 10:05:17 AM

Data virtualization is not new, but it has changed over the years. The term describes a process of combining data on the fly from multiple sources rather than copying that data into a common repository such as a data warehouse or a data lake, which I have written about. There are many reasons for an organization concerned with managing its data to consider data virtualization, most stemming from the fact that the data does not have to be copied to a new location. It could, for instance, eliminate the cost of building and maintaining a copy of one of the organization’s  big data sources. Recognizing these benefits, many database and data integration companies offer data virtualization products. Denodo, one of the few independent, best-of-breed vendors in this market today, brings these capabilities to big data sources and data lakes.

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Recurring Revenue Billing: Where Back Office Meets Front Office

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 18, 2016 9:42:18 AM

Invoicing and billing are mundane business activities that hardly anyone outside of the accounting department cares about, but they are where the back office meets the front office. How well a company handles the process of getting paid by its customers can have an impact on its relationships with them. Like most of the details of business process execution, the impact of substandard invoicing and billing is rarely obvious or even of interest to senior management. That said, like trimming scrap rates or increasing sales pipeline conversion rates by a couple of percentage points, achieving consistent incremental gains in the “little stuff” of business usually translates into greater competitiveness and better financial performance.

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Salesforce Assimilates Demandware, But Will it Help Them?

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 9, 2016 8:48:54 AM

In July Salesforce officially closed on its purchase of digital commerce platform provider Demandware for US$2.8 billion. Salesforce’s executives were interested in acquiring a digital commerce platform, and they claim that Demandware was routinely mentioned in their due diligence of the market. So out came Marc Benioff’s and Salesforce checkbook, and they paid. Handsomely. For that sizeable investment, Salesforce will add Demandware’s SaaS-delivered digital commerce capabilities to its Customer Success Platform, while Demandware customers will have access to the Salesforce suite of cloud-based sales, marketing, customer service and analytics tools. But savvy business and IT customers are not getting distracted by the details of this transaction or the acquisition’s market impact. Knowledgeable executives expected a significant deal like this for Salesforce, and they were already thinking ahead of laggards who are just now assessing the implications of this transaction.

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IBM Watson and Cognitive Computing to Streamline Compliance

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 5, 2016 9:45:31 AM

Today’s proponents of artificial intelligence (AI) tend to focus on its spectacular uses such as self-driving cars and uplifting ones such as medical treatment. AI also has the potential to aid humanity in more modest ways such as eliminating the need for individuals to do tedious repetitive work in white-collar areas. Along these lines, at its recent Vision users conference, IBM displayed an application of its Watson cognitive computing technology designed to automate important aspects of regulatory and legal compliance. Should it prove workable, the application of cognitive computing to compliance could be the first step in achieving what various “Paperwork Reduction Act” legislation has failed to do: substantially cutting the time needed to comply with rules imposed by government entities.

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Cloud-Based Contact Center Systems Embrace Analytics and Communications

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 4, 2016 9:32:01 AM

I recently wrote that companies are struggling to provide omnichannel customer experiences and digital customer service is now seen as a business differentiator. To address these issues, organizations need to  change how they use people and processes, and deploy innovative technologies that can support new initiatives. To provide an enterprise-wide solution, contact center systems fall into four categories: communications, business applications, analytics and self-service. Our benchmark research into next-generation contact center systems in the cloud shows which types of systems companies have deployed, which they plan to deploy in the next 24 months and whether they prefer them to be on-premises or cloud-based.

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Workforce Optimization Undergoes Radical Change – Ready?

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 28, 2016 4:06:53 AM

In today’s intensely competitive markets, companies must strive to meet customer expectations during every interaction, and interactions occur through many channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that customers use up to 17 channels of engagement. Some channels involve assisted service from employees of the company, and some use self-service technologies such as interactive voice response (IVR), websites, mobile apps and social media, also known as digital service. Although the use of self-service is increasing, the research finds that organizations still expect volumes of assisted interactions to grow, albeit more slowly. The research also shows that the employees customers interact with may work in almost any line of business, including marketing, sales, the contact center, finance and human resources. These challenges require organizations to focus on people, processes, information and technology to optimize the performance of the workforce.

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RapidMiner Brings Self-Service to Predictive Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 28, 2016 3:44:55 AM

Predictive analytics is a rewarding yet challenging subject. In our benchmark research on next-generation predictive analytics at least half the participants reported that predictive analytics allows them to achieve competitive advantage (57%) and create new revenue opportunities (50%). Yet even more participants said that users of predictive analytics don’t have enough skills training to produce their own analyses (79%) and don’t understand the mathematics involved (66%). (In the term “predictive analytics” I include all types of data science, not just one particular type of analysis.)

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Evolution of Digital Commerce Challenged by Technology Barriers

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 28, 2016 3:23:02 AM

Businesses and customers are ready for a new generation of digital commerce technology, but implementing it is challenged by significant barriers in two basic categories: technology commoditization and the lack of an IT and business framework for delivering great customer experiences.  Regarding the first, for some companies making large IT purchases, the way an enterprise employs CAPEX and OPEX accounting practices to categorize spending on technology may be a deal-breaker when coupled with the time and resources needed to implement and maintain a product. But these subjects are increasingly relegated to the 55-minute mark of conference calls that weigh the pros and cons of available technology. Because while few organizations make a platform purchase based solely on the cheapest price, astute IT buyers now discuss and invest in analytical, data-driven tools for sales, marketing and service, deployed across Web and mobile environments, that help produce differentiated customer experiences and strengthen personalized, real-time digital commerce offerings. That leads to the second key consideration: Improving the customer experience is the top driver for almost three-quarters (74%) of organizations participating in our next-generation customer engagement benchmark research.

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Distributed Ledgers Have Business Value beyond Bitcoin

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 28, 2016 2:58:34 AM

The blockchain distributed database was invented to create the peer-to-peer digital cash called bitcoin in 2008. Although the future potential of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has been debated, the distributed ledger structure using a blockchain database that supports bitcoin is likely to be adopted for a range of commercial and governmental purposes. Distributed ledgers are a secure and transparent way to digitally track the ownership of assets while enabling faster transaction speeds and reducing potential for fraud. How quickly companies, governments and individuals start using distributed ledgers and for what specific purposes remain to be seen, but their use will be independent of cryptocurrencies’ fortunes. Expansion in the use of distributed ledgers will depend heavily on the success of the initial applications and whether there are major hiccups in their use.

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SAS Make Customer Intelligence Engaging and Valuable

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 22, 2016 9:43:34 AM

My colleague David Menninger recently wrote about the SAS Analyst Summit, concluding that “the SAS analytics juggernaut keeps on truckin’.” He observed, as I have done in the past, that SAS has a vast array of products that it regularly updates to keep up with market demand, ensuring it remains one of the premier vendors of data management and analytics systems. Dave’s perspectives provide in-depth insights into what these products do, while I focus on how they help with business outcomes around customer experience. I was therefore intrigued to hear at SAS’s European analyst event that its products support four types of user – data scientist, business analyst, intelligence analyst and IT analyst. The presenter used simple quotes to illustrate the differing priorities of these groups: For the data scientist, the one that caught my eye was “I need the latest algorithms to solve the latest problems”; for the business analyst I picked “I need to get my report done quickly and easily”; the information analyst is about “identifying patterns of interest that can prompt active decision-making”; and the IT analyst is about “issue resolution and redemption” (mainly operational analysis). In short each type of user needs different products and capabilities, hence the array of products. Nearest to my research practice is the business analyst, who wants easy access to reports and analysis to resolve business issues, and this is where the company’s Customer Intelligence product plays a part.

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Modeling Revenue Recognition for Contracts to Meet New Regulations

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 22, 2016 9:18:46 AM

I recently wrote about the challenge some companies will face in planning and budgeting when new revenue recognition rules go into effect in most countries in 2018. It’s important for companies that will be affected to be sure they have the appropriate systems, processes and training to handle the more difficult demands imposed by the new rules. With the change in accounting, the time lag between when a contract is signed and when a company recognizes revenue from it may be more variable and less predictable than in the past. In extreme cases, performance measured by financial accounting will diverge materially from the “real” economic performance of the organization. Consequently, executives – especially those leading publicly listed companies – will need the ability to look at their plans from both perspectives and be able to distinguish between the two in assessing their company’s performance. In companies where the timing of revenue recognition can diverge substantially from current methods, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) groups will need to be able plan using models that incorporate financial and managerial accounting methods in parallel. They will need to be able to identify actual-to-plan variances caused by differences in contract values booked in a period and differences between the expected and actual timing of revenue recognized from contracts signed in a period.

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Rescuing Retail’s Mobile Customer Experience Requires New Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 13, 2016 10:05:55 AM

One aspect of living in downtown Chicago is that there’s always something going on. But as distasteful as the subject matter of certain local events can be, some proceedings can inspire perspectives on a number of topics. One that occurs to me is how the retail industry can apply the new generation of mobile and location-based technologies not only to shape the customer experience but even rescue it from challenging situations. On Nov. 30, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Black Friday protests on the city’s Magnificent Mile cost local businesses 25 to 50 percent of their expected sales. While protestors have a constitutional right to free speech, business operators also had an opportunity and a responsibility – to proactively engage customers before, during and after the tumultuous Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

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Accounting for Sales Compensation Faces Challenges under ASC 606 and IFRS 15

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 13, 2016 9:43:37 AM

New standards governing accounting for contracts will go into effect for most companies in 2018. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which administers Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the U.S. (US-GAAP), has issued ASC 606, and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which administers International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) used in most other countries, has issued IFRS 15. The two are very similar, and both will enforce fundamental changes in this area of accounting. Under the new approach to accounting for contracts, revenue (and some corresponding expense) is recognized only when customers are satisfied. In contrast, until now revenue was recognized when internally measurable events occurred, such as on delivery to the customer, the completion of milestones or the passage of time. In addition to dealing with an impact on accounting and planning, which I have discussed, companies may need to examine how the rules will affect how they account for commissions and other contract acquisition expenses.

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Market Research Finds Omnichannel Issues in Customer Service

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 13, 2016 9:14:20 AM

In our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud more than two-thirds (69%) of organizations said they need to improve customer service, and market dynamics require them to do this is in new ways. Whereas today most (83%) compete on the services they offer, over the next two years 70 percent said they expect customer experience to be the top way they will compete, and nearly half (46%) said they expect to compete through self-service, digital channels. There is no doubt that consumers have changed the ways they prefer to communicate with each other and with companies. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous, and many consumers prefer to use chat-based technologies and mobile apps to engage. That is not to say that phone use is obsolete, as the research shows it and email are the most widely supported channels (each by 92% of companies), and while use of the corporate website (cited by 41%) is expected to show the greatest growth, more than one-fifth (22%) of participants said that the volume of inbound calls will show significant growth. Thus organizations must handle customer interactions across a variety of communication channels to maintain the business of all demographic groups.

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Qlik Makes a Qonnection with Qlik Sense 3.0

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 2, 2016 9:25:21 AM

Qlik helped pioneer the visual discovery market with its QlikView product. In some respects, Qlik and its competitors also spawned the self-service trend rippling through the analytics market today. Their aim was to enable business users to perform analytics for themselves rather than building a product with the perfect set of features for IT. After establishing success with end users the company began to address more of the concerns of IT, eventually creating a robust enterprise-grade analytics platform. This approach has worked for Qlik, driving growth that led to an initial
 public offering in 2010. The company now generates more than half a billion dollars in revenue annually, making it one of the largest independent analytics vendors. Of which based on their company and products was rated a Hot Vendor in our 2015 Value Index on Analytics and Business Intelligence and one of the highest ranked in usability.

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NICE Systems Doubles Down on Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 1, 2016 12:09:43 PM

NICE Systems was one of the first vendors I started to cover when I joined Ventana Research more than 11 years ago. Back then it was a pure-play vendor of workforce optimization (WFO) systems and was creating a portfolio of products by developing its own systems and acquiring niche vendors of call recording, quality management, workforce management, performance management and analytics. Over the years its portfolio has grown with new features, improved integration between the component parts, centralized administration and management capabilities, and a standard, modern user interface. The latest version of its core Workforce Optimization product was rated a Hot vendor in our 2015 WFO Value Index. It is still
undergoing development, and a new version is being marketed as Adaptive WFO as it uses analytics to become more information-driven.

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Allocadia Enables Excellence in Managing and Operating Marketing

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 1, 2016 11:50:07 AM

The relevance of marketing to an organization depends on planning and performance measured against it. In writing about marketing management I have observed the marketing mayhem that can occur but also have noted that organizations that take marketing performance management seriously are in better position to assess their efforts in relation to goals and outcomes. I have a little experience in having been a CMO and VP Marketing in my career and know how frantic it can be to managing marketing. Taking it seriously requires more effective technology than spreadsheets and presentations; we recommend using a dedicated application that supports management of both marketing operations and processes that contribute to optimal performance.

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Workiva Automates Composite Documents with Wdesk

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 1, 2016 11:35:40 AM

Workiva offers Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity application for handling composite documents. I use the term “composite document” to refer to those in which text is created and edited collaboratively by multiple contributors and which incorporates tabular and numerical data from multiple sources in a controlled process. Composite documents often have formats defined by law, regulation or contract and must be created at periodic intervals. To comply with the requirement by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies “tag” their financial filings using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), many companies acquired software to automate the creation and tagging of these composite documents.

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Marketing Planning Improves Performance

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 27, 2016 3:00:43 AM

As global business increases competitive pressures, marketing departments face new challenges. They must anticipate and respond to frequently changing customer preferences and produce effective programs and campaigns to attract them. In the online world where customers can jump instantly from one company to another, Marketing must develop new ways to catch and hold their attention. Doing this well requires systematic, flexible planning that begins with the CMO and engages the entire department to utilize the full portfolio of resources and act as one to serve their mission.

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Cloud-Based Analytics Still Don’t Deliver Self-Sufficiency

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 27, 2016 1:58:00 AM

Cloud-based computing has become widespread, particularly in line-of-business applications from vendors such as Salesforce and SuccessFactors. Our benchmark research also suggests a rise in the acceptance of cloud-based analytics.  We’ve seen the emergence and growth of cloud-only analytics vendors such as Domo and GoodData as well as cloud-based delivery by nearly all the on-premises analytics vendors. Almost half (48%) of organizations in our benchmark research on data and analytics in the cloud are using cloud-based analytics today, and two-thirds said they expect to be using cloud-based analytics within 12 months. In fact, only 1 percent said they do not intend to use cloud-based analytics at some point. This popularity leads to the question of how to maximize the value of investments in cloud-based analytics. We assert that one of the most important best practices for cloud-based analytics is to empower business users with modern analytics tools they can work with without relying on IT.

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Contact Centers Need Radical Change to Meet Consumers’ Expectations

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 25, 2016 9:37:26 AM

I have been involved in the contact center industry for more than 25 years and often see organizations that are slow in keeping up with consumers’ expectations; many of them seem reluctant to change, regardless of the need to do so. For example, agents of my cell phone operator ask the same four questions at the start of a call as they did 30 years ago; my bank supports several channels of communication, but it doesn’t provide the same information on all channels; and a well-known airline couldn’t tell me where my bag was for 36 hours (it was at the airport where I departed!). My list goes on, and I am sure you have your own.

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Big Data Drives Price and Revenue Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 25, 2016 9:13:12 AM

Information technology enables a data-driven management style that was not feasible until powerful, affordable computers became generally available. There’s no bright line marking when this became possible; the process is ongoing. People were using financial analytics long before ENIAC, the first general-purpose computer, appeared, but the metrics available were not especially timely, broadly applicable to day-to-day situations or comprehensive enough to inform most management decision-making. Even today, there are many areas of business management where companies continue to operate much as they have in the past. One of those is pricing.

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Microsoft Accepts LinkedIn Connection: Will it Matter?

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 18, 2016 6:09:02 AM

For some people in sales and marketing who struggle to meet their quarterly targets, the blockbuster announcement that Microsoft will buy LinkedIn for US$26.2 billion may seem like a midyear holiday present: a digital business Rolodex filled with new global connections that can make the task of generating revenue dramatically easier. Problem is, sales leaders and revenue-focused marketers worth their weight already know everything there is to know about their target audience, and they’re taking action on that intelligence every day. They’re already power LinkedIn users who have optimized their personal profiles, ensured that their public-facing company information is up-to-the-minute, scrubbed buyer and influencer pages, read the latest corporate and competitive intel updates and scanned their Pulse newsfeeds, and they have done so for free before finishing their morning coffee ahead of the next meeting. Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn won’t cause top performers in sales and marketing to dramatically alter or change their productive and profitable habits. At least not right away.

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Interactive Intelligence Enables Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 18, 2016 6:00:04 AM

I recently attended the Interactive Intelligence Interactions 2016 conference and came away with four key insights regarding the company’s plans and progress in providing contact centers in the cloud. These include the short-term success of PureCloud, the company’s financial performance, the importance of customer support and dealing with change.

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SAP Faces Challenges with Customer Assurance and Digital Boardroom

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 18, 2016 5:39:20 AM

There were two noteworthy themes in SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s keynote at this year’s Sapphire conference. One was customer assurance; that is, placing greater emphasis on making the implementation of even complex business software more predictable and less of an effort. This theme reflects the maturing of the enterprise applications business as it transitions from producing highly customized software to providing configurable, off-the-rack purchases. Implementing ERP will never be simple, as I have noted, but as companies increasingly adopt multitenant software as a service (SaaS), vendors will need to make their implementations as repeatable as possible and enable flexible configuration of parameters and processes that substantially reduce the billable hours required to complete a deployment. “Customer assurance” is an important stake in the ground, but it will be an empty concept unless there is complete overhaul of the entire value chain to take it beyond good intentions. Otherwise, customer assurance will be an ongoing rearguard action to overcome technology-driven challenges and disincentives for improvement. Business applications must be re-engineered to facilitate implementation, substantially reduce the likelihood of implementation errors and facilitate subsequent changes to adapt to changing business conditions. Moreover, software vendors’ partners will need to demonstrate that they can reliably cut a substantial number of billable hours per implementation engagement. This will require partners to restructure their business models. Neither of these changes will be easy to accomplish. To its credit SAP has set a course for increasing the simplicity of using its core ERP and financial management software. Getting there soon would greatly enhance its ability to retain if not gain customers in these mature markets.

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The Mastery of Marketing Performance Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 18, 2016 5:26:24 AM

Managing marketing performance is anything but simple. It requires establishing a unified approach to assess the outcomes of initiatives and projects and compare results with investments in marketing people and campaigns. In general, while performance management has been conducted effectively at the corporate levels, it has been a challenge for most lines of business, marketing departments included.

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Accelerating the Close Can Fix Other Problems

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 15, 2016 8:32:57 AM

In our Office of Finance benchmark research 60 percent of participants said it takes their companies six or more business days to complete their quarterly close; that exceeds the best practice benchmark of five days. Consultants, academics and vendors have stressed the importance of shortening the close for almost a quarter of a century. The main reason for doing so is to provide executives and managers with timely information about the company’s performance. Yet our research shows that it’s taking longer for companies to complete their close than it did a decade ago: On average they now finish the monthly process in 6.8 days, compared to 6.5 days, and complete the quarterly close in 8.0 days vs. 7.5 days. The research suggests that the main reason for this increase is that companies use outdated manual close processes, which often are poorly executed and rely heavily on spreadsheets.

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Industry Veteran Brings Leadership on Sales and Marketing

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 2, 2016 9:26:49 AM

If you’re a sales or marketing executive or manager, your window of business opportunity is closing rapidly. In fact it started closing the day you began your job. Time is not on your side – and your career may well hang in the balance. I want to help you shift that balance to your advantage.

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Planning Is Necessary for Revenue Recognition Under ASC 606 and IFRS 15

Posted by Ventana Research on May 27, 2016 11:12:12 AM

New rules governing revenue recognition for contracts will go into effect for most companies in 2018. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which administers Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the U.S. (US-GAAP) has issued ASC 606, and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which administers International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) used in most other countries, has issued IFRS 15. The two are very similar and will enforce fundamental changes in this area of accounting. The new rules will affect companies that use even moderately complex contracts in their dealings with customers. They include, for example, contracts that are structured using tiered pricing or volume discounts or ones that routinely involve modifications, such as adding or dropping users, or that allow seasonal changes to services. The changes necessitate an extensive review of an organization’s contracting and accounting policies and processes and are likely require changes to procedures and systems. Companies affected by the new rules also will need to examine their planning and budgeting processes. Those that currently use desktop spreadsheets for planning and budgeting should consider adopting dedicated planning and budgeting software in order to cope effectively with the increased complexity of planning in this new environment.

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Is NetSuite Sweet for Customers?

Posted by Ventana Research on May 27, 2016 10:16:30 AM

It’s widely agreed that customer experience is now the most important dynamic for business. Any organization that wants to retain loyal and even vocal customers should do everything possible to ensure and maintain customer satisfaction. Software companies, especially those that promise to provide CRM and effective interactions across any channel at any time, should be good examples of embracing the methods they prescribe for using their products. But do they?

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Next Generation of Product Information Management Empowers Digital Business

Posted by Ventana Research on May 24, 2016 9:22:28 AM

Organizations in all industries face various difficulties in managing product information. The most serious is providing complete, engaging information to consumers and customers on the internet. Newly developed products, mergers and acquisitions, changes to pricing and promotions in online commerce spur business growth, but these factors also increase the amount and complexity of product-related data and content. In addition the digital economy offers a new generation of services that are sold by subscription and packaged in various options and price points. As well, global diversification of suppliers, customers and business partners forces organizations to manage data quality and consistency in multiple locations, currencies and languages.

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Mr. President and Department of Labor: Move Aside; Let Employees Work and Learn

Posted by Ventana Research on May 23, 2016 8:14:11 AM

Through a federal rule referred to as “Overtime Rule” and part of Title 29 regulations was issued on May 18th, 2016 by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Obama administration now mandates that unless they meet criteria for exemption, employees paid less than $47,476 ($22.825 per hour) are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. The rule change, which goes into effective on December 1, 2016, is intended to apply to executive, administrative and professional employees; it has exemptions for teachers, lawyers and other specific jobs and industries.

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Infor Pursues Innovation for Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on May 23, 2016 7:56:15 AM

Infor recently held its annual Innovation Summit at its New York City headquarters. The company has shown leadership and creativity in business applications on two fronts: focusing its development efforts on enhancing the user experience and collaboration and building an application architecture that will deliver a rich set of functionality for ERP, financial management, CRM and HRMS and business analytics in a multitenant cloud environment. All of these advances were necessary to remake a disparate portfolio of aging software into an up-to-date set of applications. The Innovation Summits have been useful indicators of Infor’s future product and market direction. And while there has been a lag between what’s demonstrated and what’s actually available in the software, it’s not clear that this really matters. Any negative impact is limited by the slow replacement cycle for ERP (our research shows that on average companies replace their systems every 6.4 years – longer than they used to take) and conservative attitudes when it comes to core enterprise systems. Innovation doesn’t seem to be a big factor yet in selling business software to mainstream buyers, but it is likely to become more important within a few years. Changes in buyer preferences will come about as technology puts more of the design and operation of these systems in the hands of business users rather than their IT departments and outside consultants. Increasing the configurability and reducing the need for customization will cut costs, reduce the time to value in purchasing replacement applications and increase the flexibility of these notoriously inflexible systems.

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Can We Trust Salesforce for Business in the Cloud?

Posted by Ventana Research on May 16, 2016 7:44:58 AM

I have been meaning to write about Salesforce since its Dreamforce 2015 conference. Salesforce provides a platform, tools and applications for business and IT who claims to be the ‘no software’ company which as you will read is exactly what happened on May 10th. Heck, Salesforce is making a lot of advances on its platform, its applications and even with Analytics and the Internet of Things. These changes are at the center of what at our analyst firm calls digital business innovation. Much of what it’s doing is very good, but now I am questioning whether the company’s foundation of business processes and technology platform has reached a point at which it can’t grow any further without impacting its own customers’ operations and success. That may be a harsh statement, but I think my reasoning will become clear as you read this perspective.

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Data Lakes: Safe Way to Swim in Big Data?

Posted by Ventana Research on May 11, 2016 9:20:50 AM

It has been more than five years since James Dixon of Pentaho coined the term “data lake.” His original post suggests, “If you think of a data mart as a store of bottled water – cleansed and packaged and structured for easy consumption – the data lake is a large body of water in a more natural state.” The analogy is a simple one, but in my experience talking with many end users there is still mystery surrounding the concept. In this post I’d like to clarify what a data lake is, review the reasons an organization might consider using one and the challenges they present, and outline some developments in software tools that support data lakes.

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Digital Business Innovation and Enterprise Messaging Work Well Together

Posted by Ventana Research on May 11, 2016 8:30:46 AM

Organizations are facing a digital transformation, as I have written, that is rapidly changing the applications and services that businesses use to operate and deliver information. This new digital generation addresses the expectations of consumers and business partners for information and service in real time. One example of it is enterprise messaging. Recently I wrote about the shift to this technology and the challenges it poses for organizations that lack sufficient skills. However, new messaging appliances and virtualized messaging can carry some of this burden. By interconnecting them, organizations can be more confident in their ability to support the range of information and applications that operate in real time, not only for people but on devices and machines.

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New Generation of Compensation Software Enhances Human Capital Management

Posted by Ventana Research on May 9, 2016 12:08:59 PM

Compensation management is a key activity for engaging all employees and thus for human capital management. I discussed this connection in my perspective on unifying human capital management. In a further step in that direction, I am excited to announce the launch of our next-generation compensation management benchmark research. Determining and providing the appropriate compensation for each person, whether it involves base pay, merit pay, variable pay and incentives or bonuses, or a combination of these, is critical to being able to attract and retain productive members of the workforce – full- or part-time employees, contingent workers and contractors alike. Incentive compensation tied to objectives often is critical in business areas such as call centers, sales and field service. The complexities of compensation make more difficult the core challenge faced by human resources departments: keeping employees productive, satisfied and motivated.

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New Generation of Enterprise Messaging Supports Digital Transformation

Posted by Ventana Research on May 9, 2016 11:44:50 AM

Enterprise messaging is the technology backbone of communications for applications and systems within and between organizations. Both its importance and its complexity are growing as organizations increasingly have to provide real-time responses to business customers and consumers as well as their own business professionals who support them and their internal supply chains. The variety of use cases for enterprise messaging also is growing rapidly, expanding to the Internet of Things (IoT) market of sensors and devices including wearable technology; to new generations of applications and services for consumers and customers; to cloud computing and the shift to platform or infrastructure as a service (PaaS or IaaS); and to real-time big data and analytics. All of these innovations will enable these types of transformation to digital business that is impacting organizations around the world.

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Internet of Things Requires Operational Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 29, 2016 10:26:34 AM

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) is an extension of digital connectivity to devices and sensors in homes, businesses, vehicles and potentially almost anywhere. This innovation means that virtually any device can generate and transmit data about its operations – data to which analytics can be applied to facilitate monitoring and a range of automatic functions. To do these tasks IoT requires what Ventana Research calls operational intelligence (OI), a discipline that has evolved from the capture and analysis of instrumentation, networking and machine-to-machine interactions of many types. We define operational intelligence as a set of event-centered information and analytic processes operating across an organization that enable people to use that event information to take effective actions and make optimal decisions. Ventana Research first began covering operational intelligence over a decade ago.

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Zuora Enables Subscriptions to Engage Customers for Revenue Results

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 28, 2016 10:26:27 AM

As the global economy transforms into a world of digital services that cross industries, including those that provide value-added services for physical products, managing the complications that arise from digital browsing, selection and purchasing of goods, as well as activation, billing and servicing of accounts, becomes a challenge. Organizations have to not just engage customers but provide satisfying experiences that keep them coming back. Our benchmark research on next-generation customer engagement shows that improving the customer experience is the most widespread impetus to improve engagement, for almost three-quarters (74%) of organizations. Few however have established business processes and applications that support these efforts, which today involve marketing, sales, customer service, operations and accounting departments. We also find that some of the largest suppliers of cloud computing software provide the worst experiences when it comes to billing for and changing existing subscriptions.

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SAP Releases Transformative Universal Journal

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 23, 2016 9:42:45 AM

I recently attended the SAPinsider Financials 2016 conference, a regular event that focuses on the interests and practical needs of people in the finance function of corporations. In several sessions SAP presenters continued to stress its theme of “Simple Finance” as well as making the wry observation that in finance, simple is hard to achieve. To support its theme, the company highlighted ongoing refinement and enrichment of its S/4HANA Finance offering.

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Docebo Innovates Learning Management Systems for Employees and Customers

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 14, 2016 8:29:10 AM

The learning management system (LMS) offers opportunity for organizations to progressively enhance the effectiveness of their workforce. An advanced LMS can be more than a digital version of an organization’s training programs for specific jobs or to achieve compliance with policies and regulations. It can provide dynamic yet informal learning that business units can create, deploy and sustain through their own efforts. Last year I outlined the benefits of this new generation of learning management systems.

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Meridian Helps Communities and Customers with Learning Management System

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 1, 2016 9:58:55 AM

In this highly competitive age, optimizing the potential of workers is essential. A learning management system (LMS) can increase both knowledge and engagement. Our benchmark research on next-generation learning management systems finds that adopting one can help almost half (46%) of organizations gain a competitive advantage, and more than one-third (35%) said it assists in helping customers. Expanded use of learning can engage customers, partners and others who need more information about an organization or its products and services. Thus we suggest that learning systems should be used for and made available in customer and third party communities. Doing so can enhance effective use of products and services and help reduce the volume of inbound calls to and interactions with the contact center.

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Mastering Marketing Mayhem in a Meaningful, Meticulous Manner

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 31, 2016 8:57:03 AM

I hope this title captures your attention; I’m trying to make a point about the chaos going on in managing and operating marketing. What marketing needs in 2016 is to manage and optimize its efforts in a more unified manner. This perspective kicks off a new series on the challenges for marketing to automate or execute tasks and manage toward maximum performance. We all know that the craft of marketing is in need of significant transformation, from the CMO throughout the entire marketing organization and all the way out to the experience of consumers and customers. But this may be a fanciful mission, as applications and technology does not really automate marketing let alone manage it. Most marketing automation products are specialized applications that are not used by marketing management, let alone front-line marketing managers; they are for specialized needs in demand generation or digital marketing that personalizes inbound and outbound interactions with contacts for the purpose of advancing dialogue and creating relationships. Marketing automation, like its cousin sales force automation, has been a placeholder category that describes only a narrow slice of marketing, and the term has been co-opted by the industry for its own purposes. Though some observers predict that CMOs will outspend CIOs and other leaders of the business in technology investments, I have debunked this ludicrous idea; even if it were true, that would not make marketing departments much more efficient in their management and operations. To counterbalance the silliness of the marketing automation dialogue, I plan to bring you a series on key areas for investment to start the conversation. Evaluating them should help Marketing demonstrate its commitment to promoting effectively its organization and its products and services. Here is an overview of the many issues in the landscape.

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Supercharging Sales and Commerce in 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 29, 2016 9:54:34 AM

For several years I have been advocating that sales organizations adapt their processes and applications to optimize both sales performance and the customer experience. For details see my research agenda for last year. However, it appears that not many sales organizations have responded to this challenge; many can barely maintain their quarterly sales forecasts and monthly pipeline, track progress toward quotas and ensure that sales commissions are processed promptly and paid accurately. A great many are still using spreadsheets for these critical activities. Yet our benchmark research finds that more than half (61%) who use them for commissions said this makes the effort more difficult. Elsewhere, I have seen B2B sales organizations continue down the old path of annoying prospects with direct cold calling and email instead of nurturing real relationships. For B2C sales, the digital age of search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) has begun to haunt prospects by inserting ads in our personal social media channels. My research suggests that these practices are not due to bad intentions but to force of habit and lack of desire, time and resources to develop a modern strategy and plan. Most are just managing the basics of their sales processes and relying on sales force automation (SFA) systems, reporting and dashboards, which will only produce more of the same, less than optimal results.

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Qlik Makes Sense of its Analytics and Business Value

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 29, 2016 9:10:51 AM

At the 2015 technology analyst summit in Austin, Texas, analytics and business intelligence software vendor Qlik discussed recent market and product developments and explained its roadmap and strategy for 2016. Discussion topics included its Qlik Analytics Platform and QlikView 12.0, Qlik Sense and Qlik DataMarket, applications built on the platform but also how it is expanding its analytics experience for business.

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Exploiting Cryptic Data for Securities Analysis

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 25, 2016 12:09:48 AM

I coined the term “cryptic data” to mean information that isn’t easy to find or access by people who could make use of it. In one instance, cryptic data offers professional investors – portfolio managers and securities analysts – a source of proprietary information that can improve their ability to pick stocks and achieve superior performance relative to their benchmarks. Automation through technology now makes collecting cryptic data substantially more efficient than manual methods and thus makes accessing it practical. In particular, Web scraping tools (what I call “data drones”) can be programmed to retrieve specific information once or on an ongoing basis. Although this data is accessible to anyone, it requires insight and experience to understand how to use it for superior investment performance.

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Informatica Advances Big Data Management for Data Preparation and Hadoop

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 24, 2016 11:28:50 PM

On Monday, March 21, Informatica, a vendor of information management software, announced Big Data Management version 10.1. My colleague Mark Smith covered the introduction of v. 10.0 late last year, along with Informatica’s expansion from data integration to broader data management. Informatica’s Big Data Management 10.1 release offers new capabilities, including for the hot topic of self-service data preparation for Hadoop, which Informatica is calling Intelligent Data Lake. The term “data lake” describes large collections of detailed data from across an organization, often stored in Hadoop. With this release Informatica seeks to add more enterprise capabilities to data lake implementations.

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Verint Gains Innovative Products through Acquisition of Contact Solutions

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 18, 2016 8:23:35 AM

Verint is an established vendor of workforce optimization, advanced analytics and self-service products for customer experience management. Recently it announced its acquisition of Contact Solutions, whose products complement Verint’s. The acquisition adds analytics capabilities and fraud detection software, both of Verint will incorporate into its existing products. Contact Solutions also brings to the merger IVR and My:Time, two innovative products that add to Verint’s portfolio for customer self-service.

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FinancialForce Springs Forward with Latest Release

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 18, 2016 8:12:05 AM

The evolutionary pace of technologies that shape the design of ERP systems has been accelerating over the last couple of years. In addition to cloud computing there is the increasing availability of analytics and reporting integrated into transaction processing systems, which I have noted; support for mobile users; in-context collaboration; and more intuitive user interface (UI) design. Each of these features enhances productivity and the usefulness of ERP software in managing a business. The latest release of FinancialForce, a cloud-based ERP system, offers significant enhancements to its user interface and collaboration capabilities.

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Unifying Human Capital Management in 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 18, 2016 7:09:39 AM

Businesses and their human resource organizations feel pressure to maximize the value of their human capital in today’s intensely competitive world. Many have made or considered investments in new applications that better exploit information to efficiently recruit, engage and retain the best talent. Advanced applications not only advance these processes but also help management assess the performance of the workforce and compensate individuals fairly so that they advance their careers and find the level of employee satisfaction in the organization. A year ago I outlined the priorities in human capital management (HCM). During the past year our research found a significant number of companies lacking a unified HCM strategy that includes processes and the applications to support it. As others advance, HR organizations that are not equipped with such skills, resources and tools risk falling behind in human capital management as it contributes to business success.

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Interactive Intelligence Doubles Down on Cloud Computing

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 16, 2016 8:15:45 AM

Six months ago I wrote that Interactive Intelligence bases its product strategy on continued support of its three core products: CIC, CaaS and PureCloud. During a recent briefing CMO Jeff Platón made it clear that although the company continues to support all three, its main focus will be PureCloud Engage that is also certified and available on the Salesforce AppExchange. When the company first released this product in 2012, the financial markets and some analysts saw it as a big risk because it is a ground-up development designed to run only in the cloud. The question was whether the company could succeed with a new architecture, all new capabilities and a new cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Now the answer seems to be yes; the company asserts that cloud revenue is up and that it has gained 26 new PureCloud customers in the last 12 months and some positive customer references. This is not surprising to me because in my past research I carried out nearly two-thirds or organizations said they planned to adopt contact center applications in the cloud, and just under half said they intended to adopt communication systems in the cloud; judging by results from this and other vendors, many seem to have carried out this intention.

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SAS Analytics Juggernaut Keeps on Truckin’

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 11, 2016 6:59:34 AM

I recently attended the SAS Analyst Summit in Steamboat Springs, Colo. (Twitter Hashtag #SASSB) The event offers an occasion for the company to discuss its direction and to assess its strengths and potential weaknesses. SAS is privately held, so customers and prospects cannot subject its performance to the same level of scrutiny as public companies, and thus events like this one provide a valuable source of additional information.

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Digital Technology Agenda for Business in 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 10, 2016 9:57:10 AM

Technology innovation is accelerating faster than companies can keep up with. Many feel pressure to adopt new strategies that technology makes possible and find the resources required for necessary investments. In 2015 our research and analysis revealed many organizations upgrading key business applications to operate in the cloud and some enabling access to information for employees through mobile devices. Despite these steps, we find significant levels of digital disruption impacting every line of business. In our series of research agendas for 2016 we outline the areas of technology that organizations need to understand if they hope to optimize their business processes and empower their employees to handle tasks and make decisions effectively. Every industry, line of business and IT department will need to be aware of how new technology can provide opportunities to get ahead of, or at least keep up with, their competitors and focus on achieving the most effective outcomes.

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Genesys Has New Impetus for 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 10, 2016 9:15:45 AM

During a recent analyst briefing, I learned that Genesys finished 2015 with a bang and enters 2016 with high expectations. Last year it made several changes at the top of the organization, naming a new president, Tom Eggemeier; a new chief marketing officer, Merijn te Booij; and a new head of global sales and field operations, Mark Turner. Their mandate is to stimulate sales of the company’s core product, Customer Experience Platform. I also learned that since spinning out of Alcatel Lucent in 2012, Genesys has had financial success, won many new accounts and expanded around the globe. Several new customers use the cloud-based version of the product, which reflects our analysis that many organizations are replacing outdated, disconnected on-premises systems with cloud-based, fully integrated software suites.

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Centage’s Budget Maestro Enables More Effective Budgeting and Planning

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 10, 2016 8:58:56 AM

Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) is one of the core functions of any finance department. Preparing a budget, measuring performance to financial objectives and forecasting the company’s financial position are three of the main tasks for the FP&A organization within Finance. A key challenge for today’s FP&A organization is increasing the business value and relevance of budgeting and planning. To do so, FP&A must transform the processes from a static, rear-view mirror approach to a forward-looking, action-oriented one. A continuous planning approach can achieve this objective. Continuous planning uses short, frequent planning or budgeting cycles to promote agility, coordination and accountability in operations. It includes establishing an ongoing dialogue among finance and line-of-business managers and executives to track current conditions as well as changes in objectives and priorities driven by markets and the business climate.

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Spark Summit Shows Momentum in Adoption of Apache Spark

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2016 6:59:10 AM

Last week I attended Spark Summit East 2016 at the New York Hilton Midtown. It revealed several ways in which Spark technology might impact the big data market.

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TelStrat Achieves Success with Workforce Optimization in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 23, 2016 5:29:14 AM

TelStrat is a company with a long history. Founded in 1993 it initially resold products of Nortel, Cisco and other telecom equipment vendors. The first product it developed and brought to market was a call recording system deployed on the customer’s premises.  It expanded its portfolio over the years, and today its product suite Engage offers all the key pieces of workforce optimization: call recording, desktop capture, quality management, workforce management and speech, text and desktop analytics. TelStrat built this portfolio through a combination of in-house development and partnering with other vendors. It has achieved considerable business success, having more than 3,300 installations in 55 countries, most of which are delivered through a global ecosystem of some 330 channel partners. Engage is available in three models: Unity is an on-premises, single-server version that supports up to 250 users; Enterprise is an on-premises, multiple-server version that supports unlimited numbers of users at multiple sites; and Cloud is a hosted product that supports unlimited numbers of users and is available through a perpetual license or subscription. The company attributes its recent success to the Cloud version, which it supports through multiple data centers in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. This and its longstanding team of call center experts and partners prepares TelStrat to help organizations of all sizes improve contact center agent performance.

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Cryptic Data: Challenges and Rewards in Finding and Using It

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 18, 2016 7:10:21 PM

Using information technology to make data useful is as old as the Information Age. The difference today is that the volume and variety of  available data has grown enormously. Big data gets almost all of the attention, but there’s also cryptic data. Both are difficult to harness using basic tools and require new technology to help organizations glean actionable information from the large and chaotic mass of data. “Big data” refers to extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially those related to human behavior and interaction. The challenges in dealing with big data include having the computational power that can scale to the processing requirements for the volumes involved; analytical tools to work with the large data sets; and governance necessary to manage the large data sets to ensure that the results of the analysis are accurate and meaningful. But that’s not all organizations have to deal with now. I’ve coined the term “cryptic data” to focus on a different, less well known sort of data challenge that many companies and individuals face.

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The Office of Finance in 2016

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 14, 2016 11:24:47 AM

The imperative to transform the finance department to function in a more strategic, forward-looking and action-oriented fashion has been a consistent theme of practitioners, consultants and business journalists for two decades. In all that time, however, most finance and accounting departments have not changed much. In our benchmark research on the Office of Finance, nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for finance departments to take a strategic role in running their company. The research also shows a significant gap between this objective and how well most departments perform. A large majority (83%) said they perform the core finance functions of accounting, fiscal control, transaction management, financial reporting and internal auditing, but only 41 percent said they play an active role in their company’s management. Even fewer (25%) have implemented a high degree of automation in their core finance functions and actively promote process and analytical excellence.

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Research Agenda: Big Data and Information Optimization in 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 7, 2016 10:14:27 PM

The big data market continues to expand and enable new types of analyses, new business models and new revenues streams for organizations that implement these capabilities. Following our previous research into big data and information optimization, we’ll investigate the technology trends affecting both of these domains as part of our 2016 research agenda.

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Research Agenda: Using Business Analytics to Make the Most of Data in 2016

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 7, 2016 9:59:39 PM

Throughout the course of our research in 2016, we’ll be exploring ways in which organizations can maximize the value of their data. Ventana Research believes that analytics is the engine and data is the fuel to power better business decisions. Several themes emerged from our benchmark research on incorporating data and analytics into organizational processes, and we will follow them in our 2016 Business Analytics Research Agenda:

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Pardon the Interruption: Industry Veteran Returns to Ventana Research

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 7, 2016 9:29:54 PM

Some followers of Ventana Research may recall my work here several years ago. Here and elsewhere I have spent most of my career in the data and analytics markets matching user requirements with technologies to meet those needs. I’m happy to be returning to Ventana Research to resume investigating ways in which organizations can make the most of their data to improve their business processes; for a first look, please see our 2016 research agenda on Big Data and Information Optimization. I relish the opportunity to conduct primary market research in the form of Ventana’s well-known benchmark research and to help end users and vendors apply the information collected in those studies.

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Research Agenda: Transforming Customer Engagement in 2016

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 7, 2016 9:05:22 PM

I have been involved in the contact center, CRM and customer engagement business for more than 25 years. Yet only in the past few years have I seen much change. Until recently nearly all organizations focused on handling customer interactions as efficiently and inexpensively as possible; few made much effort to manage customer relationships over the complete customer life cycle. However, over the last 18 months, the scene has begun to change very rapidly, and I expect that to continue and even accelerate during 2016.

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Aria Enables Effective Recurring Revenue Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 7, 2016 8:29:47 PM

Aria Systems provides companies with software for managing subscription or recurring revenue business models. A recurring revenue business models includes three types of selling and billing structures: a one-time transaction plus a periodic service charge; subscription-based services involving periodic charges; or a contractual relationship that charges periodically for goods and services. Aria’s cloud-based software addresses key requirements of users in the marketing, sales, operations and accounting functions in this type of business.

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Anodot Provides Anomaly Detection and Operational Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 1, 2016 9:55:45 AM

A new company has emerged in the market for real-time analytics software. Anodot came out of stealth mode in late 2015 with $3 million in funding. It is led by three founders: CEO David Drai, whose company Cotendo was acquired by networking company Akamai Technologies in 2012; Ira Cohen, chief data scientist, who previously held that position at Hewlett-Packard; and Shay Lang, who serves as VP of R&D. Unlike most vendors in the space, the company is delivering anomaly detection and operational intelligence through software as a service (SaaS).

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Customer Experience in 2016 Infuses New Digital Technologies

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 1, 2016 8:47:26 AM

There were significant technology developments in customer experience management during 2015. Multichannel contact centers in the cloud took hold of the contact center infrastructure market; I counted 21 vendors offering such services. A variety of vendors entered the market for customer analytics, combining analysis of structured data, speech recordings, text, desktop data, Web contacts, and events and processes to provide a comprehensive “360-degree” view of the customer and customer journey maps to track individual interactions over time. In addition a range of self-service or digital customer service applications became available, including mobile apps, voice-activated virtual agents, interactive video and Q&A websites and chat driven by natural-language processing. Digitally connected devices (the Internet of Things [IoT]) and wearable devices began to emerge. In 2016 I will track and try to anticipate the impact these technologies have on the customer experience.

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Transforming Tax Departments into Strategic Entities

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2016 8:20:35 AM

The steady march of technology’s ability to handle ever more complicated tasks has been a constant since the beginning of the information age in the 1950s. Initially, computers in business were used to automate simple clerical functions, but as systems have become more capable, information technology has been able to substitute for increasingly higher levels of human skill and experience. A turning point of sorts was reached in the 1990s when ERP, business intelligence and business process automation software reduced the need for middle managers. Increasingly, organizations used software to coordinate activities as well as communicate results and requirements up and down the organizational chart. Both were once the exclusive role of the middle manager. Consequently, almost every for-profit organization eliminated management layers so that today corporate structures are flatter than they once were. Technology automation also eliminated the need for administrative staff to perform routine reporting and analysis. Meanwhile, over the course of the 1990s, the cost of running the finance department measured as a percentage of sales was cut almost in half as a result of eliminating staff and because automation enabled companies to scale without adding headcount. During the last recession, companies in North America and Europe once again made deep reductions to their administrative staffs, relying on information technology to pick up the slack.

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mplsystems Offers Array of Customer Experience Support for Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 3, 2016 10:46:14 PM

Based in the U.K., mplsystems is a relatively small vendor of contact center in the cloud systems, having fewer than 200 employees, but it has a distinct portfolio of products. Its core product, intelligentContact, is designed for omnichannel customer engagement. Its two other products, Customer Service CRM and Field Service Management, are not typically supported by other vendors in this space. As I dug deeper into the component parts of each of these products, I found other capabilities that also are not normally offered by contact center in the cloud vendors.

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IBM Redesigns Cognos to Improve User Experience and Self-Service

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 3, 2016 10:00:25 PM

IBM redesigned its business intelligence platform, now called IBM Cognos Analytics. Expected to be released by the end of 2015, the new version includes features to help end users model their own data without IT assistance while maintaining the centralized governance and security that the platform already has. Our benchmark research into information optimization shows that simplifying access to information is important to virtually all (97%) participating organizations, but it also finds that only one in four (25%) are satisfied with their current software for doing that. Simplification is a major theme of the IBM Cognos redesign.

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Workday Works Wonders on Platform for HCM

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 24, 2015 9:31:36 PM

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software category that includes an array of business applications that includes human resources and finance. Workday is a vendor at the center of a new generation of ERP. My colleague Robert Kugel recently covered that company’s advances in finance using cloud computing to operate its platform. And I recently attended Workday’s technology analyst summit, where I got a deeper view of the technology under its applications and its efforts to perfect its processing potential. The company’s platform can support a broad range of applications, and it is advancing its efforts in analytics, collaboration and business planning. Today, however, only Workday itself is allowed to build applications on the platform, a situation that contrasts with many other ERP providers that make theirs available to third-party software developers and consultants.

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Diabolocom Provides Customer Interaction in the Cloud Solution

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 24, 2015 8:38:13 PM

In our benchmark research into contact centers in the cloud, nearly two-thirds (63%) of companies said that adopting applications in the cloud would enable them to improve how they handle customer interactions, and slightly fewer than half (44%) said that adopting communication systems in the cloud would deliver similar benefits. Several vendors now provide such systems. Diabolocom is the latest one to brief me on its products. Founded in 2005 and having around 30 employees, it has headquarters in France (and its website is in French), but it has a global presence, primarily for supporting French companies that have offices around the world. Its contact center  products are available only in the cloud and extend beyond basic multichannel communications to other applications connected with handling customer interactions.

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Oracle Advances Applications and Technology for Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 20, 2015 8:19:34 PM

Oracle has built one of the world’s largest software portfolios through a combination of developing products in-house and acquisitions. In the last few years it has put great effort into transitioning from providing its applications as on-premises products to making them available in the cloud. It also has worked to add customer experience capabilities to its range of business applications. Improving the customer experience is a top priority as our next generation customer engagement research found in almost three quarters (74%) of organization. In doing so it has developed a common user interface across the applications to address modern user expectations and has built a platform to support common capabilities in all its products. Recently I had the opportunity to study the strides Oracle has made in these areas as well as to identify some issues that still need to be resolved.

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ERP and Financial Performance Management Begin to Overlap

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 20, 2015 7:52:30 PM

The ERP market is set to undergo a significant transformation over the next five years. At the heart of this transformation is the decade-long evolution of a set of technologies that are enabling a major shift in the design of ERP systems – the most significant change since the introduction of client/server systems in the 1990s. Some ERP software vendors increasingly are utilizing in-memory computing, mobility, in-context collaboration and user interface design to differentiate their applications from rivals and potentially accelerate replacement of existing systems (as I noted in an earlier analyst perspective). ERP vendors with software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription offerings are investing to make their software suitable for a broader variety of users in multitenant clouds. And some vendors will be able to develop lower-cost business systems to broaden the appeal of single-tenant hosted cloud deployments for companies that cannot adapt their businesses to share with other tenants or prefer not to.

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Stibo Systems Continues to Advance PIM for Business and IT

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 20, 2015 6:42:30 PM

Stibo Systems has been providing product information management (PIM) software for decades. Its work has helped many organizations worldwide take control of their product information by developing a master definition that can be published across many channels from Web to digital to print. We recognized its work with customers Delta Faucet and Masco Corp. in our 2015 Ventana Research Leadership Award in Information Management. In 2014 Stibo Systems customer Brady Corp. won a similar award for Information Optimization. I have made it clear  that in our view, when it comes to use all kinds of product content and data in business processes, product information management trumps master data management. Delivering value to business with PIM is much different than managing data infrastructure with MDM. There has been much angst in varying industry analyst views on this market segment. We analyze and rate vendors more rigorously than analyst firms that look at them only through an IT lens. Our methodology and framework put business first and IT second, and that shapes how we score vendors in PIM, MDM and other aspects of the software industry.

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Domo Delivers on Managing Business Performance

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 18, 2015 12:00:35 AM

Over the last four years Domo, a new brand in cloud-based data and analytics software, has worked to enable its customers to understand, collaborate and act on data to achieve business results. Led by its founder and CEO, Josh James, the company has worked to deliver software that provides both a good user experience and business value. Recently, at its 2015 customer conference Domopalooza, the company presented itself and its products to the general public. I had a chance to meet with company executives, employees and customers and view its products at this high-energy event and entertainment that I have not seen in years.

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Tableau Continues Evolution of Analytics Platform

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 17, 2015 11:20:52 PM

Tableau Software’s annual conference, which company spokespeople reported had more than 10,000 attendees, filled the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Various product announcements supported the company’s strategy to deliver value to analysts and users of visualization tools. Advances include new data preparation and integration features, advanced analytics and mapping. The company also announced the release of a stand-alone mobile application called Vizable . One key message management aimed to promote is that Tableau is more than just a visualization company.

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Intradiem Enables Real-Time for Agents and Work

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 17, 2015 10:37:09 PM

When I last wrote about Intradiem, its focus was on using numerous sources of data as input for a rules engine that enables companies to make better use of customer service agents’ idle time by allocating tasks to fill those gaps. Although that fundamental concept hasn’t changed, the latest versions of its products also take on a bigger challenge: automating the handling of interactions by shifting the focus from making the best use of idle time to making the handling of interactions and associated tasks more dynamic.

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Steelwedge Enables Actionable and Continuous Planning

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 16, 2015 10:19:32 PM

Supply and demand chain planning and execution have grown in importance over the past decade as companies have recognized that software can meaningfully enhance their competitiveness and improve their financial performance. Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process first developed in the 1980s aimed at achieving better alignment and synchronization between the supply chain, production and sales functions. A properly implemented S&OP process routinely reviews customer demand and supply resources and “replans” quantitatively across an agreed rolling horizon. The replanning process focuses on changes from the previously agreed sales and operations plan; while it helps the management team understand how the company achieved its current level of performance, its primary focus is on future actions and anticipated results. Adoption of S&OP has increased as software to support the process has become more powerful and affordable and as a growing list of companies demonstrated its value in producing meaningfully improved business results. Even without adopting a full-scale S&OP management approach, companies can benefit from better coordination and collaboration between their supply and demand functions. Software plays an important role here, too, in facilitating this coordination and collaboration.

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Informatica Navigates Carefully to Broader Data Management

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 16, 2015 1:16:15 AM

This has been a dramatic year for Informatica, a major provider of data integration software. In August it was acquired and taken private by Permira funds and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for about US$5.3 billion. This change was accompanied by shifts in its management. CEO Sohaib Abbasi became chairman and now has left, and many executives were replaced while Anil Chakravathy became CEO from being the Chief Product Officer. The new owners appear to have shifted the company’s strategic priorities to emphasize profitability with reduced headcount and return on the purchase investment. Despite these changes, during the past six months Informatica has made key product announcements that will impact its future and the future of data management.

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Datawatch Bolsters Data Preparation for all Information Assets

Posted by Mark Smith on Dec 10, 2015 10:20:09 PM

The need for businesses to process and analyze data has grown in intensity along with the volumes of data they are amassing. Our benchmark research consistently shows that preparing data is the most widespread impediment to analytic and operational efficiency. In our recent research on data and analytics in the cloud, more than half (55%) of organizations said that preparing data for analysis is a major impediment, followed by other preparatory tasks: reviewing data for quality and consistency (48%) and waiting for data and information (28%). Organizations that want to apply analytics to make more effective decisions and take prompt actions need to find ways to shorten the work that comes before it. Conventional analytics and business intelligence tools are not designed for data preparation, but new software tools can enable business users independently or in concert with IT to perform the tasks needed.

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dvsAnalytics Makes Strong Showing in Workforce Optimization

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 9, 2015 9:53:49 PM

Having covered workforce optimization systems for more than 10 years, recently I was contacted for a briefing by dvsAnalytics. I quickly learned that the analytics mentioned in the company’s name are focused on workforce optimization. Founded in 1983, dvsAnalytics is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has thousands of customers in various industry sectors. Its Encore suite of products includes standard workforce optimization applications for call recording, quality management, workforce management and coaching as well as post-contact surveys, live monitoring, multiple forms of analytics and a range of APIs to support integration with third-party products, especially telecommunications systems. The products have mostly been developed in-house although workforce management is provided through integration with Community Workforce Management from WorkForce Management Software Group. DvsAnalytics makes its products available on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment; unlike some vendors, it builds all three options on the same code base. Most of its sales and post-sales support are provided through a network of partners in various locations.

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Enghouse Evolves Products for Contact Center Demands

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 8, 2015 10:40:17 PM

Over the last few years, through a combination of acquisitions and internal development, Enghouse Interactive has developed a portfolio of contact center products and services. Recently it announced its product portfolio for 2016. This consists of three core products: CCE, CCSP and EICC. These are updated and rebranded versions of the products I recently wrote about, and each is designed to help different types of organizations maximize the value of every interaction with customers.

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Workday Financial Management Gains Momentum

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 2, 2015 11:28:28 PM

Workday Financial Management (which belongs in the broader ERP software category) appears to be gaining traction in the market, having matured sufficiently to be attractive to a large audience of buyers. It was built from the ground up as a cloud application. While that gives it the advantage of a fresh approach to structuring its data and process models for the cloud, the product has had to catch up to its rivals in functionality. The company’s ERP offering has matured considerably over the past three years and now is better positioned to grow its installed base. Workday recently added Aon, the insurance and professional services company, to its customer list (becoming its largest customer to date) and reported that its annual contract value (ACV - the annualized aggregate revenue value of all subscription contracts as of the end of a quarter) has doubled since the second quarter of this year, albeit from a low base. This is an important milestone because for years the company’s growth has come from the human capital management (HCM) portion of the business, not financials. Workday has around 160 customers for its financials (more than 90 of which are live) compared to more than 1,000 customers for HCM.

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Transera Embraces Salesforce.com and Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 2, 2015 10:50:42 PM

Transera is an established vendor of contact center in the cloud systems and analytics, and as I discovered at the Salesforce Dreamforce ’15 conference and during a recent briefing, it has added support for managing voice interactions for users of salesforce.com Service Cloud. Its core product, Global Omni-Channel Contact Center, now supports voice, email, chat and Twitter, which are managed centrally through a routing engine that treats all interactions in the same way. This ensures that companies have a central view of how interactions are being handled, and they can manage the rules to guide customers to the channel most appropriate for what they are trying to achieve and route the interaction to the most qualified person. An enhanced scripting engine allows users to script the ways in which different types of interactions are handled, and a recording engine captures all calls and makes them available for analysis. Transera also has added capabilities to produce real-time analysis of contact center performance through dashboards and analytics that show a single view across all sites and data sources. Operational and business metrics can be calculated using multiple data sources, and a variety of visualization capabilities enable the analysis can be displayed in the format most appropriate for a specific user and occasion. All the systems are available in the cloud and are scalable enough to support companies of all sizes, including those with centers in multiple sites.

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Pentaho Poised for Exploiting Internet of Things

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 2, 2015 10:10:19 PM

PentahoWorld 2015, Pentaho’s second annual user conference, held in mid-October, centered on the general availability of release 6.0 of its data integration and analytics platform and its acquisition by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) earlier this year. Company spokespeople detailed the development of the product in relation to the roadmap laid out in 2014 and outlined plans for its integration with those of HDS and its parent Hitachi. They also discussed Pentaho’s and HDS’s shared intentions regarding the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly in telecommunications, healthcare, public infrastructure and IT analytics.

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Workforce Management for Human Capital Management

Posted by Mark Smith on Nov 29, 2015 2:14:56 PM

Historically workforce management has been centered on tracking time and attendance, absences and leaves. Organizations view the time and attendance system as the top priority to integrate with the payroll system; in our payroll management benchmark research half (51%) of organizations called it very important. However, only one in five have integrated the two to streamline processes. So limited an administrative and operational focus does not contribute to improving worker productivity or manager efficiency. Moreover, such an approach can foster employee turnover and undermine worker satisfaction and loyalty. Our research analysis underscores that paying insufficient attention to the worker experience can degrade employees’ sense of accomplishment and in some situations also degrade the customer experience.

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Evolving to the Next Generation of ERP Systems

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 29, 2015 1:12:02 PM

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP also can help plan and manage inventory and logistics. Some companies use it to handle human resources functions such as tracking employees, payroll and related costs. Yet despite their ubiquity, ERP systems have evolved little since their introduction a quarter of a century ago. The technologies shaping their design, functions and features had been largely unchanged. As a measure of this stability, our Office of Finance benchmark research found that in 2014 companies on average were keeping their ERP systems one year longer than they had in 2005.

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IoT Invigorates Operational Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 28, 2015 11:06:18 PM

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) extends digital connectivity to devices and sensors in homes, businesses, vehicles and potentially almost anywhere. This innovation enables devices designed for it to generate and transmit data about their operations; analytics using this data can facilitate monitoring and a range of automatic functions.

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LiveOps Empowers Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 28, 2015 8:58:34 PM

Founded in 2000, LiveOps has evolved a unique two-sided business model. On one side is LiveOps Agents on Demand,  an Uber-like business in which home-based workers sign-up as LiveOps agents, and the company uses them to provide outsourced contact center services. This model enables LiveOps to provide flexible levels of service; customers can scale up and down as needed while the provider is able to manage agent numbers cost-effectively. The agents use the LiveOps Cloud Contact Center platform; in this way the company can test its system and use these agents’ experiences to improve the platform as used on the other side of the business. I have previously covered their focus on contact centers in LiveOps Improves the Agent Experience. LiveOps reports revenues growing on both sides and being able to expand its cloud contact center business globally.

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Tidemark Enables More Effective Business Planning

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 17, 2015 10:27:58 PM

Tidemark Systems offers a suite of business planning applications that enable corporations to plan more effectively. The software facilitates rapid creation and frequent updating of integrated company plans by making it easy for individual business functions to create their own plans while allowing headquarters to connect them to create a unified view. I coined the term “integrated business planning” a decade ago to highlight the potential for technology to substantially improve the effectiveness of planning and budgeting in corporations, and it remains true that integrating business planning can produce superior results. Companies that maintain direct links between functional or departmental plans more often have a planning process that works well than others. Our next-generation business planning benchmark research shows that two-thirds (66%) of those that maintain such links have a planning process that works well or very well, compared to 40 percent that copy information from individual plans into an overall plan and just 25 percent in which plans have little or no connection.

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Three Tools to Boost Omnichannel Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 17, 2015 9:34:52 PM

Much is written about omnichannel customer experience, and various software vendors now claim to focus on the customer experience. With various degrees of credibility they range from providers of communication channel management to workforce optimization, voice of the customer, self-service, analytics and even CRM. This bandwagon raisesthe question of what  omnichannel customer experience really is and how companies can achieve it. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that consumers now engage with companies through as many as 17 channels of engagement though companies on average support six. The research also shows that every business group, with the exception of IT, engages with prospects and customers at different times during the customer life cycle. Customers today, we know, are more demanding than ever. They want to choose the channel and time of engagement. They want the process to be easy, and they want to be recognized so responses can be personal to them. They expect consistent responses regardless of channel and not to have to repeat actions if they change channels. They want agents empowered to resolve an issue at the first try. Finally, at the end of the interaction they want to feel good about how it went and the outcome.

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New Generation of Human Resources Management Systems

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 9, 2015 9:47:18 PM

Ventana Research defines a human resources management system (HRMS) as the set of applications and associated processes that store and manage the employee information used by an organization’s human resources department. New technologies make it possible for the HRMS to perform better and be easier to use by HR professionals and members of the workforce. The range of evolving technologies impacting the development of the HRMS include business analytics, big data, cloud computing, mobile technology, business collaboration, social media and wearable computing. These advances enable organizations to streamline the processes that the HRMS supports and more efficiently take advantage of competencies that already exist in the workforce. The changes are so substantive for organizations and their HR departments that we have undertaken new research calledNext-Generation Human Resources Management Systems.

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The State of Product Information Management Software for Business and IT

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 8, 2015 7:12:17 PM

The importance of product information management (PIM) has become clear in recent years and especially as it relates to master data management. As I recently wrote handling this business process effectively and using capable software should be priorities for any organization in marketing and selling its products and services but also interconnecting the distributed supply chain. Our research on product information management can help organizations save time and resources in efforts to ensure that product information is an asset to facilitate efficiency in many business processes. Through years of benchmarking, we have developed a blueprint for managing and improving product information. Using this approach enables companies to more effectively align and link their activities and processes. Of course achieving effectiveness also requires using applications that create consistent, reliable product information. We regularly update our Value Index for PIM to enable companies to evaluate vendors and their applications’ suitability for use in all business processes requiring product information.

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Product Information Management Trumps Master Data Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 8, 2015 6:50:41 PM

Ventana Research defines product information management (PIM) as the practice of using information, applications and other technology to effectively support product-related processes across the customer, commerce and supply chain. As organizations increase the number and diversity of products and services they offer to customers and partners, they increasingly need to address limitations in the ways they manage and distribute product information, including related attributes and content that describes the pro­ducts. At the same time, compe­ti­tive pressures require them to be able to incorporate large amounts of new content – video and images, for example – quickly while ensuring that the information present­ed to customers is accurate, operational processes run uninterrupted and timely data is available for business analysis. In an en­vironment in which consumers, suppliers and partners use multiple channels to get to product information – including websites, kiosks, smart­phones and tablets – it is essential that the organization always be able to present complete and up-to-date product information to inspire interest and facilitate purchases.

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Subscriber Experience Impacts Recurring Revenue

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 8, 2015 11:13:02 AM

The digital economy has changed the way many companies provide products. Some no longer deliver packaged products but provide them as services over a network, typically the Internet. Telecommunications providers in particular are familiar with this business model and have developed processes and systems that use innovations such as product bundles that include elements of fixed charges (such as cost of installation) and variable charges based on usage (such as the number of calls made) and means of registering customers on the network, collecting usage data, invoicing and collections. This model has been adopted increasingly by the software industry, replacing a single license fee and maintenance charges for on-premises products with software as a service in which users access products over the Internet and pay per user and/or for usage. Adoption of this model by other types of business has led them to think of customers as subscribers.

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Splunk Takes on Internet of Things and Bolsters Enterprise Security

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 11:54:52 PM

Splunk’s annual gathering, this year called .conf 2015, in late September hosted almost 4,000 Splunk customers, partners and employees. It is one of the fastest-growing user conferences in the technology industry. The area dedicated to Splunk partners has grown from a handful of booths a few years ago to a vast showroom floor many times larger. While the conference’s main announcement was the release of Splunk Enterprise 6.3, its flagship platform, the progress the company is making in the related areas of machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) most caught my attention.

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Genesys Brings G-Force to Powering a Better Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 11:11:05 PM

I recently joined more than 1,000 users, partners, consultants and other analysts at the first global G-Force 2015 conference, held in Miami. Sponsor Genesys put together an agenda that not only educated but entertained the attendees. For an example of the latter, Sekou Andrews, a poet, actor, musician and voice-over artist, preceded the main keynotes with a wonderful sketch that put customer experience into the context of marriage and reminded us to treat customers as he does his wife, remembering that the customer is always right!

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Oracle Must Pivot to Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 10:18:30 PM

Whatever Oracle’s cloud strategy had been the past, this year’s OpenWorld conference and trade show made it clear that the company is now all in. In his keynote address, co-CEO Mark Hurd presented predictions for the world of information technology in 2025, when the cloud will be central to companies’ IT environments. While his forecast that two (unnamed) companies will account for 80 percent of the cloud software market 10 years from now is highly improbable, it’s likely that there will be relentless consolidation, marginalization and extinction within the IT industry sector driven by cloud disruptions and the maturing of the software business. In practice, though, we expect the transition to the cloud to be slow and uneven.

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Big Data and Analytics has a New Spark

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2015 10:35:15 PM

The concept and implementation of what is called big data are no longer new, and many organizations, especially larger ones, view it as a way to manage and understand the flood of data they receive. Our benchmark research on big data analytics shows that business intelligence (BI) is the most common type of system to which organizations deliver big data. However, BI systems aren’t a good fit for analyzing big data. They were built to provide interactive analysis of structured data sources using Structured Query Language (SQL). Big data includes large volumes of data that does not fit into rows and columns, such as sensor data, text data and Web log data. Such data must be transformed and modeled before it can fit into paradigms such as SQL.

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Continuous Accounting Enables a Strategic Finance Department

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2015 9:32:32 PM

Many senior finance executives say they want their department to play a more strategic role in the management and operations of their company. They want Finance to shift its focus from processing transactions to higher-value functions in order to make more substantial contributions to the success of the organization. I use the term “continuous accounting” to represent an approach to managing the accounting cycle that can facilitate the shift by improving the performance of the accounting function. Continuous accounting embraces three main principles:

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Operationalize Predictive Analytics for Significant Business Impact

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 24, 2015 5:00:29 PM

One of the key findings in our latest benchmark research into predictive analytics is that companies are incorporating predictive analytics into their operational systems more often than was the case three years ago. The research found that companies are less inclined to purchase stand-alone predictive analytics tools (29% vs 44% three years ago) and more inclined to purchase predictive analytics built into business intelligence systems (23% vs 20%), applications (12% vs 8%), databases (9% vs 7%) and middleware (9% vs 2%). This trend is not surprising since operationalizing predictive analytics – that is, building predictive analytics directly into business process workflows – improves companies’ ability to gain competitive advantage: those that deploy predictive analytics within business processes are more likely to say they gain competitive advantage and improve revenue through predictive analytics than those that don’t.

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Insights from Dreamforce ‘15 Exceeds Expectations

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 17, 2015 1:06:03 AM

I recently attended my first U.S. Dreamforce, the annual salesforce.com event designed to showcase its products and services as well as those of its partners, and I was impressed. I was told that Dreamforce ‘15 would be big, and it was – just about every hotel, restaurant, meeting room in San Francisco seemed to have been taken over for the week, and still the company had to bring in a cruise ship to accommodate people and events. I was told it would be manic, and it was – more than 100,000 attendees, and buses and cabs blocking surrounding streets. I was told it would be busy, and it was – more than 600 conference sessions.  I was told it would educational, and it was – I gained many insights into new product developments, both from salesforce and several of its partners. Here are some of the key takeaways for my research practice.

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Business Case for Predictive Analytics is Simpler Than You Think

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 16, 2015 10:22:01 PM

Our benchmark research into predictive analytics shows that lack of resources, including budget and skills, is the number-one business barrier to the effective deployment and use of predictive analytics; awareness – that is, an understanding of how to apply predictive analytics to business problems – is second. In order to secure resources and address awareness problems a business case needs to be created and communicated clearly wherever appropriate across the organization. A business case presents the reasoning for initiating a project or task. A compelling business case communicates the nature of the proposed project and the arguments, both quantified and unquantifiable, for its deployment.

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ResponseTek Makes Customer Experience Management Simple and Sophisticated

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 8, 2015 11:39:57 PM

ResponseTek is a software vendor whose platform and services help companies collect and act on feedback from their customers. It supports a closed-loop process that collects feedback, analyzes it, provides customizable reports and analysis dependent on the user, and most importantly enables taking action based on the information. This allows companies to understand product and service issues, customer sentiment, intentions, and likely behaviors, and where necessary ensures the most appropriate actions are taken.

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Cloud-Based Analytics Requires Hybrid Data Access and Integration

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 8, 2015 11:08:21 PM

As I discussed in the state of data and analytics in the cloud recently, usability is a top evaluation criterion for organizations in selecting cloud-based analytics software. Data access of cloud and on-premises systems are essential antecedents of usability. They can help business people perform analytic tasks themselves without having to rely on IT. Some tools allow data integration by business users on an ad hoc basis, but to provide an enterprise integration process and a governed information platform, IT involvement is often necessary. Once that is done, though, using cloud-based data for analytics can help, empowering business users and improving communication and process .

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Calabrio Supercharges Workforce Optimization with Analytics for Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 17, 2015 9:03:39 AM

Calabrio is a vendor of workforce optimization software whose core product is Calabrio ONE. It includes the common workforce optimization applications: call recording, quality management, workforce management and analytics. The company is rated Hot in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index, and its product suite is the highest rated in the Usability category. Since our assessment, each of the modules has undergone upgrades, Calabrio has introduced more cloud-based services, and its analytics has undergone extensive changes to support customer experience management. The aim of these enhancements is to provide a single view of the customer that includes customer interactions across all channels, help companies streamline processes through workflow and automation, support more users and provide more deployment options. The Calabrio ONE Cloud Edition supports the full suite in a multitenant environment and is scalable to support companies of all sizes. It also enables users to store data, such as call recordings, in cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services. I have reviewed these enhancements and note the most significant changes.

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NICE Delivers Customer Journey Maps for Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2015 8:56:09 AM

Through a continuing program of acquisitions and internal development, NICE Systems has transitioned from being a vendor of workforce optimization systems to one focused on aspects of the customer experience, notably voice of the customer (VOC), customer engagement analytics and customer journey mapping. It is also moving to cloud-based services from products installed on customers’ premises and is taking a business-solution approach (providing previously integrated and configured products that address specific business issues) rather than general-purpose products. All of these changes are evident in its latest services, which link VOC, real-time journey mapping and predictive analytics to address common customer service and engagement issues. The foundation for these packages are products I have previously covered – Fizzback for multichannel customer surveying and feedback analysis and Causata for a big data analytics platform that includes predictive analytics capabilities – along with its own customer engagement analytics platform, which can link customer data from disparate sources. The result, for example, is that journey maps can show all interactions on all channels a customer uses to try to resolve issues, including the customer sentiment at each touch point and the outcome of the journey.

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Finance Transformation Requires Strong Leadership

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2015 8:34:04 AM

The theme of transforming the finance organization is hot again. The term “finance transformation” refers to the longstanding objective of shifting the focus of finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic activities such as providing the rest of the organization with forward-looking analysis. I focus on the technology and data aspects of this type of business issue in these analyst perspectives because they are usually essential to achieving some business objective. However, technology rarely fixes a problem by itself. If it were a simple matter of just buying software or having better data stewardship, it would be relatively easy to achieve finance transformation. But it’s not simple at all. When it comes to changing how the finance and accounting organization operates, there’s no substitute for leadership. Doing that requires changes in the habits of the department, which include the CFO changing how the department works with the rest of the company.

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Pitney Bowes Doubles Down on Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 20, 2015 7:55:43 AM

From its history of managing postal mail, Pitney Bowes has expanded into products for data management, analytics and location intelligence, as my colleague Mark Smith noted. Continuing this expansion through internal development and acquisitions of vendors such as Portrait Software and RTC, it has added to its portfolio products that include customer information management and customer engagement.

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Data and Analytics in the Cloud is a Reality Today

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 20, 2015 7:13:46 AM

Our recently completed benchmark research on data and analytics in the cloud shows that analytics deployed in cloud-based systems is gaining widespread adoption. Almost half (48%) of participating organizations are using cloud-based analytics, another 19 percent said they plan to begin using it within 12 months, and 31 percent said they will begin to use cloud-based analytics but do not know when. Participants in various areas of the organization said they use cloud-based analytics, but front-office functions such as marketing and sales rated it important more often than did finance, accounting and human resources. This front-office focus is underscored by the finding that the categories of information for which cloud-based analytics is most often deemed important are forecasting (mentioned by 51%) and customer-related (47%) and sales-related (33%) information.

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Tagetik’s Solid Financial Performance Management Suite

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 20, 2015 6:47:36 AM

Tagetik is a long-established vendor of financial performance management (FPM) software. Its full-featured suite includes planning, budgeting, consolidation, close management, disclosure management, analysis, dashboards and reporting. The software can be deployed on premises or in the cloud as multitenant software as a service or in a private cloud. Tagetik also offers pre-built integration with SAP and SAP HANA, Microsoft SharePoint and Qlik to best support a range of financial management needs.

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Interactive Intelligence and Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 14, 2015 8:33:41 AM

At the end of last year, I wrote about Interactive Intelligence’s release of a new service, PureCloud. It was the company’s first step into the multitenant cloud computing market, using Amazon Web Services and aimed at small-to-midsize contact centers. To help companies understand the different cloud-computing models, I provided answers to Interactive Intelligence questions on the advancements of these approaches for business.

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Optimization Analytics Comes to the Mass Market

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 13, 2015 12:18:33 AM

Optimization is the application of algorithms to sets of data to guide executives and managers in making the best decisions. It’s a trending topic because using optimization technologies and techniques to better manage a variety of day-to-day business issues is becoming easier. I expect optimization, once the preserve of data scientists and operations research specialists will become mainstream in general purpose business analytics over the next five years.

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Data Preparation is Essential for Predictive Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 6, 2015 9:13:56 AM

Our research into next-generation predictive analytics shows that along with not having enough skilled resources, which I discussed in my previous analysis, the inability to readily access and integrate data is a primary reason for dissatisfaction with predictive analytics (in 62% of participating organizations). Furthermore, this area consumes the most time in the predictive analytics process: The research finds that preparing data for analysis (40%) and accessing data (22%) are the parts of the predictive analysis process that create the most challenges for organizations. To allow more time for actual analysis, organizations must work to improve their data-related processes.

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The Strategic Tax Department is a Priority for Longview

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 29, 2015 8:43:40 AM

Longview’s recent Dialog user group meeting highlighted the company’s continued commitment to providing much needed automation tools for improving tax department performance – tools that enable the tax function to play a more strategic role in the management of a company. The sessions also covered the capabilities contained in the company’s latest release, Longview 7.2 Update 2 and gave customers a detailed product evolution roadmap following their merger with arcplan.

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Is NPS the Best Measure of Customer Experience?

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 29, 2015 8:24:09 AM

Recently my colleague Tony Cosentino wrote an analyst perspective asserting that big data analytics will displace net promoter score (NPS) for more effectively measuring the entire customer experience. This prompted a response from Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, asserting that big data and NPS aren’t the only ways to measure customer experience success. The main point of Tony’s piece, as I interpret it, is that NPS is just a number, but big data analytics can reveal much more about customer behavior and intentions, and it can link these to business outcomes. On the other hand Maxie argues that whether or not companies use NPS, when it comes to measuring the customer experience, they rely too much on surveys and no one metric does the entire job. While to a large extent I agree with both arguments, from a business perspective I don’t think either addresses three very important questions. The first is what actually is the customer experience? Second, how should it be measured? And third, what is the best use of big data in relation to customer experience?

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Skills Gap Challenges Potential of Predictive Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 23, 2015 7:23:58 AM

The Performance Index analysis we performed as part of our next-generation predictive analytics benchmark research shows that only one in four organizations, those functioning at the highest Innovative level of performance, can use predictive analytics to compete effectively against others that use this technology less well. We analyze performance in detail in four dimensions (People, Process, Information and Technology), and for predictive analytics we find that organizations perform best in the Technology dimension, with 38 percent reaching the top Innovative level. This is often the case in our analyses, as organizations initially perform better in the details of selecting and managing new tools than in the other dimensions. Predictive analytics is not a new technology per se, but the difference is that it is becoming more common in business units, as I have written.

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Predictive Analytics: Investing and Selecting Software Properly

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 22, 2015 9:46:57 AM

To impact business success, Ventana Research recommends viewing predictive analytics as a business investment rather than an IT investment.  Our recent benchmark research into next-generation predictive analytics  reveals that since our previous research on the topic in 2012, funding has shifted from general business budgets (previously 44%) to line of business IT budgets (previously 19%). Now more than   half of organizations fund such projects from business budgets: 29 percent from general business budgets and 27 percent from a line of business IT budget. This shift in buying reflects the mainstreaming of predictive analytics in organizations,  which I recently wrote about .

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Predictive Analytics Enters the Business Mainstream

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 22, 2015 9:34:27 AM

Our recently released benchmark research into next-generation predictive analytics  shows that in this increasingly important area many organizations are moving forward in the dimensions of information and technology, but most are challenged to find people with the right skills and to align organizational processes to derive business value from predictive analytics.

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Upstream Works Helps Customer Service Agents Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 16, 2015 8:20:29 AM

My research and experience show that contact center agents and others handling customer interactions face the continuing challenge of meeting customer expectations while keeping down the cost of handling interactions. Our benchmark research into the agent desktop and customer service finds that one obstacle to meeting these dual objectives is that users have to access multiple systems – typically four or five – to resolve a customer interaction. The research shows that this impacts efficiency (by increasing average handling time and reducing first-contact resolution rates) and effectiveness (by degrading the customer experience, introducing data entry errors and undermining agent satisfaction). This situation is compounded as companies support more channels of communication, often making it necessary for agents to access even more systems.

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Host Analytics Modeling Cloud Simplifies Planning and Reporting

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 10, 2015 6:04:28 AM

Our benchmark research on next-generation business planning finds that a large majority of companies rely on spreadsheets to manage planning processes. For example, four out of five use them for supply chain planning, and about two-thirds for budgeting and sales forecasting. Spreadsheets are the default choice for modeling and planning because they are flexible. They adapt to the needs of different parts of any type of business. Unfortunately, they have inherent defects that make them problematic when used in collaborative, repetitive enterprise processes such as planning and budgeting. While it’s easy to create a model, it can quickly become a barrier to more integrated planning across the business units in an enterprise. As I’ve noted before, software vendors and IT departments have been trying – mainly in vain – to get users to switch from spreadsheets to a variety of dedicated applications. They’ve failed to make much of a dent because although these applications have substantial advantages over spreadsheets when used in repetitive, collaborative enterprise tasks, these advantages are mainly realized after the model, process or report is put to use in the “production” phase (to borrow an IT term).

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Companies Need Disruptive Customer Experience Technologies

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 10, 2015 5:41:25 AM

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that the top priorities in customer service for companies are to improve the customer experience (said 74%) and their customer service performance (70%). To do this, the technological steps most companies expect to improve customer engagement are to deploy collaboration systems, redesign the customer portal, deploy internal mobile applications, deploy mobile customer service apps and use social media for customer service. All of these we regard as potentially innovative and required digital technologies. Deeper analysis of the results finds key primary drivers for these priorities. Employees across the organization are handling customer interactions, but customers expect consistent responses no matter who they engage with. Customers are using more electronic channels of engagement, but here, too, they expect consistent responses. People on both sides are engaging more while they are on the move, so mobile support for employees and customers has become essential. Let’s consider how each of these five technologies can help companies meet these challenges and improve customer engagement.

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Big Data Analytics Will Displace Net Promoter Score (NPS) for Measuring Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 29, 2015 9:07:30 AM

Our benchmark research into big data analytics shows that marketing in the form of cross-selling and upselling (38%) and customer understanding (32%) are the top use cases for big data analytics. Related to these uses, organizations today spend billions of dollars on programs seeking customer loyalty and satisfaction. A powerful metric that impacts this spending is net promoter score (NPS), which attempts to connect brand promotion with revenue. NPS has proven to be a popular metric among major brands and Fortune 500 companies. Today, however, the advent of big data systems brings the value and the accuracy of NPS into question. It and similar loyalty metrics face displacement by big data analytics capabilities that can replace stated behavior and survey-based attitudinal data with actual behavioral data (sometimes called revealed behavior) combined with unstructured data sources such as social media. Revealed behavior shows what people have actually done and thus is a better predictor of what they will do in the future than what they say they have done or intend to do in the future. With interaction through various customer touch points (the omnichannel approach) it is possible to measure both attitudes and revealed behavior in a digital format and to analyze such data in an integrated fashion. Using innovative technology such as big data analytics can overcome three inherent drawbacks of NPS and similar customer loyalty and satisfaction metrics.

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Unit4 Defines Strategy to Disrupt ERP Market

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 29, 2015 8:18:31 AM

Unit4 is a global business software vendor focused on business and professional services, the public sector and higher education. Recently company executives met with industry analysts to provide an update of its strategic roadmap and to recap its accomplishments since being acquired by a private equity firm in 2014. Unit4 is the result of successive mergers of ERP and business software companies, notably CODA and Agresso. The company is also a part-owner (with salesforce.com and others) of independently run FinancialForce, which sells a cloud-based ERP system built on the Force.com platform.

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Envision Offers Comprehensive Suite for Workforce Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 29, 2015 7:31:22 AM

Envision is a vendor of workforce optimization software that I have been following for many years. It is rated a Hot vendor in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index. It offers a full suite of products, including interaction capture, quality monitoring, workforce management, coaching and training, agent compensation management and workforce analytics. In an analysis last year I wrote about how, in an effort to make workforce optimization more accessible and affordable, it created an architecture optimized to run in the cloud. During a recent update, CEO and founder Rodney Kuhn said that the company continues to focus on the cloud while adding new capabilities, especially in interaction capture, agent evaluation and coaching, and analytics.

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OnviSource Opens Up Workforce Optimization for Contact Center Excellence

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 19, 2015 5:46:38 AM

OnviSource is a 10-year-old vendor of workforce optimization software whose core product, OnviCenter 7, includes interaction capture, quality monitoring, workforce management, coaching and training, and workforce analytics. The company is rated a Hot vendor in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index. It scored highly in the Manageability, Usability and Reliability categories but was held back by lack of compensation management (for which it provides input to third-party products) and some analytics capabilities. The 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index shows how competitive the workforce optimization market is: The top seven vendors are separated by fewer than three percentage points, OnviSource ranking fourth.

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IBM’s Vision Features Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 12, 2015 3:58:36 AM

IBM’s Vision user conference brings together customers who use its software for financial and sales performance management (FPM and SPM, respectively) as well as governance, risk management and compliance (GRC). Analytics is a technology that can enhance each of these activities. The recent conference and many of its sessions highlighted IBM’s growing emphasis on making more sophisticated analytics easier to use by – and therefore more useful to – general business users and their organizations. The shift is important because the IT industry has spent a quarter of a century trying to make enterprise reporting (that is, descriptive analytics) suitable for an average individual to use with limited training. Today the market for reporting, dashboards and performance management software is saturated and largely a commodity, so the software industry – and IBM in particular – is turning its attention to the next frontier: predictive and prescriptive analytics. Prescriptive analytics holds particular promise for IBM’s analytics portfolio.

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Corvisa Brings New Generation of Contact Center Communications in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 12, 2015 2:32:22 AM

Contact centers in the cloud are increasingly popular alternatives to managing them on a company’s own premises. Running many business applications on hardware owned and managed by a third party is relatively straightforward and requires less support internally. Also the payment model changes from a license to a recurring fee, and typically the vendor provides updates as part of the fee. The challenge with placing a contact center in the cloud is that it is not a single system or even a collection of similar systems. The center includes infrastructure systems to manage communication channels, a network to support telephone extensions and access points to business applications, specialist systems such as routing and IVR, business applications (such as ERP, CRM and workforce management) and performance management and analytics systems; increasingly the contact center has to support mobile and social media as well. Moving all these to the cloud in an integrated manner is a complex task.

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Salesforce Helps Companies Innovate in Customer Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 4, 2015 8:19:38 PM

In recent years I have tracked Salesforce, its product development and its announcements. Despite having grown into a giant corporation, it continues to introduce innovations. At a recent analyst day in the U.K., I followed up on the company’s overall direction, some key product developments and a new service to help drive adoption of innovative customer-related processes. Salesforce’s primary aim is to help organizations market and sell to, service, engage with and know their customers through innovative processes and cloud-based systems. To support these efforts, it has made significant updates to its marketing, service community and analytics clouds. For example, it has added Marketing Cloud Predictive Decisions to its Marketing Cloud. The new module enables marketers to apply analytics to a range of customer-related data to gain a more complete picture of their customers and from it build more personalized marketing messages and campaigns. Business users can set up their own analytics, determine next best actions and deliver marketing messages and dialogues through multiple communication channels. Predictive Decisions helps transform marketing’s approach from general one-off marketing campaigns to one-to-one, personalized dialogues through channels that individuals prefer. On another front, the company has enhanced its Service Cloud with Service Cloud Intelligence Engine. This product also runs across multiple channels. It dynamically pushes work to the right employee, based on the skill set required to handle the task and the history of the request, and at the same time it distributes and manages the workload across employees who handle customer interactions. Analytics here provides an enhanced view of customers so that dialogues concerning a case can be viewed and preserved across all channels. In other developments Community Cloud has been enhanced to expand the range of expert groups to engage, deliver customer self-service as part of a community, and do this on smart mobile devices. Analytics Cloud now can ingest larger volumes and types of customer-related data, including interaction data. It enables both business users and analysts to use a wider range of data sources to find answers to specific questions, also on mobile devices. It also includes capabilities for developers to build specific analytic apps for targeted business uses. My colleague has assessed the product in Salesforce Analytics Cloud Delivers Wave of Elegant Dashboards. All of these developments and existing capabilities have been brought together on what Salesforce calls the Customer Success Platform. It is built on the company’s cloud infrastructure, and as well as its own cloud-based apps, it includes all the partner apps available on the Salesforce app store. A “scalable metadata platform” glues everything together. It includes data and objects, a mobile user interface, collaboration tools, analytics, workflow and identity management. Enhancements  enable developers to build mobile apps for both customers and employees more easily. In the pipeline are capabilities to use wearable technology to collect and display data. Salesforce’s efforts to help companies “do business in a new way” reflect challenges that many companies encounter in trying to serve customers more effectively. Our research into next-generation customer engagement shows that the three most common challenges are integrating systems (49%), managing communication challenges in a unified way and not as silos (47%) and inconsistent responses and information in customer interactions (33%).  My research and customer case studies lead me to conclude that changing processes is the biggest challenge. To meet this challenge Salesforce has introduced a consulting program called Ignite. This collaborative consulting service aims to help organizations design their customer management vision and execution roadmap. It is comprised of four steps: discovery, inspiration and design, prototyping and iteration and doing it. Discovery uses joint workshops and interviews with key stakeholders to introduce the program and its objectives, gain buy-in and discover the current state. Inspiration and design is another series of joint workshops to develop ideas and envision the desired state. Prototyping and iteration uses the new ideas to develop prototypes of how the new vision can be delivered. The “do” step presents and demonstrates the prototypes to stakeholders and develops a value statement and an implementation plan so the business can decide the way forward. Overall this seems to be a fairly typical consulting service that focuses on customer engagement and associated processes, systems and metrics, but it is deliberately collaborative and tailored around Salesforce applications and tools. The main innovation I see is that it is designed to uncover new ways of working that organizations may not have considered. Business, especially around customer engagement, is changing more rapidly than ever, and it is hard for organizations to keep up with technology developments and learn how to gain maximum benefit from them. Ignite should help Salesforce customers identify how they can improve customer management and introduce new approaches to keep ahead of the competition. The Salesforce Customer Success Platform is a comprehensive package of systems that focus on customer management processes, underpinned by improved integration, analytics and collaborative capabilities. Our research consistently finds that most companies are still relatively immature in the use of people, processes, information and systems for customer management. I therefore recommend companies seeking to survive and prosper in today’s highly competitive markets assess how the Salesforce products and service can help. Regards, Richard J. Snow VP & Research Director

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Vertex Enterprise Supports Tax Department’s Effectiveness

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 4, 2015 7:40:23 PM

Companies trust their tax departments with a highly sensitive and essential task. Direct (income) taxes usually are the second largest corporate expense, after salaries and wages. Failure to understand and manage this liability is expensive, whether because taxes are overpaid or because of fines and interest levied for underpayment. Moreover, taxes are a political issue, and corporations – especially larger ones – must be mindful of the reputational implications of their tax liabilities.

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Order-to-Cash Cycle for Revenue Recognition

Posted by Ventana Research on May 27, 2015 3:26:56 AM

Revenue recognition standards for companies that use contracts are in the process of changing, as I covered in an earlier perspective. As part of managing their transition to these standards, CFOs and controllers should initiate a full-scale review of their order-to-cash cycle. This should include examination of their company’s sales contracts and their contracting process. They also should examine how well their contracting processes are integrated with invoicing and billing and any other elements of their order-to-cash cycle, especially as these relate to revenue recognition. They must recognize that how their company structures, writes and modifies these contracts and handles the full order-to-cash cycle will have a direct impact on workloads in the finance and accounting department as well as on external audit costs. Companies that will be affected by the new standards also should investigate whether they can benefit from using software to automate contract management or in some cases an application that supports their configure, price and quote (CPQ) function by facilitating standardization and automation of their contracting processes.

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Genesys Advances Omnichannel Experience for Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on May 20, 2015 11:15:02 PM

I recently wrote about six technologies that can help companies deliver experiences that live up to their customers’ expectations: an integrated multichannel infrastructure, analytics, a smart agent desktop, business applications such as workforce management and knowledge management, collaboration and mobile apps. They should be closely integrated to simplify system administration, to support processes that have been disconnected because they required multiple systems and to be easy to use. In my experience few vendors provide systems that meet all these goals so I was keen to learn about the latest version of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform which was the recipient of 2014 Ventana Research T Technology Innovation award for contact center in its works with IBM Watson Engagement Advisor.

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Verint Introduces Gamification Software to Motivate and Engage the Workforce

Posted by Ventana Research on May 14, 2015 9:32:24 PM

Some new words can give the wrong impression. Take “gamification,” for example. It may sound as if employers are inviting their employees to play games just for fun, when actually this is a technique increasingly being used to recognize achievement and thus help improve performance. Several workforce management software vendors have introduced gamification systems that support setting targets, measuring achievement against those targets, rewarding players who meet their target and displaying winners who do best at meeting or exceeding their targets. This concept is not entirely new in contact centers, which long have used notice boards that recognize achievements such as “agent of the month,” which is also an award to the employee best meeting his or her targets. A new product called Verint Gamification supports similar capabilities but visualizes them in more engaging ways that link meeting personal goals with enterprise objectives.

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NICE Systems Engages Analytics to Optimize Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on May 12, 2015 9:51:06 PM

NICE Systems is an established vendor of workforce optimization products that has long included analytics in its portfolio. Its latest release in this area, NICE Customer Experience Analytics, focuses on mapping, understanding and managing customer journeys and metrics. The product is built on NICE’s common technology platform, which consists of three functions: collect, understand and optimize. The Collect segment has tools to help manage customer-related data and ingest data from multiple data sources; Understand uses analytics tools to analysis the data and produce reports, dashboards and other forms of output; and Optimize uses the outputs to help users improve business tasks such as improve customer satisfaction and net performer scores, suggest next best actions and reduce customer effort.

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New Revenue Recognition Rules Require Software

Posted by Ventana Research on May 12, 2015 9:32:39 PM

For most of the past decade businesses that decided not to pay attention to proposed changes in revenue recognition rules have saved themselves time and frustration as the proponents’ timetables have slipped and roadmaps have changed. The new rules are the result of a convergence of US-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – the accounting standard used by U.S.-based companies) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards – the system used in much of the rest of the world). Now, however, it’s time for everyone to pay close attention. Last year the U.S.-based Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB, which manages US-GAAP) and the Brussels-based International Accounting Standards Board (IASB, which manages IFRS) issued “Topic 606” and “IFRS 15,” respectively, which express their harmonized approach to governing revenue recognition. A major objective of the new standards is to provide investors and other stakeholders with more accurate and consistent depictions of companies’ revenue across multiple types of business as well as make the standard consistent between the major accounting regimes.

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Infor Makes User Experience A Reason for New Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on May 8, 2015 9:45:17 AM

Recently, Infor held its second innovation conference with industry analysts at its New York City headquarters. Infor’s products include the major categories of ERP, human capital management and financial performance management applications. Behind the marketing aspects of its use of “innovation” is a business strategy for retaining existing customers, migrating a sizable percentage of those customers to the cloud and gaining new customers. (Because of the relative size of the installed base, renewals and migrating customers to the cloud are likely to be more important to Infor’s future revenues than adding new customers.) I think it’s useful to assess the content of the event in the context of the company’s business strategy.

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Adaptive Insights Highlights Importance of Strategic Finance

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 30, 2015 10:24:16 AM

Adaptive Insights held its annual user group meeting recently. A theme sounded in several keynote sessions was the importance of finance departments playing a more strategic role in their companies. Some participating customers described how they have evolved their planning process from being designed mainly to meet the needs of the finance department into a useful tool for managing the entire business. Their path took them from doing basic financial budgeting to planning focused on improving the company’s performance. This is one of the more important ways in which finance organizations can play a more strategic role in corporate management, an objective that more finance organizations are pursuing. Half of the companies participating in our Office of Finance benchmark research said that their finance organization has undertaken initiatives to enhance its strategic value to the company within the last 18 months.

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Panviva Embraces Cloud Computing for Guiding People and Business Processes

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 29, 2015 9:07:22 AM

When I last wrote about Panviva I likened its product SupportPoint to a smart agent desktop – a system that helps contact center agents access the information they need to handle customer interactions, guides them through the process of handling interactions and offers advice on what to say next (for example, which product to upsell). Several trends have emerged since then. Two of our recent benchmark research projects, next-generation customer engagement and next-generation customer analytics, confirm that handling interactions is now an enterprise issue – every business unit except IT now handles interactions. This change creates challenges. More kinds of employees need access to information relevant to the type of interactions they handle. Yet each business unit typically has its own processes and systems to support the way it handles interactions. A third issue is that more employees handle interactions away from their desks and need access to information on mobile devices. The situation is further complicated because, as our research projects also show, customers now interact with organizations through more channels, and companies must provide easy access to those channels.

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Nomis Solutions Targets Price and Revenue Optimization in Financial Services

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 29, 2015 8:27:10 AM

Price and revenue optimization (PRO) software uses analytics to help companies maximize profitability for any targeted level of revenues. PRO utilizes data about buyer behavior to gauge individual customers’ price sensitivity and predict how they will react to prices. It enables users to charge buyers who appear to be less sensitive more than those who appear more price-sensitive.  PRO is a significant departure from inward-focused, single-factor pricing strategies such as cost-plus pricing or, in the case of financial services, risk-based pricing (using a borrower’s credit score, for example). Instead it offers a multifaceted customer-centric analytic approach to pricing built on analysis of large sets of data.

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SaaS Buyers and Customers Beware: Data Issues are Cloudy

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 27, 2015 9:12:04 PM

There’s a long history of companies not paying close enough attention to the contractual elements of acquiring software. Today, this extends into the world of cloud computing. Many companies are choosing to acquire software services through cloud-based providers and increasingly rely on access to cloud-based data, as is shown by our forthcoming benchmark research, in which a large majority of participating companies said that having access to data in the cloud is important or very important. As they say, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on television, so what follows is intended to be nothing more than a conversation starter with legal counsel. But I do advise companies on how to use software to improve their business performance and provide guidance on what software they need to achieve their objectives. From that perspective, let me offer this blanket recommendation: Your company should examine the terms and conditions of its contracts carefully to be certain that it has the ability to control, access and retain its data in single or multitenant cloud-based systems. It should be prepared to add terms and conditions to any software-as-a-service (SaaS) contract to preserve ownership of and access to the data as well as other proprietary elements of that business relationship.

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Who’s Hot in Analytics and Business Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 21, 2015 8:21:48 PM

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 key 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.

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In the Digital Economy, the Customer Experience Is Critical

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 17, 2015 6:55:14 AM

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.

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New Research to Examine Best Practices in Customer Interactions and Experience with Cloud Computing

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 14, 2015 11:20:13 PM

In 2013, Ventana Research carried out groundbreaking benchmark research into contact centers in the cloud. It revealed that customer pressures have forced companies to support an increasing variety of channels of interaction. This research investigated the systems companies were using then or were planning to use, particularly cloud computing, to manage these channels. The research uncovered three major challenges: integration of systems, channels of communication supported as silos and customers receiving inconsistent information across channels. We found that to overcome these challenges, companies most often were planning to improve agent training and coaching (73%), to deploy contact center applications such as CRM and workforce optimization in the cloud (63%) and to adopt communications management systems in the cloud (44%). Further benchmark research shows continuing changes. The number of channels customers use continues to grow, and in particular more customers prefer to use digital self-service channels such as chat, visual IVR, voice-activated virtual agents and social forums. On the business side more employees across the organization have become involved in handling interactions, including finance and HR departments, mobile customer service and home agents. As channels proliferate more companies have realized that they need a single, comprehensive view of their customers that includes a history of their interactions, the channels they used for those interactions and likely actions they might take as a result of the outcomes of those interactions.

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Verint Engages on Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 8, 2015 8:04:41 AM

In covering Verint for several years I have watched it go from selling call recording systems to adding workforce optimization software, analytics, and support for multiple channels of interaction with customers. Its latest product, Customer Engagement Optimization, increases support for customer engagement and managing the customer experience. Verint has achieved this expansion through a combination of acquisitions and in-house development. Its acquisition of Kana enabled it to go from supporting workforce optimization with some analytics to supporting multiple channels of customer engagement, workforce optimization and advanced analytics. I have written several times that this approach has its advantages – acquisitions shorten the time it takes to add new capabilities and extend the scope of the products – and disadvantages – it creates challenges in producing fully integrated products and developing a common user interface so the products are easier to use. During a recent briefing I saw that the company continues its efforts to advance in all these areas.

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Effective Process Management Ensures a Fast Close

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 8, 2015 7:21:27 AM

Because my research practice is centered on important business issues where technology is a key part of a solution, my written perspectives tend to focus on technology. However, it’s almost never the case that a company can just implement some application and fully resolve a business issue. Some progress may be achieved by using more effective tools, but in most cases results will fall short of what’s possible unless people, process and information issues are addressed as well. This is especially true for the accounting close.

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Analytics and Business Intelligence: Multifaceted and Evolving Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 31, 2015 10:15:18 AM

Just a few years ago, the prevailing view in the software industry was that the category of business intelligence (BI) was mature and without room for innovation. Vendors competed in terms of feature parity and incremental advancements of their platforms. But since then business intelligence has grown to include analytics, data discovery tools and big data capabilities to process huge volumes and new types of data much faster. As is often the case with change, though, this one has created uncertainty. For example, only one in 11 participants in our benchmark research on big data analytics said that their organization fully agrees on the meaning of the term “big data analytics.”

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Does Pricing and Revenue Optimization Make My Bottom Line Look Fatter?

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 31, 2015 10:00:34 AM

Managing prices has always been an activity of keen interest to businesses, but it has become even more critical to do it well. Over the past decade many companies have found their ability to raise prices has been constrained by intense competition resulting from Internet commerce, global competition and other factors. One tool for dealing with this pressure is price and revenue optimization (PRO), an analytic methodology that calculates how demand varies at different price levels and then uses that algorithm to recommend prices that should optimally balance revenue and profit objectives. Computer-supported PRO began in earnest in the 1980s as the airline and hospitality industries adopted revenue management practices in efforts to maximize returns from less flexible travelers (such as people on business trips) while minimizing the unsold inventory by selling incremental seats on flights or nights in hotel rooms at discounted prices to more discretionary buyers (typically vacationers). Price and revenue optimization algorithms are designed to enable a company to achieve fatter profit margins than are possible with a monolithic pricing strategy. Using PRO, airlines and hotels catering mainly to less price-sensitive business travelers found they could match discounters’ fares and rates to fill available seats and rooms without having to forgo profits from their high-margin customers.

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Nexidia Brings Compliance and Process Management to Interaction Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 31, 2015 7:08:14 AM

Nexidia is a leading vendor of speech analytics vendor. I recently wrote about how it has enhanced its architecture to include text analytics and improve overall system performance. Version 11 of its Neural Phonetic Speech Analytics continues these enhancements to make the product faster and more accurate in its results.

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The Importance of Well-Managed Processes for Planning

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 20, 2015 10:47:55 AM

It’s stating the obvious to say that how well executives manage planning processes has a big impact on how well a business unit or company plans. However, one significant source of the value of our benchmark research is that it establishes hard evidence – the numbers – that transforms mere assertions into proof points. This is particularly important when people within an organization want to improve a process. Change management is facilitated by providing senior executives with facts to back up assertions related to solving a business issue. Our recently completed next-generation business planning research provides insight into the importance of managing the planning process well and identifies some components of good management.

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VPI Applies Business Intelligence to Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 20, 2015 9:35:10 AM

VPI is a well-established vendor of workforce optimization systems and rated a Hot Vendor in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index. It offers a full suite of products for this market. Notable among them is Performance Reporting, which produces reports and dashboards showing a range of analysis and metrics about telephony, agent performance, coaching and customer success, along with alerts to inform employees of required actions. It combines data from a range of sources, both structured and unstructured, using speech analytics, and works in real or near real time. Performance Reporting is the basis for a new product, Customer Experience BI, which uses many of the same capabilities but focuses more on the customer experience while retaining the contact center capabilities. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer analytics shows this to be an important development as just under two-thirds (63%) of participants said they are considering investing in customer analytics to improve the customer experience.

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Enghouse Interactive Expands Portfolio of Contact Center Systems

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 13, 2015 9:00:51 AM

Enghouse Interactive is one of three divisions of Enghouse Systems, a publicly traded Canadian company founded in 1984. The other two divisions provide network technology to telecommunications providers and applications for public and private transportation companies; Enghouse Interactive owns the company’s three contact center systems. The corporate group has a history of growth – it now has a market capitalization of more than US$1 billion - achieved both organically and through an aggressive acquisition policy. The same applies to Enghouse Interactive. Its three core products are built on three acquisitions – Syntellect in 2002, CosmoCom in 2011 and Zeacom in 2012. Each of these has been enhanced by a combination of in-house development and integration with other acquired products. The three products are maintained and developed independently, something Enghouse Interactive says will continue for the foreseeable future. However it is working to integrate its latest acquisitions with all three products, so each will gain new capabilities.

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Recurring Revenue Challenges Finance Departments

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 13, 2015 8:43:55 AM

As I noted in a recent analyst perspective note the recurring revenue business model is gaining increasing use worldwide. Our recently completed recurring revenue benchmark research shows that companies are using this business approach because they find that it can convey a strategic advantage in creating additional sales opportunities, making future revenues more predictable, enhancing their customers’ experience  and increasing customer loyalty. However, recurring revenue businesses have unique challenges, especially in finance and accounting departments because most ERP systems (the ones that handle the accounting function) are not designed to manage the specific requirements of a recurring revenue businesses.

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Tracking the Customer Journey Is Critical for Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 27, 2015 4:38:44 AM

Competition for customers is more intense today than ever before, and companies struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition. Our research repeatedly finds that customer experience is a key differentiator. Our research into next-generation customer engagement said the impetus for improving engagement is to improve the customer experience in almost three quarters (74%) of participants. One increasingly popular way to do this is to use customer journey maps, which show how companies plan to engage with customers: at what times, through which channels, at which touch points and with which business units or using which self-service technologies. Our benchmark research into customer relationship maturity shows that two-thirds (67%) of very customer-focused companies use customer journey maps. The top four uses are to develop more customer-focused employee training (by 78%), personalize customer experiences (76%), enhance customer experience processes (73%) and drill down on customer experience processes to the customer segment level (73%). Typically producing these maps has been a manual process, perhaps using process mapping tools; in these cases few companies were able to capture and visualize actual journeys. However, as more business units engage with customers and companies deploy multiple channels of engagement – including self-service – improving the customer experience and mapping the customer journey become more complex, and to keep up companies have to invest in processes and tools that help them automate the process of producing maps and capture data about and visualize actual customer journeys.

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Alpine Chorus Brings Collaboration and Predictive Analytics to Big Data

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 27, 2015 4:11:29 AM

In many organizations, advanced analytics groups and IT are separate, and there often is a chasm of understanding between them, as I have noted. A key finding in our benchmark research on big data analytics is that communication and knowledge sharing is a top benefit of big data analytics initiatives, but often it is a latent benefit. That is, prior to deployment, communication and knowledge sharing is deemed a marginal benefit, but once the program is deployed it is deemed a top benefit. From a tactical viewpoint, organizations may not spend enough time defining a common vocabulary for big data analytics prior to starting the program; our research shows that fewer than half of organizations have agreement on the definition of big data analytics. It makes sense therefore that, along with a technical infrastructure and management processes, explicit communication processes at the beginning of a big data analytics program can increase the chance of success. We found these qualities in the Chorus platform of Alpine Data Labs, which received the Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Predictive Analytics in September 2014.

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How to Get Business Users to Switch from Spreadsheets

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2015 3:27:06 AM

In our benchmark research at least half of participants that use spreadsheets to support a business process routinely say that these tools make it difficult for them to do their job. Yet spreadsheets continue to dominate in a range of business functions and processes. For example, our recent next-generation business planning research finds that this is the most common software used for performing 11 of the most common types of planning. At the heart of the problem is a disconnect between what spreadsheets were originally designed to do and how they are actually used today in corporations. Desktop spreadsheets were intended to be a personal productivity tool used, for example, for prototyping models, creating ad hoc reports and performing one-off analyses using simple models and storing small amounts of data. They were not built for collaborative, repetitive enterprise-wide tasks, and this is the root cause of most of the issues that organizations encounter when they use them in such business processes.

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Verint Advances Feedback Management to Improve Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2015 2:29:19 AM

Verint entered the enterprise market for customer feedback management when it acquired Vovici in August 2011. Since then the Vovici products have been integrated into Verint’s Customer Engagement Optimization suite, which includes products originally developed by Verint and Kana, which it also acquired. The current suite supports a range of capabilities that Verint groups into three categories: customer analytics (various types of analytics and Enterprise Feedback Management), customer engagement (which is largely the Kana products that support the agent desktop, email, chat and co-browsing, knowledge and case management, and Web-based self-service) and workforce optimization (quality monitoring, workforce management, desktop and process analytics, performance management and e-learning and coaching). Having this broad array of capabilities allows Verint to support a closed-loop approach to customer feedback and connect it to the processes with which to identify issues raised through feedback and take action to improve (through process change, training and coaching, for example).

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A New Generation of Analytics Offers Help for Sales

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 24, 2015 8:31:17 PM

All lines of business are under pressure to meet targets and deliver expected results, but none is under more pressure than Sales. Like other organizations it must use information to derive insights about progress and problems and to decide what changes to make. Today businesses collect and analyze data from more data sources in more forms than ever before. To understand it they need effective analytics, and again none need it more than Sales.

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Integrated Business Planning Is More Effective

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 24, 2015 8:02:12 PM

Ventana Research recently released the results of our Next-Generation Business Planning benchmark research. Business planning encompasses all of the forward-looking activities in which companies routinely engage. The research examined 11 of the most common types of enterprise planning: capital, demand, marketing, project, sales and operations, strategic, supply chain and workforce planning, as well as sales forecasting and corporate and IT budgeting. We also aggregated the results to draw general conclusions.

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SAP is a Factor for HCM Success

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 23, 2015 8:54:00 AM

Maximizing the performance and value of people in the workforce should be a primary focus for any business these days. It is a complex task, especially for larger organizations, and chances for success can be increased by investment in human capital management (HCM) applications. In this competitive software market SAP is making a strong push, aided by acquisitions in the last three years of SuccessFactors for talent management and more recently Fieldglass for contingent labor management. Recently I attended the SAP HCM analyst summit to hear about its direction and plans to grow its market share. The company has made progress since our last analyst perspective on it. Mike Ettling, SAP’s president for the HR line of business, discussed its newly refined strategy and organizational structure; the company has added executives from around the globe to emphasize its commitment to helping human resources organizations.

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The Establishment of Data Preparation

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 21, 2015 12:44:18 AM

Data is an essential ingredient for every aspect of business, and those that use it well are likely to gain advantages over competitors that do not. Our benchmark research on information optimization reveals a variety of drivers for deploying information, most commonly analytics, information access, decision-making, process improvements and customer experience and satisfaction. To accomplish any of these purposes requires that data be prepared through a sequence of steps: accessing, searching, aggregating, enriching, transforming and cleaning data from different sources to cre­ate a single uniform data set. To prepare data properly, businesses need flex­ible tools that enable them to en­rich the context of data drawn from multiple sources, collaborate on its preparation to serve business needs and govern the process of preparation to ensure security and consistency. Users of these tools range from analysts to operations professionals in the lines of business.

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Process Trumps Innovation in Business Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 19, 2015 5:21:17 AM

The idea of not focusing on innovation is heretical in today’s business culture and media. Yet a recent article in The New Yorker suggests that today’s society and organizations focus too much on innovation and technology. The same may be true for technology in business organizations. Our research provides evidence for my claim.

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Recurring Revenue: An Increasingly Important Business Model

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 19, 2015 4:46:06 AM

Recurring revenue is a term applied to business models that involve three types of selling and billing structures: a one-time transaction plus a periodic service charge; subscription-based services involving periodic charges; or a contractual relationship that charges periodically for goods and services. Telecommunications was the first major industry to use it, but recently the model has gained popularity in others. It is a major trend in information technology as an increasing number of companies offer software and hardware technology accessed as a service through cloud computing. Recurring revenue also has been transforming the entertainment business, as customers subscribe to rent movies, music and other creative digital products instead of owning them; this is part of the so-called “sharing economy” whose social impacts are wide-ranging.

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MicroStrategy Powers Up Security for Analytics and BI

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 11:43:49 PM

At its annual MicroStrategy World conference, this provider of analytics and business intelligence systems for business and IT introduced a new version of its flagship product, MicroStrategy 9s. Among many advances it adds enterprise grade security with MicroStrategy Usher as part of the maintenance update to its 9.4.1 release. Security is increasingly critical for analytics and BI. Technologies that work intensively with data, including reporting, business intelligence, analytics and data preparation, have access to a range of applications and databases and could leave gaps in access controls and security of essential business data. Already in 2015 the data breach at Anthem put more than 80 million medical records at risk. Our benchmark research in big data analytics finds that integration into security and user access frameworks is a very important capability to 37 percent of organizations.

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Sales Agenda for Applications and Technology in 2015

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 8:36:06 PM

Most people in business management admit that sales is more an art than a science. Organizations have long struggled to find the right mix to improve its effectiveness, and few get the most out of available technology. For many the default is still to use sales force automation (SFA) and spreadsheets to manage processes and try to increase the productivity of sales staff. In our view they should take a holistic approach to sales processes from contact to close and support everything from sales forecasting to pipeline management to compensation with applications designed for these purposes. Those in sales operations need to apply analytics to understand and fine-tune sales activities. Those in sales management need applications that can help recruit, engage and retain the best talent. Even more than elsewhere in business, in sales people matter, and the organizations that most empower their teams are likely to get the best results. Optimizing people and processes requires a balance of information and technology to support the various needs of the sales organization.

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Giving Tax Departments More Corporate Clout

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 7:57:13 PM

One of the issues in handling the tax function in business, especially where it involves direct (income) taxes, is the technical expertise required. At the more senior levels, practitioners must be knowledgeable about accounting and tax law. In multinational corporations, understanding differences between accounting and legal structures in various localities and their effects on tax liabilities requires more knowledge. Yet when I began to study the structures of corporate tax departments, I was struck by the scarcity of senior-level titles in them. This may reflect the low profile of the department in most companies and the tactical nature of the work it has performed. Advances in information technology have the potential to automate most of the manual tasks tax professionals perform. This increase in efficiency will enable tax departments to fill a more strategic, important role in the companies they serve.

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Oracle Advances Analytics and Business Intelligence for Big Data and Cloud Computing

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 7:22:33 PM

Oracle is one of the world's largest business intelligence and analytics software companies. Its products range from middleware, back-end databases and ETL tools to business intelligence applications and cloud platforms, and it is well established in many corporate and government accounts. A key to Oracle's ongoing success is in transitioning its business intelligence and analytics portfolio to self-service, big data and cloud deployments. To that end, three areas in which the company has innovated are fast, scalable access for transaction data; exploratory data access for less structured data; and cloud-based business intelligence.

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Cisco Provides a Portfolio of Contact Center Products

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 7:12:59 PM

I recently attended a Cisco Collaboration analyst day in the U.K. and was impressed by what I heard and saw. Cisco  of course is known as a supplier of network equipment and software, and it has long provided these through a global network of partners. But Cisco also has been in the contact center market for several years and has had success with its small and enterprise contact center systems, having more than 20,000 on-premises customers and revenue in excess of US $1.5 billion. Cisco markets the contact center systems as Customer Collaboration , but the portfolio is still based on its two longstanding contact center products: Unified Contact Center Enterprise  and  Unified Contact Center Express , designed for larger and smaller centers, respectively. Two other options are  CiscoPackaged Contact Center Enterprise  and  Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution for Contact Center (HCS-CC) . These both use the Enterprise products, but the first comes packaged and so has less options, and the second is based on cloud computing; both are easier to deploy and more affordable for a wider market than the other options.

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Big Data Research Agenda and Trends are Bolder in 2015

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 7, 2015 9:36:27 PM

Big data has become a big deal as the technology industry has invested tens of billions of dollars to create the next generation of databases and data processing. After the accompanying flood of new categories and marketing terminology from vendors, most in the IT community are now beginning to understand the potential of big data. Ventana Research thoroughly covered the evolving state of the big data and information optimization sector in 2014 and will continue this research in 2015 and beyond. As it progresses the importance of making big data systems interoperate with existing enterprise and information architecture along with digital transformation strategies becomes critical. Done properly companies can take advantage of big data innovations to optimize their established business processes and execute new business strategies. But just deploying big data and applying analytics to understand it is just the beginning. Innovative organizations must go beyond the usual exploratory and root-cause analyses through applied analytic discovery and other techniques. This of course requires them to develop competencies in information management for big data.

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Making Business Planning More Accurate, Effective and Useful

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 5, 2015 8:09:52 PM

Business planning includes all of the forward-looking activities in which companies routinely engage. Companies do a great deal of planning. They plan sales and determine what and how they will produce products or deliver services. They plan the head count they’ll need and how to organize distribution and their supply chain. They also produce a budget, which is a financial plan. The purpose of planning is to be successful. Planning is defined as the process of creating a detailed formulation of a program of action to achieve some overall objective. But it’s more than that. The process of planning involves discussions about objectives and the resources and tactics that people need to achieve them. When it’s done right, planning is the best way to get everyone onto the same page to ensure that the company is well organized in executing strategy. Setting and to a greater degree changing the company’s course require coordination. Being well coordinated in this case means being able to understanding the impact of the policies and actions in your part of the company on the rest of the company.

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Research Agenda: What Matters for Human Capital Management in 2015

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 5, 2015 7:43:42 PM

Managing investments in people and their performance is critical to every organization. It also is complicated. To support the various aspects of human capital management (HCM), organizations often use a variety of technology including systems for human resource management, talent management, workforce management and payroll management. Often these separate systems use their own information and are not well connected to each other. Today they are deployed both on-premises and in cloud computing environments, which further complicates integration. This situation disrupts processes and challenges HR departments and leaders to invest time and resources to correct it.

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Research Agenda: The Office of Finance in 2015

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 3, 2015 9:09:58 PM

Last year Ventana Research released our Office of Finance benchmark research. One of the objectives of the project was to assess organizations’ progress in achieving “finance transformation.” This term denotes shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing toward more strategic, higher-value functions. In the research nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for the department to take a more strategic role. This objective is both longstanding and elusive. It has been part of the conversation in financial management circles since the 1990s and has been a primary focus of my research practice since its inception 12 years ago. Yet our recent research shows that most finance organizations struggle with the basics and few companies are even close to achieving this desired transformation.

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New Generation of Learning Management Systems Delivers Business Value

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 3, 2015 7:49:26 PM

As organizations look to improve the competency and skills of their workers, learning management system (LMS) technology can help improve their efforts. Our latest benchmark research in next-generation learning management systems finds a range of progress in this regard. Our Performance Index analysis places organizations almost evenly between the two lowest (51%) and the two highest (49%) of four levels of performance. The results differ by size of company as measured by number of employees. For example, only 8 percent of small companies reach the highest Innovative level of performance, compared to 26 percent of very large companies, the largest percentage of any size. Analyzed by industry, the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector performs best: Two out of three (65%) are at the top two levels. We attribute this in part to the finance industry’s focus on processes and its need to comply with regulations and teach employees how to do so.

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Office of Finance Research Demonstrates Importance of Using Effective Financial Software

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 2, 2015 8:27:14 AM

Our recently published Office of Finance benchmark research assesses a broad set of functions and capabilities of finance organizations. We asked research participants to identify the most important issues for a finance department to address in a dozen functional areas: accounting, budgeting, cost accounting, customer profitability management, external financial reporting, financial analysis, financial governance and internal audit, management accounting, product profitability management, strategic and long-range planning, tax management and treasury and cash management. Among the key findings is this: Not using the most capable software is an underlying cause, often unrecognized, of process, analytics and data issues.

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Research Agenda: Technology Innovation for Business in 2015

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 2, 2015 7:09:32 AM

This year presents much opportunity for organizations to use a new generation of technology to compete better, be more efficient in their business operations and engage their workforces to their full potential. We have identified and begun to track the following next-generation technologies: analytics, big data, collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media, and in 2014 we added wearable computing to the list. In 2015 we will intensify our focus on all of them specifically in our research agenda and as part of our line of business research agendas.

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Research Agenda: Business Analytics Trends and Possibilities in 2015

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 29, 2015 9:21:59 PM

Our benchmark research into business technology innovation shows that analytics ranks first or second as a business technology innovation priority in 59 percent of organizations. Businesses are moving budgets and responsibilities for analytics closer to the sales operations, often in the form of so-called shadow IT organizations that report into decentralized and autonomous business units rather than a central IT organization. New technologies such as in-memory systems (50%), Hadoop (42%) and data warehouse appliances (33%) are top back-end technologies being used to acquire a new generation of analytic capabilities. They are enabling new possibilities including self-service analytics, mobile access, more collaborative interaction and real-time analytics. In 2014, Ventana Research helped lead the discussion around topics such as information optimization, data preparation, big data analytics and mobile business intelligence. In 2015, we will continue to cover these topics while adding new areas of innovation as they emerge.

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Genesys and Workforce Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 28, 2015 8:08:58 AM

Genesys is best known as a provider of contact center management systems and has long provided computer/telephony integration (CTI) and single-queue call routing systems. Over the past few years it has had changes of ownership and now is a stand-alone company focused on providing systems to improve the customer experience. To do this its combines contact center infrastructure systems and a suite of workforce optimization applications. We included the suite in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index, which evaluates workforce optimization vendors against the requirements of companies as found in our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization. Genesys is rated a Warm vendor in the Value Index as a consequence of not actively participating with our process forcing us to base the evaluation on publicly available information including product documentation, presentation and briefings, which although comprehensive does not address all aspects included in the Value Index. During a recent briefing I learned more about Genesys’ software and services that I can provide more depth on some key areas of their workforce optimization offering.

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Make Automating the Office of Finance and Accounting a Priority

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 27, 2015 7:49:48 AM

Our recent Office of Finance benchmark research demonstrates the importance of using automation to execute finance department functions. Information technology systems do at least two things very well that make better use of people’s time, and both of them can substantially improve organizational performance. First, they eliminate the need for people to do repetitive tasks, which frees them to spend time on more valuable work that requires judgment and skill. IT systems also can be programmed to focus only on relevant information while eliminating the need to get immersed in detail. The latter capability supports a “management by exception” approach, which enables executives and managers to better allocate how and where they spend their time.

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Research Agenda: Customer Technology for 2015

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 23, 2015 9:48:29 AM

I recently wrote about customer experience lessons I learned during 2014 and the technologies required to deliver EPIC experiences. Both of these analyses focus on the people, processes, information and technologies required to improve the customer experience at every touch point, and these themes will also be at the heart of our customer technology research agenda for 2015.

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Actuate and OpenText: The Background and Potential Future

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 21, 2015 10:09:15 AM

Actuate, a company known for powering BIRT, the open source business intelligence technology, has been delivering large-scale consumer and industrial applications for more than 20 years. In December the company announced it would be acquired by OpenText of Ontario, Canada. OpenText is Canada’s largest software vendor with more than 8,000 employees and a portfolio of enterprise information management products. It serves primarily large companies. The attraction of Actuate for such a company can be seen in a number of its legacy assets as well as more current acquisitions and developments but also its existing customer base. It was also awarded a 2014 Ventana Research Business Leadership Award.

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Managing Sales Compensation Requires Commitment

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 21, 2015 9:17:18 AM

Sales organizations are under constant pressure to maximize their potential. To accomplish this they need to integrate their people and processes with those of the finance and operations groups and have access to all available information and useful technology. This is particularly true in the area of sales compensation, which when managed properly recognizes accomplishments, rewards success and motivates people. However, we find that few sales organizations take a comprehensive approach to sales compensation management.

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Technology Requirements for Providing an EPIC Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 20, 2015 1:22:25 AM

Customer Experience was one of the subjects most talked and written about during 2014, and I expect this to continue in 2015. Many observers and analysts, including me, believe it can be the difference between companies succeeding or going out of business. Yet debate continues to define what customer experience is and how to manage it. Some think the best tools are “voice of the customer” information and systems that enable companies to track and understand customer sentiments and likely actions. Others advocate customer or interaction analytics that provide a complete view of the customer. For others it is all about social media and how it changes the customer relationship, and many diehards still insist customer relationship management (CRM) systems are the key. Indeed, as it is with CRM, ask 100 people what it is and you may get 100 different answers. I go back to basics. For me the customer experience is how customers feel and act during and after any engagement with a company. Of course, there are many ways of interacting these days, whether it is seeing an advertisement, receiving an email, talking to an agent in a call center, having a service engineer visit your house, looking for answers on a company’s website, trying to navigate through IVR menus, using the company’s mobile app or watching a YouTube video. These all impact customers’ perceptions of a company, affect their emotions and drive their reactions. In all, the customer experience is determined by the combination of how employees behave, how well processes work, how complete the information about the customer is and the impacts of diverse types of systems, all of these at any point of engagement throughout the customer life cycle.

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Beqom Simplifies Compensation in Sophisticated Ways

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 15, 2015 10:00:23 AM

It is more important than ever for businesses to attract and retain the best talent, and managing compensation effectively is an essential tool for doing so. Obviously companies must pay well to compete, but managing salary, merit pay, variable pay and incentives for employees, tracking their hiring anniversaries and conducting accurate performance appraisals make total compensation management a complex process. All of this must be managed within budget and policy guidelines. As organizations grow and require more employees, the challenges multiply and the difficulty increases. Our benchmark research finds that inconsistent execution is the top impediment to effective compensation management for nearly half (47%) of organizations. Software designed for this purpose can help.

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Workforce Optimization Software Vendor Ratings in Perspective

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 14, 2015 9:47:34 AM

As with many other research topics, Ventana Research investigates workforce optimization in two ways. Our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization assesses how companies use workforce optimization systems now and intend to in the future, while our Workforce Optimization Value Index evaluates how well workforce optimization products and vendors match buyers’ needs.  In our newly released 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index the top vendors are Verint and VPI, both rated Hot, followed by five other Hot vendors: NICE Systems, OnviSource, Aspect, Calabrio and Envision. The overall scores place all seven Hot vendors within four percentage points of each other, and only a further three percentage points separate the three Warm vendors – Genesys, KnoahSoft and Interactive Intelligence. The closeness of the scoring suggests that this is a mature market and in most respects vendors support much the same features.

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IBM Builds Innovation into Watson Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 14, 2015 8:07:52 AM

In 2014, IBM announced Watson Analytics, which uses machine learning and natural language processing to unify and simplify the user experience in each step of the analytic processing: data acquisition, data preparation, analysis, dashboarding and storytelling.  After a relatively short beta testing period involving more than 22,000 users, IBM released Watson Analytics for general availability in December. There are two editions: the “freemium” trial version allows 500MB of data storage and access to file sizes less than 100,000 rows of data and 50 columns; the personal edition is a monthly subscription that enables larger files and more storage.

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ManyWho Brings New Approach to Workflow and Business Efficiency

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 12, 2015 9:51:37 AM

ManyWho was launched in May 2013 by two former Salesforce.com executives, Dave Norris and Steve Wood. They branded it the Cloud Workflow Company, It offers an innovative approach that allows organizations to create workflows, automatically convert them into business applications and run the apps on multiple types of devices. The key to its success lies in the second and third steps, which differentiate ManyWho from most other business process optimization vendors; the process maps that users produce are not static representations of how business processes should work but instead become apps that monitor what is happening and enable the next step in completing the process.

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Customer Engagement Analytics Getting Simpler with Verint

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 12, 2015 8:38:47 AM

Verint is a well-established vendor of workforce optimization systems. It recently acquired KANA Software, as I discussed, which enabled Verint to move further into the customer engagement market. Now Verint has combined the two companies’ range of analytics products to create Verint Engagement Analytics.

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Profisee Simplifies Master Data Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 8, 2015 8:03:25 AM

Organizations today create and collect data at ever faster rates, and this introduces challenges in ensuring that data is not just managed but used in a consistent manner for a range of operational and analytic tasks. This is made more difficult by new data sources whose definitions vary from standard and widely used formats. Making all information available and consistent is essential to support business processes and decision-making. A key technology tool for this effort is master data management (MDM). Every business area needs MDM, whether it deals with customers, products, employees, finance or others individually or collectively in what is called multidomain MDM. It is an essential tool for data governance across an organization, which has become a focal point for improvement as many organizations spend significant time in data-related tasks. Our benchmark research on information optimization shows that preparing data for analysis (47%) and reviewing data for quality and consistency issues (45%) are the two information tasks that consume the most time. Properly used MDM enables data stewards and other IT professionals to improve the consistency and quality of departmental and enterprise data.

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Salesforce Innovates in Customer Engagement

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 8, 2015 6:41:15 AM

When Salesforce.com began in 1999 its stated intent was “to reinvent CRM in the cloud.” In 15 years, the company has achieved much more than that, having a major impact on the way IT systems are delivered: Large numbers of vendors have followed its example to provide cloud-based systems. It added a platform as a cloud – a software development environment in the cloud – to its portfolio, introduced an apps store where many vendors sell their products and services, moved into social and mobile computing, and expanded CRM in the cloud to marketing, sales and service clouds. And it continues to innovate in the fast-changing business software market.

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Integration of Big Data Involves Challenges

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 31, 2014 10:00:40 AM

Big data has great promise for many organizations today, but they also need technology to facilitate integration of various data stores, as I recently pointed out. Our big data integration benchmark research makes it clear that organizations are aware of the need to integrate big data, but most have yet to address it: In this area our Performance Index analysis, which assesses competency and maturity of organizations, concludes that only 13 percent reach the highest of four levels, Innovative. Furthermore, while many organizations are sophisticated in dealing with the information, they are less able to handle the people-related areas, lacking the right level of training in the skills required to integrate big data. Most said that the training they provide is only somewhat adequate or inadequate.

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Lessons Learned about the Customer Experience in 2014

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 31, 2014 9:46:57 AM

During this year talk has been widespread about the customer experience, which is good. What is not so good is that, according to my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement, most companies still struggle to deliver satisfying experiences. However, the research and my discussions with users and vendors lead to some clear conclusions:

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Payroll Management Software Rated in 2015 Ventana Research Value Index

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 30, 2014 10:51:37 AM

To help companies improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their payroll management processes, we have assembled our 2015 Value Index for Payroll Management. It evaluates vendors of payroll management software to provide a guide for selecting the right application to suit specific needs. The executive summary is available for download, and this analysis provides a snapshot of the findings. Ventana Research defines payroll management as all activities associated with paying employees correctly and efficiently. This set of processes crosses the human resources and finance functions; deployed properly it provides employees with access to their payroll information as well as improving payroll management effectiveness.

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Workforce Optimization Vendors Rated in 2015 Ventana Research Value Index

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 30, 2014 10:33:20 AM

The Ventana Research Value Index for Workforce Optimization in 2015 is now released. Workforce optimization covers all aspects of managing everyone who handles customer interactions and is thus vital to improve operational efficiency, and customer and employee satisfaction. It includes the following applications: interaction capture, quality monitoring and assurance, workforce management, coaching and learning management, variable compensation management, and interaction and agent analytics. Our Value Indexes are informed by more than a decade of analysis of how well technology suppliers and their products satisfy specific business and IT needs. For each we perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability to task in five categories as well as of the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. In this case the resulting index gauges the value offered by each vendor and its products in supporting workforce optimization.

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Interactive Intelligence Innovates in the Cloud for Contact Centers

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 26, 2014 7:31:32 AM

Interactive Intelligence is a well-established supplier of contact center systems and just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Customer Interaction Center (CIC) is its on-premises product, which provides integrated management of multiple communication channels and supports a high degree of customization. Communications as a Service (CaaS) is a virtual private cloud (for single tenants) version of CIC and as such offers less potential for customization. Recently Interactive Intelligence released PureCloud, an innovative cloud-based service that is available through Amazon Web Services.

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IBM Enables Business Innovation from 21st Century Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 19, 2014 10:05:10 AM

Those of us who have been in the technology industry for many years remember the phrase “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” Then IBM was both a hardware and a system software vendor, and most IT managers new that hardly anyone would question a decision to go with IBM. These days IBM has done extensive marketing to make itself known for everything “smart” – planets, cities, commerce and of course technology. While its website suggests it offers a limited number of software products, in fact IBM is one of the largest providers software and is committed to innovation. David Stokes, CEO of the U.K. and Ireland division, kicked off its recent U.K. BusinessConnect event by reminding the audience that IBM is driven by three fundamentals – data, the cloud and security.

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Deciding When to Replace ERP Is Complicated

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 19, 2014 9:09:25 AM

A company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is one of the pillars of its record-keeping and process management architecture and is central to many of its critical functions. It is the heart of its accounting and financial record-keeping processes. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP manages inventory and some elements of logistics. Companies also may use it to handle core human resources record-keeping and to store product and customer master data. Often, companies bolt other functionality onto the core ERP system or extensively modify it to address limitations in the system. Because of the breadth of its functionality, those unfamiliar with the details of information technology may perceive ERP as a black box that controls just about everything. So it’s not surprising that when a company’s information technology becomes more of an issue than a solution, many assume that the ERP system needs replacing. This may or may not be true, so it’s important for a company to assess its existing ERP system in the context of its business requirements (as they are now and will be in the immediate future) and evaluate options for it.

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SYSPRO Offers Supply Chain Visibility for Midsize Companies

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 16, 2014 10:05:34 PM

SYSPRO is a 35-year-old ERP vendor that focuses on products for midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configuration to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby cutting the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, it adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy.

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Pentaho Presents Big Data Orchestration Platform with Governance and Data Refinery

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 21, 2014 12:24:10 AM

PentahoWorld, the first user conference for this 10-year-old supplier of data integration and business intelligence that provides business analytics, attracted more than 400 customers in roles ranging from IT and database professionals to business analysts and end users. The diversity of the crowd reflects Pentaho’s broad portfolio of products. It covers the integration aspects of big data analytics with the Pentaho Data Integration tools and the front-end tools and visualization with the Pentaho Business Analytics. In essence its portfolio provides end-to-end data to analytics through what they introduced as Big Data Orchestration that brings governed data delivery and streamlined data refinery together on one platform.

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Intacct Improves Cloud of Collaboration, Payments and Reporting

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 18, 2014 8:25:20 AM

Financial management software provider Intacct recently held its seventh annual user conference. In addition to a long list of enhancements in current and upcoming product releases, the company used the occasion to announce Intacct Collaborate, a capability built into its software that enables finance and accounting organizations to work together to answer questions or resolve issues while performing a process. Our benchmark research shows that collaboration ranks second in importance behind analytics as a technology innovation priority. Collaborative capabilities in software will multiply over the next several years as software transitions from the rigid constructs established in the client/server days, which force users to adapt to the limitations of the software, to fluid and dynamic designs that mold themselves around the needs of the user. A while back, I noted that finance and accounting organizations need collaborative capabilities although they might not realize it. At the same time, finance departments have their own requirements for these systems that reflect the character and constraints of the work they do. This means narrowcast, not broadcast, feeds (Finance doesn’t want a Facebook or Twitter experience because it considers much of what it does to be confidential) and in-context collaborative capabilities to simplify the working environment.

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Big Data Requires Integration Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 7, 2014 5:56:05 AM

The market for big data continues to grow as organizations try to extract business value from their own masses of data and other sources. Earlier this year I outlined the dynamics of the business opportunity for big data and information optimization. We continue to see advances as big data and associated information technologies deliver more value, but the range of innovation also has created fragmentation among existing systems including databases that are managed onpremises or in cloud computing environments. In this changing environment organizations encounter new challenges not only in adapting to technology that is more efficient in automating data processing but also in integrating it into their enterprise architecture. I’ve already explained how big data can be ineffective without integration, and we conducted more in-depth research into the market, resulting in our benchmark research on big data integration, which reveals the state of how organizations are adopting this technology in their processes.

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Salesforce Analytics Cloud Delivers Wave of Elegant Dashboards

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2014 8:21:57 AM

At this year's Dreamforce more than 140,000 people gathered in San Francisco to share the excitement about the use of technology for business. Salesforce.com’s annual conference has reached megashow status, which is a mixed blessing: Dreamforce remains social in its design, but it has become impersonal due to its size. In any case Salesforce had plenty to show off. The company has continued to enhance its cloud-based business applications for sales and customer service, and in the last year it has added marketing through acquisitions. It also has advanced the attraction of its cloud computing platform; even IT departments see its approach as a simple way to use and build applications, especially mobile ones which the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets have made critical to business. Cloud computing is becoming the defacto approach for new applications and software for business and now IT, and its importance continues to grow: Our benchmark research on business technology innovation shows that it is important or very important to more than half (57%) of organizations. At Dreamforce, Salesforce announced Salesforce1 Lightning (available in 2015), a way to assemble mobile applications that can operate across platforms. Salesforce makes the technical details of the mobile platform transparent and facilitates assembly of mobile applications.

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Splunk Vies to Become Big Data Platform for Operational Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2014 12:28:40 AM

At a conference of more than 3,500 users, Splunk executives showed off their company’s latest tools. Splunk makes software for discovering, monitoring and analyzing machine data, which is often considered data exhaust since it is a by-product of computing processes and applications. But machine data is essential to a smoothly running technology infrastructure that supports business process. One advantage is that because machine data not recorded by end users, it is less subject to input error. Splunk has grown rapidly by solving fundamental problems associated with the complexities of information technology and challenging assumptions in IT systems and network management that is rapidly being referred to as big data analytics. The two main and related assumptions it challenges are that different types of IT systems should be managed separately and that data should be modeled prior to recording it. Clint Sharp, Splunk’s director of product marketing, pointed out that network and system data can come from several sources and argued that utilizing point solution tools and a “model first” approach does not work when it has to deal with big data and a question-and-answer paradigm. Our research into Operational Intelligence finds that IT systems are most important information source in almost two thirds (62%) of organizations. Splunk used the conference to show how it has brought to these data management innovations the business trends of mobility, cloud deployment and security.

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New Technology to Recruit, Engage and Retain Employees

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 4, 2014 8:12:30 AM

Most HR technology practitioners and vendors attend the annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition. One of the largest industry gatherings, it provides an indicator of their levels of investment and the hottest trends. This year’s event revealed new technologies and approaches to two key human resources processes – recruitment and retention. They included predictive analytics and big data as well mobile delivery to allow employees easier access to applications. Regarding the first two, these technologies can help managers make better informed and more intelligent decisions from their masses of HR data. It seems that investment in recruiting applications has increased with the growth of the economy. Earlier this year I described how many vendors are investing in recruiting applications. At HR Tech I saw this trend continuing, hearing from vendors that are focused on evolving their recruiting software. Among the new products in recruiting is HireVue Insights, which uses predictive logic and big data to analyze the desirability of candidates. HireVue recently won our 2014 Ventana Research Technology Innovation award for this offering. In addition, talent management vendor Cornerstone OnDemand announced an agreement to acquire Evolv, whose primary product also uses big data and predictive models to match candidates to positions. Our benchmark research on human capital analytics shows that many organizations are considering investments in big data for human capital analytics in almost half of organizations, so these and other products appear to be in step with market demand.

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Technology Can Enhance Performance in Finance Departments

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2014 9:39:31 AM

Finance transformation” refers to a longstanding objective: shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic, higher-value functions. Our upcoming Office of Finance benchmark research confirms that most of organizations want their finance department to take a more strategic role in management of the company: nine in 10 participants said that it’s important or very important. (We are using “finance” in its broadest sense, including, for example, accounting, corporate finance, financial planning and analysis, treasury and tax functions.) Finance departments have the ability and at least an implicit mandate to improve business performance and enable a corporation to execute strategy more effectively. Yet the research shows that becoming strategic is a work in progress. Most departments handle the basics well, but half fall short in areas that can contribute significantly to the performance of their company. More than three-fourths of participants said they perform accounting, external financial reporting, financial analysis, budgeting and management accounting well or very well. But only half said that about their ability to do product and customer profitability management, strategic and long-range planning and business development.

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Data-Driven Business Processes Essential for Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 16, 2014 10:29:35 AM

When applying information technology to drive better business performance, companies and the systems integrators that assist them often underestimate the importance of organizing data management around processes. For example, companies that do not execute their quote-to-cash cycle as an end-to-end process often experience a related set of issues in their sales, marketing, operations, accounting and finance functions that stem from entering the same data into multiple systems. The inability to automate passing of data from one functional group to the next forces people to spend time re-entering data and leads to fragmented and disconnected data stores. The absence of a single authoritative data source also creates conflicts about whose numbers are “right.” Even when the actual figures recorded are identical, discrepancies can crop up because of issues in synchronization and data definition. Lacking an authoritative source, organizations may need to check for and resolve errors and inconsistencies between systems to ensure, for example, that what customers purchased was what they received and were billed for. The negative impact of this lack of automation is multiplied when transactions are complex or involve contracts for recurring services.

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Qlik Sense Makes Sense for Qlik

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 16, 2014 10:15:20 AM

Qlik was an early pioneer in developing a substantial market for a visual discovery tool that enables end users to easily access and manipulate analytics and data. Its QlikView application uses an associative experience that takes  an in-memory, correlation-based approach to present a simpler design and user experience for analytics than previous tools. Driven by sales of QlikView, the company’s revenue has grown to more than $.5 billion, and originating in Sweden it has a global presence.

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Finance Needs Better Analytics and Analytic Skills

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 13, 2014 11:58:09 PM

Finance and accounting departments are staffed with numbers-oriented, naturally analytical people. Strong analytic skills are essential if a finance department is to deliver deep insights into performance and visibility into emerging opportunities and challenges. The conclusions of analyses enable fast, fully informed business decisions by executives and managers. Conversely, flawed analyses undermine the performance of a company. So it was good news that in our Office of Finance benchmark research 62 percent of participants rated the analytical skills of their finance organization as above average or excellent.

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Oracle’s Larry Ellison Challenges Human Capital Management Market

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 9, 2014 1:04:54 AM

This year Oracle OpenWorld conference opened with a fiery speech by Larry Ellison, who has stepped down from his role as CEO to become Executive Chairman and CTO. Filling his rhetoric with claims of market leadership and attacks on competitors SAP and Workday, Ellison set an aggressive tone for those who followed him. In a talk relevant to my research practice, Chris Leone, senior vice president of applications development, asserted that Oracle is making progress in human capital management (HCM) as it enters the fourth year of offering the Human Capital Management Cloud. Leone asserted that Oracle now has 13,500 overall HCM customers, roughly half those being global customers, which is significant as Oracle touts its global capabilities as a differentiator. He provided statistics on growth of the cloud products; one was that over the past year Oracle has gained over 1,000 new talent management customers for its Cloud HCM business.

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Tableau Capitalizes on the Experience of Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 2, 2014 10:15:54 PM

Tableau Software introduced its latest advancements in analytics and business intelligence software along with its future plan to more than 5,000 attendees at its annual user conference in its home town of Seattle. The enthusiasm of the primarily millennial-age crowd reflected not only the success of the young company but also its aspirations. The market for what Ventana Research calls visual and data discovery and Tableau have experienced rapid growth that is likely to continue.

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NICE Systems Delivers Customer Engage Platform

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 29, 2014 6:31:06 AM

I recently wrote about NICE Systems expanding beyond workforce optimization, including more analytics in its product portfolio.

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Infor Advances Business Computing

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 29, 2014 6:14:26 AM

Infor recently held its annual Inforum user group meeting, along with a series of sessions with analysts. The $2 billion business software company has products in the major categories of ERP (including enterprise financial management), human capital management, customer relationship management and performance management among others.

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ADP Bets Future on HCM

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 29, 2014 5:28:03 AM

ADP recently held its annual analyst day in the company’s new innovation center in the Chelsea district of Manhattan. The location emphasized what ADP wanted to get across to the analyst community at the event: that it intends to become a significant vendor of human capital management (HCM) software based in the cloud. ADP hopes to broaden its business from being largely an outsourcing vendor of payroll and related services (such as for auto dealers) to one that provides software for a range of HCM activities.

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Oracle Financials is in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 22, 2014 9:28:45 AM

Like most vendors of on-premises ERP and financial management software, in moving to the cloud Oracle has focused on developing for existing and potential customers the option of multitenant software as a service (SaaS). (I’m using the term “ERP” in its most expansive sense, to include such systems employed by all types of companies for accounting and financial management rather than only systems that are used by manufacturing and distribution companies.) Oracle’s ERP Cloud Service includes Fusion Financials as well as planning and budgeting, risk and controls management, procurement and sourcing, inventory and cost management, product master data management, and project portfolio management. Although to date our benchmark research has consistently found that a large majority of finance departments do not prefer to deploy software in the cloud, we also observe the balance shifting in this direction. SaaS vendors that address finance department requirements have demonstrated faster revenue growth than those that offer products only on-premises. Like other vendors Oracle must establish itself as a credible vendor of cloud ERP and financial management services to be well positioned as market demand shifts further in that direction. The company made sizable investments in acquiring ERP and financial management software in the 2000s (notably PeopleSoft – which included JD Edwards – and Hyperion), and the investments have paid off as many companies have opted to keep their existing systems (and continue to pay maintenance) rather than replace them. Our Office of Finance benchmark research finds that over the past decade the average age of ERP systems in use has increased to 6.4 years from 5.1 years. The longevity of these systems is partly the result of the slow pace of innovation in underlying technologies used for business computing. Even so, modest year-by-year changes are adding up to make replacement a more attractive option while negative attitudes toward the cloud are dissipating. To retain its installed base, it’s important for any established vendor to have solid customer references and the ability to make sales of cloud products as demand for ERP and financial management software in the cloud increases.

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FinancialForce Brings More Mobile, Social and Planning Technology to Market

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 17, 2014 9:25:55 AM

FinancialForce’s 2014 summer release incorporates improvements in mobile and collaboration features and provides enhancements to the planning dimension of its professional services automation (PSA) suite. In the last couple of releases the company emphasized expansion in the functional capabilities of its ERP suite, as I noted, focusing on human capital management and professional services automation as well as some supply chain automation capabilities.

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What’s Next?: The Interplay of Software and Hardware with Business and Consumers

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 11, 2014 9:49:04 AM

“What’s next?” is the perennially insistent question in information technology. One common observation about the industry holds that cycles of innovation alternate between hardware and software. New types and forms of hardware enable innovations in software that utilize the power of that hardware. These innovations create new markets, alter consumer behavior and change how work is performed. This, in turn, sets the stage for new types and forms of hardware that complement these emerging product and service markets as well as the new ways of performing work, creating products and fashioning services that they engender. For example, the emerging collection of wearable computing devices seems likely to generate a new wave of software/hardware innovation, as my colleague Mark Smith has noted. This said, I think that the idea of alternating cycles no longer applies. It would be convenient if we could assign discrete time periods to hardware dominance and software dominance, but like echoes as they fade, the reverberations are no longer as neatly synchronized as they once were. Moreover, adoption and adaptation of technology by consumers reflected in the design of work, products and services always lags – and lags in different ways, further blurring the timing of cycles.

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NICE Systems and Customer Engagement Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 4, 2014 9:12:20 AM

I recently wrote about NICE Systems’ acquisition of Causata to enhance its analytics capabilities and expand from workforce optimization into customer experience management. NICE recently released Customer Engagement Analytics, which is designed to analyze customer interaction data to help companies improve the customer experience at every touch point. NICE calls this optimizing the customer journey.

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Tax Data Warehouses Become Essential as Governments Raise the Ante

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2014 9:19:04 PM

I’ve written before about the increasing importance of having a solid technology base for a company’s tax function, and it’s important enough for me to revisit the topic. Tax departments are entrusted with a highly sensitive and essential task in their companies. Taxes usually are the second largest corporate expense, after salaries and wages. Failure to understand this liability is expensive – either because taxes are overpaid or because of fines and interest levied for underpayment. Moreover, taxes remain a political issue, and corporations – especially larger ones – must be mindful of the reputational implications of their tax liabilities.

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New Generation of Data and Analytics in Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2014 8:57:34 PM

It’s widely agreed that cloud computing is a major technology innovation. Many companies use cloud-based systems for specific business functions such as customer service, sales, marketing, finance and human resources. More generally, however, analytics and business intelligence (BI) have not migrated to the cloud as quickly. But now cloud-based data and analytics products are becoming more common. This trend is most popular among technology companies, small and midsize businesses, and departments in larger ones, but there are examples of large companies moving their entire BI environments to the cloud. Our research into big data analytics shows that more than one-fourth of analytics initiatives for companies of all sizes are cloud-based.

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Next Generation of Human Resources Technologies Elevates Potential of Employees

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2014 8:44:02 PM

The human resources management system (HRMS) have been a central part of human resources departments for decades. Though useful to HR, these systems have also been static. Speaking generally, their functionality has not advanced greatly while other technologies have made great strides, and the information in them has been restricted to mostly use by HR professionals. However, along with growth in distinct and integrated talent management systems and in workforce management systems, this has begun to change as the HRMS is being integrated with these newer systems. The changes make it possible for HRMSs to become more strategic as HR professionals use them in new ways. To that end, Ventana Research will conduct a benchmark research project to evaluate the evolution of these systems and processes to determine where they are becoming more strategic applications for HR.

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NewVoiceMedia Advance Cloud-Based Contact Center Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 22, 2014 9:40:30 AM

Recently NewVoiceMedia announced that it has raised $50 million to fund its growth. The company was founded in 2000 in the U.K., initially offering call management and routing as cloud-based systems. Until then, most companies built their contact centers using on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) or automated call distributor (ACD) call management systems, with on-premises call routing and business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM). Some companies offered off-premises business application services, and salesforce.com had just begun to push its CRM in the cloud offering.

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Ventana Research Rates Total Compensation Management Software in 2014 Value Index

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 22, 2014 9:14:20 AM

Now available from Ventana Research is our Value Index on Total Compensation Management for 2014.  Total compensation management directly addresses one of an organization’s largest investments – employee pay. As such it is a critical activity for supporting other human capital management and talent management processes.

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Oracle Customer Experience in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 14, 2014 9:17:02 AM

Oracle 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.

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Workday Bolsters Human Capital Management

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 14, 2014 8:46:39 AM

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.

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Businesses Must Make Self-Service Reporting a Priority

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 3, 2014 9:12:23 AM

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.

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The Next Generation of Predictive Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Aug 3, 2014 8:52:46 AM

Our benchmark research consistently shows that business analytics is the most significant technology trend in business today and acquiring effective predictive analytics is organizations’ top priority for analytics. It enables them to look forward rather than backward and, participate organizations reported, leads to competitive advantage and operational efficiencies.

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NetSuite Rides Wave of Cloud ERP Adoption

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 3, 2014 8:19:04 AM

Like other vendors of cloud-based ERP software, NetSuite offers the key benefits of software as a service (SaaS): a smaller upfront investment, faster time to value and potentially lower operating costs. Beyond that NetSuite’s essential point of competitive differentiation from is broad functionality beyond financial management, including capabilities for customer relationship management (CRM), professional services automation (PSA) and human capital management (HCM). These components make it easier for businesses to manage processes from end to end (such as quote- or order-to-cash) as well as to have transactions and business data available in a single system in consistent forms and synchronized. This in turn facilitates real-time reporting, dashboards and the use of analytics that integrate a wider set of functional data. Midsize companies are most likely to benefit from this integration because typically they have smaller, less sophisticated IT staffs than larger ones. A side benefit of having a single, integrated data source is improvement of situational awareness and visibility for executives and managers. It also enables organizations to reduce their use of spreadsheets for stitching together processes, doing routine analyses and reporting. These sorts of activities waste valuable time and reduce an organization’s agility.

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The Future of Integrating ERP and Applications in the Cloud

Posted by Mark Smith on Jul 30, 2014 9:22:43 PM

In recent years line-of-business applications including accounting, human resources, manufacturing, sales and customer service have appeared in the cloud. Cloud -based software as a service (SaaS) has replaced on-premises applications that were previously part of ERP and CRM environments. They have helped companies become more efficient but have also introduced interoperability challenges between business processes. Their advantage is that cloud software can be rented, configured and used within a day or week. The disadvantage is that they don’t always connect with one another seamlessly, as they used to and when managed by a third party there is limited connectivity to integrate them.

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IBM Brings Sophistication to Customer Analytics and Prediction

Posted by Richard Snow on Jul 30, 2014 8:48:50 AM

During recent IBM analyst big data event, I learned about a new product, IBM Predictive Customer Intelligence. It extracts and processes customer-related data from multiple sources to analyze customer-related activities and has capabilities to predict customer behavior and actions. Predictive Customer Intelligence is built on IBM’s big data platform and supports extraction and integration of data from multiple sources, internal and external, and from structured and unstructured data. It can process data created by third-party products, such as text-based files of data created by converting speech to text. The product can capture and analyze customer interactions from multiple communication channels such as voice, email, text messages, chat and Web usage scripts and social media posts.

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Roambi Goes Android and Box for Mobile BI

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 29, 2014 11:08:34 PM

Mobility continues to be a hot adoption area in business intelligence, according to our research across analytics and line of business departments. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of organizations said their mobile workforce would be able to access BI capabilities in the next 12 months according to our next generation mobile business intelligence research. Roambi, a provider of mobile business intelligence applications, has made important strides this year after moving to deploying its products in the cloud, an event that I covered previously. Roambi is rated as one of the top providers of mobile business intelligence or what we refer to as a ‘Hot Vendor’ according to our Value Index.

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Tagetik Advances Disclosure Management for Office of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 16, 2014 9:06:01 AM

Tagetik provides financial performance management software. One particularly useful aspect of its suite is the Collaborative Disclosure Management (CDM). CDM addresses an important need in finance departments, which routinely generate highly formatted documents that combine words and numbers. Often these documents are assembled by contributors outside of the finance department; human resources, facilities, legal and corporate groups are the most common. The data used in these reports almost always come from multiple sources – not just enterprise systems such as ERP and financial consolidation software but also individual spreadsheets and databases that collect and store nonfinancial data (such as information about leased facilities, executive compensation, fixed assets, acquisitions and corporate actions). Until recently, these reports were almost always cobbled together manually – a painstaking process made even more time-consuming by the need to double-check the documents for accuracy and consistency. The adoption of a more automated approach was driven by the requirement imposed several years ago by United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies tag their required periodic disclosure filings using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which I have written about. This mandate created a tipping point in the workload, making the manual approach infeasible for a large number of companies and motivating them to adopt tools to automate the process. Although disclosure filings were the initial impetus to acquire collaborative disclosure management software, companies have found it useful for generating a range of formatted periodic reports that combine text and data, including board books (internal documents for senior executives and members of the board of directors), highly formatted periodic internal reports and filings with nonfinancial regulators or lien holders.

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Teradata’s Fast Track to Big Data Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jul 15, 2014 8:19:23 AM

At its annual industry analyst summit last month and in a more recent announcement of enterprise support for parallelizing the R language on its Aster Discovery Platform, Teradata showed that it is adapting to changes in database and analytics technologies. The presentations at the conference revealed a unified approach to data architectures and value propositions in a variety of uses including the Internet of Things, digital marketing and ETL offloading. In particular, the company provided updates on the state of its business as well as how the latest version of its database platform, Teradata 15.0, is addressing customers’ needs for big data. My colleague Mark Smith covered these announcements in depth. The introduction of scalable R support was discussed at the conference but not announced publicly until late last month.

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IBM Advances Business Experience in Using Advanced Analytics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 3, 2014 9:13:31 PM

The developed world has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to information technology. Individuals walk around with far more computing power and data storage in their pockets than was required to send men to the moon. People routinely hold on their laps what would have been considered a supercomputer a generation ago. There is a wealth of information available on the Web. And the costs of these information assets are a tiny fraction of what they were decades ago. Consumer products have been at the forefront in utilizing information technology capabilities. The list of innovations is staggering. The “smart” phone is positively brilliant. Games are now a far bigger business than motion pictures.

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Cornerstone Improves Employee Engagement through Talent Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Jul 2, 2014 10:09:30 AM

Cornerstone OnDemand is a large pure-play vendor of talent management software, with more than 1,700 clients, more than 14.5 million users and more than 60 percent growth in revenue over the past 12 months. At the company’s annual customer conference this year, CEO Adam Miller talked about a trend in the market of talent management applications going beyond automating a series of processes to help engage employees within organizations. I agree with this analysis and would extend the trend to cover the full range of human capital management (HCM) applications.

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Information Builders Innovates in Data Visualization and Operational Intelligence

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 30, 2014 6:18:42 AM

Information Builders announced two major new products at its recent annual user summit. The first was InfoDiscovery, a tool for ad hoc data analysis and visual discovery. The second was iWay Sentinel, which allows administrators to manage applications in a proactive and dynamic manner. Being a privately held company, Information Builders is not a household name, but it is a major provider of highly scalable business intelligence (BI) and information management software to companies around the world.

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SAS Helps Manage Interactions and Gain Insights on Customers

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 26, 2014 10:15:11 AM

By its own admission, SAS has a very large software portfolio (of more than 250 individual products), and it continues to develop and release more products and updates to existing ones. Some of the products are sold alone, and others are bundled into “enterprise solutions”. Some are for technical users, and others are business applications. This complexity can make it hard to identify which product or bundle serves a particular need. Three are most relevant to my research practice: Customer Intelligence (CI), which I wrote about after attending the 2013 SAS European analysts event; SAS Visual Analytics; and a new one, the Customer Decision Hub that SAS has developed to support multichannel customer engagement.

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Nexidia Brings Sophistication to Customer Interaction Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 24, 2014 10:26:21 PM

Last year I assessed how Nexidia had advanced its products to support customer interaction analytics. Since then the market has changed, and Nexidia continues to expand its products to meet a broader set of needs for analyzing and optimizing customer interactions. Companies are recognizing that they need complete information about their customers, including interactions, and need to change the metrics they use to monitor and assess customer-related activities. My research into next-generation customer analytics shows that the most common tools used to produce customer analytics is spreadsheets (52%) and only 26 percent of companies have implemented a dedicated standalone customer analytics tool to help them respond to these requirements; however, the results also show that more companies plan to adopt dedicated customer analytics products in the next 12 to 24 months. For good reason as spreadsheets are known for errors that impact business and use of general BI tools can lengthen the time to value and not support the specific data and analytic needs like that needed in customer interaction analytics.

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New Generation of Recurring Revenue and Billing Inspired from Cloud Computing

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 22, 2014 10:58:15 PM

Much has been written about how cloud computing changes the way businesses source their software and services. For software companies, instead of being installed inside the company, software like business applications run on a computer installed at an external site. If the external site is not shared with any other business, this is called a private cloud; if it is owned and operated by a third party and supports more than one business, it is called a public cloud. In the case of public clouds, users access the applications via the Internet, and increasing they can do this while out of the office, using laptops or mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The main advantages of this model are that companies don’t need to invest in hardware or support staff to install and maintain hardware or software like these applications, the vendor handles system updates and users can work anywhere (including on the move) by logging in through a Web browser or an application designed specifically for mobile technology. Our research confirms that the overall importance is overall important in more than half (57%) of organizations.

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Longview Tax Software Helps Tax Departments Be More Strategic

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 22, 2014 10:40:56 PM

Longview Solutions has a longstanding presence in the financial performance management (FPM) software market and was rated a Hot vendor in our most recent FPM Value Index. Several years ago it began offering a tax provision and planning application. I think it’s worthwhile to focus on the tax category because it’s less well known than others in finance and is an engine of growth for Longview. We expect larger corporations increasingly to adopt software to manage direct (income) taxes to improve the quality and efficiency of what today in most companies is an inefficient, spreadsheet-driven process.

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8x8 Integrates Communications and Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 18, 2014 9:55:34 AM

8x8, Inc. was founded in the 1980’s to provide semiconductor products to the emerging personal computer market; in 2002 it was relaunched to focus on Voice over IP (VoIP) services. By 2008 it had become the second-largest independent VoIP provider in the U.S., and its product, Virtual Office, was widely used by businesses for telecommunications. In 2011 8x8 acquired Contactual and entered the cloud-based call center market. Today the company brands itself as a “communication and collaboration solutions provider in the cloud” and has two main product lines, Virtual Office and Virtual Contact Center.

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Teradata Takes Bigger Approach to Big Data

Posted by Mark Smith on Jun 17, 2014 9:17:43 AM

Teradata continues to expand its information management and analytics technology for big data to meet growing demand. My analysis last year discussed Teradata’s approach to big data in the context of its distributed computing and data architecture. I recently got an update on the company’s strategy and products at the annual Teradata analyst summit. Our big data analytics research finds that a broad approach to big data is wise: Three-quarters of organizations want analytics to access data from all sources and not just one specific to big data. This inclusive approach is what Teradata as designed its architectural and technological approach in managing the access, storage and use of data and analytics.

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Genesys and IBM to Improve Customer Engagement with IBM Watson

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 14, 2014 9:34:23 AM

The contact center market continues to shift focus from handling customer calls as efficiently as possible to providing superior customer engagement across multiple touch points. The latest advancement is an joint announcement from IBM and Genesys who have signed a partnership agreement to provide “smarter customer engagement”. The agreement includes a technology partnership and a joint marketing plan, and brings together IBM’s Watson Engagement Advisor and Genesys’ Customer Experience Platform.

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Xactly Delivers New Inspiration for Sales to Maximize its Potential

Posted by Mark Smith on Jun 9, 2014 11:22:16 AM

In an analyst perspective at the beginning of this year I wrote that sales organizations must step beyond conventional wisdom to generate the best outcomes. One such step is to invest in software that delivers immediate value to manage sales and be efficient in its operations. Our latest research on sales organizations finds that inconsistent execution (53%), scattered information (48%) and limited visibility (42%) are motivating investment to improve sales. At CompCloud, its annual conference, Xactly unveiled advances in its software to help improve the effectiveness and productivity of sales organizations. Spokespeople said the company’s sales compensation products have helped users manage US$10 billion in commissions in the past two years.

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SAP Sets Course for Simple ERP

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 9, 2014 10:35:29 AM

The keynote theme at this year’s Sapphire conference in Orlando was Simple. Top executives from SAP, a software company associated with complexity, stated and restated that its future direction is to simplify all aspects of its products and the ways customers interact with them and the company itself. SAP’s longstanding and commendable aspiration to thoroughness in its software will be giving way to an emphasis on elegance in its engineering. This objective is more than admirable – SAP’s future competitiveness depends on it. Changing the fundamental architecture of SAP’s offerings – already well under way with HANA – is absolutely necessary. The design underpinnings in SAP’s ERP applications, for example, have been shaped by technology limitations that have disappeared, as Dr. Hasso Plattner, one of the company’s founders, pointed out in his keynote. However, the relevant issue facing SAP and the software market is how far the company can progress toward this goal  and how fast.

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Payroll Management Needs Integration with Human Capital Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Jun 6, 2014 9:58:08 AM

Our recently released benchmark research on optimizing payroll management assesses how organizations use payroll information, processes and technology. It finds that most of them still need to improve. Our analysis compared the forces motivating investment in payroll management systems to broader strategic drivers for human capital management (HCM) that I previously outlined and found substantial agreement. Three of the five leading factors – demand for higher employee productivity (48%), limited alignment between pay and performance (36%), and inconsistent execution of performance goals (24%) – are part of a broader HCM agenda as seen in previous research projects and discussions with clients. But apart from that the research found a disconnect between what motivates companies and what they actually are doing.

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NICE Systems Closes Voice of the Customer Loop

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 4, 2014 8:35:36 AM

NICE Systems is best known for its suite of workforce optimization products [http://www.nice.com/workforce-optimization-lobby] that I recently assessed. However, after attending its user event last year, I wrote in 2013 that it was extending its portfolio and changing its focus to concentrate on packaged solutions that address specific business needs. Over the years the company’s portfolio has evolved through a combination of in-house development, acquisitions and partnerships. This approach  enabled NICE to build a broad portfolio quickly, but it also created challenges in integrating the separate products into a homogeneous whole. One of the key acquisitions was Fizzback, which gave NICE entry to the market for customer feedback and voice of the customer (VOC) software. In this context I was keen to learn during a recently briefing how the company is integrating these products into a broader VOC portfolio.

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Finance Analytics Require Training to Improve

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 3, 2014 9:35:45 AM

Analytics has long been a core discipline of Finance, applied to analysis of balance sheets, income statements and cash-flow statements. However, as I’ve noted, most finance departments have not kept up with recent advances. Our recent research in finance analytics shows that few organizations are realizing the potential of more advanced analytic methods and tools such as predictive analytics and driver-based modeling. One reason for this sluggishness is that they have not looked past yesterday’s requirements to see what possible. Another is that they are distracted by the difficulties they face in simply doing tried-and-true analysis, which is the result of difficulties in accessing the necessary data and inadequate tools. A third reason is that people receive too little training in the application of analytics to business and the use of more advanced analytic tools and methods.

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Informatica Unveils New Platform and Tools for Information Optimization

Posted by Mark Smith on Jun 3, 2014 9:09:23 AM

At the Informatica World 2014 conference, the company known for its data integration software unveiled the Intelligent Data Platform. In the last three years Informatica has expanded beyond data integration and now has a broad software portfolio that facilitates information management within the enterprise and through cloud computing. The Intelligent Data Platform forms a framework for its portfolio. This expression of broad potential is important for Informatica, which has been slow to position its products as capable of more than data integration. A large part of the value it provides lies in what its products can do to help organizations strengthen their enterprise architectures for managing applications and data. We see Informatica’s sweet spot in facilitating efficient use of data for business and IT purposes; we call this information optimization.

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Tibco Acquires Jaspersoft for Energizing Analytics Portfolio

Posted by Ventana Research on Jun 2, 2014 10:41:31 AM

Tibco’s recent acquisition of Jaspersoft helps the company fill out its portfolio of business intelligence (BI) and reporting software in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Tibco already offered a range of products in BI and analytics including Tibco Spotfire, an established product for visual data discovery. Jaspersoft and its open source Java reporting tool JasperReports have been around since 2001, and the company says it has 16 million product downloads worldwide, 140,000 production deployments and 2,000 commercial customers in 100 countries. Jaspersoft received attention recently for its partnership with Amazon Marketplace and the ability to embed its system into applications using a credit card and a few simple configuration steps. This example of embedding the technology is an area that Tibco knows well from its history of integrating its technology into enterprise architecture across the planet.

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Epicor Faces a Challenging Future

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 2, 2014 9:46:51 AM

Epicor used its recent user group conference to explain its strategic direction and product roadmap. The company is the result of multiple mergers of business software corporations over the past 15 years; its target customers are midsize companies and midsize divisions of larger organizations. Its most significant products are Epicor (ERP software aimed mainly at manufacturing and distribution companies) and Activant Solutions (software for small and midsize retailers, including a point-of-sale system). The company also has software that manages CRM, HR and human capital and supply chains,  and provides financial performance management (FPM) and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) capabilities. These components of the software suites are adequate for the needs of many of the company’s target customers and are not intended as stand-alone applications.

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Alteryx Analytics Brings Power of Predictive and Big Data to Market

Posted by Ventana Research on May 30, 2014 9:49:10 AM

Alteryx has released version 9.0 of Alteryx Analytics that provides a range of data to predictive analytics in advance of its annual user conference called Inspire 2014. I have covered the company for several years as it has emerged as a key player in providing a range of business analytics from predictive to big data analytics. The importance of this category of analytics is revealed by our latest benchmark research on big data analytics, which finds that predictive analytics is the most important type of big data analytics, ranked first by nearly half (47%) of research participants. The new version 9 includes new capabilities and integration with a range of new information sources including read and write capability to IBM SPSS and SAS for range of analytic needs.

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InContact Advances Workforce Optimization for Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on May 29, 2014 10:11:02 AM

InContact has cloud-based products that cover multichannel communications infrastructure (sometimes referred to as a “contact center in the cloud”) and workforce optimization. The channel management products were developed by inContact and through a partnership with Verint. InContact has been working to make Verint’s workforce optimization products available in the cloud while integrating the two sets of products. I met Kristyn Emenecker, inContact’s VP of workforce optimization, at the recent ICMI Contact Center Expo to find out how the recent announcement that it has acquired Uptivity, which also provides workforce optimization products in the cloud, will impact that partnership and the future direction for the products.

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Ultimate Software Modernizes and Expands Human Capital Management Suite

Posted by stephanmillard on May 28, 2014 9:48:54 AM

Ultimate Software is one of the larger players in the market for human capital management (HCM) software, with roots in providing human resources and payroll management products. Recently I attended its annual Connections conference. Last year the company focused attention on expansion of its global capabilities, which I analyzed, while this year it highlighted broadening and modernizing of the product suite.

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Pitney Bowes Brings New Software for Better Business Insights

Posted by Mark Smith on May 19, 2014 10:17:43 AM

I recently attended the 2014 global analyst summit in San Francisco hosted by Pitney Bowes, an old technology company (now in business for 94 years) that has a new focus in its software along with an entirely new executive team. These leaders unveiled a business and technology strategy meant to demonstrate the company’s commitment to software. For many years it has been known mostly for mail services and postage metering, but Pitney Bowes also has made investments in software that can help companies change their business processes by optimizing their information assets. Over the past few years the company has had its ups and downs as regards its corporate mission, as I wrote in 2012. Most of the turmoil was due to conflicting agendas from past management, but other factors were the company was not as clear in communicating the value of its combined software portfolio and not capitalizing on the demand in lines of business and IT for information management and analytics software.

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Saba Advances Talent Management with Recruiting and Intelligence

Posted by stephanmillard on May 15, 2014 9:54:30 AM

At Saba’s recent global customer conference executives discussed the company’s latest product enhancements, progress made during the past year and plans for the future. Saba provides a talent management suite that includes all capabilities except compensation management and is a leading vendor of corporate learning management systems. The majority of its 2,200 customers and 31 million users in 195 countries use the learning system, Learning@Work.

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Contact Center Expo 2014 Highlights Cloud Computing and Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on May 15, 2014 9:35:05 AM

I recently presented at the 2014 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference and have a few insights I want to share. I was impressed by the two main keynote speeches. In the first Bill Rancic, an entrepreneur, author and TV personality, talked about “How to Succeed in Business and Life.” Bill is not in the contact center industry, but he reminded the audience that individuals and companies that succeed in life and business grab opportunities when they come along. He went on to say that consumers (which includes you and me) are changing the ways we conduct our lives and the ways we engage with each other and with businesses. As we all know, use of mobile devices has rocketed, as has use of the Internet and social media, and as a result people are less inclined to talk to each other directly, choosing instead to text, post comments to social media or use the increasing number of mobile applications available; when we do talk, it is now increasingly likely to include video. This change creates opportunity for companies; those that meet expectations about communicating in these ways can grab the attention of customers and generate more business. I couldn’t agree more, having written about these changes myself. Consumers have already made these changes, and companies need to act now to grab the opportunities.

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Panviva Enables Smarter Customer Service

Posted by Richard Snow on May 8, 2014 8:39:07 AM

On its website Panviva describes itself as providing “business process guidance,” which is a phrase I was notfamiliar with. As I searched the site, I found messages such as”it’s all about customer experience,” “the right information for the right person at the right time” and “navigating complexity.” All of these describe issues contact center agents face on a daily basis, and I concluded that Panviva competes in a space I track. My benchmark research into the agent desktop and its impact on customer servicefinds that agents play a significant role in the customer experience, but many have to work with a desktop that impedes them in accessing systems and information, and some of the interactions they handle are complex.It was this perspective I brought to a briefing with Steve Pappas, Panviva’s SVP for North America.

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OpenSpan Makes Smart Agent Desktop Simpler

Posted by Richard Snow on May 3, 2014 11:56:13 PM

My benchmark research into the smart agent desktop finds that in nearly two-thirds (65%) of companies, contact center agents have to access multiple systems as they try to resolve customer interactions. These range from channel management systems (such as telephone, email, text messages and social media) to business applications (such as CRM, ERP and knowledge management), performance dashboards and analysis, and messaging systems. Having to use all these systems leads agents to make mistakes, increases average handling times, produces data errors and reduces satisfaction for both agents and customers. The last two are especially important because the research shows that very satisfied agents twice as often as less satisfied ones meet important customer-related metrics such as customer satisfaction, net promoter and customer effort scores, and satisfied customers are likely to remain loyal, buy more and recommend the company to people they know. A smart agent desktop can alleviate these issues by making it easier for agents to access systems, navigate between them, enter data and view important information.

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Infor at the End of the Beginning

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 3, 2014 10:54:52 PM

From my perspective, Infor’s strategy to accelerate revenue growth is to offer companies more innovation and a lower and more predictable cost of ownership than its rivals in the business software market; its products include the major categories of ERP, human resources and financial performance management. It aims to innovate by focusing on improving the user experience and to lower costs by redesigning its software architecture. The innovation stems from a fresh approach to designing interactions between users and business software: simplifying it and providing a more modern user experience that people have grown accustomed to in their personal software. The better cost-effectiveness rests on designing its software to reduce the expense of integrating and customizing it. One element of this is creating richer functionality for narrowly segmented micro-verticals. Another is offering cloud-based versions built on less expensive open source infrastructure and third-party commodity services. The software markets that Infor serves are mature and offer limited growth. So to be successful the company must increase both its market share and its share of a company’s IT spend (capturing internal IT spending and outlays to third-party consultants and systems integrators). To prove that the company’s strategy is working will require sustained organic growth (excluding new acquisitions) in revenues.

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Qvidian Helps Sales Optimize Execution

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 23, 2014 10:02:05 AM

Few sales organizations realize their full potential, partly because they don’t execute well. We urge organizations to move beyond conventional wisdom in how they think about executing sales processes and have placed methods for making improvement to sales execution at the center of our research on sales in 2014. In our recent research on sales forecasting almost half (44%) of sales organizations said they have impediments that are motivating management to consider further investment in sales technology, and the most common of those is inconsistent execution (for 53%). Many sales organizations don’t use training in a consistent manner and fail to automate processes to gain efficiency.

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Successful Sales Forecasting Requires Dedicated Technology

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 23, 2014 9:44:36 AM

Sales forecasting is an essential process for most businesses. It helps guide the efforts not only of the sales function but also of finance, operations, manufacturing and customer service. Our recently released sales forecasting benchmark research reveals significant insights and best practices that can help companies optimize the effectiveness of this process. I recently wrote that most sales organizations need to make significant changes to the way they do sales forecasting. In that analyst perspective, I examined aspects of technology that can make sales forecasting a much more efficient process than it is in most organizations that use software not designed for sales forecasting.

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New Generation of Learning Management Systems

Posted by stephanmillard on Apr 22, 2014 10:07:02 AM

Learning is an integral component of human capital management, and a new generation of learning management systems advances learning in organizations around the world. These systems have evolved over the years from a classroom scheduling tool that facilitated instructor-led and classroom training into an array of enterprise applications that deliver and track various types of training. Recently new technologies, such as business analytics, cloud computing, social collaboration, and mobile technology have become part of the learning management process. To assess the impacts of this ongoing shift, Ventana Research is conducting benchmark research on how organizations are implementing and using this new generation of systems.

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Finance Analytics Requires Data Quality

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 22, 2014 9:48:30 AM

Our research consistently finds that data issues are a root cause of many problems encountered by modern corporations. One of the main causes of bad data is a lack of data stewardship – too often, nobody is responsible for taking care of data. Fixing inaccurate data is tedious, but creating IT environments that build quality into data is far from glamorous, so these sorts of projects are rarely demanded and funded. The magnitude of the problem grows with the company: Big companies have more data and bigger issues with it than midsize ones. But companies of all sizes ignore this at their peril: Data quality, which includes accuracy, timeliness, relevance and consistency, has a profound impact on the quality of work done, especially in analytics where the value of even brilliantly conceived models is degraded when the data that drives that model is inaccurate, inconsistent or not timely. That’s a key finding of our finance analytics benchmark research.

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Big Data Analytics Require Best Practices in Using Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 18, 2014 8:22:28 AM

Organizations should consider multiple aspects of deploying big data analytics. These include the type of analytics to be deployed, how the analytics will be deployed technologically and who must be involved both internally and externally to enable success. Our recent big data analytics benchmark research assesses each of these areas. How an organization views these deployment considerations may depend on the expected benefits of the big data analytics program and the particular business case to be made, which I discussed recently.

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Requirements for Becoming a Strategic Chief Risk Officer

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 17, 2014 9:54:44 AM

The proliferation of chief “something” officer (CxO) titles over the past decades recognizes that there’s value in having a single individual focused on a specific critical problem. A CxO position can be strategic or it can be the ultimate middle management role, with far more responsibilities than authority. Many of those handed such a title find that it’s the latter. This may be because the organization that created the title is unwilling to invest the necessary powers and portfolio of responsibilities to make it strategic – a case of institutional inertia. Or it may be that the individual given the CxO title doesn’t have the skills or temperament to be a “chief” in a strategic sense.

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Finance Departments Still Lag in Using Advanced Analytics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 11, 2014 9:54:34 AM

Business computing has undergone a quiet revolution over the past two decades. As a result of having added, one-by-one, applications that automate all sorts of business processes, organizations now collect data from a wider and deeper array of sources than ever before. Advances in the tools for analyzing and reporting the data from such systems have made it possible to assess financial performance, process quality, operational status, risk and even governance and compliance in every aspect of a business. Against this background, however, our recently released benchmark research finds that finance organizations are slow to make use of the broader range of data and apply advanced analytics to it.

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SAP Supercharges Business Intelligence with Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 9, 2014 9:50:37 AM

SAP recently presented its analytics and business intelligence roadmap and new innovations to about 1,700 customers and partners using SAP BusinessObjects at its SAP Insider event (#BI2014). SAP has one of the largest presences in business intelligence due to its installed base of SAP BusinessObjects customers. The company intends to defend its current position in the established business intelligence (BI) market while expanding in the areas of databases, discovery analytics and advanced analytics. As I discussed a year ago, SAP faces an innovator’s dilemma in parts of its portfolio, but it is working aggressively to get ahead of competitors.

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Equifax Delivers Insightful Analytics for Compliance with Affordable Care Act

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 9, 2014 2:56:14 AM

Pressure to comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a looming challenge for most organizations today. Many go through numerous manual iterations such as running reports and compiling data into spreadsheets from benefits, payroll and HR systems to calculate whether their employees are eligible. As my colleague Stephan Millard explains in “Is Your Organization Technology Ready for the Affordable Care Act?”, the ACA applies to organizations with 50 or more full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week; individuals not covered by an employer can get insurance through the government. There are a great many details for employers to address in the ACA, and most HR departments lack a smooth process and effective technology to generate the information to determine compliance.

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Anaplan Springs Forward with Winter Release

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 4, 2014 8:36:21 AM

Anaplan, a provider of cloud-based business planning software for sales, operations, and finance and administration departments, recently implemented its new Winter ’14 Release for customers. This release builds on my colleagues analysis on their innovation in business modeling and planning in 2013. Anaplan’s primary objective is to give companies a workable alternative to spreadsheets for business planning. It is a field in which opportunity exists. Our benchmark research on this topic finds that a majority of companies continue to use spreadsheets for their planning activities. Almost all (83%) operations departments use spreadsheets for their plans, as do 60 percent of sales and marketing units. Yet the same research shows that satisfaction with spreadsheets as a planning tool is considerably lower than satisfaction with dedicated planning applications. But despite general agreement in companies that the planning process is broken and spreadsheets are a problem, companies seem reluctant to break the bad habit of using spreadsheets. This conclusion suggests that either switching to dedicated software hasn’t been easy enough or that the results of doing it have not been compelling enough to motivate change. Anaplan intends to address both of these issues.

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Kronos Innovates and Leads Workforce Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Apr 4, 2014 2:28:37 AM

In the past year Kronos announced a major release of its Workforce Central suite and more recently, made an announcement regarding a major investment that should help keep the company well capitalized. Kronos is one of the largest vendors of workforce management systems, providing time and attendance, labor scheduling, absence management, HR management, payroll and recruiting applications. In 2013 the company grew to almost US$1 billion in revenue, selling to companies around the globe and having users in more than 100 countries. Kronos offers two product lines based on the sizes of companies. Workforce Ready serves small and some midsize companies, and Workforce Central serves companies from the upper midsize through the very large. A while ago my colleague Mark Smith discussed several major enhancements to Kronos’ products, and there have been notable events since then.

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NICE Delivers Customer Interactions with Next Generation Workforce Optimization

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 3, 2014 9:17:30 AM

In my research of NICE Systems for several years I have remarked often that its biggest challenge is to integrate all the products that now make up its Customer Interaction Management suite. Through acquisitions, in-house development and partnerships, this suite has grown to include interaction recording, quality management, workforce management, incentive management, interaction analytics, performance management, real-time guidance, customer feedback management, mobile access and Web-based customer service. The company still offers each of these applications separately, but increasingly NICE bundles selected products into what it calls “solution suites” for uses such as workforce optimization. It also configures these suites to meet specific business needs such as voice of the customer and operational efficiency. These bundles require integration, common administration and management capabilities, as well as standardization of the user interface. My latest briefing by NICE executives showed the company moving in these directions but still having more to do to meet the expectations of a new generation of users. Successfully integrating applications to become business-related solutions is critical according to our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization, in which nearly half (48%) of participants said that integration is very important; analysis show that they want systems to be easier to use, to provide a better user experience, to be less error-prone and to connect processes such as customer feedback and workforce optimization. Version 6 of NICE Customer Interaction Management moves in this direction, with an integrated portal into performance management, workforce management and contact management, unified administration capabilities and enhancements to the user interface.

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SAS Innovates the Potential of Business Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 3, 2014 12:57:28 AM

SAS Institute, a long-established provider analytics software, showed off its latest technology innovations and product road maps at its recent analyst conference. In a very competitive market, SAS is not standing still, and executives showed progress on the goals introduced at last year’s conference, which I covered. SAS’s Visual Analytics software, integrated with an in-memory analytics engine called LASR, remains the company’s flagship product in its modernized portfolio. CEO Jim Goodnight demonstrated Visual Analytics’ sophisticated integration with statistical capabilities, which is something the company sees as a differentiator going forward. The product already provides automated charting capabilities, forecasting and scenario analysis, and SAS probably has been doing user-experience testing, since the visual interactivity is better than what I saw last year. SAS has put Visual Analytics on a six-month release cadence, which is a fast pace but necessary to keep up with the industry.

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Cloud Computing is More Than Multitenancy

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 2, 2014 9:22:04 AM

There’s a growing realization that the multitenant approach to the cloud isn’t the only option that companies should weigh in deciding between deploying software on-premises and in the cloud. That some people describe the multitenancy approach as “the real cloud” reflects the contentious nature of some technical debates, especially those that occur early in the evolution of a new technology. Multitenancy does have advantages that confer cost savings, and these have been important in the first stages of cloud adoption. However, we predict that single-tenant structures will rapidly gain in importance as corporations mature in their use of cloud computing, especially with respect to how they manage their ERP systems, as I have written. Corporations are increasingly adopting Web-based applications and moving their computing environments to a hybrid model that combines a combination of on-premises and cloud deployment options (private, community and public; single- and multitenant; or managed cloud). The right choice depends on the needs of the company and the ability of vendors to provide services that match their requirements.

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Technology Makes a Difference for Location Analytics

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 1, 2014 12:48:10 AM

Our latest benchmark research into the market for location analytics software finds significant demand for location-related technology that can improve business outcomes and generate relevant information for various types of users. (Location analytics is an extension of business analytics that can enhance the sophistication of data and processes by adding a geographic context.)  My last analyst perspective on this topic discussed the business value of insights based on geography and what organizations are doing to advance their efforts here. Our research also shows, however, that most still lack satisfaction and confidence in using the technology. Just 12 percent of all participants said they are very satisfied with the location information and analytics available in their organization. Further analysis shows that satisfaction increases with use of a dedicated application for location analytics: 71 percent of those are satisfied or very satisfied, substantially more than those using location analytics within a BI tool (22%); findings are similar for both B2B and B2C use. We find similar levels of confidence in the quality of location information: 15 percent of those using a dedicated application are very confident in their location analytics. Confidence in the reliability of such information is essential to more organizations adopting location analytics.

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Customer Analytics Research Reveals Required Capabilities for Software

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 29, 2014 9:52:40 AM

Our recently released research into next-generation customer analytics shows that the most participants (52%) use spreadsheets as a customer analytics tool. I recently wrote that while these popular tools are adequate for some tasks, they are not suitable for analyzing large volumes and many types of customer data. So I think it is appropriate that one in four (26%) participants have adopted a dedicated customer analytics tool and a further 29 percent are planning to invest in such a tool in the next 24 months.

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Ceridian Expands Workforce Management to Human Capital Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Mar 29, 2014 9:33:13 AM

At its recent 2014 analyst day Ceridian showed the progress it has made on its Ceridian and Dayforce human capital management (HCM) platform since last year’s launch of its broader HCM portfolio. Ceridian’s overall HCM business, which the company says had revenue of $950 million in 2013 and now has more than 100,000 customers, consists largely of payroll-related products and services such as tax filing and payroll cards, but also benefits, human resources and workforce management products.

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The Virtues of Automating Reconciliation

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 29, 2014 8:41:19 AM

Reconciling accounts at the end of a period is one of those mundane finance department tasks that are ripe for automation. Reconciliation is the process of comparing account data (at the balance or item level) that exists either in two accounting systems or in an accounting system and somewhere else (such as in a spreadsheet or on paper). The purpose of the reconciling process is to identify things that don’t match (as they must in double-entry bookkeeping systems) and then assess the nature and causes of the variances. This is followed by making adjustments or corrections to ensure that the information in a company’s books is accurate. Most of the time, reconciliation is a matter of good housekeeping. The process identifies errors and omissions in the accounting process, including invalid journal postings and duplicate accounting entries, so they can be corrected. Reconciliation also is an important line of defense against fraud, since inconsistencies may be a sign of such activity.

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Big Data Analytics Research Reveals Benefits of Investment

Posted by Ventana Research on Mar 29, 2014 8:17:32 AM

We recently released our benchmark research on big data analytics, and it sheds light on many of the most important discussions occurring in business technology today. The study’s structure was based on the big data analytics framework that I laid out last year as well as the framework that my colleague Mark Smith put forth on the four types of discovery technology available. These frameworks view big data and analytics as part of a major change that includes a movement from designed data to organic data, the bringing together of analytics and data in a single system, and a corresponding move away from the technology-oriented three Vs of big data to the business-oriented three Ws of data. Our big data analytics research confirms these trends but also reveals some important subtleties and new findings with respect to this important emerging market. I want to share three of the most interesting and even surprising results and their implications for the big data analytics market.

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Confirmit Advances Social Analytics for Voice of Customer

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 26, 2014 11:13:05 AM

The last time I reviewed Confirmit it had just acquired CustomerSat and was re-engineering its products to support a broader approach to voice of the customer (VOC), which Ventana Research defines as a complete view of customer interactions, customer sentiments after interactions and the outcomes of those interactions. During my latest briefing, I found out that the new architecture will be available in version 18 of the product, which Confirmit recently announced as generally available. Confirmit also recently announced the acquisition of Integrasco for social and text analytics and says it intends to have those products at least partly integrated into the core product during the second quarter of this year.

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Cloudera Makes Hadoop a Big Player in Big Data

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 24, 2014 9:16:06 PM

I had the pleasure of attending Cloudera’s recent analyst summit. Presenters reviewed the work the company has done since its founding six years ago and outlined its plans to use Hadoop to further empower big data technology to support what I call information optimization. Cloudera’s executive team has the co-founders of Hadoop who worked at Facebook, Oracle and Yahoo when they developed and used Hadoop. Last year they brought in CEO Tom Reilly, who led successful organizations at ArcSight, HP and IBM. Cloudera now has more than 500 employees, 800 partners and 40,000 users trained in its commercial version of Hadoop. The Hadoop technology has brought to the market an integration of computing, memory and disk storage; Cloudera has expanded the capabilities of this open source software for its customers through unique extension and commercialization of open source for enterprise use. The importance of big data is undisputed now: For example, our latest research in big data analytics finds it to be very important in 47 percent of organizations. However, we also find that only 14 percent are very satisfied with their use of big data, so there is plenty of room for improvement. How well Cloudera moves forward this year and next will determine its ability to compete in big data over the next five years.

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ERP’s Future Is Hybrid Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 20, 2014 9:57:00 PM

Information technologists are fond of predictions in which the next big thing quickly and entirely renders the existing thing so completely obsolete that only troglodytes would cling to such outmoded technology. While this vision of IT progress may satisfy the egos of technologists, it rarely reflects reality. Mainframes didn’t disappear, for example. Although they long ago lost their dominant position, many remain key parts of corporate computing infrastructures. The IT landscape is a hybrid because technology users have varying requirements and constraints that can lengthen replacement cycles. Most business users of IT pay little attention to the religious wars of technologists because they take a pragmatic approach: They use technology to achieve business ends. This scenario is repeating itself in clamor about another corporate mainstay, the ERP system, which advocates claim will soon be redeployed en masse to cloud computing. That, too, won’t happen. I believe that ERP will increasingly become cloud-based, but it will be in hybrid cloud environments.

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Interactive Intelligence Advances Contact Center Software Portfolio

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 20, 2014 9:23:54 PM

Building a contact center is growing in complexity as companies struggle to support customers’ ever-higher expectations. Customers now insist on engaging with companies through the channel of their choice, often from a mobile device, and at a time of their choosing. If they interact with a person, they expect that person to have the social and technical skills to resolve their issues quickly and effectively. If they use any form of self-service, they expect the technology to help rather get in the way of speaking with a person. And of course many disgruntled customers don’t hesitate to publish their views on social media.

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Oracle Has Sunny Forecast for Cloud Computing

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 20, 2014 9:35:10 AM

At Oracle’s recent cloud computing analyst summit in sunny Palm Springs, the company’s executive team insisted that it sees clear skies for its efforts in cloud computing. The summit was led by senior executive Thomas Kurian, who runs the entire product organization and reports directly to CEO Larry Ellison. He affirmed that Oracle intends to offer the full range of cloud computing – public, private and hybrid models – to its customers and partners. As one of the world’s largest software suppliers Oracle has much at stake to make its database and all tools and applications available in these cloud environments, including managed cloud services. Our business technology innovation research shows this is a smart bet. Cloud computing is important or very important to 57 percent of organizations, and more than half (55%) of cloud users have been using it for more than a year. I noted in 2013 that simplifying IT and innovating in business are key to its software strategy, and Oracle’s efforts since then have executed on this outline.

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Microsoft Shows Off More than ERP with Dynamics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 13, 2014 2:18:11 AM

Convergence is the Microsoft Dynamics business software user group’s meeting. Dynamics’ core applications are mainly in the accounting and ERP category, descendants of products Microsoft acquired: Great Plains (now GP), Solomon (SL), Navision (NAV) and Damgaard’s Axapta (AX), to which Microsoft has added its own CRM application. It has been more than a decade since the acquisitions of Great Plains (which itself had already purchased Solomon Software), and Navision, Damgaard and the software applications family has evolved steadily if slowly since then. More recently, Microsoft has added cloud services that simplify and improve the connection between remote users and the on-premises core systems, as well as integration with Office365.

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IBM Delivers New Talent Management Suite

Posted by stephanmillard on Mar 13, 2014 1:11:02 AM

At its recent Connect 2014 event IBM announced IBM Kenexa Talent Suite, an integrated talent management suite. The release strengthens its Smarter Workforce initiative by combining IBM and Kenexa products and services in one human capital management (HCM) offering. IBM Kenexa Talent Suite also addresses increasing efforts by human resources organizations to optimize their activities through more effective use of technology, a topic covered in our 2014 HCM research agenda. Specifically, the release integrates talent management process automation capabilities with collaboration and also can be complemented with its workforce analytics to help organizations be more efficient and productive; our benchmark research shows these are the leading benefits of using human capital analytics systems.

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SAS Unifies Big Data for Business and IT

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 12, 2014 6:45:02 AM

Many businesses are close to being overwhelmed by the unceasing growth of data they must process and analyze to find insights that can improve their operations and results. To manage this big data they find a rapidly expanding portfolio of technology products. A significant vendor in this market is SAS Institute. I recently attended the company’s annual analyst summit, Inside Intelligence 2014 (Twitter Hashtag #SASSB). SAS reported more than $3 billion in software revenue for 2013 and is known globally for its analytics software. Recently it has become a more significant presence in data management as well. SAS provides applications for various lines of business and industries in areas as diverse as fraud prevention, security, customer service and marketing. To accomplish this it applies analytics to what is now called big data, but the company has many decades of experience in dealing with large volumes of data. Recently SAS set a goal to be the vendor of choice for the analytic, data and visualization software needs for Hadoop. To achieve this aggressive goal the company will have to make significant further investments in not only its products but also marketing and sales. Our benchmark research on big data analytics shows that three out of four (76%) organizations view big data analytics as analyzing data from all sources, not just one, which sets the bar high for vendors seeking to win their business.

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Customer Analytics Deserve More Than Spreadsheets

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 7, 2014 8:24:59 AM

I recently completed two closely related benchmark research reports, on next-generation customer engagement and next-generation customer analytics. The  research on customer engagement shows that companies on average engage with customers through seven or eight communication channels and that almost every business unit except IT engages with customers. To provide customers with personalized, in-context and consistent experiences across these channels, companies need an up-to-date, complete view of their customers that gives those who interact with them the information they need to decide how to respond. However, the customer analytics research shows that the majority of companies don’t have access to such information and analysis. The most common analytics tool for more than half of companies is spreadsheets in 52 percent of organizations. Although spreadsheets meet individual users’ needs for ad-hoc analysis, they are inadequate for enterprise processes such as customer analytics. Almost three-fifths (57%) of companies in the research said that using spreadsheets makes it difficult to produce accurate and timely customer analysis.

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Location Analytics Delivers Geographic Insights

Posted by Mark Smith on Mar 3, 2014 8:54:44 PM

Adding geographic and location context to business information enables organizations to develop fuller understanding and optimize the activities of people that use the information. We call this location intelligence, and to achieve it requires location analytics, which focus on that context where the processing and presentation of geography and spatial aspects of data are utilized. Analysis of geographic information can provide business insights that help organizations make better business decisions. I have written about this new generation of location analytics previously and noted that it can provide fresh analytic perspectives on information collected and integrated from in-house applications and across the Internet.

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Salesforce.com Continues Move to be Platform Provider

Posted by Richard Snow on Feb 27, 2014 9:50:53 AM

Salesforce.com began with a simple message: On-premises CRM has come to the end of its useful life, and the way forward is cloud-based CRM. I have written several times that the company has won this argument, and my research into contact center in the cloud confirms this: 63 percent of participating organizations said that adopting systems in the cloud is one of the key ways to improve customer engagement. Furthermore, this vendor’s success pressurized  many other companies to move into the cloud, and not just for CRM. Salesforce.com itself expanded from cloud-based CRM to create clouds for sales, marketing and service.. This transition continued in the middle of last year when it surprised the market by announcing it would add a development platform in the cloud to provide tools for creating mobile apps. To further these aims, it recently announced the first release of Salesforce1 Service Cloud, calling it the “Service Platform for the Internet of Customers.” I had several questions about what this really means going into a recent briefing.

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Building a Better Business Case for Buying Software

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 27, 2014 8:59:51 AM

When it comes to making a business case for software investments, many people fail to recognize that the case itself is just one part of what amounts to an internal sales and marketing effort that they must perform well to be successful. Focusing only on the numbers and assumptions in a spreadsheet is not enough. Making a successful business case requires an understanding of the audience’s perspective and motivations. Since the individuals who will review the business case may not be sufficiently aware of the issues that are behind it and their seriousness, it may be necessary to begin an awareness-building program before presenting the business case. And because the benefits of software investments can be difficult to quantify, executive sponsors are useful in achieving acceptance of these calculations. Unfortunately, many business cases founder because proponents do not realize the importance of taking a sales and marketing approach.

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The Sales Forecast Requires Commitment not Status Quo

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 27, 2014 8:03:39 AM

In today’s highly competitive sales environment, where success depends on meeting the specific needs of buyers, an accurate and timely sales forecast is a critical tool for optimizing business outcomes. I discussed this as part of our 2014 research agenda for sales, noting that linking the forecast to commissions, quotas and territories is a requirement for success. We recently completed new benchmark research on sales forecasting to ascertain the state of the processes and technology sales organizations use. This research continues to find less than adequate efforts by organizations to improve their sales forecasting process and insufficient information about the full revenue potential from accounts and customers.

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Human Capital Analytics Delivers Benefits for Business

Posted by stephanmillard on Feb 26, 2014 10:26:28 AM

The market for human capital analytics is in flux, as companies begin to evaluate and adopt more capable tools and processes for this area of human capital management. A look at the tools organizations are using and plan to use for human capital analytics provides an example of this change. Our recently published benchmark research on human capital analytics shows that nearly nine in 10 (87%) organizations are still using spreadsheets for human capital analytics while fewer than two in five (37%) presently use a dedicated human capital analytics tool. However, it also shows the market’s greatest growth yet, as more than two in five (43%) organizations said they will implement dedicated tools in the future. And organizations are recognizing the imperative of making such an investment: Two-thirds of those in our research consider human capital analytics important or very important.

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FinancialForce Broadens Its Reach with ERP and More

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 26, 2014 8:13:32 AM

FinancialForce recently introduced FinancialForce ERP, a family of cloud-based software designed to support a variety of customer-centric businesses such as professional services organizations or companies that specialize in business and industrial distribution. Many of these types of businesses are midsize or small (having 50 to 1,000 employees) and can benefit from the integration of FinancialForce’s accounting, professional services automation, human capital management (HCM) and supply chain management (SCM) software. The company added the last two capabilities at the end of 2013 with the acquisitions of Vana Workforce and Less Software, respectively, which I commented  on. Like FinancialForce’s, their software runs on the Salesforce1 platform, which means that integration of these elements was straightforward. It also enables companies that use or are planning to use salesforce.com for sales and customer service to simplify integration of those with the operational and back-office software, by enabling single sign-on, end-to-end process management and a single data source for reporting and analysis. This integration can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need to re-enter information into systems or to use spreadsheets, documents and email to manage processes. With all of the data available in a single system, creating reports and automating their distribution becomes easier. All of this, in turn, should cut the amount of time and effort spent on administrative and clerical functions and enhance the productivity of the organization.

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Wearable Computing is in Fashion and Ready for Business

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 26, 2014 7:28:40 AM

In the near future, technology will be something we wear or attach comfortably to our bodies. Wearable computers have been evolving for some time, and while that might seem futuristic to the uninformed, in the technology industry it is rapidly becoming real. This trend is important for businesses to note, as our business technology innovation research shows that it is very important to more than half (56%) of organizations to find methods to use technology innovation to support both business processes and their people. Mobile technology is the third-most important innovative technology, after analytics and collaboration, and innovators will use all three together. Many organizations focus on acquiring and retaining the best possible workforce, which after all is their most valuable asset.

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Oracle Modernizes HR with Mobile and Wearable Computing

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 22, 2014 6:43:00 AM

At Oracle’s first-ever HCM World conference, the technology company demonstrated its commitment to human resources customers, explaining its strategy for Modern HR in the Cloud, which is focused on meeting the needs of employees in a large, dispersed workforce. The conference was insightful both intellectually and practically in its discussions of how workforces are changing. Oracle also showed its commitment by having both President Mark Hurd and CEO Larry Ellison present keynotes. This was the first time both have addressed a conference other than the flagship Oracle OpenWorld. It is worth watching the replays of their talks, which reveal the company’s motivation and investment in human capital management (HCM). In developing its HCM products Oracle has in mind multigenerational workforces that require software that is adaptable to people, competencies and new technologies such as mobile devices and social collaboration and recognizes the imperative to access workforce information and analytics immediately. The rebranded Oracle HCM Cloud Service has gained significant momentum, as my colleague Stephan Millard pointed out in his recent analysis of Oracle’s HCM portfolio. Taking a global approach it supports users in 196 countries, 34 languages and multiple currencies and operates entirely in a cloud environment.

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Five Priorities for the Office of Finance in 2014

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 20, 2014 1:35:32 AM

A core objective of my research practice and agenda is to help the Office of Finance improve its performance by better utilizing information technology. As we kick off 2014, I see five initiatives that CFOs and controllers should adopt to improve their execution of core finance functions and free up time to concentrate on increasing their department’s strategic value. Finance organizations – especially those that need to improve performance – usually find it difficult to find the resources to invest in increasing their strategic value. However, any of the first three initiatives mentioned below will enable them to operate more efficiently as well as improve performance. These initiatives have been central to my focus for the past decade. The final two are relatively new and reflect the evolution of technology to enable finance departments to deliver better results. Every finance organization should adopt at least one of these five as a priority this year.

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MicroStrategy Reveals New Generation of Analytics for Cloud and Mobile Computing

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 18, 2014 8:19:04 AM

At its recent MicroStrategy World 2014 conference, the enterprise software company introduced a portfolio of products to make it easier to perform analytics and make them easier to access through the cloud and mobile forms of computing. These announcements accelerate MicroStrategy’s transition to approaching corporate business users of analytics from its past focus on business intelligence, which typically is purchased by IT. This is a subtle but strategic shift that recognizes where growth opportunities lie and that analytics must be available on any device at any time. MicroStrategy made it clear that advances in the cloud, mobility and big data were integral to its product releases last year and is continuing in this direction in 2014 with the products in its MicroStrategy 9.4 suite.

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Economic Recovery Spurs Growth in Recruiting Software

Posted by stephanmillard on Feb 18, 2014 5:07:02 AM

One strong sign of the economic recovery as manifested in the human capital management market is the recent spate of announcements of new recruiting applications from software companies that are not always considered for recruiting. Here are some of them. Ultimate Software announced the launch of UltiPro Recruiting. Saba Recently announced the release of Recruiting@Work. Workday announced the upcoming release of Workday Recruiting. And Ceridian announced release a recruiting application on its Dayforce platform scheduled for the first quarter of this year, which I covered. These recent investments by vendors in recruiting applications, as well as others I discussed after the most recent HR Technology Conference, demonstrate the increased emphasis on recruiting to support talent and workforce management processes in human capital management (HCM).

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Mobile Business Intelligence – Who is Hot in 2014

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2014 10:27:39 AM

Ventana Research recently completed the most comprehensive evaluation of mobile business intelligence products and vendors available anywhere today. The evaluation includes 16 technology vendors’ offerings on smartphones and tablets and use across Apple, Google Android, Microsoft Surface and RIM BlackBerry that were assessed in seven key categories: usability, manageability, reliability, capability, adaptability, vendor validation and TCO and ROI. The result is our Value Index for Mobile Business Intelligence in 2014. The analysis shows that the top supplier is MicroStrategy, which qualifies as a Hot vendor and is followed by 10 other Hot vendors: IBM, SAP, QlikTech, Information Builders, Yellowfin, Tableau Software, Roambi, SAS, Oracle and arcplan.

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The Business Technology Challenge of 2014: Information Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 11, 2014 10:05:05 AM

Our recently released benchmark research on information optimization shows that 97 percent of organizations find it important or very important to make information available to the business and customers, yet only 25 percent are satisfied with the technology they use to provide that access. This wide gap between importance and satisfaction reflects the complexity of preparing and presenting information in a world where users need to access many forms of data that exist across distributed systems.

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The Human Capital Management Technology Revolution in 2014

Posted by stephanmillard on Feb 5, 2014 8:37:43 AM

Human capital will continue to be an organization’s largest investment in 2014 and if productive will be one of its most valuable assets and differentiators. It also continues to rank as top priority by CEOs across the industry. We anticipate that businesses that take advantage of the innovative technology now available for human capital management (HCM) will gain a competitive advantage. Ventana Research will track these technological advances and how they are put to use by organizations that deploy them.

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The Challenge of Making ERP Systems More Configurable

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 31, 2014 9:42:14 AM

In the wake of the past year’s usual crop of failed ERP implementations, I’ve read a couple of blogs that bemoan the fact that ERP systems are not nearly as user-friendly or intuitive as the mobile apps that everyone loves. I’ve complained about this aspect of ERP, and our research confirms that ERP systems are viewed as cumbersome: Just one in five companies (21%) said it is easy to make changes to ERP systems while one-third (33%) said making changes is difficult or very difficult. Yet as with many such technology topics, addressing the difficulty in working with ERP systems is not as straightforward as one might hope. ERP software vendors must make it easier, less expensive and less risky for customers to adapt the systems they buy to their changing business needs. To do this, vendors must design products to be more configurable. The goal should be that organizations can make changes and add new capabilities to their ERP system in far less time than it takes today and without having to engage outside consultants.

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The Future of Customer Engagement Is Complicated

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 31, 2014 9:00:21 AM

In my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement three-quarters (77%) of participating companies said it is necessary to improve the way they engage with customers. The main drivers for doing that are to improve the customer experience (74%) and improve customer service (70%). However, neither is an easy task because companies now have to support more channels of communication, and more customer interactions are handled by multiple business units within the organization. The combined impact of this complexity can be inconsistent responses that depend largely on which channel the customer uses and which person handles the interaction. This is situation is likely to get worse as customers continue to use existing channels but increasingly add new means of engagement such as mobile apps, voice-activated applications and social media posts.

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The Challenge for Sales in 2014: Stepping Beyond Conventional Wisdom

Posted by Mark Smith on Jan 31, 2014 8:45:34 AM

It should be no surprise for those who work in sales that increasing outcomes collectively is not always easy. Sales teams and individuals work under pressure to perform at high levels, selling more than they did in the previous period or more than the person who previously had responsibility for a territory. Today’s economic and competitive environments demand that everyone work not just faster but smarter in their sales efforts. To excel in this environment requires not just wise use of time but prioritization of the activities and tasks that contribute to achieving the quota and forecast. In the past, sales organizations often resisted adopting new technology, but it’s time for them to realize that tools are available to facilitate better sales performance. As I outlined in the overview of our business and technology research agenda for this year, the sales department has a ripe opportunity to get smarter in how it operates. This is the essential point of our research practice in sales applications and technology: Our methodical benchmark research examines applications and technology best practices and benefits for sales organizations, and we assess the vendors and products in this market through our Value Index ratings. We will start 2014 with the latest release of our Value Index on Sales Performance Management, which will help sales management evaluate products to assist in improving performance of the organization.

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Envision Takes Workforce Optimization to the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 28, 2014 11:40:17 PM

Envision has carved out a slice of the workforce optimization market by offering its suite of products as cloud-based services. In addition to core products such as interaction recording, quality assurance, workforce management, training, coaching and agent analytics, it offers speech and desktop analytics and customer feedback management through surveys and our part of my research agenda. Our last Value Index shows that this is a highly competitive market, and my benchmark research on next-generation workforce optimization reveals that various segments of the market such as call recording and quality management have high levels of penetration. I was therefore keen to understand where Envision’s latest release, Click2Coach Cloud, fits in this market.

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Paxata Give Analysts Valuable Time Back for Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 28, 2014 11:18:01 PM

Paxata, a new data and analytics software provider says it wants to address one of the most pressing challenges facing today’s analyst performing analytics: simplifying data preparation. This trend toward simplification is well aligned with the market’s desire for improving usability, which our benchmark research into Next-Generation Business Intelligence shows is a primary buying consideration in two-thirds (64%) of companies. This trend is driving significant adoption of business-friendly-front-end visual and data discovery tools and is part of my research agenda for 2014.

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Uptivity Launches Gamification Capabilities for Workforces

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 27, 2014 9:26:51 AM

I am not comfortable with the term “gamification” used in the context of business applications. It sounds as if employees are officially allowed to play games while working and thus take their attention away from the task at hand, which in a contact center is serving customers. So I was skeptical when Uptivity recently wanted to brief me about gamification capabilities it recently announced for its suite of workforce optimization products. I was doubtful that gamification will help companies in their quest to optimize performance from their contact center agents.

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Big Data Offers Business Opportunity for Information Optimization in 2014

Posted by Mark Smith on Jan 27, 2014 9:09:29 AM

Businesses are always looking for ways to grow and to streamline their operations. These two goals can come into conflict because as organizations become larger it becomes more complicated to be agile and efficient. To help them understand and modify their processes, businesses can derive insights from analytics applied to their data. Today that data is available not only in the enterprise and cloud computing environments but also from the Internet. To collect, process and analyze it all is a challenge, one that an increasing number of organizations are meeting through the use of big data technologies. The resulting insights can help them make strategic business decisions such as where to focus efforts and how to engage with customers. At Ventana Research we have been working hard to understand the advancing technology that supports big data and its value through information optimization and bring clarity to the industry through our research and analysis of trends and products. There are many opinions about big data and fixation on the attributes of it through the V’s (volume, variety and velocity) and how to use it, often biased toward one technology or vendor; our research and analysis of the entire market cuts through the noise to provide not just facts but insights on best practices and methods to apply this technology to business problems.

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The Value Index of Workforce Management Software for 2014

Posted by stephanmillard on Jan 23, 2014 9:06:13 AM

Ventana Research recently released our Value Index on Workforce Management for 2014. We define workforce management as the set of processes by which organizations manage their hourly and salaried employees to maximize productivity. It involves not only tracking time worked and providing compensation for it but also aligning that work to the objectives of the organization and to the individual employee’s needs. Our Value Indexes are informed by more than a decade of analysis of how well technology suppliers and their products satisfy specific business and IT needs. For each we perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability to task in five categories as well as of the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. In this case the resulting index gauges the value offered by each vendor and its products in supporting workforce management, which is necessary for running an organization efficiently and effectively.

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Business Analytics in 2014: Trends and Possibilities

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 23, 2014 8:41:23 AM

Our benchmark research shows that analytics is the top business technology innovation priority; 39% of organizations rank it first. This is no surprise as new information sources and new technologies in data processing, storage, networking, databases and analytic software are combining to offer capabilities for using information never before possible. For businesses, the analytic priority is heightened by intense competition on several fronts; they need to know as much as possible about pricing, strategies, customers and competitors. Within the organization, the IT department and the lines of business continue to debate issues around the analytic skills gap, information simplification, information governance and the rise of time-to-value metrics. Given this backdrop, I expect 2014 to be an exciting year for  studying analytic technologies and how they apply to business.

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SuccessFactors Integrates More with SAP for Human Capital Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Jan 16, 2014 9:51:58 AM

Much has happened for SuccessFactors in the past year as it became more a part of SAP, which acquired it in 2012.  One of the most notable changes was the departure of its founder, Lars Delgaard, who set the culture of the company, and the selection of Shawn Price as president. The changes in leadership have come as SuccessFactors shifts away from its position in “business execution” software toward a HR and talent management suite, which aligns it more with what SAP has. (For background, see my colleague Mark Smith’s report shortly after the acquisition.) Since then, SuccessFactors and SAP have worked at strengthening several parts of their human capital management product by connecting it with its new payroll software and more recently its HANA in-memory processing platform. The products, however, remain separate. These advances should be well received by both existing customers and those considering either its new payroll system or SuccessFactors’ HR management and talent management systems.

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Boardwalktech Addresses Spreadsheet Woes in Business

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 15, 2014 10:17:39 AM

Our benchmark research on enterprise spreadsheets explores the pitfalls that await companies that use desktop spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel in repetitive, collaborative enterprise-wide processes. Because people are so familiar with Excel and therefore are able to quickly transform their finance or business expertise into a workable spreadsheet for modeling, analysis and reporting, desktop spreadsheets became the default choice. Individuals and organizations resist giving up their spreadsheets, so software vendors have come up with adaptations that embrace and extend their use. I’ve long advocated finding user-friendly spreadsheet alternatives.

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Customer Engagement in 2014: Agenda for Delivering Best Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 15, 2014 9:53:46 AM

In 2013 we continued to see change in the contact center, customer service and customer experience markets: Consumers’ communication habits continued to evolve, more business units outside the traditional contact center became involved in handling interactions, software vendors continued to come up with new technologies, and cloud computing, mobility, big data, collaboration, social media and analytics all had a big impact on the ways users access and consume software. Many of these trends surfaced in my benchmark research on next-generation workforce optimization and next-generation customer engagement. Overall my research shows that organizations are slowly maturing in terms of the people, processes, information and technology they use to support customer engagement and related customer-facing activities. However, it also shows that many of the old issues have not gone away and that companies still have work to do to meet customer expectations and achieve their business goals.

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Opportunity for the Office of Finance in 2014

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 13, 2014 8:23:51 AM

Senior finance executives and finance organizations that want to improve their performance must recognize that technology is a key tool for doing high-quality work. To test this premise, imagine how smoothly your company would operate if all of its finance and administrative software and hardware were 25 years old. In almost all cases the company wouldn’t be able to compete at all or would be at a substantial disadvantage. Having the latest technology isn’t always necessary, but even though software doesn’t wear out in a physical sense, it has a useful life span, at the end of which it needs replacement. As an example, late in 2013 a major U.K. bank experienced two system-wide failures in rapid succession caused by its decades-old mainframe systems; these breakdowns followed a similarly costly failure in 2012. For years the cost and risk of replacing these legacy systems kept management from taking the plunge. What they didn’t consider were the cost and risk associated with keeping the existing systems going. Our new research agenda for the Office of Finance attempts to find a balance between the leading edge and the mainstream that will help businesses find practical solutions.

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IBM Bets a Billion to Mobilize Watson Business Unit and Monetize Cognitive Computing

Posted by Mark Smith on Jan 13, 2014 8:04:28 AM

With much fanfare and a rarely seen introduction by CEO Ginni Rometty, IBM launched IBM Watson as a new business unit focused on cognitive computing technology and solutions, now being led by Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin. The announcement is summarized here:. Until now IBM Watson was important but had neither this stature in IBM’s organizational structure nor enough investment to support what the company proclaims is the third phase of computing. As IBM tells it, computing paradigms began with the century-old tabular computing, followed by the age of programmatic computing, in which IBM developed many products and advancements. The third phase is cognitive computing, an area in which the company has invested significantly to advance its technology. IBM has been on this journey for some time, long before the IBM Watson system beat humans on Jeopardy!. Its machine-learning efforts started with the IBM 704 and computer checkers in the 1950s, followed by decades of utilizing the computing power of the IBM 360 mainframe, the IBM AS/400, the IBM RS/6000 and even IBM XT computers in the 1980s. Now IBM Watson is focused on reaching the full potential of cognitive computing.

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Verint Doubles Down on Customer Engagement with Acquisition of KANA

Posted by Richard Snow on Jan 10, 2014 8:51:51 AM

Verint recently announced a definitive agreement to acquire KANA Software. Its goal, in the words of the press release, is to “transform the way organizations engage with their customers.” Customer engagement and customer experience management have become the topics of many conversations in my research area, so I wanted to understand the substance behind this move.

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Research Agendas for 2014: Optimizing the Use of Technology for Business

Posted by Mark Smith on Jan 10, 2014 8:37:34 AM

Greetings, everyone, and best wishes for a great start to 2014. In this new year, utilizing best practices and skills learned in 2013 will be critical for optimizing the use of efforts to support both business and IT. In 2013 many organizations made progress in balancing technology decisions across business and IT as the lines of business continued to take leading roles in investment and prioritization. Major investments were made in business applications using software as a service, business analytics and mobile computing applications. In some other areas of innovation, particularly big data and social collaboration, deployments are just beginning to happen and a significant amount of projects are in experimental and proof of concept than enterprise use.

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Infor Makes Customer Experience Management Simpler for Marketing

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 27, 2013 8:18:03 AM

I recently wrote that Infor aims to reinvent business applications and its new developments make it a vendor to watch. I was therefore intrigued to have a demonstration of its latest marketing products, Infor Epiphany and Infor Orbis Marketing Resource Management. These are grouped on its website under customer relationship management, and I don’t usually spend much time on this category of products since for my research it is too inwardly focused and doesn’t impact the customer experience a great deal. However this briefing showed that for Infor it is not that simple.

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Aria Makes Billing Simple for Recurring Revenue

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 18, 2013 10:48:36 AM

I have written lately about how digital customers change customer engagement. It’s no surprise that at the heart of this change, as well as many others that impact business, is the Internet. Along with smart mobile devices, the Internet has changed the ways consumers engage with each other and businesses. In buying products and services, digital customers prefer to research them on the Internet, then buy online or at a store. They expect all activities to happen fast, perhaps in real time. Online commerce has helped support this business model for many companies but has not been as nimble to meet the subscription and billing demands needed today. If not, the Internet provides ways of helping customers express their opinions and feelings often and immediately. To adapt to this business will have to be able to support new methods of selling products and services to the market and support the rapid subscription and billing needs to capture revenue potential at any time of the day.

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IBM Integrates Risk Management for Financial Services

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 18, 2013 9:47:52 AM

Integrated risk management (IRM) was a major theme at IBM’s recent Smarter Risk Management analyst summit in London. In the market context, IBM sees this topic as a means to differentiate its product and messaging from those of its competitors. IRM includes cloud-based offerings in operational risk analytics, IT risk analytics and financial crimes management designed for financial institutions and draws on component elements of software that IBM acquired over the past five years, notably from Algorithmics for risk-aware business decisions, Open Pages for compliance management, SPSS for sophisticated analytics, Cognos for reports, dashboards and scorecards, and Tivoli for managing all of this in a Web environment. Putting its software in the cloud enables IBM to streamline integration and maintenance, offer more flexible deployment and consumption options and potentially lower the total cost of ownership.

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IBM Brings New Innovation in Analytics for Business Insights

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 18, 2013 8:50:48 AM

Like every large technology corporation today, IBM faces an innovator’s dilemma in at least some of its business. That phrase comes from Clayton Christensen’s seminal work, The Innovator’s Dilemma, originally published in 1997, which documents the dynamics of disruptive markets and their impacts on organizations. Christensen makes the key point that an innovative company can succeed or fail depending on what it does with the cash generated by continuing operations. In the case of IBM, it puts around US$6 billion a year into research and development; in recent years much of this investment has gone into research on big data and analytics, two of the hottest areas in 21st century business technology. At the company’s recent Information On Demand (IOD) conference in Las Vegas, presenters showed off much of this innovative portfolio.

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Companies Struggle to Engage with Customers Digitally

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 11, 2013 8:45:11 AM

If you stop to compare communication preferences of the past to those of today, you can’t fail to notice some major changes, especially in younger generations. Talking on the phone – fixed or mobile – is in decline, as many people now prefer text messaging, chat and social media. We rely on the Internet to search for websites, run mobile apps and use social media. We watch less TV in real time, preferring to watch what we want, when we want to watch it and to skip advertisements. The same applies to newspapers, with many people preferring to have the news they want to see downloaded to their smart devices. Today, any email from someone we don’t know goes straight to the junk mail folder, and writing seems to be becoming a lost art. This is the world of the digital customer. Companies have to support digital customers while continuing to support others who still make phone calls, send email and even write letters. According to my research into next-generation customer engagement, most companies are not yet prepared to meet the expectations of digital customers.

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Failure in Agent Workforce Optimization Adoption Plagues Customer Interaction

Posted by Richard Snow on Dec 5, 2013 7:40:20 AM

Ventana Research defines workforce optimization as a set of processes and technology for customer agents that include interaction (call) recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, compensation management and analytics. My benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization set out to discover the people, processes, information and systems companies are using to get more from their customer service agents, the benefits they have gained, their plans to change and the barriers holding back those changes. Our research projects apply the Ventana Research Maturity Model™ to evaluate the maturity of organizations in a given market or with respect to a business or IT process. In this case our analysis shows that based on current practices nearly half of companies are at the lowest Tactical level of maturity and only 13 percent have reached the highest Innovative level. Closer examination of the results shows that companies are least mature in their use of technology for workforce optimization, with half at the Tactical level. Much has changed in the way companies handle customer interactions. Two of the biggest changes I have seen in various research are that companies now support more channels of communication and more employees around the organization are involved in handling interactions, meaning companies need to review their workforce optimization systems and begin to take advantage of these advances. Yet the research shows that most of them aren’t yet doing that.

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FinancialForce.com Expands into Human Capital and Supply Chain Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 28, 2013 6:39:14 AM

FinancialForce.com, a provider of cloud-based financial applications, recently announced two pending acquisitions. One is Vana Workforce, which makes a human capital management (HCM) application aimed at small to midsize companies. The other is LessSoftware, a supplier of Web-based supply chain management (SCM) applications. The acquisitions are part of FinancialForce’s strategy to build a broad suite of applications that run on salesforce.com’s Force.com platform. The three companies already have joint customers, so they build on established use cases and relationships. FinancialForce.com itself is jointly owned by salesforce.com and Netherlands-based Unit 4.

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Host Analytics Lifts Spreadsheets to Cloud for Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 27, 2013 9:48:54 AM

Host Analytics has introduced AirliftXL, a new feature of its cloud-based financial performance management (FPM) suite that enables its software to translate users’ spreadsheets into the Host Analytics format. I find it significant in three respects. First, it can substantially reduce the time and resources it takes for a company to go live in adopting the Host Analytics suite, lowering the cost of implementation and accelerating time to value. Second, it enables Host Analytics users who have the appropriate permissions to create and modify models and templates that they use in planning, budgeting, consolidation and reporting. This can enhance the value of the system by making it easier to maintain. Third, it can make it far easier to routinely collect and connect planning and analytical models used by all departments and business users as it has outlined in its planning cloud offering. Although it has limitations in its initial release, AirliftXL gives corporations a workable alternative to stand-alone spreadsheets and has the potential to substantially increase productivity and effectiveness of an organization in the full range of budgeting, planning, consolidation and reporting functions.

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Teradata Establishes Trust in Big Data Technology

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 26, 2013 8:22:23 AM

At its Teradata Partners conference in Dallas, a broader vision for big data and analytics was articulated clearly. Their pitch centered on three areas – data warehousing, big data analytics and integrated marketing – that to some degree reflect Teradata’s core market and acquisitions in the last few years of companies like Aprimo who provides integrated marketing technology and Aster in big data analytics. The keynote showcased the company’s leadership position in the increasingly complex world of open source database software, cloud computing and business analytics.

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No Need to Dream of Customer Engagement at Dreamforce

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 19, 2013 7:32:49 AM

I recently wrote how the recent U.K.-based Call Centre Expo showed that companies have shifted priorities for deployment systems from on-premises infrastructures to cloud-based systems and that as a consequence vendors had shifted focus from workforce optimization to cloud-based multichannel interaction management. Confirming this trend, as salesforce.com Dreamforce event at least 10 such vendors will be showing their products. A few of them I saw at Call Centre Expo: Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, LiveOps, NewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom. But as an illustration of how rapidly this market has grown, Dreamforce also will host 8x8, Corvisa Cloud, Five9, inContact and ShoreTel. Between the two events there are 18 vendors offering such products, and many others will not promote and demonstrate products at the event.

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Companies Need to Reconcile Customer Interaction Priorities

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 16, 2013 8:50:10 AM

Today companies handle an increasing number of customer interactions and they do this through a greater number and variety of communication channels, and by using more employees that are dispersed throughout the organization. Managing the pool of agents in a contact center has always proved a complex task and this is made more complex as interactions are now handled by most lines of business (marketing, sales, customer service, finance, HR, home workers and mobile workers). To do this many companies have deployed what collectively is called workforce optimization (WFO) systems: interaction recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, compensation management and reporting/analytics. My benchmark research into Next Generation WFO set out to discover what people, process, information and systems companies are using, the benefits they have gained, future plans to change and what barriers are holding back those changes.

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Finance Can Get a Big Advantage from Big Data

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 16, 2013 8:21:59 AM

All the hubbub around big data and analytics has many senior finance executives wondering what the big deal is and what they should do about it. It can be especially confusing because much of what’s covered and discussed on this topic is geared toward technologists and others working outside of Finance, in areas such as sales, marketing and risk management. But finance executives need to position their organization to harness this technology to support the strategic goals of their company. To do so, they must have clarity as to what big data can do, what they want it to do, and what skills and tools they need to meet their objectives.

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The Cloud Can Help You Get Smarter If You Let It

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 8, 2013 8:09:09 AM

One of the potential benefits of cloud computing to access business applications and data is its potential to improve the situational awareness of executives and managers. By this I mean their understanding of what’s going on outside their company in addition to what’s happening within it. Today people have access to a trove of information about their own company, which is the result of decades of investment in an expanding range of enterprise transaction systems (ERP, CRM and supply chain management, for example) and convenient data stores that make accessing data easier than ever. But although people have access to internal information, most have big gaps in their knowledge about what’s going on in the outside world. Take, for example, market trends, information about a competitor’s, supplier’s or customer’s financials or industry-specific demand forecasts. Our benchmark research shows that while two-thirds of companies are satisfied with their ability to integrate information from standard internal sources, only 39 percent feel that way about reference or competitive data from external sources and 36 percent about text data from social media.

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Mobility and Social Interaction Are the New Trends in Human Capital Management

Posted by stephanmillard on Nov 7, 2013 8:32:30 AM

2013 was a big year for the annual HR Technology conference, as its well-known co-founder and leader for the past 16 years, Bill Kutik, stepped down, passing leadership of the event to Steve Boese, another familiar name in the community. Beyond the change in leadership, at this year’s show were a large number of vendors that have invested in new technology to advance human capital management (HCM). Overall I noted several interesting trends, some that were similar to those I written about earlier in the year and others that reflect the evolution of innovations seen at last year’s show, specifically expanding the use of mobile access within applications and further extending business collaboration into HCM platforms. In addition, there were other advances driven by market factors such as growth in new recruiting technologies.

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PROS Will Acquire Cameleon to Enhance Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 6, 2013 8:51:03 AM

PROS Holdings, a provider of price and revenue optimization software, has an agreement in principle to acquire Cameleon Software, which offers configure, price and quote (CPQ) applications. The combined company is likely to benefit from a broader geographic presence (PROS is based in Houston while Cameleon is in Toulouse, France) for their sales and marketing efforts. However, the longer-term strategic value of the merger lies in the combination of the related categories of price optimization and CPQ to improve sales effectiveness and financial performance.

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Nuevora Takes Flexible Approach to Big Data Analytics

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 6, 2013 8:34:53 AM

While covering providers of business analytics software, it is also interesting for me to look at some that focus on the people, process and implementation aspects in big data and analytics. One such company is Nuevora, which uses a flexible platform to provide customized analytic solutions. I recently met the company’s founder, Phani Nagarjuna, when we appeared on a panel at the Predictive Analytics World conference in San Diego.

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Infor Aims to Reinvent Business Applications

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 6, 2013 8:18:55 AM

Infor is a vendor I haven’t covered much in the past, but after attending the recent Infor on the Road day in the U.K. that is about to change. I viewed Infor as basically a CRM vendor, and I don’t believe such systems have much impact on customer engagement and the customer experience. Indeed if you view Infor website’s product page, it features several product categories focused on internal processes: CRM, Asset Management, Financial Management, Resource Planning, Human Capital Management and Product Management. (By the way, my colleague Robert Kugel wrote about some of these after his visit to Inforum.) If like me you are not technically minded, you might skip the technology section, which is where Infor showcases innovation in business applications.

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Big Data and Analytics Helps Business Transform and Gain Competitive Advantage

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 1, 2013 7:31:07 AM

In our benchmark research on business technology innovation, organizations ranked analytics the number-one priority (for 39%) among six technology trends. Big data, perhaps because it is a more technical concept, ranked fifth, with 11 percent of organizations calling it a top innovation priority. But in this time of global business, nonstop communications and fierce competition, more organizations are finding that big data and analytics together can help them cope with constant change. They can help organizations face imperatives such as increasing time-to-value and becoming more agile and adaptive.

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Zeacom Communication Center 7.0 Modernizes the Agent Desktop

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 1, 2013 7:18:14 AM

When I last reviewed contact center vendor Zeacom it was in the process of being acquired by Enghouse Interactive, with its primary goal being a more global presence. At the time Zeacom’s main selling points were support for multiple channels of communication and integration with Lync, Microsoft’s unified communications software. Now the acquisition is complete (although Zeacom still seems to operate on a fairly autonomous basis), and I learned during a recent briefing that the latest release of its Zeacom Communication Center 7.0 product takes advantage of closer integration with Enghouse Interactive products and includes some important new capabilities.

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Informatica and Exterro Partner for More Effective E-discovery

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 1, 2013 7:07:45 AM

Informatica and Exterro have announced a partnership in the market for discovery of electronic data and documents (known as e-discovery). Exterro has made its reputation in e-discovery workflow and legal holds management while Informatica is a leader in data integration that our Value Index finds as the top and Hot rated provider. The partnership is designed to provide users of Exterro’s Fusion E-Discovery software with a single point of control for organizing and managing legal and preservation holds (that is, preventing electronic data from alteration or deletion) of unstructured and structured data that are held in Informatica’s Data Archive. Informatica specializes in the efficient management of information assets, which our benchmark research shows is not easy for most organizations to do because they have data spread across multiple applications and systems: Two-thirds of organizations said that this makes it difficult to manage information. By consolidating in a single repository the storage of information that is likely to be the subject of discovery, companies can simplify and cut the cost of the search process as well as reduce risk. Orchestrating legal and preservation holds can be complex since multiple people or groups within a company may be legally involved with the same data over an extended period of time. Moreover, it’s important to ensure that once the holds are no longer needed, all data that can be eliminated is eliminated.

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Tidemark Unifies New Generation of Business Planning Software

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 1, 2013 6:56:27 AM

Tidemark announced the release of the Fall 2013 version of its eponymous cloud-based application that my colleague assessed earlier in 2013. This new release adds capabilities for labor planning and expense management as well profitability modeling and analysis. These two areas of planning and analysis are common to all businesses. The new release adds features that enhance the software’s ability to do sales forecasting, initiative planning and IT department planning. The company continues to refine its modeling capabilities to make it easier for people engaged in the planning process to translate their expectations and concerns into a quantified view of the future. For example, users now can build models using natural-language modeling. The objective is to eliminate the need for help from business analysts or experts trained in the use of a tool and immersed the details of the IT plumbing, such as the metadata used for specific general ledger accounts or operational data.

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Natural Analytics Transforming QlikView

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 28, 2013 6:05:49 AM

QlikTech executives unveiled the future of what I cover in business analytics at its recent industry analyst summit in what they framed as natural analytics and how it underlies the company’s next major release in 2014, and with what they call QlikView.Next which they have outlined publicly. Anthony Deighton, SVP Products and Donald Farmer, VP of Product Management, did most of the talking, but it is clear that the idea unifies the business and technology strategy for its future.

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IBM Social Business Bets on Key Application and Technologies

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 24, 2013 8:25:24 AM

I recently attended an IBM event about its new social business products and services. I was skeptical at first: I have seen another vendor’s “social enterprise” come and go, and although companies need to address customer use of social media, I don’t think “social” is the path businesses should take; it is more to do with collaboration. However, I quickly learned that IBM sees things rather differently. Its starting point is the need for companies to make their workforces smarter – something I agree with. Employees are the heart of a company; for example, according to my research into customer service and the agent desktop, not only do happy, empowered employees twice as often deliver superior customer experiences, but they also meet customer-related targets more often, and deliver or retain more satisfied and more loyal customers who spend more.

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CEOs and Executives Need Business Planning Software

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 22, 2013 10:19:24 AM

Business planning is a new software category. These applications enable senior executives to integrate all the plans of business units into a single, integrated view, which helps them have more accurate plans, do more insightful what-if planning, achieve greater agility in reacting to changing business and economic conditions, and execute plans in a more coordinated fashion than was possible. Business planning software is intended for CEOs and COOs, who are not well served by current capabilities. Business planning software enables executives and managers to understand both the operational and the financial consequences of their actions, but it emphasizes the things that the various parts of the business focus on: units sold, sales calls made, the number and types of employees required, customers serviced and so on. Lines of business already do this but in a fragmented fashion using desktop spreadsheets circulated within silos via email. Business planning software provides a platform to support modeling in individual business units, individual planning processes and visualization of the impacts of changes in what-if scenarios. It offers a central data repository for all plans; our benchmark research shows the advantage of this approach: Companies that directly link individual business unit data to an integrated plan get more accurate results. To be specific, 22 percent of those with such links have very accurate budgets compared to just a handful with less direct links and none that employ summarized data.

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Oracle Hyperion Products Challenged by New Generation of Expectations

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 16, 2013 7:22:36 AM

Oracle continues to enrich the capabilities of its Hyperion suite of applications that support the finance function, but I wonder if that will be enough to sustain its market share and new generation of expectations. At the recent Oracle OpenWorld these new features were on display, and spokespeople described how the company will be transitioning its software to cloud deployment. Our 2013 Financial Performance Management Value (FPM) Index rates Oracle Hyperion a Warm vendor in my analysis, ranking eighth out of nine vendors. Our Value Index is informed by more than a decade of analysis of technology suppliers and their products and how well they satisfy specific business and IT needs. We perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability-to-task as well as the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. Our assessment reflects two disparate sets of factors. On one hand, the Hyperion FPM suite offers a broad set of software that automates, streamlines and supports a range of finance department functions. It includes sophisticated analytical applications. Used to full effect, Hyperion can eliminate many manual steps and speed execution of routine work. It also can enhance accuracy, ensure tasks are completed on a timely basis, foster coordination between Finance and the rest of the organization and generate insights into corporate performance. For this, the software gets high marks.

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Oracle Demonstrates Innovation in Human Capital Management

Posted by Mark Smith on Oct 15, 2013 6:24:27 AM

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 was the first year in