Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

Interactive Intelligence Integrates Contact Center Interactions

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 25, 2011 7:23:16 AM

Interactive Intelligence (ININ) recently invited partners, consultants and analysts to Portugal to hear about the latest developments in its products. Not surprisingly given the extensive range of products it now supports, none of us had much time to enjoy Lisbon but were put through an intensive program of presentations and discussions.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, RightNow, Operational Performance, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Workforce Performance, 360-degree view of the Customer, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

Alight Does Agile Planning

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 25, 2011 7:18:58 AM

Alight Planning sells planning and budgeting software mainly to midsize  companies and stresses its software’s ability to support a more effective approach to corporate planning and budgeting. It calls this “agile planning,” a term used to contrast a traditional, highly deterministic method of drawing up and executing plans with an “agile” mindset that is better able to deal with the high level of economic volatility that most businesses confront today. In many respects Alight’s approach is consistent with what Ventana Research refers to as “integrated business planning,” which I have written about as a business priority and an area that I have extensively researched.

 What distinguishes agile planning (and integrated business planning) from budgeting is this: In the end, the purpose of budgeting is to create a fixed budget for the finance department that constrains spending and attempts to hold people accountable to financial results. In contrast, the purpose of agile planning is to create a plan that enables a company to achieve its business objectives and then generate (as automatically as possible) a financial budget consistent with that business plan.

 The most distinctive feature of Alight’s software – an explicit unit-times-rate structure for building plans – does a great job of supporting a more advanced approach to planning and budgeting that is consistent with a performance driver planning methodology. The unit-times-rate method disaggregates the planning of “things” (for example, how many units will be sold and how many sales calls it will take to sell this many units) from the financial consequences of those activities (that is, revenues and cost of selling). Keeping units and rates explicit during the planning process can lead to a more effective allocation of resources. For example, executives can quickly compare average sales per employee by store or region or invoices processed per employee to see if headcounts are appropriate. Keeping units and rates explicit also can make the process of planning and (as important) replanning faster and more accurate because things and their prices are stored and calculated separately. For example, over the course of time, a company may find that its sales funnel model (the description of the progression from lead generation to closing a sale) remains accurate, but the cost of some components (such as an in-person sales call or the structure of sales incentives) changes. This approach also facilitates more effective contingency planning. Continuing the example, sales executives are able to calculate the impact of changes in average travel costs in real time to discuss and determine the best response if those changes come about.

 Moreover, compared to line-item budgeting, the unit-times-rate planning structure is more conducive to keeping everyone in the company focused on the important drivers of the business. It recognizes that the planning process should explicitly project the most important “things” that take place in business (for example, sales calls are made, units are sold and labor hours and materials are consumed) and the financial consequences that stem from these activities (travel expense, revenue and cost-of-sales impacts). When the time comes to compare actuals to the planned results, rather than just comparing accounting figures and trying to divine whether the difference was driven by units, the price of these or some combination of the two, executives and managers can see the explicit factors at work. By contrast, when companies do line-item budgeting, they can waste time on irrelevant items and become distracted from understanding and resolving important business issues (such as a declining close rate) because the drivers are not necessarily obvious.

 Alight Planning also stresses the importance of improving the maturity of a company’s planning process as a way of gaining greater business advantage from the planning process by using driver-based planning (and focusing only on the drivers that have a material impact on a company achieving its goals), integrating actuals into reviews (that is, incorporating operating, CRM, HR and any other relevant information, not just accounting data) and increasing the amount and sophistication of a company’s contingency planning.

 All dedicated planning applications compete with spreadsheets, which our research shows continue to be used by a majority of small and midsize companies. By stressing the need for a more effective approach to planning and budgeting, Alight is making the case for dropping desktop spreadsheets in favor of a dedicated planning solution; we concur with this because desktop spreadsheets are not capable of handling a dynamic, driver-based, operationally focused planning process.

 Alight Planning competes with a range of on-premises and hosted solutions aimed at midsize companies (which we define as those with 100 to 999 employees). These include Adaptive Planning and Host Analytics as cloud-based solutions, IBM Cognos, Infor, Prophix and Tagetek, as well as to a lesser degree, Budget Maestro (which focuses on small business and smaller midsize companies) and Oracle Hyperion and SAP Business Objects (which overlap at the higher end of the midsize spectrum). Alight’s most distinctive positioning against these companies is its focus on the unit-times-rate approach to planning and its advocacy of maturing the process.

 Companies should focus their forward-looking efforts on planning rather than simply budgeting. Our research continues to uncover reasons to use a dedicated application rather than desktop spreadsheets to manage the process so as to achieve the greatest business value for time spent. Some organizations are moving in this direction. For example, in 2010, Ventana Research gave Pittsburgh Mercy Health System our Overall Business Analytics and Performance Leadership Award for its implementation of a more collaborative and interactive, business-focused planning process.  I recommend that organizations that want to make their planning and budgeting process a more valuable management tool use software that will support those efforts. If you’re at a midsize company looking to purchase a dedicate application and gain greater business value from the time spent, I recommend including Alight Planning on your list of software to evaluate.

 Regards,

Robert D. Kugel – SVP Research

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Topics: Planning, Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, Forecast, budget, Budgeting, rolling forecast, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, agile planning, budgeting software, CEO, Integrated Business Planning

Total Compensation Management Research: Voice Your Needs and Opinions

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 25, 2011 7:15:57 AM

Are you a human resources executive who’s still using spreadsheets and various database systems to track and manage compensation and incentives of your workforce? If you aren’t, then believe it or not, you’re in the minority.

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Topics: Sales Performance, human resources, merit pay, Operational Performance, variable pay, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, Compensation, finance, talent acquisition, Talent Management, total compensation management, Workforce Performance Management

Datawatch Offers Shorter Path from Data to Information

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 25, 2011 7:12:43 AM

Turning data into information for taking actions and making decisions has bedeviled businesses throughout the computer age. Many organizations have data in dozens of applications and legacy systems along with many reports in various business intelligence systems. The challenge is to get data from each of the reports and assemble it into contextualized views of information for particular business needs. In our benchmark research on what we call information applications, only 11 percent of organizations said they are satisfied with their existing efforts to do this; more than half of organizations see the current process as too slow and not adaptable to the changes that necessarily occur in assembling actionable information.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, Reporting, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Information Applications, Workforce Performance, Datawatch, Document Management

Predictive Analytics Are on the Rise

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 24, 2011 7:31:46 PM

In various forms, business intelligence (BI) – as queries, reporting, dashboards and online analytical processing (OLAP) – is being used increasingly widely. And as basic BI capabilities spread to more organizations, innovative ones increasingly are exploring how to take advantage of the next step in the strategic use of BI: predictive analytics. The trend in Web searches for the phrase “predictive analytics” gives one indication of the rise in interest in this area. From 2004 through 2008, the number of Web search was relatively steady. Beginning in 2009, the number of searches rose significantly and has continued to rise.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Predixion, R, Revolution Analtyics, Sales Performance, SAS, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Angoss, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Business Technology, Chief Information Officer, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, IBM SPSS, Information Builders, Information Technology, KXEN, Netezza, Oracle, Tibco Spotfire, Workforce Performance

Datawatch Offers Shorter Path from Data to Information

Posted by Mark Smith on Apr 22, 2011 6:23:26 AM

Turning data into information for taking actions and making decisions has bedeviled businesses throughout the computer age. Many organizations have data in dozens of applications and legacy systems along with many reports in various business intelligence systems. The challenge is to get data from each of the reports and assemble it into contextualized views of information for particular business needs. In our benchmark research on what we call information applications, only 11 percent of organizations said they are satisfied with their existing efforts to do this; more than half of organizations see the current process as too slow and not adaptable to the changes that necessarily occur in assembling actionable information.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, Reporting, IT Performance, IT Research, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications, Information Management, Workforce Performance, Datawatch, Document Management

OpenPages 6.0 Enhances GRC by Integrating Data and Text

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 20, 2011 7:44:43 AM

Although I continue to believe that governance, risk and compliance (GRC) is not a firm software category, software vendors continue to add depth and breadth to their offerings that support corporate governance, help manage risks systemically in business and IT and provide greater visibility into compliance efforts. For example, with its release of OpenPages 6.0 IBM had made an important enhancement by marrying the document management capabilities of its OpenPages acquisition with Cognos’s Analysis Studio. Although automating documentation of regulatory compliance and risk management functions has value (in the sense of lowering the cost and increasing the probability of full compliance), incorporating analytics and the ability to perform contingency planning in concert with document-driven processes potentially multiplies the business value of such automation.

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Topics: Governance, GRC, Chief Risk Officer, IT Performance, Operational Performance, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, compliance, Risk, risk management, Internal audit

Infor Helps Midsize Multinationals Manage Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 14, 2011 10:38:33 PM

While Europeans have long had to adapt to working in many languages, currencies and legal jurisdictions, a generation ago most midsize companies in the United States did all their business in their home country and in U.S. dollars. Today, though, the relentless globalization of the world economy means that an increasing number of midsize companies in North America are functionally multinational and face the challenges of managing a more complex and demanding accounting and financial management function.

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Topics: ERP, multinational, Sunsystems, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Accounting, CFO, Financial Management, Infor, Corporate Finance, FMS

Talent Acquisition Best Practices in the Age of Social Media Coming Soon

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 14, 2011 10:22:47 PM

You’d think it was raining “social.” Social media, social networking, social marketing, social recruiting, social learning – so many aspects of business these days have a “social” component to them.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Social Media, social recruiting, social learning, social marketing, social networking, social networks, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Workforce Performance, talent acquisition, Talent Management

PBBI Provides Portrait of Customers through Predictive Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 13, 2011 9:21:58 PM

Since last summer, Portrait Software has been part of the Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) subsidiary. Since the acquisition the combined teams have been putting together a comprehensive set of products to support data quality and customer interaction management. The suite includes the Portrait Self-Service Analytics, Miner, Uplift, Uplift Optimizer, Dialogue, Interaction Optimizer and Foundation modules. The first four provide insights to understand customer interactions and the other three support acting on those insights. Recently PBBI announced updates to both Miner version 6.0 and Uplift Optimizer.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Data Mining

Peopleclick Authoria Elevates Workforce Analytics by Acquiring Aquire

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 6, 2011 11:14:37 PM

Human resources professionals must deal with volumes of workforce data that resides in disparate software systems, including individual spreadsheets. But although the data is accessible to them, many organizations don’t have technology to aggregate, synthesize and analyze it, and so cannot easily use it to make efficient and effective decisions about talent acquisition and talent management.

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Topics: Learning, Performance, Recruiting, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Mobility, Workforce Performance, Compensation, Hiring, Talent Management, Workforce Analytics

Executives Learn about Advances in Customer Experience Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 6, 2011 5:49:46 PM

IQPC Europe, a global organizer of business conferences, recently held its Executive Customer Contact Exchange, where contact center and customer service executives and senior managers gathered to find out about developments in the management of customer interactions and the customer experience. Attendees had a variety of reasons for coming; the largest group consisted of attendees who  (29%) said they were interested in customer experience management (CEM), while others expressed interest in specific applications or systems (18%), multichannel customer service (10%), self-service (10%) and social media (8%). The remaining one-fourth said they were interested in various subjects including performance management, outsourcing, agent training and scheduling. The low interest in social media seems to go against the media hype about this channel but reflects my latest research into the state of technology in contact centers, which shows that less than one-quarter of companies have implemented social media.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM

New Recruiting Technology Humanizes Talent Acquisition

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 5, 2011 11:26:11 AM

Humanize every step of the employee experience. That was the grand theme of this year’s opening keynote just over a week ago at ERE Expo 2011 Spring by Matthew Jeffery, global director of talent brand for Electronic Arts, titled “Recruitment 3.0: Why traditional recruiters will be replaced by ‘emotional marketers.’” His speech emphasized the importance of emotionally connecting with candidates and employees alike and creating talent communities via social, mobile, cloud and collaboration technology and activities.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Learning, Performance, Recruiting, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Mobility, Workforce Performance, Compensation, Hiring, Talent Management, Workforce Analytics

The Information Management Technology Revolution in 2011

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 5, 2011 10:58:24 AM

The information management (IM) technology market is undergoing a revolution similar to the one in the business intelligence (BI) market. We define information management as the acquisition, organization, control and use of information to create and enhance business value. It is a necessary ingredient of successful BI implementations, and while some vendors such as IBM, Information Builders, Pentaho and SAP are in addition integrating their BI and IM offerings, each discipline involves different aspects of the use of information and will require it sometimes integrated and sometimes separate.

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Topics: Data Quality, Social Media, IT Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Technology, Chief Information Officer, Complex Event Processing, Data Governance, Data Integration, Information Management, Information Technology, Operational Intelligence

Contactual Delivers Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 5, 2011 10:44:44 AM

Creating the technology architecture for a modern contact center is no easy task. To do so, companies typically have to integrate lots of technology: systems to manage their communication channels (voice, e-mail, postal mail, mobile, Web, IM, etc.), systems to route interactions to the best available resource to handle the interaction, be it human or automated (routing, IVR, CTI, etc.), applications to manage the workforce that is handling interactions (quality monitoring, workforce management, training, coaching, etc.), applications to manage business transactions resulting from the interactions (CRM, ERP, billing, etc.), and performance management systems (operational, business, speech, text, social media, desktop analytics). In my recent blog about the contact center technology revolution in 2011, I alluded to the fact that some vendors are making this task easier by making many of these systems available in the cloud and pre-integrating them.

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Topics: Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Contactual

SAP Solidifies Software Category with SAP BusinessObjects GRC 10.0

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 5, 2011 10:29:40 AM

When the term “governance, risk and compliance” (GRC) was introduced almost 10 years ago, software for this purpose was not a real category but a loose grouping of disparate applications that had something to do with meeting the requirements of the recently passed Sarbanes-Oxley Act. (You can find my perspective on the GRC category from a couple of years ago here. Now, with the release 10.0 of SAP BusinessObjects GRC, SAP is taking another step toward making the software category a real, comprehensive one that addresses the business and IT requirements of risk and compliance management efforts. This is the first platform that enables companies to efficiently provision risk and compliance management at an elemental level (for example, to manage individual access controls and process controls) and – over time – to gain effectiveness benefits from having the ability to comprehensively manage compliance and risk.

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Topics: SAP, GRC, Access Controls, IT Research, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Information Management, Chief Financial Officer, risk management, Corporate Governance, Governance Risk and Compliance

SunGard IntelliMatch: Financial Governance and Reconciliations

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 5, 2011 10:12:05 AM

Back-office operations in commercial and investment banks are among those critical functions that are underappreciated until they stop working well. This includes transaction reconciliations and the related exceptions management. Reconciliations are necessary to achieve a reasonable assurance of complete and accurate record of trading activity. The process is especially challenging now, partly because of today’s high and growing volumes in the wide range of asset classes in which all larger financial institutions trade. Reconciliation is a necessary accounting function that has to be completed before external financial statements can be published.

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Topics: GRC, Financial Governance, Reconciliation, Sungard, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Information Management, Chief Financial Officer, risk management, Corporate Governance, Governance Risk and Compliance

IBM’s Smarter Commerce Hits Most of the Right Notes

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 4, 2011 5:38:35 PM

According to IBM everything now has to be “smart,” and its latest announcement heralding smarter commerce addresses customer-related activities. I find it interesting, as I have been researching for some time about the need for a smarter agent desktop and smarter Web self-service. My perspective, derived from observations in my research, is that companies need to focus on effectiveness in providing positive customer experiences rather than today’s almost exclusive focus on efficiency in customer service operations.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Commerce, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM

Reimagining Talent Management and Technology in 2011

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 4, 2011 5:20:26 PM

When I entered the human capital management space over a decade ago, the Internet had just started to transform the way companies recruit, hire and manage their workforces. Since then the technological transformations have been astounding: Social media, mobile devices and cloud computing are just a few. And although every talent acquisition and talent management system available today is about getting users to the short list of qualified applicants faster and more accurately and managing all the employee life-cycle data faster and more accurately as well, both of these goals are impeded by disparate technology systems and workforce data. Our workforce analytics benchmark research shows that nearly two-thirds of organizations are less than satisfied with the technology they have now, while only 9 percent are very satisfied with it.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Learning, Performance, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Mobility, Workforce Performance, Compensation, Talent Management, Workforce Analytics