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.
Topics: Planning, Predictive Analytics, Human Capital, Marketing, Reporting, Sales Forecasting, Budgeting, Customer Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Business Planning, Supply Chain, Demand Planning, Integrated Business Planning, Project Planning
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.
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.
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.
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.
Topics: Big Data, Data Quality, Predictive Analytics, Gartner, Governance, Customer Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Hadoop, Information Applications, Information Management, Operational Intelligence, Value Index
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.
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.
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.
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.