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Since the early ’80s, when I personally experienced the transition from written time cards to cards for swiping on a time clock at a grocery retailer I worked at, I have been interested in the software and technology of workforce management. That gives me a perspective not many analysts can match when it comes to transitioning to new technology to help organizations manage and engage workforces. Ventana Research recently completed benchmark research on next-generation workforce management, covering technologies for worker and manager environments and operations. While the research found only 10 percent of organizations at the highest level of overall maturity, which we call Innovative, we did find organizations beginning to deploy and use new workforce management technologies. While we did not distinguish in our research between hourly and salaried employees, the majority of organizations were time-clock-based organizations using technology to manage the nuances of scheduling and working with hourly-based workforces.

The research investigated a range of technologies that are changingvr_nextgenworkforce_critical_workforce_technology_areas the way businesses operate today, including analytics, collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media. Each of these plays a key role for workforce management, and sometimes in a combinatory fashion, as happens for example when workers collaborate using smartphone mobile technology or where workforce management and analytics operates in a cloud computing environment. Our research found that collaboration (70%) was the most important technology for workforce management, with analytics (68%) right behind it. Priorities can vary based on the maturity and readiness of an organization, but having ways for workers, managers and management to collaborate can drive businesses toward a more open and productive workplace.

vr_nextgenworkforce_investment_drivers_for_workforce_managementOrganizations are pretty pragmatic when it comes to workforce management, with a large number (63%) focused on the demand for higher productivity. Many also realize the importance of improving inconsistent execution (48%) and scattered information (44%), which both result from not using dedicated applications for workforce management. Clearly the opportunity to improve is significant, but many organizations still use personal productivity tools such as spreadsheets. We found 92 percent of organizations use them universally, yet almost half (42%) find the use of spreadsheets makes it difficult to manage a workforce. More than half of organizations see assigning goals and tasks to workers (56%) as the top needed capability, followed by providing communication to resolve issues (52%).

The demand for more easily defining and assigning tasks has led to a new generation of applications that let managers routinely work with their workers more directly. At the worker level, providing the basics like access to company and work information (75%), accessing training and learning classes (67%) and collaboration with others on best practices (63%) are the most important features that organizations need in their workforce management applications.

When it comes to improvement, many organizations (45%) are lookingvr_nextgenworkforce_are_new_applications_needed for new applications to increase productivity and drive better results. Even with the new generation of time clocks that have biometric or proximity check-in to providing information back to the workforce, from notifications to information on a new policy, there is a lot of change underway. Almost half (41%) of organizations plan to examine new technology. This mood for change and improvement extends to analytics, which almost two-thirds (61%) plan to improve over the next year. But analytics have to be available for all roles and provide not just a picture of the past but also what might happen in the future with current workers’ activities and schedules.

Since collaboration was the most important technology we identified for workforce management, we investigated the most important methods for future deployments in the organization. Our research found discussion forums (30%), broadcasting like Twitter (29%), application sharing (28%) and wall posting into activity streams like Facebook (27%) are the top priorities. We also found collaboration has been the most engaging when workers use mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets. Tablets have the most potential for expanding into existing and new deployments, according to 34 percent of organizations. Smartphones, while already used in two-thirds (67%) of organizations, are slated for expansion in a quarter (26%). This expansion in mobile and collaboration features indicates a new level of priority for the next generation of workforce management.

It should be no surprise that having usable applications and technology for workforce management is critical; our research found that usability was the most important technology consideration (81%). But to get that technology, setting the business case is essential, as justifying a budget for investment (63%) is the largest challenge.

Organizations that plan to upgrade or examine new applications and technologies should prioritize their needs for workforce management, considering roles of management, operations, managers and workers, and consider which methods can increase productivity and drive better results. The goal should be to address the needs of the existing and also a new generation of workers that wants to engage and use the latest technologies (mobile, social and collaborative) in their workplace.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

The technology ecosystems are expanding rapidly and the use of big data and cloud computing challenge organizations to process information efficiently and deliver consistent high-quality data. To address these issues, Informatica has introduced two new offerings.

In the area of big data, much effort is spent on storing and accessing data using tools such as Hadoop, data appliances and in-memory computing. Informatica has announced Informatica PowerCenter Big Data Edition, schedule to ship in December, to help companies deal with large volumes of transactional and interactional data employed to promote efficient business processes and satisfy informational needs.

The new release works with Hadoop, which our big data benchmark research shows is one the top planned big data technologies in 32 percent of organizations. Hadoop has been a labor-intensive technology to deploy, with hand-coding of scripts and interfaces common. PowerCenter will support Hadoop visually as it does other sources of data, and support profiling of data in Hadoop to help analysts understand where data can be used in the enterprise, then parse it for inclusion in processes. In a world where our Hadoop and information management benchmark found that 71 percent of organizations need to train staff for big data projects, PowerCenter will make it easier to support Hadoop in a production environment. Informatica’s largest challenge is to ensure PowerCenter is seen by the Hadoop and developer community as easy to access and adopt, given the high price Informatica is charging. To do this, Informatica will need to provide more examples of resource and time savings to show organizations that it is not smart to continue manually developing scripts and custom-coding Hadoop.

To address cloud computing, Informatica’s Cloud Winter 2013 release will support master data management to help ensure consistency of data across applications in the cloud. The software will also integrate with any enterprise-level MDM and data governance processes that use Informatica. Ensuring the quality and governing the use of data are key activities for more than three-quarters of organizations in our business data in the cloud benchmark research. Informatica has introduced a wizard to facilitate the steps to ensuring consistency in data definitions and apply MDM to cloud computing processes, and has made advancements in hierarchy management. To ensure consistency in addresses, it has integrated AddressDoctor to help connect with cloud computing applications such as Salesforce.com. Informatica also crowd sources its community the improvements that matter most to community members, leading to improvements on lookups, custom parameters and integration templates. Informatica will also introduce new cloud computing integration connectors, including ones for Workday, Marketo and Concur, which are in their own segments important applications with data that needs to be integrated and used across broader business processes. Probably just as important is the continued growth of the Informatica Marketplace, which provides further connectors and templates. Informatica has also made it easier to integrate applications and manage integration jobs – tasks that are growing in importance as the skill sets of accessing and integrating cloud-based data sources become more critical.

Informatica could make is easier to understand how to connect these cloud computing environments by line of business areas, where for example the efficiency of marketing and sales processes depends on a range of applications in the cloud and from on-premises providers. There are dozens of cloud computing providers across each line of business, and Informatica could offer a bounty or reward for anyone who brings an integration template to the marketplace first. Having such templates available would make it easier to know how easy integration would be in a specific line of business; if nothing is available, the company and its users should be able to make a request to the marketplace and community for what is needed.

Informatica continues to expand its PowerCenter platform to help organizations support distributed information management operations. This should be a top priority for all CIOs who spend too little of their time, budget and resources on the information component of their titles. I like what Informatica has done to automate and improve the use Hadoop and big data. Our firm awarded Informatica the 2012 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Information Management for its expansion of data management and operations to include the use of Hadoop. Informatica focuses on addressing the obstacles to information management, which in turn helps address the staffing and training issues that are found in more than half of organizations according to our information management benchmark research.

Today, when data may be created and housed anywhere but needs to integrate across business processes, the use of data integration software to support information management saves time and resources and meets a variety of needs. Informatica has expanded its portfolio to support big data and cloud computing efforts. Organizations should step up and look at its software more closely.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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