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VR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinnerAt its Oracle OpenWorld the multibillion technology provider showcased the breadth and depth of its cloud computing applications and platform. Chairman Larry Ellison proclaimed it the only unified and open approach in the industry. He criticized other large application vendors that use multiple platforms to support their applications, use a proprietary layer that is not fully extensible, provide only a portion of applications needed to run the business or run on Oracle’s database technology. These technical merits may not be relevant to the decision-making processes of business but can be critical for CIO and IT. But the strength of the Oracle Cloud Computing portfolio, which includes infrastructure, platform, tools and applications, is so impressive that our firm awarded Oracle the Technology Innovation Award in Cloud Computing for 2014. This builds from my analysis earlier in the year on the overall efforts of Oracle for cloud computing.

Oracle’s cloud application portfolio spans many areas of business, including human capital management, which my colleague Stephan Millard has analyzed. Its sales application portfolio also has reached a high level of maturity. Its efforts for sales organizations go beyond sales force automation (SFA) for sales reps and managers to other applications for those roles and sales operations and executives as well. In the years since its acquisition of Siebel Systems, Oracle’s position in this market slipped as nemesis salesforce.com became a major player. Now it not only has climbed back into a competitive position but has a more complete sales portfolio than salesforce at a more affordable price.

At Oracle OpenWorld it announced highlights of its advancements in sales. Oracle Sales Cloud version 9 advances sales force automation, partner relationship management and sales performance management along with adding support for mobile and social collaboration technology and sales analytics for roles from executives to front-line sales teams. The greatest changes as I see it are in the sophistication and usability of the sales applications and the embedding of analytics and collaboration that make them faster and easier to use. Oracle has ensured that the new versions are backward-compatible with previous iterations and integrated them with on-premises legacy systems such as Siebel and its own Oracle E-Business Suite to help customers that have mixed environments operate now and will migrate in the future.

Oracle has redesigned its approach to sales to focus on productivity enhancements in tasks related to meeting customers and updating information in more user-centric ways than most SFA systems have. For example, a new mobile application yet to be released, Oracle Sales Cloud Call Report App, enables smartphone users to review and update sales opportunities quickly and easily and to immediately see the impact of changes to forecasts and quotas. In a second area, collaborative selling, Oracle Sales Cloud Mobile is easy to use on smartphones and tablets, but still could improve in being more task and workflow based and be more optimized for touch gestures. In another area, however, Oracle has advanced beyond others: Oracle Voice users can interact verbally with the application to engage in sales at any time and place, even while driving. To reach this unique position Oracle partners with Nuance, as was announced earlier this year. It works on Apple iOS platform to enable a range of tasks to be conducted through voice operations.

Oracle knows that sales prospecting requires robust information that often exists outside the enterprise and across the Internet. To make it easier to get data from partners such as Dun & Bradstreet, the company announced Oracle Data as a Service (DaaS) for Sales, which enriches data with more than 150 attributes about organizations and 100 attributes about individuals. This product takes advantage of Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai, which provides a marketplace for organizations to share and license data for use within their business. Oracle Data as a Service is a significant component of Oracle’s cloud computing platform and will be valuable for sales organizations.

In recent years sales organizations have become able to automate configuring products and quoting prices by adopting configure price quote (CPQ) software and integrating it with SFA to support interactions with customer prospects. Oracle’s acquisition of Big Machines complements the Oracle Sales Cloud by eliminating the need for a separate application that might not be integrated into the sales process. The company does market Oracle CPQ Cloud as a separate offering, but it is clearly part of the sales portfolio. The next step for Oracle in this area should be to enhance its portfolio for contract automation, which is a challenge that causes sales people and operations to spend significant time in creating a process and workflow of documents that legally define purchases, deliveries and invoicing.

vr_scm14_03_issues_with_incentive_calculationAnother key component is Oracle Sales Cloud Sales Performance Management. It uses analytics to manage and improve sales performance with applications designed for coaching and territory optimization. It also has a new mobile application for monitoring sales contests among teams in which progress toward quotas and goals can easily be seen and reviewed. Our firm takes a broad view of sales performance management to include operations, tasks and all sales processes; Oracle’s application is limited to gaining knowledge from analytics on sales activities. For other users seeking to manage sales compensation in general and the unique elements of incentive compensation the vendor has advanced from Oracle E-Business Suite Talent Management to Oracle Workforce Rewards, which includes compensation, benefits and payroll management as part of the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud. Our benchmark research finds that the process of sales compensation continues to be an issue for almost two-thirds (65%) of organizations; it affects sales operations and executives along with individual sales reps, and for many it is a priority to improve.

vr_SF12_07_impediments_in_sales_motivate_investmentOracle has also expanded its analytics offerings for business. A relevant one here is Oracle Transactional BI Enterprise (OTBIE) for CRM, which provides a portfolio of analytics for forecasts, the pipeline and accounts and helps users understand past performance and predict the future. Analytics of the sales forecast and pipeline is another priority for sales; our research shows that scattered and inconsistent information are the top two impediments that drive about half of organizations to invest further in sales management systems. Oracle’s analytics build on its experience in providing operational reporting capabilities in Oracle Transactional BI Standard, which can present a range of metrics for insights on activities. New advances in sales analytics are evident in Oracle Mobilytics, which provides a sophisticated view of sales activities that can become interactive through visualization. There is also Oracle Sales Cloud Sales Predictor, which helps guide sales people on which products are most likely to be purchased. Overall Oracle has advanced the analytics in its cloud platform significantly this year. Recently it announced Oracle Analytics Cloud, which enhances its tools and the ability to access and embed them in Oracle applications.

As Oracle continues to advance its Sales Cloud, the products are less of a challenge than recognition of the company by customers as a leader in these sales applications. To be competitive in the market will require further investments in marketing and sales to gain momentum and customer adoption but also to continue to expanding the application portfolio. For the Sales Cloud Oracle currently charges $100 per user per month and considering the breadth of applications and analytics, this could be seen as very competitive; salesforce.com starts at $65 per user per month for the basic SFA, but the recently announced Salesforce Analytics Cloud will cost $125 per user per month of which both are significantly more costly. Others major application providers like SAP are also advancing similarly to Oracle for SFA and sales performance management but still have not been able to fulfill on the larger portfolio of application needs for sales operations and executives.

Oracle is a serious player in the market for sales applications and very price advantageous and innovative in its portfolio; we advise organizations to evaluate the company as one of the few that offers more than just SFA and operates in the cloud and mobile technology environment. If you are looking for an integrated suite of sales applications that can help everyone involved in sales, Oracle should be on your list for optimizing operations and maximizing sales performance.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer,
Ventana Research

Our latest benchmark research into the market for location analytics software finds significant demand for location-related technology that can improve business outcomes and generateVentanaResearch_LocationAnalytics 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.

vr_LA_driving_change_in_location_analyticsOne cause of limited satisfaction and confidence appears to be the difficulty of analyzing information that has a location context. Two-thirds of organizations said doing so requires significant effort or some effort, and 17 percent said that is very difficult or they cannot do it. Thus it is not surprising that about three in fiveorganizations plan to change the way they use location information in the next 12 to 18 months. For more than 40 percent each, that change is driven by efforts to improve processes: a new initiative to improve information and decision-making (51%), a need to improve business-to-business planning and collaboration (50%), the desire to promote operational efficiency (49%) and as part of a wider analytics and business intelligence initiative (44%). Participants with IT titles most often identified as the driver a new initiative improving information and decision-making (61%), as did those from the services (69%) and government (63%) industry sectors; those working in lines of business insisted more on seeking change to improve B2B planning and collaboration (54%). The need for improvement shows that organizations recognize a potentially important role for location analytics in various business processes, from information use to decision-making.

A range of technologies can be used for location analytics, vr_LA_dedicated_technology_provides_satisfactionbut not all options work equally well. Today nearly half (49%) of organizations use spreadsheets heavily for analyzing information that includes location data; significantly fewer use other tools heavily – custom applications (36%), analytic or BI tools (34%) and a geographic information system (GIS, 23%). Many organizations use business applications heavily for analyzing this type of information, most often customer relationship management (CRM, 28%), supply chain management (16%) and enterprise asset management (14%) systems. Yet heavy users of a GIS or a dedicated application are the ones most often very satisfied (49%), and heavy users of spread­sheets are very satisfied least often (16%). Among those saying that the use of location analytics has im­proved their results, spreadsheet users ranked last (35%), far behind users of a GIS (55%) and analytic or BI tools (49%). Organizations that use a dedicated tool for location analytics (49%) are the most satisfied significantly more than those that use only spreadsheets (16%).

A look at the capabilities necessary for effective location analytics indicates why tools designed for the purpose get better results. More than three in five organizations said three basic capabilities are important: geographic representation of data, visual metrics associated with locations on a map, and selecting and analyzing locations on a map. One-half to one-third said interacting with maps and locations for further analysis, determining distance and drive time, and adding layers to maps are important. All of these basic capabilities are the building blocks for conducting specific analytics that can identify or recommend actions from the mashup of data about a location or to provide insights to guide decisions based on location-specific indicators.

Another technology approach used most frequently is business intelligence (BI). These tools are designed for reporting, creating dashboards and general access to analytic information such as metrics. BI tools and processes are established in both IT departments and lines of business, and location information can further enhance BI efforts. Nearly half (48%) of participants in this research ranked business intelligence interfaces as the most important to integrate with other enterprise software; custom interfaces was a distant second at only 13 percent. IT participants (55%) put BI first more often than did those in business (44%), and manufacturing (55%) ranked it higher than other industries. BI also is the application most often integrated with location analytics (45%), even more so in the largest companies by number of employees (56%) and by annual revenue (65%). In terms of planning and developing a strategy to use location analytics with other systems, most intend to integrate it with marketing automation (33%), sales force automation (30%) and enterprise content management (also 30%).

However, the research also finds impediments in using BI and location analytics together. Almost half  (46%) of participating organizations said that integrating the two requires significant effort; another 16 percent said doing that is very difficult and requires substantial time or that they have no practical way to do it. On a positive note, integration of these two technologies has advanced significantly in the last several years, and it is easier to exchange data and add it to presentations. In addition, organizations that use business intelligence to conduct location analytics reported benefits, particularly improving the customer experience (21%) and gaining competitive advantage (20%). More than three in five companies that use BI with location analytics are very satisfied (17%) or satisfied (44%) with theinformation and analytics they have available. Thus the research clearly shows that integrating location information into business intelligence can deliver value.

Looking at location information in a broader sense we find many organizations using consumer mapping to plot data quickly, predominantly free software such as from Google (which 45% use) and Microsoft (31%). The research also reveals that while almost one-third (31%) have used these for enterprise needs, only 8 percent are very satisfied with them. Like personal productivity tools, these tools can help in individual tasks like driving instructions and plotting locations for quick geographic placement, but they lack task support and operational or specific analytical context that requires secure, integrated access to enterprise systems. Free and easy access makes them attractive, but they do not provide enough capabilities for skilled workers to use in complex business tasks.

As deployments grow, so does the need to integrate and adapt location analytics to other technologies. For example, one in five research participants said mobile technology is critical for improving location analytics, as did smaller numbers for cloud computing (15%), big data (15%) and collaboration (8%). Ways of deploying location analytics also are changing, as more organizations realize that buying and installing the software on-premises (which 35% prefer) is not the only approach; nearly as many (33%) want to access it on demand through software as a service (SaaS). Very large companies by number of employees (44%) and annual revenue (39%) have the strongest bias for on-demand deployment, as does manufacturing (43%) among industry sectors. Exploiting the full potential of big data investments, whether representing machine data or customer locations, is a prime example of where location analytics can help use data effectively. The research strongly suggests that location analytics will have a place in evolving business technology environments and that broader use of innovative technology will extend the value of this investment also.

vr_LA_location_analytics_requires_experiencesHowever an organization deploys location analytics, the research shows that experience in using it is critical to success. Half of participating organizations have deployed location-focused technology, and the percentage is highest among very large companies by number of employees (56%) and annual revenue (67%). Almost two-thirds (62%) of all companies that have the most experience said location analytics has helped improve results significantly; among those who are somewhat experienced just 23 percent said this.

Organizations of course expect to realize important benefits from software investments. The top five benefits being sought from location analytics are to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction; gain competitive advantage; improve access to and value of existing information; improve organizational alignment and coordination; and deliver products and services faster. Organizations that use a dedicated technology focus most on gaining competitive advantage (21%) and delivering products and services faster (16%). Investment in a dedicated tool for location analytics can increase the value of an organization’s information and analytics, which improves with experience in using the technology. We recommend that organizations develop a location-specific component in their agenda for analytics. If you want to learn more on the value and potential of technology in location analytics our community is available to help with more depth in best practices and insights on this topic.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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