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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.

I was reminded of these issues at Equifax’s FORUM 2014 where the workforce management software provider described its efforts to help organizations with compliance and employer assurance processes including I-9 and W-2 forms management. Among its Workforce Solutions is the ACA Management Platform, which Stephan covered at its launch. Now Equifax says that more than 100 major organizations have adopted the platform, which according to our analysis makes it the most widely adopted dedicated software for ACA compliance.

The product provides verifications, eligibility tracking and employmentvr_HCA_04_dissatisfaction_with_human_capital_analytics notifications on top of modeling and reporting. While many software companies in the HR and payroll management segment provide compliance reports, Equifax has the capability to integrate data sources and model data through analytics that can generate the metrics, reports and dashboards businesses need to determine compliance. This information can be automated and distributed to the appropriate parts of the organization and help avoid fines and penalties for late or inadequate compliance. Equifax has built a library of predefined reports and dashboards that can save time otherwise spent on creating them manually. These capabilities can alleviate what our human capital analytics research finds are the largest points of dissatisfaction: data not readily available (cited by 63%), not enough skilled people (45%) and analytics that are hard to build and maintain (42%).

Equifax also makes it possible to maintain histories of compliance and to look back at the data in detail; these features help prevent falsification of hours worked to show that the company does not avoid providing healthcare as required, which can incur significant penalties and potentially damage the company’s credibility and brand. On the reverse side it also can ensure that the minimum number of hours are worked for healthcare eligibility and notify employees through workforce scheduling. Equifax encourages organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their technology for supporting the ACA compliance process and its integration with underlying HR systems and processes. Users should consider how well their technology automates the process and whether it can support notifications and management reviews, which are necessary not just to stay in compliance but to assess policy changes and track approvals. We have found confusion in HR and benefit teams as to how and where to generate analytics that produce these and other insights. Our latest research on payroll management optimization found the capability most often seen as very important (by 42%) is to perform auditing or compliance for adherence to policies and procedures; this indicates that many professionals think payroll is the logical place to address this need, but in fact they need detailed employee and work data also from HR, workforce management and even benefits systems for both historical and real-time data related to employment and healthcare. It is clear that organizations have to collect and store worker information from all of these sources and model them with analytics, which is not a capability of legacy HR and payroll management systems.

Equifax has experience serving a variety of industries where the details about types of workers and times worked can be challenging to track and calculate, let alone have the right set of metrics and reports. It has built industry-specific versions of its application for staffing and for higher education that can accelerate the time to value for users of its human capital analytics.

These steps to provide ACA compliance build on a key advance in the use and benefits of human capital analytics that we have vr_HCA_01_issues_driving_human_capital_analytics_investmentresearched. Our research shows that the issues most often driving investment in these systems are about improving efficiency and productivity (for 63%), overcoming a lack of analytical process (41%) and collecting scattered information (37%). The research shows that a dedicated human capital analytics system can provide a foundation to manage compliance at any level and address the broader aspects of people, performance, process and risk metrics that are essential for employer assurance. Equifax’s ACA Management Platform is built on robust analytics that handle a range of data and offer visual discovery and exploration that it acquired several years ago from eThority. This technology continues to advance in support for business users as well as analysts; its latest release provides access to metrics and key indicators on mobile devices through dashboards that can be easily assembled and published.

Equifax is dedicating itself to the range of compliance needs to help employers be sure they are doing everything possible to meet their responsibilities regarding regulations like the Affordable Care Act. If your organization is not confident in how it manages these tasks, we suggest evaluating how Equifax can help it establish and maintain compliance.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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

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