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This has been a dramatic year for Informatica, a major provider of data integration software. In August it was acquired and taken private by Permira funds and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for about US$5.3 billion. This change was accompanied by shifts in its management. CEO Sohaib Abbasi became chairman and now has left, and many executives were replaced while Anil Chakravathy became CEO from being the Chief Product Officer. The new owners appear to have shifted the company’s strategic priorities to emphasize profitability with reduced headcount and return on the purchase investment. Despite these changes, during the past six months Informatica has made key product announcements that will impact its future and the future of data management.
First, Informatica sharpened its focus on master data management (MDM) through a set of new applications announced in September of this year . Along with version 10.1 of the Informatica MDM platform, it announced Customer 360, Supplier 360 and Cloud Customer 360 for Salesforce, which join the already available Product 360. The “360” moniker indicates its positioning that the applications can collect data from any interaction or system and thus provide a 360-degree view to support these applications. I hope this focus will guide its advances in integration and processing of data within the lines of business. Some of these areas are complicated; for example, Customer requires getting interaction data from contact center systems such as those of Genesys, NICE Systems, Verint and others. Previously this has not been a priority of Informatica, but it is required to get a true 360-degree view of customers. This is confirmed in our next-generation customer engagement benchmark research, which finds that organizations support as many as 17 channels of interaction and that the most often reported issue in supporting multiple channels is difficulty in integrating systems.
Release dates vary for these new 360 applications, as do their capabilities to support mastering and integration of data. Product 360 is available now, and it earned Informatica a Hot Vendor in our 2015 Value Index on Product Information Management. It has advanced support for integration through templates that work with e-commerce products including Demandware, IBM WebSphere Commerce and Oracle ATG and can monitor data for competitive product and pricing changes. In 2014 we selected Informatica customer Geiger as the Leadership Award Winner in Overall Information Technology. At this point, however, with the expanding set of MDM applications and altered priorities after the acquisition, we cannot know to what extent Informatica will maintain its investment in and development priorities for Product 360; this will be worth watching as a gauge of the company’s focus going forward.
In another area Informatica recently announced new capabilities in its support for cloud computing. It appears to be focused on supporting its partner salesforce.com, and particularly the need for lines of business to interchange data in and out of its environments, integration with Salesforce Wave Analytics and the new Salesforce IoT Cloud for the Internet of Things. Informatica as well has advanced its ability to ensure data privacy through Informatica Cloud Test Data Management.
In recent public conversations with me at Informatica World, top company executives showed a lack of support and knowledge of the ecosystems of business applications in the cloud from major providers including Infor, Oracle, SAP and others that have experienced significant growth in customers adopting and deploying their applications. Though two of these three top level Informatica executives are no longer with the company. It seems to be placing a strategic bet on aligning mostly with salesforce.com; here again only time will tell how well these narrow objectives compare to those of companies that have a more diverse approach to business applications in the cloud. On the other hand, Informatica has released more prebuilt connectors for cloud systems, mostly focused on marketing such as from Eloqua, MailChimp and Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget).
Informatica has progressed in integration with analytics tools as already pointed out with Salesforce Wave Analytics; it also demonstrated integration with Domo’s business data integration product at Informatica World. Our analysis is that in each of the lines of business Informatica has greater potential if it focuses on business use of cloud-based applications. Our data and analytics in the cloud research finds that the top external data source priority in three out of five (61%) organizations is business applications.
Informatica’s most important recent announcement is the release of Informatica v10, which is the foundation of its products not just for data integration but for data management overall. With this new version, the packaging options have shifted to a choice of Premium, Advanced and Standard editions to suit the needs and budgets of organizations. The highest level, Premium, includes data validation, monitoring and sophisticated data transformation; the midrange Advanced edition has increased capabilities in scaling, metadata and glossary as well as a real-time option. V10 of Data Quality has advanced profiling with visualizations, workflow and voting for feedback, and has improved its rules, monitoring and matching capabilities along with better administration through partitioning, versioning and parameterization. All of these are essential for enterprise-class processing of data quality processes. V10 of Data Integration Hub supports publish and subscribe interactions, management for cloud and on-premises systems, secure FTP and Hadoop for storage and indexing.
On yet another front Informatica has advanced its big data management technologies, taking a comprehensive approach that is more than big data integration and supports data quality and governance and also security of data in Hadoop deployments. Our research in 2014 on big data integration identified issues in these areas that create difficulty and increase costs in using Hadoop, which our research found is at the top of the list for plans in adopting big data technology. Informatica’s new release supports dynamic mapping and smarter execution of jobs in Hadoop environments and adds Live Data Map, a metadata catalog for data assets. In addition Informatica has created Blaze, a big data environment that runs in-memory and utilizes YARN and Apache Spark to optimize computation and processing of data. The most valuable element I believe is that design and development can be done in one computing environment but deployment can be done in a range of execution systems including Hadoop. Flexibility in a distributed data architecture is critical for any enterprise deployment that spans on-premises and cloud environments.
I see significant potential in Informatica Secure@Source, which addresses data security. Informatica has been advancing security across its products from monitoring to masking, but its focus on data security with this product has real promise. It earned a Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Overall Information Technology in 2015. This product aims to ensure appropriate levels of discovery in data assets through notifications, analytics and visualization – capabilities in which IT management should invest. Hopefully Informatica will continue to invest in data security as its initial improvements appear to be heading in the right direction.
I have been involved in the database industry for three decades, from being a database architect to helping launch the data warehouse and OLAP markets and now analyzing the market for 15 years, and I am impressed by Informatica’s efforts to help IT organizations manage diverse database portfolios. Informatica finally has moved beyond integration alone to management, which is a simple-seeming but critical shift to take advantage of what its product portfolio actually does and provide what its customers expect. Informatica continues to expand the range of data management challenges it addresses for IT and now lines of business. In data preparation its Informatica Rev product has promise but will need better marketing and sales to analysts and operations teams which so far are adopting this type of product from other providers.
Looking to the near future, Informatica has an opportunity to position itself and further unify its products for supporting IoT, which includes streams and processing of events for a wide range of operational and analytical needs. It has demonstrated how it can process log data and parse data for Amazon technologies and has depth in its near-real-time, zero-latency Ultra Messaging products. Expanding into this set of data processing requirements is natural for Informatica with its range of processing and management tools.
Technologically Informatica is poised to meet the diversity of data integration process needs that operate across on-premises and cloud computing in just about any configuration today. Our data and analytics in the cloud research identifies the growth in exchange of data between cloud systems and with on-premises ones, which more than half of organizations said they will increase into 2017. Stepping up its commitment to data management is a subtle but critical shift for Informatica. While it will be under more management scrutiny on its priorities and its contribution to financial growth to meet its new owners’ expectations, those owners will need to realize that investment is still required not just to innovate but also to help its customers succeed while hopefully exceeding expected profit margins.
I expect people coming into and leaving the organization throughout 2016 as employees determine whether the new Informatica is right for them. But Informatica has a vocal set of customers that appreciate its technology; as a case in point, we selected its customer CIT Group and BJ Fesq our 2015 Overall Information Technology Leader Award. Its move to a subscription pricing model for its on-premises software from the past license and maintenance approach should bind customers to it more tightly for them to be able to readily gain access to the latest capabilities; this is a wise step that is occurring widely across the software industry. As organizations consider how best to manage and use data assets located in any application or system, Informatica remains a vendor to have on the short list of those that can fit the organization’s needs for managing and processing data assets.
CEO and Chief Research Officer
Historically workforce management has been centered on tracking time and attendance, absences and leaves. Organizations view the time and attendance system as the top priority to integrate with the payroll system; in our payroll management benchmark research half (51%) of organizations called it very important. However, only one in five have integrated the two to streamline processes. So limited an administrative and operational focus does not contribute to improving worker productivity or manager efficiency. Moreover, such an approach can foster employee turnover and undermine worker satisfaction and loyalty. Our research analysis underscores that paying insufficient attention to the worker experience can degrade employees’ sense of accomplishment and in some situations also degrade the customer experience.
Of course, managing the costs and efficiency of schedule-, time- and pay-related tasks, including compliance, remains important. However, these tasks, as well as those above, can be more easily accomplished with advanced workforce management software. Used to full capability, it can manage this operational environment and help managers drive not just productivity but also the success of the organization while also engaging the workforce.
Out of necessity, workforce management software is evolving as an integral part of systems for business units and for human resources. Importantly, advanced workforce management systems typically include analytics that help management understand workforce performance; in our previous workforce management research 61 percent of organizations said that analytics is important to workforce management. For example, analytics applied to optimization of schedules can help organizations manage workers to their expectations. Analytics also is critical to optimize workforce performance and to enable members of the workforce to understand their contributions to the success of the organization. Furthermore, analytics can guide executives and managers to improve decision-making and rectify issues that could be leading to increased costs and be out of compliance with regulations. Many organizations, however, are not prepared to undertake these efforts; they still use an array of spreadsheets or tools that are not synchronized with real-time data from workforce management systems.
As organizations evolve, their needs for more efficient and engaging workforce management is transforming workforce management. We have begun to explore this category further in new benchmark research on Workforce Management for Human Capital Management. This new research will gather and analyze data on enterprises’ current workforce management practices, the software they use and their plans for the future. Here are some of the aspects we will explore.
The availability of next-generation workforce management systems (which include analytics) through cloud computing facilitates adoption of and access to these applications and the information they use. In our previous research one-fifth (19%) of participants expressed a preference to use cloud computing for workforce management, and we expect this percentage to grow as the attraction of deploying software as a service in the cloud influences buying decisions. For most organizations there is value in having the vendor manage the implementation and maintenance of the systems, and the ability to stay current in newer releases also is significant. Organizations are most concerned with time to value in new implementations and efficiency of their teams in using it. Depending on their needs and budgets, they can choose to deploy it in a single customer private cloud or a multitenant public cloud.
Likewise the proliferation of mobile applications for workers and managers in today’s workplace dovetails with the interests and proclivities of the increasingly younger workforce. Almost half (45%) of organizations in our previous research indicated that they will deploy such new applications to improve productivity. We expect the readiness of organizations to use mobile devices including wearables will further increase demand for advanced workforce management. The use of smartphones to access information about employees, payments and benefits and corporate policies makes it easier for workers to review and request changes to schedules; it is a key way to provide the flexibility demanded by workers who want to balance their personal and business lives. Organizations that do not embrace mobile devices for their workers and managers risk decreases in productivity and workforce engagement that could lead to increased employee churn.
Younger workers also are comfortable collaborating using social technology such as messaging, forums and open threaded dialogue on topics. Employers need to learn to interact with them accordingly to retain talent; at the same time, these methods provide an opportunity to further optimize workforce management by engaging workers in new ways. These innovations include assigning goals and rewarding achievement along with using new communication channels to resolve issues quickly, easily and interactively – more than half of organizations in our research identified these capabilities as important. As social forms of collaboration become part of the communication fabric, organizations can gain valuable feedback from workers and also provide coaching to increase their effectiveness. Efforts to improve the skills and competence of workers also can benefit from learning management and other systems that are accessible on mobile devices.
Driven by the evolving nature of talent and challenges to retain it, advanced workforce management now has capabilities to address spectrum broad range of human capital management needs. Using it senior management can gain greater insight into the workforce in action while improving the work experience and complying with relevant policies and regulations. Most organizations will find that investment in workforce management can be justified by its ability to ensure compliance with regulations regarding the Affordable Care Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and a growing variety of locally established worker rights mandates.
Employers are recognizing the value of a new generation of workforce management systems in enabling organizations to meet requirements beyond managing schedules, absences and time off. For example, one-third (34%) of those participating in our payroll management research said they plan to deploy new workforce management software by the end of 2016. Almost half (47%) said they are not satisfied with their current product’s functionality. Workforce managementas it is evolving addresses concerns common to all industries and will play a key role in tomorrow’s human capital management. Finance and operations management should examine the benefits it will deliver by bringing more efficiency into their processes, in particular ensuring a more engaged and longer-tenured workforce that contributes to financial profitability.
Implementing this new generation of workforce management will require an in-depth understanding of the options available and the people, processes, information and technology issues that must be addressed. Our new Workforce Management for Human Capital Management benchmark research will examine advances in the three years since our previous research was published. I believe that workforce management has a stronger role to play in efforts to achieve operational excellence and customer satisfaction and that the benefits organizations can realize from using these applications can be significant. Please look for upcoming announcements of how you can participate in and learn from this cutting-edge research.
CEO & Chief Research Officer