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The need for businesses to process and analyze data has grown in intensity along with the volumes of data they are amassing. Our benchmark research consistently shows that preparing data is the most widespread impediment to analytic and operational efficiency. In our recent research on data and analytics in the cloud, more than half (55%) of organizations said that preparing data for analysis is a major impediment, followed by other preparatory tasks: reviewing data for quality and consistency (48%) and waiting for data and information (28%). Organizations that want to apply analytics to make more effective decisions and take prompt actions need to find ways to shorten the work that comes before it. Conventional analytics and business intelligence tools are not designed for data preparation, but new software tools can enable business users independently or in concert with IT to perform the tasks needed.
Datawatch offers one such tool, which I have described as doing advanced information optimization. The company has helped organizations get more out of their information assets for years. One could argue that Datawatch has been doing data preparation longer than anyone else in the market; its Monarch product dates back to the 1990s and specializes in extracting and manipulating data from a range of documents and systems. The latest release, version 13, takes significant steps forward with a new user environment and functionality designed for analysts and users in operational positions who need a more intuitive approach to data preparation. Its drag-and-drop approach helps make data preparation doable for most business users.
Datawatch has continued to expand its data access support for various systems including salesforce.com and Hadoop for big data, providing support for both cloud-based and on-premises systems. It has significant support already for the PDF, JSON, and XML standards, as well as text, invoices, documents and log files. It also enables getting data from and putting data back into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Datawatch takes an “inspect and recommend” approach to data preparation, which can be especially useful with unstructured data in documents and files. Monarch can identify the data’s format and structure, present what can be extracted and enable setup of a template to use with similar data. A capability the company calls reliable redaction helps in sharing information; after data is extracted it applies masking for privacy purposes to ensure that no regulations and compliance policies are violated. Monarch also supports dataset preparation with many analytic tools like Tableau in which users struggle to access, blend, enrich and use data. Datawatch also has a visual analytics tool it acquired that complements its data preparation.
As organizations examine Datawatch’s tool, they should be aware that it is for more than one-off data preparation, providing a repeatable approach that can save time not only for individuals but for entire teams. Datawatch enables many individuals to share data and collaborate on work. This helps analysts and operations professionals work together, as well as involving IT in complex data-related processes.
Datawatch continues to grow its customer base in data preparation. A prominent example is Marbridge Foundation, which we recognized with our 2015 Leadership Award in Information Optimization for its work to make content and data from its systems comply with the Affordable Care Act – a project driven by its CFO. Marbridge took advantage of the flexibility in Datawatch’s software to extract and process data from Adobe Acrobat files in PDF format along with other applications to gain confidence that it is in compliance with this critical legislation. Data preparation provides the most value in lines of business such as finance, human resources, operations, marketing, sales, operations, customer and supply chain. Having a tool for data preparation that connects to business processes can produce significant impacts.
Data preparation software serves a growing market of business users who need to handle data but are not adept enough to do it with general analytics and business intelligence tools or to use data integration tools intended for IT professionals. Software providers that still use administrative or other IT-centric interfaces fall short of offering an independent and universal approach to data preparation. In addition to supporting conventional data sources and systems Datawatch handles content and documents to help establish a consistent approach to preparing all data needed in business with one tool.
With its heritage in data preparation Datawatch is well positioned to be on the short list of tools that help organizations realize the full value of information assets from inside or outside of the business. We recommend that organizations consider Datawatch and its advances in Monarch 13 for meeting a broader set of data preparation needs.
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