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I recently attended the 2014 global analyst summit in San Francisco hosted by Pitney Bowes, an old technology company (now in business for 94 years) that has a new focus in its software along with an entirely new executive team. These leaders unveiled a business and technology strategy meant to demonstrate the company’s commitment to software. For many years it has been known mostly for mail services and postage metering, but Pitney Bowes also has made investments in software that can help companies change their business processes by optimizing their information assets. Over the past few years the company has had its ups and downs as regards its corporate mission, as I wrote in 2012. Most of the turmoil was due to conflicting agendas from past management, but other factors were the company was not as clear in communicating the value of its combined software portfolio and not capitalizing on the demand in lines of business and IT for information management and analytics software.

vr_Info_Optimization_10_reasons_to_change_information_availabilityPitney Bowes has several important assets. Its location intelligence software can provide consumers with accurate information about and directions to locations, enable businesses to target customers more accurately and help businesses be more responsive by adding a geographic context to customer information. Pitney Bowes also has advanced its efforts in information management to integrate and enrich data through spatial processing with a specialization in customer informationMy analysis of Spectrum, its information management software suite, found innovation in its support for analytical and operational use. Organizations are changing how they make information available as lines of business and IT share responsibility for improving information availability, which they do in 42 percent of organizations participating in our information optimization research; the most common reasons for doing so are to improve operational efficiency (cited by 67%) and to gain a competitive advantage (63%).

The latest version of the Spectrum Technology Platform includes data enrichment and quality in its data integration offering. It has advanced in search, query design, in-memory caching and support for Hadoop. The platform also is the foundation for a master information hub that can build relationship-based maps that Pitney Bowes calls knowledge graphs. These maps are more powerful than data relationship-based models that can’t map complex relationships and present them visually. In IT domains this is called master data management, but it goes beyond the usual entity relationship modeling to visualize and manage customer information from a business perspective; this can help bring business users into the process. It also can discover the locations of any information, which our information optimization research finds is important to more than one-fifth (22%) of companies. Having consistent information, particularly about customers, is critical for interaction across a business in providing the best possible customer experience. The Spectrum Platform also can process data in real time, which is attractive to the company’s new customers including large retailers and social media companies like Facebook. We find that only one-fourth (26%) of organizations are happy with their current technology used to provide information, which indicates an opportunity for Pitney Bowes to take a more aggressive position in the market.

vr_Customer_Analytics_02_drivers_for_new_customer_analyticsIn addition Pitney Bowes has customer and marketing analytics software called Portrait Analytics, which offers an engaging way to visualize and interact with customer information. It also can predict potential results through the Portrait Miner application. Another product, Portrait Uplift, can help companies can use the analytics to apply adaptive learning from customer interactions to model how customers will interact and where changes might be needed to stimulate purchasing and reduce churn. These applications have significant potential for marketing and other customer-focused functions because they do not require a data scientist to use them. In our next-generation customer analytics research more than half (59%) of participants said it is very important to improve them while only 15 percent are satisfied with their current efforts. Predictive analytics is the type of advanced analytics most important to 69 percent of organizations, and only one-fifth (22%) are happy with their current software. Pitney Bowes is in position to look for opportunities here as long as it focuses its efforts to the top drivers that are improving the customer experience (63%) and improve the customer service strategy (57%).

The company has not lost its focus on location intelligence software. Its flagship product here remains MapInfo, but it has made investments to highlight its potential for enterprise location intelligence by supporting it in social media and Internet location-based services. A series of new releases of MapInfo after the current version 12 are coming in 2014. The company says that enhancements will include the user experience, a more contextual interface, 64-bit processing, a layout designer, contextual menus and display management. To take advantage of multiple-core processing, Pitney Bowes has segmented processes to accelerate performance. Our latest research in location analytics found that reliability, which includes performance and scalability, is the third-most important software evaluation criterion. The updates also will expand mapping from vector-based to grid-based analysis. In addition mobile technology is a priority for MapInfo, as it should be: This is the second-most important technology innovation according to our location analytics research. MapInfo Stratus is a cloud-based extension of MapInfo Pro. Some support for mobile devices is available today, and more improvements to the experience are coming. This and other advances address the innovations that are changing computing and users’ expectations and are critical to keep MapInfo relevant.

vr_LA_location_analytics_delivers_business_valuePitney Bowes built its position in location intelligence on geocoding, integrating data sets across on-premises and cloud systems for access from a range of applications. Pitney Bowes includes 122 countries in its geocoding, and its software can provide multiple levels of accuracy based on what is available in a cascading approach. It also provides reverse geocoding, which helps identify locations through longitude and latitude; this is used by major social media. Pitney Bowes has advanced the capabilities so users can type ahead to find locations in proximity; this is especially critical for mobile application support. The ubiquity of mobile devices and Internet use and the growth of complex event processing and visualization are bringing new opportunities for Pitney Bowes’ geocoding and location processing. Our location analytics research finds that many organizations view current methods as not reliable, taking too many resources and too slow. Using a dedicated approach can deliver business value like improve customer experience (20%) and gain competitive advantage (17%).

vr_LA_dedicated_technology_provides_satisfactionPitney Bowes has announced the release of Spectrum Spatial, a location intelligence platform built on MapInfo. Additionally Spectrum Spatial Analyst is an interactive tool to examine spatial and location attributes of data. The Spectrum Spatial technology and Spectrum Spatial for BI are the basis for Pitney Bowes establishing new partnerships with IBM and SAP. Having location analytics with business intelligence is still rare and has potential to enhance business analysis as found in almost a third (30%) of organizations while using a dedicated approach with GIS and location analytics provides satisfaction in almost half (49%) of organizations.

Our big data research finds that only 16 percent of organizations are using geospatial analysis in big data analytics; we think this is an overlooked opportunity given the value of location in enhancing information assets. Pitney Bowes has focused on providing location intelligence to suppliers of standard RDBMSs and data warehousing, which are only a subset of the big data environment. But the company realizes the importance of big data and has announced expanded support for it in Spectrum to ensure it can rapidly access these new sources. It includes new in-memory support (50%) for SAP HANA and Hadoop (42%), which are the two types of big data support revealed as most important in our research.

vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsOverall Pitney Bowes software combines data management and analytics with its specialization in location to meet today’s need to optimize information in real time to support both consumers and business decision-makers. In the past year it has gained traction with social media companies and other types of businesses through direct approaches. Its main challenges are that its brand is not known for solving these types of problems and that it has not been able to assert its presence through marketing. Our research on buyers and users of software for information management and big data analytics has identified demand for these capabilities; Pitney Bowes should use its own software to better market and sell its products as well as the technology deserves. Its new executives have made the strategy more clear; now it is time for the organization to execute it through more and better marketing to ensure that potential customers consider its products that deliver business insights.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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

Mark Smith – Twitter

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