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This year presents much opportunity for organizations to use a new generation of technology to compete better, be more efficient in their business operations and engage their workforces to their full potential. We have identified and begun to track the following next-generation technologies: analytics, big data, VentanaResearchLogo300pxcollaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media, and in 2014 we added wearable computing to the list. In 2015 we will intensify our focus on all of them specifically in our research agenda and as part of our line of business research agendas.

Shifting to next-generation technologies in business processes can not only add new capabilities but help reduce the high cost of maintaining existing systems. Inefficient legacy systems and outdated approaches often hold back the potential of a business by consuming time and resources and forcing people to spend time on tasks that impede productivity and don’t add value to the business. Many organizations also are concerned with simplifying governance, risk and compliance of their business processes and workforce activities. Fully engaging the workforce is a concern for executives and providing a self-Untitled 2service approach to human resources and related information can help improve the effectiveness of employees. To take advantage of new technologies business users and managers must get involved and work with IT professionals in evaluating and adopting technology ensuring the security of systems and underlying data. Our 2014 Ventana Research Business Technology and Leadership Awards recognize organizations that have taken steps to maximize use of these innovative technologies.

Among these next-generation technologies, last year our various research projects made clear that analytics is the top technology priority for businesses; many organizations invested in  this area and also in data preparation to produce reliable, standardized data. After decades of leaving management of business intelligence tools to IT, the lines of business have taken an active role to acquire a better understanding of what is required for analysts and business professionals who are held accountable for the outcomes of their activities and need capable tools to access metrics and facilitate improvement. Many business areas asserted themselves in applying analytics to business processes, including finance, human resources, operations, the supply chain, sales, marketing and customer service. Many organizations are using timely metrics derived from analytics and made easy to read in dashboards, and more of them are coming to see the value of applying predictive analytics and data discovery to identify opportunities and view them through visualization methods. Those on the leading edge represent the results of analysis in geographic and natural-language contexts known as narratives that can explain or tell a story from the actual data. Such means of presenting results can help analysts keep up with the demand for actionable information from business professionals.

Another new technology, big data, is intimately connected to vr_Big_Data_Analytics_12_benefits_of_visualizing_big_dataanalytics. This burden grows heavier with the proliferation of volumes; drawing on these sources organizations need big data analytics to become more intelligent and less dependent on individuals to decipher meaning from data. At the same time the flow of data and events from machines and what is called the Internet of Things in real time introduces new challenges that for operational intelligence systems that support event-focused information gathering and delivery processes. Our research into big data analytics finds that better communications and knowledge sharing was the top benefit organizations realized from applying analytics, which is enabled by presenting information in easily understand forms. A major benefit in visualizing big data is better understanding of content, according to 45 percent of organizations in our big data research. As types and volumes of data continue to increase, organizations will need robust strategies for analytics and data management, including selecting technologies that help them stay competitive and gain business advantage.

We saw advances in big data in 2014 as organizations began to move beyond use of standard RDBMSs to Hadoop and a vr_BDI_08_benefits_of_big_data_integrationnew generation of big data machines that are blending technologies and approaches. Hadoop-focused technology companies received significant amounts of investment capital to continue their efforts, and it is clear that these systems must become part of enterprise and information architectures, focusing attention on how to integrate them. Advances in big data and information management revealed an increasing need for information optimization, which focuses on getting information to business professionals in actionable forms. This information need requires efficient integration of data across systems both in the enterprise and in cloud computing environments. In our research into big data integration 39 percent of organizations said it is important to make information available in a consistent manner. Big data will be more important for organizations in 2015, and they should not be overlook its integration with analytics and business operations.

Cloud computing is an increasingly popular option as businesses try to deal with the flood of data and learn from it. In 2014, it became even more widespread in a variety of private and public vr_BDI_07_types_of_data_integration_processesapproaches. But many organizations are still holding on to on-premises systems, many of which have become antiquated and expensive to maintain. Most suppliers of business applications and tools now offer cloud deployment through their own or leased data center facilities or environments such as Amazon Web Services. Some businesses can reduce significantly the load on IT by packaging their specific environments through virtualization and deploying them in the cloud. Essentially cloud computing is a means to onboard and use applications more easily and reduce the overhead of paying in-house IT professionals responsible for implementation, maintenance and upgrades of business systems. Our research shows that cloud computing has declined Untitledimportance in technology innovation, but we attribute this to its acceptance as a method for accessing and licensing software. However, cloud computing has become a more important priority regarding integration of data; one-quarter of organizations in our big data integration research said that is a priority now and through 2016.

Collaboration technology, both business and social, which enables business professionals to interact in a variety of methods, is gaining traction more slowly than others as technology suppliers focus more on designing the user experience than the interactions. But we find that business professionals recognize the importance of collaboration across the lines of business. In our benchmark research on next-generation customer analytics collaboration was deemed important more than the other next-generation, selected by almost two-thirds (62%) of organizations. A key purpose of this technology is to streamline the activities that involve groups of individuals; doing that can improve business process effectiveness. The most widely used methods are well established, such as discussion forums and videoconferencing, but social media approaches including activity streams, broadcasts and postings are increasing in importance; social recognition for contributing to or accomplishing tasks is the social collaboration method most organizations are planning to use (29%).  The approach called gamification, which involves earning badges and awards in contests, is a method that 37 percent are planning to use or evaluating. If implemented properly and in tight conjunction with applications, collaboration can raise the level of interaction and engagement among the workforce and ultimately increase efficiency and outcomes. Embedding collaboration in business processes and applications should be a focal point in 2015.

In the area of mobile technology, business use of smartphones and tablets advanced in 2014, and more is still to come. The diversity of devices running Apple, Android and even Microsoft mobile operating systems being brought in by workers makes it challenge to establish a standard set of applications for business. The most common preference is for Apple smartphones (57%) and tablets (67%), with Google Android being a distant second, in one-fifth of organizations, and Microsoft Mobile trailing at 5 to 8 percent, according to our next-generation learning management research. Even so “bring your own device” (BYOD) maintains a strong presence in many organizations.

Nor have suppliers of mobile applications standardized on a common user experience that can operate natively across devices and does not require the pinching of fingers to zoom in and out of the application to operate it. While this might seem a simple goal, it requires significant investment by suppliers to realize it. Additionally, suppliers hesitate to commit as they assess the level of demand for Microsoft Surface tablets, for which Microsoft had challenge in 2014 and appears headed for more changes in 2015. However, manufacturers of notebooks running Microsoft Windows continue to make them smaller and thinner with touch-screen interfaces, becoming closer to tablet size and usage styles; still most software providers have yet to invest in converting their applications to touch and gesture based on Windows 8 and now Windows 10. For their part, business organizations should begin to rationalize their mobile approach and communicate priorities to their main software suppliers to ensure that their employees can truly be mobile.

The newest entry in mobile technology is wearable computing that enables people to attach technology to their bodies in the forms of watches, jewelry or clothes. This advance in miniaturization has introduced devices that can assist business users through receiving notifications and other communications to tracking the relation of time worked to tasks accomplished. In 2014 we awarded Apple the Technology Innovation Award for the Apple Watch, which is taking the first generation of smart watches to the next level of biometric and commerce enablement. Health and wellness use of technologies such as FitBit and others have advanced past prototype phases and into production. Most interesting is gamification of the wellness information collected in real time from individuals or manually entered data; it has generated contests and inspired motivation for improvement. In 2014 only small steps were taken by a few workforce management Ventana_Research_Benchmark_Logovendors to build prototypes and initial versions of such devices for time and attendance along with notifications. The potential of these devices in sales, field service and workforce management applications is significant, but software suppliers will need organizations interested in taking a leading edge to commit to the technologies to justify expanding their R&D investments. Organizations seeking to engage and improve the productivity, safety and wellness of their workers could find wearable computing a useful business tool within three years.

In evaluating any of these next-generation technologies functionality alone is not a sufficient consideration. Issues of usability, manageability and reliability appear to be as important to organizations, or more so, in all of our benchmark research in 2014. In particular, usability and the user experience for all roles and competencies is not to be underestimated. Software must be able to adapt to and support the tasks and responsibilities of its users, but we find that many technology suppliers are still not taking this as seriously as they should in their R&D efforts. In addition companies striving to improve their performance should consider people, process, information and technology in a balanced approach to gain the best possible outcomes from any technology investment. Organizations should refocus their RFI and RFP methods to ensure they select technology that can serve all the intended roles and responsibilities of their organization.

To learn more about our business technology innovation research agenda for 2015, please download the presentation to see how you can supercharge your business with technology.Ventana_Research_2014_Tech_Innovation_Award_Main To see what your peers and leading suppliers are doing, check our Ventana Research Technology Innovation Awards. For more personal discussions of advanced technology for business, tune in the replay of the 2014 Ventana Research Summit to hear presentations and panels on the topics I have discussed here. It looks like 2015 will be a big year for technology advancements, and businesses will need to be prepared and ready to embrace what they need to be as successful as possible in their business processes and outcomes.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and 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

Mark Smith – Twitter

Ventana Research

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