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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software category that includes an array of business applications that includes human resources and finance. Workday is a vendor at the center of a new generation of ERP. My colleague Robert Kugel recently covered that company’s advances in finance using cloud computing to operate its platform. And I recently attended Workday’s technology analyst summit, where I got a deeper view of the technology under its applications and its efforts to perfect its processing potential. The company’s platform can support a broad range of applications, and it is advancing its efforts in analytics, collaboration and business planning. Today, however, only Workday itself is allowed to build applications on the platform, a situation that contrasts with many other ERP providers that make theirs available to third-party software developers and consultants.
At the summit Workday demonstrated the cloud-based spreadsheet technology that it acquired in 2015. Referred to as worksheets, it is embedded in its platform. Workday insists on the value of having a spreadsheet on its platform to provide flexibility for workers in the lines of business. We think it is a smart approach to bind spreadsheets into the platform as our benchmark research frequently finds that using them independently can be unproductive and even problematic in an enterprise setting. I did not agree with Workday’s presentation on the history of analytics and spreadsheets in computing; analytics and decision support systems were in business use well before spreadsheets were invented and date back to the 1970s and have been maturing for some time. But worksheets adds flexibility for the analytic in Workday Planning. With this addition, this application now competes with products of Workday’s partners, even ones in which it has invested such as Anaplan and Tidemark.
Planning is an essential business function that most organizations do not manage effectively in finance, HR and operations, and Workday’s efforts to unify planning like that needed to administrate the workforce can help organizations to optimally manage their business processes. Our research on next-generation business planning finds that two-thirds of organizations in which planning is integrated and its elements are linked said their planning processes work well or very well.
I am impressed by what Workday has introduced in its collaboration capabilities, which are blended with worksheets, unlike in the majority of analytics and planning products in the market today in which have no collaboration or not easily accessed from within planning. Some of its technologists have significant experience in developing collaborative capabilities, and I expect that the company will be able to exploit embedded collaboration across its platform for social collaboration, which works much better than email or external tools that don’t maintain the contexts of discussions. Workday enables Worksheets and collaboration to operate across mobile platforms but also secures the data they use. As part of its platform, the application can access data in real time to provide up-to-date information and enable fast actions. These advances will not be available until the next upgrade, Workday 26, and more fully available in Workday 27, both of which the company says it plans to release in 2016.
Workday also demonstrated to analysts its Workday Insight Applications architecture, which provides analytics and metrics that are shaped into applications and used by its tools. It has continued to embed advanced technology including Apache Spark, machine learning and elastic search as part of its approach to big data and analytics. Probably most valuable are the simpler user experience and the ability to seamlessly present third-party information from across the Internet and within the enterprise. Workday has some work to do on data preparation and integration of other applications and systems, but I don’t doubt it’s assertions that it will deliver a simpler approach to the presentation of metrics and context for individual roles. Using its advances in collaboration and planning Workday will be able to set goals and track key performance indicators, which can fulfill the promise of scorecards and performance management for business. My colleague Robert Kugel outlined the finance overlap of ERP and performance management recently that outlines this shift This would help businesses focus on achieving their full potential.
The latest release of the platform, Workday 25, was the highlight of the annual Workday Rising conference last fall of 2015, also has advanced its suite of applications. Its human capital management (HCM) applications provide not only the core HR functions through self-service methods but also management of recruiting, learning, benefits, performance, time tracking and payroll – subtle but significant improvements since our last analysis in 2014. It also includes packaged application-specific dashboards. A new application called Workday Learning can help workers improve their job performance to realize their potential in the organization.Our research into next-generation learning management finds that nearly half of companies have increased their investments in learning. Workday now provides more flexibility to connect to third party payroll through its payroll interface and with what it calls Payroll Effective Change Interface (PECI). Workday has advanced its partnership with ADP to streamline access and processing of payroll. Our research into payroll management finds that payroll management integrated with talent management helps organizations establish more effective processes. Workday did not mention compensation management during the analyst summit . The company sees this application as a capability of HCM, and could use the worksheets technology for modeling and analytics and adding workflow that operates across management, managers and workers.
I really like what Workday is doing in the area of employee engagement, which I see as essential to ensuring worker satisfaction and retention. Workday has built a framework to run campaigns and surveys to measure feedback and provide recommendations for how workers can improve their performance. This framework streamlines the process for job offers and acceptances, which most organizations now do manually. Workday is also advancing its efforts in workforce management to integrate with time clocks, support checking in and out, and manage absences and time off; it also has added abilities to track time worked by job type and to process large volumes of time entries.
Workday has set the bar high for business applications in the cloud with its progressive approach to its applications and platform and by embracing the new generation of innovative technologies in analytics, collaboration and mobility. Its platform is well prepared to advance nearly all aspects of human capital management for organizations and help HR increase its value to the business. Workday is on a mission to provide applications for HR, payroll, benefits, talent management and workforce management to ensure it can meet the merits of what is called human capital management. If you have not examined Workday’s products to see what is available today and what is coming in 2016, I recommend doing so.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
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