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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 Inefficient legacy systems and outdated approaches often hold back the potential of a business by consuming time and resources and forcing people to spend time on tasks that impede productivity and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

Big data has great promise for many organizations today, but they also need technology to facilitate integration of various data stores, as I recently pointed out. Our big data integration benchmark research makes it clear that organizations are aware of the need to integrate big data, but most have vr_BDI14_performance_01_overallyet to address it: In this area our Performance Index analysis, which assesses competency and maturity of organizations, concludes that only 13 percent reach the highest of four levels, Innovative. Furthermore, while many organizations are sophisticated in dealing with the information, they are less able to handle the people-related areas, lacking the right level of training in the skills required to integrate big data. Most said that the training they provide is only somewhat adequate or inadequate.

Big data is still new to many organizations, and they face challenges in integrating big data that prevent them from gaining full value from their existing and potential investments. Our research finds that many lack confidence in processing large volumes of data. More than half (55%) of organizations characterized themselves as only somewhat confident or not confident in their ability to accomplish that task. They have even less confidence in their ability to process data that arrives at high velocity: Only 29 percent said they are somewhat confident or not confident in that. In dealing with the variety of big data, confidence is somewhat stronger, as more than half (56%) declared themselves confident or very confident. Assurance in one aspect is often found in others: 86 percent of organizations that said they are very confident in their ability to integrate the variety of big data are satisfied with how they manage the storage of big data. Similarly 91 percent of those that are confident or very confident with their data quality are satisfied with the way they manage the storage of big data.

Turning to the technology being used, we find only one-third (32%) of organizations satisfied with their current data integration technology, but twice as many (66%) are satisfied with their data integration pro­cesses for loading and creating big data. A substantial majority (86%) of those very confident in their ability to integrate the needed variety of big data are vr_BDI_03_plans_for_big_data_technologysatisfied with their existing data integration processes. Those that are not satisfied said the process is too slow (61%), analytics are hard to build and maintain (50%) and data is not readily available (39%). These findings indicate that making a commitment to data integration, for big data and other­wise, can pay off in confidence and satisfaction with the processes for doing it. Additionally, organizations that use dedicated data integration technology (86%) are satisfied much more often than those that don’t use dedicated technology (52%).

New types of big data technologies are being introduced to meet expanding demand for storage and use of information across the enterprise. One of those fast-growing technologies is the open source Apache Hadoop and commercial enterprise versions of it that provide a distributed file system to manage large volumes of data. The research finds that currently 28 percent of organizations use Hadoop and about as many more (25%) plan to use it in the next two years. Nearly half (47%) have Hadoop-specific skills to support big data integration. For those that have limited resources, open source Hadoop can be affordable, and to automate and interface with it, adopters can use SQL in addition to its native interfaces; about three in five organizations now use each of these options. Hadoop can be a capable tool to implement big data but must be integrated with other information and operational systems.

Big data is not found only in conventional in-house information environments. Our research finds that data integration processes are most often applied between systems deployed vr_BDI_07_types_of_data_integration_processeson-premises (58%), but more than one-third  (35%) are integrating cloud-based systems, which reflects the progress cloud computing has made. Nonetheless, cloud-to-cloud integration remains least common (18%). In the next year or two 20 to 25 percent of organizations plan additional support for all types of integration; those being considered most often are cloud-to-cloud (25%) and on-premises-to-cloud (23%), further reflecting movement into the cloud. In addition, nearly all (95%) organizations using cloud-to-cloud integration said they have improved their activities and proces­ses. This finding confirms the value of inte­gration of big data regardless of what types of systems hold it. With a growing number of organi­za­tions using cloud computing, data inte­gra­tion is a critical requirement for big data projects; more than one-quarter (28%) of organizations are deploying big data integration into cloud computing environments.

Because of the intense need of business units and process for big data, integration requires IT and business people to work together to build efficient processes. The largest percentage of organizations in the research (44%) have business analysts work with IT to design and deploy big data integration. Another one-third assign IT to build the integration, and half that many (16%) have IT use a dedicated data integration tool. The research finds some distrust in involving the business side. Almost one in four (23%) said they are resistant or very resistant to allowing business users to integrate big data that IT has not prepared first, and the majority (51%) resist somewhat. For more than half (58%) the IT group responsible for BI and data warehouse systems also is the key stakeholder for designing and deploying big data integration; no other option is used by more than 11 percent.

It is not surprising that IT is the department that most often facilitates big data and needs integration the most (55%). The most frequent issue arising between business units and IT is entrenchment of budgets and priorities (in 42% of organizations). Funding of big data initiatives most often comes from the general IT budget (50%); line-of-business IT budgets (38%) are the second-most commonly used. It is understandable that IT dominates this heavily technical function, but big data is beneficial only when it advances the organization’s goals for information that is needed by business. Management should ensure that IT works with the lines of business to enable them to get the information they need to improve business processes and decision-making and not settle for creating a more cost-effective and efficient method to store it.

Overcoming these challenges is a critical step in the planning process for big data. My analysis that big data won’t work well without integration is confirmed by the research. We urge organizations to take a comprehensive approach to big data and evaluate dedicated tools that can mitigate risks that others have already encountered.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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