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May 1, 2013 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Mobility, Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, Business Analytics, CFO, CIO, Cloud Computing, COO, mobile, Oracle, Social Collaboration, Social Media | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
I was recently at Oracle Analyst World which is the vendor’s annual gathering of technology industry analysts. Its executives and others in the products organization deliver the latest news on where the titan is focusing efforts to expand its technology and markets. This year, against the background of the consumer and business markets embracing mobile and cloud computing, Oracle is working to sound like a more friendly supplier that can help remove legacy issues and inefficiencies that plague CIOs and data centers. Oracle also used this forum to attract IT departments to the technology advances it has made across its deep and broad portfolio of products. Oracle has more than 3,900 software products and more than 3,000 software patents that indicate its significant investment in R&D. Now the company is beginning to release improved products more frequently, which most customers now expect from technology vendors.
To analysts Oracle emphasized four enterprise imperatives: big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media. These are among the six technology innovations our firm tracks – Oracle does not prioritize advancements in the other two at the top level, business and social collaboration and business analytics, although it offers products for them and are part of its significantly large product portfolio. There was significant time spent discussing their engineered systems of server, software and storage technology, which are targeted to transform data centers. This is a big-money center of opportunity for Oracle as IT organizations strive to streamline data processing and be more cost-effective in operations. Oracle also is furthering vertical integration of its technologies. Speakers invoked analogies to Steve Jobs and the innovative efforts of Apple, but that is really not a relevant comparison, as the dynamics of consumer markets do not translate to the business aspect of technology, whether it is rented by business units or purchased and installed by IT and are not as easily convinced about vertically integrated technology for business. The two constituents of business and IT and their approach to software continues to evolving differently, as I recently assessed. But even so my analysis of Oracle’s imperatives comes in the context of simplifying IT while pushing innovation.
Let’s look first at big data, a market that continues to grow across the spectrum of technology used to capture, store and access business information. Our benchmark research on the topic finds that the RDBMS has reached a saturation point, being used in 80 percent of organizations, while other technologies have smaller penetration but will grow significantly until the end of 2015: in-memory databases (22%), Hadoop (20%) and data warehouse appliances (19%) all will be deployed in that time. Our research shows that the expanding volume, velocity and variety of data are important across types of big data technology, and Oracle is investing to ensure that IT organizations see it as a viable option for all of them. Oracle is embracing Hadoop broadly, from loading to data services, to ensure it can utilize the HCatalog metadata and Hive-based methods in its business intelligence efforts. The latest Oracle Big Data Appliance, Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalytics, which include its BI software, are designed to serve organizations that have limited resources and time to fine-tune their configuration. In my analysis Oracle has not been as aggressive as it could be on communicating the value of big data and now in conjunction with its acquisition of Endeca is beginning to focus on what we call information optimization, which ultimately is the value derived from big data, as I have pointed out.
I also think Oracle should look at more tightly coupling big data with its business intelligence and analytics to help business analysts in using large amounts of data. For example, the largest needs for big data according to our research are what-if analysis and forecasting (44%), predictive analytics (41%) and visualization (37%). Oracle has products for all of these, but they should be part of a more integrated presentation and technology stack for organizations to use them more easily.
In both big data and business analytics overall, where Oracle has a broad portfolio of products, its acquisition of Endeca shows real promise, achieving advances in information discovery, interactivity and visualization as well as self-service access to information. Oracle is working to make its BI products as appealing to the business side as they have been to IT organizations but still needs to make clear the value to analysts, let alone those in managerial or management roles. In this area improvements in the user experience are critical: According to our benchmark research usability is the top priority for organizations evaluating new software.
My colleague Tony Cosentino recently covered Oracle’s latest release of business intelligence. He notes that it shows steps in the right direction but lacks integration or use of Oracle’s latest mobile and collaboration technology. Here the company cannot rely on the perspective of IT, which does not consider these aspects important; our business technology innovation research shows that the lines of business have them as two of the top three priorities. Not much is new in the mobile aspects of Oracle BI, although I pointed out at the beginning of last year that it needed significant improvement and requires more frequent updates.
Oracle also is slow in advancing its analytic applications across ERP, CRM, EPM for finance and industry-specific analytics; users in these areas need to transition from tools and dashboards of charts to applications that help not just measure performance but act on and manage it more effectively. Oracle has decided to concentrate its more advanced analytics and visualization on operating against the Oracle Exalytics appliance. This limited approach could hinder its potential as business analysts are less interested in having an appliance package than in tools and software they can use for business analytics with big data or not.
For cloud computing, Oracle is beginning to see returns on its investments in a range of engineered systems that can operate across private or public clouds in single or multitenant approaches; the approach also encompasses storage through archiving data to its Oracle Virtual Networking. Along with IBM, followed by HP and Dell, Oracle is working to turn its range of software into a competitive advantage and appeal to a growing population in IT that realizes it must emphasize usability of technology to meet the next round of business on a more timely and continuous basis.
In the realm of business applications, Oracle is working to support them in whatever combinations users want, even in a single organization. It has made its global data centers available for any level of demand on a 24-by-seven basis. With the acquisitions of RightNow and Eloqua it has become relevant in customer services and marketing applications. Oracle’s intention is to supercharge its efforts in the B2C markets and to provide more choices for customers. It has continued development of its Social Relationship Management and utilization of social media but but hasn’t caught up with point providers Attensity, Clarabridge and Kana. I believe Oracle will also need to address multichannel contact centers and the dynamic aspects of customer interactions. Mobile and social channels are driving a new generation of technology that Oracle is not now competitive with. At the analyst gathering I heard almost no references to its efforts in sales force automation and other sales-related tools where Salesforce is sharply focused and Microsoft is rapidly advancing. In our 2012 Value Index on Sales Applications Oracle showed a very competitive offering and earned a tie at the top spot, but it cannot afford to be complacent here. In fact Oracle’s Fusion for CRM in sales has integrated forecasting (65%) and analytics (47%) more tightly than Salesforce, addressing the top two priorities of sales organizations found in our Sales on the Cutting Edge research. Oracle is more effective in its suite of applications for human capital management (HCM), which has fully integrated its purchase of Taleo; it now has a convincing discussion of its cloud services to help HR and all employees be more efficient. Oracle also has progressed with its Fusion Applications; as I pointed out last year Oracle Fusion applications are now available in on-premises, hosted and software as a service (SaaS) methods. I like the innovation in the mobile technology that it is showing in areas like HCM. My largest concern is the continued lack of focus on the Office of Finance; Oracle’s enterprise performance management (EPM) application is still embedded within its middleware approach to BI and those in finance are most interested in business applications for their processes. Oracle’s potential to help Finance is significant but the split of its accounting and finance applications for management and operations remains a barrier that is an organizational challenge for Oracle than the buying audience readiness to advance its application portfolio.
It is positive that Oracle has gone beyond just virtualizing or cloud-enabling its applications into in-memory processing to take advantage of the growing potential of computing and memory capacity. Oracle sees its ability to handle data cache and grid in-memory as a competitive advantage, and its Oracle Database 12c and TimesTen can take advantage of D-RAM and Flash. In-memory capabilities are also important for accelerating the performance of its BI offering, which can now operate in a variety of options with its caching methods. Its acceleration of investment into in-memory and other next-generation applications for business comes just in time, as SAP continues its investment into Hana to power its applications. Oracle at this point seems to have a more comprehensive approach than SAP but will need to get these applications deployed in more organizations and build its customer reference base. Also, faster is not always better, and the usability and interactivity of the applications with the business processes will determine its future success.
For business and social collaboration, the Oracle Social Network is just beginning to roll out as part of its applications, which according to our research is how businesses would most prefer to access this type of software. With rollouts coming in HCM and SFA, the next year will critical for Oracle to build a strong reputation in this category; over the last decade it made many attempts to satisfy the business audience, which in the end cares about collaboration as a business technology and not as middleware, which is how Oracle has classified it. While many in the industry including IT analysts have not prioritized collaboration as important, this is more of a result to their focus on the IT organization and not one of the needs of business to collaborate and streamline their business processes and actions that require rapid coordination and dialogue. Oracle is smart to make collaboration part of its business applications first, as this is the most frequently selected deployment method in 43 percent of organizations, but other approaches including integrated with Microsoft Office (40%) and embedded as part of business intelligence (28%) or a stand-alone product (23%) are not far behind; we conclude that many organizations prefer a mixed approach. I like Oracle’s use of activity streams, broadcasting and discussion forums, all of which are part of the new evaluation criteria for social collaboration in business as we see a shift from the outdated approaches of just sharing folders and documents or posting links to files within a portal. Oracle’s offering is well integrated and now with collaboration being the second most important innovation priority in organizations, there is opportunity for Oracle if it can move forward faster with what I believe now is a good business and social collaboration software offering.
As Oracle’s opportunity grows with its range of new applications and tools for big data and business analytics, its challenges lie in marketing and presenting them to the business buyers who are leading a new wave of technology adoption; these people want to be spoken to in the language of business and time to value and will not be patient with technobabble. If Oracle can communicate with them, business buyers will find more than perhaps they expect in the Oracle portfolio of products and its ability to help them work better.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
January 29, 2013 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, Business Analytics, CIO, Cloud Computing, CMO, COO, CTO, Mobile Technology, Social Collaboration, Social Media | by Mark Smith | 2 comments
The proper use of technology enables businesses to be more efficient. Our recent research into technology for business innovation found that 56 percent indicate innovative technology is very important, yet only 9 percent are very satisfied with theirs, showing plenty of room for improvement. As we enter 2013, businesses have more choices than ever for technology to improve business and IT. Our firm has identified six key technologies that give organizations significant competitive advantages: big data, business analytics, business and social collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media. Our research agenda for 2013 is designed to help organizations assess and analyze these technologies and make the best possible decisions.
Big data helps business and IT organizations manage and use information. Our technology innovation research finds only 14 percent of businesses today are very satisfied with their existing big data technology. At the same time, organizations that utilize big data effectively have improved their business significantly, according to 28 percent of organizations. Our research in 2013 will build on our assessment of big data in 2012. We will do a benchmark research study on big data analytics and another on information optimization. We see that organizations are investing in information assets that require big data and the analytics associated with it to refine information and optimize business activities. Big data can have significant business value, but using it requires that IT coordinate with business on the benefits they can achieve. Making a business case for an investment in big data technology can help organizations address the top issue of it being too expensive, as found in almost half (44%) of organizations. At the same time, organizations need to ensure they have the competencies to meet big data needs, which include not just the technology for storage and access but also underlying information management issues such as data governance, data integration and data quality, which our research in 2012 found are still in embryonic form in most organizations.
Our recent research on technology innovation found business analytics to be the top-ranked priority, and very important to more than half (52%) of organizations. Business analytics is not just a technology to get metrics faster but a set of processes to operate smarter with information, to better visualize and apply advanced methods such as predictive analytics, and to identify ways to better search and present information for a broad range of business constituents. Our research finds only half (51%) of organizations are satisfied with their existing processes due to lack of skilled resources. More than half of organizations say analytics are too hard to build and maintain or data is not readily available. The most time-consuming aspects of the process are data-related ones, according to 44 percent of organizations. The technology too still has room to improve, with only 20 percent being very satisfied. The most critical capabilities are in the areas of predictive analytics (49%), visual discovery (48%) and taking action on the outcomes of the analytics (46%). We also found in our next-generation business intelligence research that the use of mobile technologies such as tablets is growing across organizations. We also found in our research a high priority to use social collaboration technology with business analytics to work together on making improvements in shorter period of time than traditional email or phone calls. Our research agenda in 2013 will investigate big data analytics and next-generation business analytics approaches building on top of our research on predictive analytics, which found that organizations still struggle to integrate predictive analytics with information architectures to support analysts and data scientists. Advancing the competencies and focusing on analytics are critical processes, but businesses also need simpler communication of results to help those responsible understand situations and consider potential recommendation actions. We hope that technology suppliers will work to better align to the human dynamics of what really happens with analytics to better support communicating observations and insights to ensure that end goals are achieved.
Business and Social Collaboration
The revolution in social media has expanded into business, bringing with it social collaboration and helping business processes by connecting people to achieve goals personally, departmentally or across an organization. This new technology was ranked the second most important technology in our research, but only 17 percent of organizations are very confident in their ability to use the technology well. With most organizations (86%) using shared folders and documents, it should be no surprise that part of the issue is related to technology. Organizations are evaluating new methods such as wall posting (45%), social recognition (41%), earning badges and awards (40%) and broadcast or Twitter-like capabilities (39%). With only a quarter of organizations being satisfied with their existing approaches, we see a lot of changes coming in 2013 in regards to the technologies selected and deployed. Our research in 2013 will examine where collaboration is critical in areas of human capital management, sales, customer engagement and even finance. Building on top of some groundbreaking research across business and vertical industries, we see business advancing rapidly with or without IT support, since business and social collaboration can be easily onboarded through the use of cloud computing. Unfortunately organizations are mixed in the methods they prefer to use to access collaboration – embedded in applications, through Microsoft Office, embedded within tools like business intelligence or stand-alone – making it complex to have consistency for users and their interactions. Using social collaboration with business analytics is a growing priority and organizations will need to assess their technologies to see if they meet this need. We believe that social collaboration will help bridge generational divides between workers as it becomes more easily accessible through web and mobile technologies, allowing managers and workers to engage anytime or anyplace. Focusing on the benefits of social collaboration, such as knowledge sharing, is critical as our research finds as the top need in 49 percent of organizations.
Our research finds that businesses don’t see cloud computing as innovative technology but rather as a utility and becoming a standard method that can be easily accessed and leveraged as part of their portfolio of computing options. These faster methods to onboard applications have become easy and in most cases require little IT involvement. But beyond the simplicity for business and potential chaos for IT to eventually govern and support, the cloud computing environment is now a viable platform for IT to leverage in a multitude of methods, from IT infrastructure to developing and operating applications. The cloud computing environment can be used as a central point for integrating data and storing it for the enterprise or for customers and suppliers, but most organizations have not automated the integration of data to support business processes or business analytics and decision support. The lack of automation has increased concerns for data security, which 63 percent of organizations in our data in the cloud research find to be a major concern. In all of our research in 2012, the preference for cloud computing is growing across lines of business and especially in areas like sales, customer service and human capital management. In 2013 we plan to further assess the advancements in cloud computing, from big data and analytics to information that can be leveraged from a broad range of applications and services.
The use of smartphones and tablets has become common among consumers who are also workers in organizations. Mobile technology is a new platform on which organizations can deploy applications and tools for a wide array of business needs. Yet our next-generation workforce management research finds only 8 percent of organizations indicate they have everything they need on these technologies, and only a quarter more indicate they have most but not all they need available, which leaves a large number of organizations not able to meet their mobile business needs. This might be why only 20 percent are very confident in their use of mobile technology today. The debate on whether to use native applications and tools or operate across a web browser environment still looms, with native (39%) outpacing browser (33%) and a fifth having no preference. Bring your own device (BYOD) is another area of friction, where 39 percent of organizations allow this approach with smartphones and 45 percent with tablets. Organizations have many opportunities to determine how to use mobile technology effectively, and can derive many benefits. Our next-generation business intelligence research found increased workforce productivity was at the top of the list in 55 percent of organizations. Our research in 2013 will further investigate the use of tablets across the line of business, since this was found to have the largest growth planned (34%), while smartphones are more established.
Social media is a new path for organizations to use to expand their corporate footprint to a broader audience and to gain brand awareness by marketing products and services. This new channel of opportunity enables organizations to rethink how they operate many of their business processes, including the ones that they use to find new talent and track candidates into an organization. In 2012 our research into social media and recruiting found that only 7 percent of organizations are very confident in use of this channel, but half of organizations are planning to change how they use social media over the next year; for instance, 81 percent of organizations have identified it as a method to identify new talent pools. In 2013 we will continue to examine best practices and benefits of investments in this channel. We will also assess social media as a new channel for customers to engage with organizations through a new benchmark in next-generation customer engagement. Our research in 2012 found organizations benefit from using this channel to handle a broad range of customer questions and issues.
While new technologies can help business innovate, what’s old is still new, and requires a foundation of skills and resources. For example, with big data, those organizations that have information management competencies to automate big data efforts will find themselves further ahead, as they leverage the core skills of data integration to handle more data environments. Those organizations that use business and social collaboration to connect people and processes more efficiently than conference calls and email will better leverage their human capital investments.
At the same time new techniques can make it simpler to gain value from existing technology investments, such as advancements in the use of text to present analytics in a readable form, new methods to use visualization as a discovery tool on analytics, and the ability to engage employees by using new and more social collaborative methods. Taking advantage of this technology requires smart use of best practices, leadership from the top and agreement about the desired outcome. Organizations need to have technology in place to develop a business case with balanced evaluation criteria that are not about the vision a vendor has but rather about what the vendor can provide to advance business efforts. We use this practical approach in our vendor and product assessment methodology and rating called the Value Index which we will be assessing over 100 vendors in 2013.
Organizations should explore resources in the company to determine if necessary skill sets exist, since their lack is the top barrier to adoption of technology according to 51 percent of organizations as found in our research. Part of this process is ability to know whether the technology can adapt to the workers’ needs and capabilities, and whether it requires weeks of training. Organizations should also look to the future and examine how to use cloud computing to rent technology, and how to use mobile technology to enhance collaboration. They should also keep pace with peers and competitors through the use of benchmarks and industry comparisons.
You can depend on Ventana Research to provide sound facts and pragmatic guidance to help you leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage in your business and innovate in your processes and with your workforce.
CEO and Chief Research Officer