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I recently attended the annual Informatica analyst summit to get the latest on that company’s strategy and plans. The data integration provider offers a portfolio of information management software that supports today’s big data and information optimization needs. Informatica is busy making changes in its presentation to the market and its marketing and sales efforts. New executives, including new CMO Marge Breya, are working to communicate what is possible with Informatica’s product portfolio, and it’s more than just data integration.
Big data and cloud computing have placed challenges on IT in its roles as both a facilitator and in providing governance and compliance with policies and regulations, including access and security. IT compliance costs are increasing, according to 53 percent of heavily regulated organizations, and even 17 percent of those subject to little or no regulation, according to our governance, risk and compliance research. CIOs should examine Informatica’s product portfolio to see how to increase efficiency in the access, governance and integration of data in IT systems for more effective business processes including those that are GRC related.
Governance over transactional, interaction and analytical systems is a complex task. Late last year I wrote about Informatica’s latest efforts in big data and cloud computing; the company is now shipping its PowerCenter Big Data Edition, which facilitates integration with Hadoop. I have written about how integration with big data is broken today as organizations struggle not just with Hadoop but also with other big data technologies. Informatica provides tools to parse data so it can be profiled and processed efficiently. For example, Informatica can perform natural language processing to extract entities from text within unstructured data that can help in a range of tasks including those related to IT need to perform reviews of data.
With its latest tools, Informatica has stepped beyond the Informatica Cloud Winter 2013 release, which started the software down the path of bringing master data management (MDM) and data governance into the cloud. The Cloud Spring 2013 release, expected in April, is about providing enterprise capabilities in the cloud. New Cloud Data Masking can help secure sensitive or confidential data; our data in the cloud research found that data security is the number one concern in 63 percent of organizations. A data loader for Salesforce makes a bulk read and write license available; I have written about how providing data plumbing is your business, as Salesforce has failed to meet customers’ needs in this area.
Informatica last month acquired Active Endpoints, whose Cloud Extend applies cloud-based workflow services to what would regularly just be state-based applications, such as Salesforce applications for SFA. Cloud Extend lets managers map out the steps that should be taken in an application and prompts users for action. This application, which is designed for line of business and analysts, can provide value for both business and centralized IT. Informatica is making it more efficient to set up and establish integration across the cloud, and its ability to subset data and support sandbox environments helps its customers reduce costs and time to get up and running.
Informatica has announced it is offering prepackaged integration with NetSuite and Workday applications that operate in the cloud in its Cloud Connector Marketplace Mall. This is a welcome step; Informatica needs to invest further to develop cloud connectors for the larger group of cloud computing applications in use today, as it has many more to address to reach critical mass or universal connectivity. The good news is that many software organizations that operate in the cloud, including MicroStrategy, Ultimate Software and Xactly, are embedding Informatica to improve their ability to be efficient with data and support customers’ needs. In its Spring release Informatica will also provide connectivity to Amazon Redshift, Oracle CRM On Demand and Microsoft Dynamics AX. The announced move to support Amazon Redshift is important as more organizations look to embrace cloud computing for their data storage and processing needs.
At the analyst summit Informatica presented its vision of the future of cloud as an IT-led activity, saying that the days that line of business owned and led cloud effort are past. In this the company could not be more wrong, as subscription and access to cloud applications and services by business continues to grow as their need for them increases when they get little to no support from IT. While IT might be getting engaged and starting to leverage this utility of computing, they are no way leading or controlling what business is doing. We continue to see this in sales, marketing, customer service, operations, human resources and even finance. In the end, business is held accountable for business processes and outcomes, and I do not see any research points that indicate this will change in the near future. What is needed is more of an adaptive environment where analysts and business can facilitate more interactions through data requests and tasks, not just stewardship and increasing the quality of the data that exists, which is only part of the bottleneck.
Informatica also provided more insight to how it uses Virtual Data Machine, where Informatica products can operate across platforms and environments yet be insulated from their differences. I would expect to hear more from the company on where this can play a role in cloud and hosted environments as much as it can in on-premises environments. Ultimately this technology should be able to support more integration points and partners as it has done with Teradata; Informatica recently announced further support for Teradata Unified Data Architecture, where it can streamline data integration from within the Informatica Virtual Data Machine to environments like Teradata.
Informatica also continues its strategic partnership with Heiler, which it is in the process of acquiring and expected by year end if approved by German regulatory review. Since my analysis of the announcement last fall the companies have been working to integrate MDM with product information management (PIM). Informatica has come to recognize that PIM is not MDM; they have different business and IT requirements, but together they can be a valuable combination. This simple position is not generally accepted by the majority of IT analysts, who have led many of the largest of software companies into the IT approach, which our PIM benchmark research has found is wrong, and which led me to write a perspective on how PIM is for business. Heiler, which we rated as Hot in our 2012 Value Index for Product Information Management, plus Informatica, which was Hot in our 2012 Value Index for Data Integration, combined might be the next PIM powerhouse.
Informatica continues to expand its portfolio to support a range of real-time operations needs. It recently released a new version of Informatica Ultra Messaging that my colleague Robert Kugel assessed. Beyond the near-real-time features is Informatica’s capability of handling complex event processing (CEP) and what we call operational intelligence in its products. Unfortunately, with such a busy product portfolio, Informatica’s CEP and operational intelligence capabilities are rarely marketed and not very well known. Our benchmark research finds that activity or event monitoring is a top priority in 62 percent of organizations, and that is exactly what Informatica PowerCenter offers.
I expect to see more big steps forward for Informatica, as it has many development initiatives that are still confidential that will continue its expansion as an information-centered software provider. As technology providers such as Informatica are further pressured to demonstrate business value, we will see a further shift to what we call information optimization, which is in the end what business needs on a more timely and consistent basis, as I have outlined in our research agenda.
Informatica finds its customers moving to being stewards of business data but need to move further to supporting analysts’ needs for data to perform analytics. Our latest research finds that 42 percent of organizations are still impeded by data-related tasks preventing them from handling analytic ones. This has led to the startling reality, found in our latest research into spreadsheets, that spreadsheets are used 74 percent of the time for business intelligence tasks, despite the fact that they are responsible for a high amount of errors from the manual copy, paste and calculation tasks. The need to remedy data-related problems should help Informatica bridge the data divide between business and IT. Informatica continues to be bullish on its growth opportunities, and it does not have to convince me, as our research for a decade has shown the need for rationalization to improve efficiency and profitability.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
Data is a commodity in business. To become useful information, data must be put into a specific business context. Without information, today’s businesses can’t function. Without the right information, available to the right people at the right time, an organization cannot make the right decisions nor take the right actions, nor compete effectively and prosper. Information must be crafted and made available to employees, customers, suppliers, partners and consumers in the forms they want it at the moments they must have it. Optimizing information in this manner is essential to business success. Yet I see organizations today focusing on investments in big data because they believe it can effortlessly bring analysts insights. That premise is incorrect.
Organizations must do everything they can to ensure that they can turn content and data into information. Just loading data into a new technology – in this case big data – won’t do the trick. The process requires people who know how to get the right data and put it into the right forms, and is more art than science. Indeed, the challenge becomes more difficult as economic and competitive pressures make it harder to enlist qualified data scientists. Accommodating to this situation – being able to act faster and smarter while relying on fewer human assets – requires properly configured, easy and immediate access to the information needed to address a business need.
The typical model in organizations – a request to an analyst team for answers, copying and pasting from existing reports and spreadsheets into a single document, or maybe a request to the IT organization for reports or changes to how data is presented, then gathering other documents and information about the situation on the Internet or internally – is far too slow, and in fact our technology innovation research shows that 44 percent of organizations identify data-related tasks as barriers to spending more time on analytic ones. Organizations need their information to be available to anyone authorized on demand, in the form needed and through the channel requested, regardless of how or where it is stored. Not being able to deliver the right information impacts the quality of decisions made and actions taken and weakens the business processes on which teams and individuals rely. Data continues to be spread across too many applications and systems, as our information management research found in 67 percent of organizations. Continuing down this path is a waste of time and resources and impedes analysts and business in their work to assess and guide optimized efforts.
This challenge has increased interest in new information optimization technology, which we plan to study as part of our research agenda on big data and information management. Such technology can collect data in any format, assemble and integrate it as needed and enable individuals to access and work with it as information in the desired forms. The data can take any of a wide array of forms, structured or not, and may originate in a report or a document or be stored in any of a variety of business intelligence tools, applications and database systems. Information optimization technology can access that data and present it dynamically in ways simple and flexible enough for anyone to use it without training or assistance from others.
Under the hood, though, careful planning is required to satisfy the broad range of information demands both inside and outside of the enterprise. Organizations must find, evaluate and put in place the technology and platforms to assemble and present the information. This is not just a data integration challenge that might help with moving structured data across information systems, but rather a broader undertaking to empower business with the ability to capture information from many systems and sources.
An information optimization platform must be able to handle the volume of information requests from groups and individuals based on all the data residing inside and outside the organization. Moreover, as these are certain to increase, it must offer scalability and the potential to meet users’ increasing performance needs. To satisfy the many types of users and skill levels, it must rank high for usability, offer flexibility in user interfaces and be accessible from many applications, portals and mobile devices. In short, the platform must become an effective foundation element of the organization’s information architecture and support a range of needs that can span from capturing data, modeling and converting it while maintaining security, automating the process and sharing and distributing information.
Understanding the need for and choosing technology to support information optimization is not easy. Information optimization is a new focus in the enterprise software market, a new segment that builds on existing investments in business intelligence, reports, business applications, content and document management, information systems and information management, and benefits from recent advances in business analytics and big data to lift them to a higher level of value and use. Building on our past research on information applications and information management we are examining what is necessary for organizations to deliver unified information faster and better than ever before.
Today, many organizations lack the skills, process and technology to optimize the use of information. Our technology innovation research found that more than half of organizations (51%) say that not having enough skilled resources is the major barrier to advancing their competencies to use new and innovative technology. Traditional IT architectures have not advanced to meet the business needs for information optimization solutions today, and since information optimization is not easy, organizations are facing challenges in identifying the right types of integration technologies, adapting them to their particular needs and assembling information for business use.
The advent of big data technologies such as Hadoop provides new and rich repositories that can be exploited if technology is designed to access them. Organizations can choose from a vast array of new big-data-oriented technologies, including Hadoop, in-memory databases, data appliances and RDBMSes. In addition accessing information from across the Internet including information on customers or feeds from distributors and suppliers that could be specific sources to an organizations industry or even online systems and applications operating in cloud computing environments are essential. They must apply the right level of security to ensure that data is protected and made available only to those authorized to see it . All this must happen with information that is not static but proceeds along a workflow and must be available when people need to collaborate. Also, information should be optimized to make it accessible from mobile technology and easily found via search technology.
Organizations are taking dramatically different approaches to optimizing the use of information to make it available on demand from any source at any time. Designing more effective information processes is critical to improving the maturity of organizations with regard to information optimization and the use of the rich content, data, documents and reports, which are key elements of enterprise use of information. Considering the benefits of using technology to enable information optimization and taking advantage of big data and existing investments is critical, and our technology innovation research finds that business improvement initiatives are leading the way in 60 percent of organizations.
We have announced new research as part of our direct investigation on information optimization that will search out and document emerging best practices in information optimization from early adopters, and will determine the extent to which companies have adopted or plan to implement them. We will investigate the IT infrastructures and information-related needs of organizations’ business areas to help establish the real value and business case for investment in information optimization.
CEO and Chief Research Officer