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The importance of product information management (PIM) has become clear in recent years and especially as it relates to master data management. As I recently wrote handling this business process effectively and using capable software should be priorities for any organization in marketing and selling its products and services but also interconnecting the distributed supply chain. Our research on product information management can help organizations save time and resources in efforts to ensure that product information is an asset to facilitate efficiency in many business processes. Through years of benchmarking, we have developed a blueprint for managing and improving product information. Using this approach enables companies to more effectively align and link their activities and processes. Of course achieving effectiveness also requires using applications that create consistent, reliable product information. We regularly update our Value Index for PIM to enable companies to evaluate vendors and their applications’ suitability for use in all business processes requiring product information.
The Ventana Research Value Index methodology evaluates application vendors and their products in seven categories. Five are product-related, assessing usability, manageability, reliability, capability and adaptability, while two quantify the customer assurance issues of vendor validation and total cost of ownership and return on investment (TCO/ROI). The Ventana Research Value Index: Product Information Management in 2015 is the distillation of a year of market and product research by analysts at Ventana Research, the premier benchmark research and advisory services firm. Built on a foundation of 12 years of business and technology research, this unbiased, fact-based index is the first such industry undertaking to assess the value of software designed specifically for enabling product information management.
The Value Index for Product Information Management in 2015 reveals insights into the state of the software market for PIM. It investigates the divide between vendors that are independently focused on this category – Agility Multichannel, Enterworks, Informatica, Riversand and Stibo Systems – and larger ones that embed it in a business application suite – IBM, Oracle and SAP. A third group including ADAM Software and WebOn specializes in a departmental approach to PIM; these companies also are expanding from their European bases to market and sell in North America.
The Value Index analysis identifies two companies, Stibo Systems and Informatica, as the current leaders in PIM; Stibo Systems outscored Informatica by only 0.2 percent. Stibo Systems is rated Hot and ranks first in four of the seven evaluation categories (Usability, Capability, Validation and TCO/ROI); Informatica, also Hot overall, leads in the other three categories (Manageability, Reliability and Adaptability). A primary distinction between the two is that Stibo Systems dedicates its focus to this particular business process and applications while Informatica, through its acquisition of Heiler Software, has integrated PIM software with its own data infrastructure including master data management, data integration, data quality and other key tools. One of the insights resulting from our PIM Value Index analysis is that each of these vendors would benefit from paying attention to the other’s strengths.
Agility Multichannel is the third-ranked vendor for PIM, also rated Hot overall. Making advances in Usability, Reliability, Capability, Validation and TCO/ROI and also in Adaptability through an OEM agreement with Pentaho for integration and analytics, it has dramatically improved its offering in the market. Deeper support for commerce also strengthens its independent approach to PIM. A close fourth is Riversand, another Hot vendor, which continues to advance in many of the categories, particularly Usability and TCO/ROI.
Enterworks finished a strong fifth and is rated Hot overall. Its recent acquisition by Black Dragon Capital and appointment of a new CEO should bring renewed vigor to its market efforts. SAP, ranked sixth and rated Hot, acquired PIM vendor hybris software and entered the market with new marketing and commerce applications that have embedded product content management. SAP also provides data management and related tools to support PIM. Seventh-place WebOn improved from Warm to Hot overall. It has expanded its efforts to North America and made improvements in Usability; its specialty areas are sales and commerce where PIM is not as easily available or integrated with existing processes and systems.
Oracle moved up to eighth place and now is rated Hot. It has improved its PIM offering, particularly in how it supports existing customers and with an interface to applications through its Product Hub and data management technology. Offering PIM independently is its largest challenge, and the Warm rating for Validation and TCO/ROI make it more difficult for potential customers to consider its offering. ADAM Software here makes its initial entry into the Value Index; though it is rated Warm overall, it earned the Hot rating in three categories. It focuses on marketing departments, which often need help in managing product information. Finally, IBM struggles to support PIM as a business application. Its focus is on master data management and associated data integration and quality, and it is rated Warm in support for PIM.
The 2015 Product Information Management Value Index has advanced from the previous version in two major respects. First, we increased the specificity of the characteristics we evaluated in Usability, Manageability, Reliability and Adaptability to be able to differentiate the products better. Second, we increased the number of items in the Capabilities section to reflect the growing need for PIM to provide more depth for both business and IT users. This resulted in lower scores for some vendors in some categories, but others made improvements to their products in the past two years. For example, Agility Multichannel’s score rose significantly, but IBM, which has not made much investment to PIM, remained in last place. Other vendors such as Tibco were invited multiple times but did not respond and were left out of the analysis. Other specialized and vertical application providers such as JDA were left out because they did not meet the evaluation criteria. Still other vendors were acquired, such as GXS by OpenText, and became more focused on providing integration technology; lacking a dedicated focus on PIM they were excluded.
I urge organizations to do a thorough job of evaluating product information management systems and associated applications, tools and information technology. To help we offer this Value Index as both the results of our in-depth analysis of these vendors and as an evaluation methodology. The Value Index can be used to evaluate existing suppliers and also provides evaluation criteria for new projects; applying it thus can shorten the RFP cycle time. It also will eliminate wasted time in traditional evaluations along with the number of resources required to assess and optimize your product related processes with PIM.
Unlike many IT analyst firms that rank vendors from an IT-only perspective, or focus too much on master data management and data infrastructure, Ventana Research has designed the Value Index to provide a balanced perspective of vendors and products that is rooted in an understanding of business drivers and needs. This approach not only reduces cost and time but also minimizes the risk of making a decision that is bad for the business. Using the Value Index will enable your organization to achieve the levels of efficiency and effectiveness needed to optimize product information management. I invite you to learn more about how it can help.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
Big data has become a big deal as the technology industry has invested tens of billions of dollars to create the next generation of databases and data processing. After the accompanying flood of new categories and marketing terminology from vendors, most in the IT community are now beginning to understand the potential of big data. Ventana Research thoroughly covered the evolving state of the big data and information optimization sector in 2014 and will continue this research in 2015 and beyond. As it progresses the importance of making big data systems interoperate with existing enterprise and information architecture along with digital transformation strategiesbecomes critical. Done properly companies can take advantage of big data innovations to optimize their established business processes and execute new business strategies. But just deploying big data and applying analytics to understand it is just the beginning. Innovative organizations must go beyond the usual exploratory and root-cause analyses through applied analytic discovery and other techniques. This of course requires them to develop competencies in information management for big data.
Among big data technologies, the open source Hadoop has been commercialized by now established providers including Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR and made available in the cloud through platforms such as Qubole, which received a Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award in 2014. Other big data technologies are growing as well; for example, use of in-memory and specialized databases also is growing like Hadoop in more than 40 percent of organizations, according to our big data integration benchmark research. These technologies have been integrated into databases or what I call hybrid big data appliances like those from IBM, Oracle, SAP and Teradata that bring the power of Hadoop to the RDBMS and exploit in-memory processing to perform ever faster computing. When placed into hosted and cloud environments these appliances can virtualize big data processing. Another new provider, Splice Machine, brings the power of SQL processing in a scalable approach that uses Hadoop in a cloud-based approach; it received a Ventana Research Technology Leadership Award last year. Likewise advances in NoSQL approaches help organizations process and utilize semistructured information along with other information and blend them with analytics as Datawatch does. These examples show that disruptive technologies still have the potential to revolutionize our approaches to managing information.
Our firm also explores what we call information optimization, which assesses techniques for gaining full value from business information. Big data is one of these when used effectively in an enterprise information architecture. In this context the “data lake” analogy is not helpful in representing the full scope of big data, suggesting simply a container like a data marts or data warehouse. With big data, taking an architectural approach is critical. This viewpoint is evident in our 2014 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award in Information Management to Teradata for its Unified Data Architecture. Another award winner, Software AG, blends big data and information optimization using its real-time and in-memory processing technologies.
Businesses need to process data in rapid cycles, many in real time and what we call operational intelligence, which utilizes events and streams and provides the ability to sense and respond immediately to issues and opportunities in organizations that adapt to a data-driven culture. Our operational intelligence research finds that monitoring, alerting and notification are the top use cases for deployment, in more than half of organizations. Also machine data can help businesses optimize not just IT processes but business processes that help govern and control the security of data in the enterprise. This imperative is evident in the dramatic growth of suppliers such as Splunk, Sumo Logic and Savi Technology, all of which won Ventana Research Technology Innovation awards for how they process machine and business data in large volumes at rapid velocity.
Another increasing trend in big data is presenting it in ways that ordinary users can understand quickly. Discovery and advanced visualization is not enough for business users who are not trained to interpret these presentations. Some vendors can present locationand geospatial data on maps that are easier to understand. At the other end of the user spectrum data scientists and analysts need more robust analytic and discovery tools, including predictive analytics, which is a priority for many organizations, according toour big data analytics research. In 2015 we will examine the next generation of predictive analytics in new benchmark research. But there is more work to do to present insights from information that are easy to understand. Some analytics vendors are telling stories by linking pages of content, but these narratives don’t as yet help individuals assess and act. Most analytics tools can’t match the simple functionality of Microsoft PowerPoint, placing descriptive titles, bullets and recommendations on a page with a graphic that represents something important to these business professional who reads it. Deeper insights may come from advances in machine learning and cognitive computing that have arrived on the market and bring more science to analytics.
So we strong potential for the outputs of big data, but they don’t arrive just by loading data into these new computing environments. Pragmatic and experienced professionals realize that information management processes do not disappear. A key one in this area is data preparation, which helps ready data sets for processing into big data environments. Preparing data is the second-most important task for 46 percent of organizations in our big data integration research. A second is data integration, which some new tools can automate. This can enable lines of business and IT to work together on big data integration, as 41 percent of organizations in our research are planning to do. To address this need a new generation of technologies came into their own in 2014 including those that received Ventana Research Technology Innovation Awards like Paxata and Tamr but also Trifacta.
Yet another area to watch is the convergence of big data and cloud computing. The proliferation of data sources in the cloud forces organizations to managed and integrate data from a variety of cloud and Internet sources, hence the rise of information as a service for business needs. Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award winner DataSift provides information as a service to blend social media data with other big data and analytics. Such techniques require more flexible environments for integration that can operate anywhere at any time. Dell Boomi, MuleSoft, SnapLogic and others now challenge established data integration providers such as Informatica and others including IBM, Oracle and SAP. Advances in master data management, data governance, data quality and integration backbones, and Informatica and Information Builders help provide better consistency of any type of big data for any business purpose. In addition our research finds that data security is critical for big data in 61 percent of organizations; only 14 percent said that is very adequate in their organization.
There is no doubt that big data is now widespread; almost 80 percent of organizations in our information optimization research, for example, will be using it some form by the end of 2015. This is partly due to increased use across the lines of business; our research on next-generation customer analytics in 2014 shows that it is important to improving understanding customers in 60 percent of organizations, is being used in one-fifth of organizations and will be in 46 percent by the end of this year. Similarly our next-generation finance analytics research in 2014 finds big data important to 37 percent of organizations, with 13 percent using it today and 42 percent planning to by the end of 2015. And we have already measured how it will impact human capital management and HR and where organizations are leveraging it in this area of importance.
I invite you to download and peruse our big data agenda for 2015. We will examine how organizations can instrument information optimization processes that use big data and pass this guidance along. We will explore big data’s role in sales and product areas and produce new research on data and analytics in the cloud. Our research will uncover best practices that innovative organizations use not only to prepare and integrate big data but also more tightly unify it with analytics and operations across enterprise and cloud computing environments. For many organizations taking on this challenge and seeking its benefits will require new information platforms and methods to access and provide information as part of their big data deployments. (Getting consistent information across the enterprise is the top benefit of big data integration according to 39 percent of organizations.) We expect 2015 to be a big year for big data and information optimization. I look forward to providing more insights and information about big data and helping everyone get the most from their time and investments in it.
CEO and Chief Research Officer