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Even in this recessionary economy Informatica has been defying spending constraints. At its annual analyst summit (Twitter #INFAAnalyst) the company unveiled its growth strategies. Informatica has more than 4,500 customers for data integration and information management and now is turning its attention to the data in social media networks. Our firm has already identified social media as a key technology that businesses must embrace over the next decade to improve competitiveness or just keep up. Informatica already helps IT departments become better data stewards through a variety of methods and supports the executive mission of the CIO. My colleague David Menninger will comment on its vision and direction for its data integration portfolio; I will focus on its decision to use its technology for social media, which is part of a forthcoming product roadmap. Regarding the importance of embracing social media in this area, see David’s research and educational agenda in information management for 2011.

Informatica is trying to help organizations improve marketing, sales and customer service not only by integrating social media information into its data repositories but also within social media applications themselves. Having 850 million active people in Facebook and 100 million in LinkedIn creates mass channels to connect both business people and consumers and creates data sources rich in behavioral and demographic information that business are beginning to covet. (By the way, whenever a vendor starts marketing its ability to provide technology for social media, I do a quick analysis of its spokespeople’s use of social media; at Informatica, many of its technology leaders are on LinkedIn and Facebook, but many are not very active on Twitter. I think they should cover all the bases and engage its own social media promotion of its technology.)

At the analyst summit Informatica demonstrated how its data integration technology can tap into social media data repositories and more importantly link them to corporate data repositories and applications for use in new business initiatives. To make it clear, Informatica is providing the data integration technology to automate and streamline these efforts but not the actual applications that a business would use to deploy into social media channels. I see two key areas in which Informatica’s products can add significant value in utilizing social media data.

Informatica has been advancing its master data management (MDM) product to ensure easier governance and linking of internal data for business needs. Now it is addressing the challenge of linking the data that comprises an organization’s corporate identity with its social media identity. This is no easy task since there is no obvious connection between these business and personal worlds until the customer acknowledges it by linking an account number to a social media channel like Facebook or LinkedIn. To advance MDM and the potential of what Informatica calls Social MDM, it has hired industry veteran Dennis Moore (Twitter @dbmoore) to lead its efforts. Having worked at enterprise software heavyweights Oracle and SAP, he knows the challenges of not just creating data but housing and preparing it for further use. Informatica’s technology helps ensure a consistent identification of the individual across various social medi channels. 

Executives Ivan Chong (Twitter @ichong) and Girish Pancha (Twitter @GirishPancha) outlined how Informatica applies its data quality technology to social media. If an organization makes a link between an individual identification (technically called a party) and a social media ID, the Informatica tool can enrich and augment the data with more information found on social media channels. This enriched data could include the individual’s location, industry, favorites, birthday or other information the person has authorized to be shared. Having a complete record is critical to effectively engaging customers in marketing, selling and service. 

Applying information management to social media can serve the needs of business and the CIO. Initiatives to link social media are being driven by marketing and business executives who seek to bring their corporate presence and accessibility to products and services to social media. Following an onslaught of new social media applications that also operate on mobile devices, the amount of information available in social media channels is huge. Informatica’s challenge here is to bring its technology for new social media initiatives in business to the attention of these leaders, who likely are not familiar with this provider of data integration technology. Informatica demonstrated how its technology would work with a Facebook application and a company example called Hot, which was interesting but somewhat confusing in its approach. I tried to access the example on Facebook but could not find it; apparently anyone in marketing who wants to access and try it will have to talk to Informatica. I recommend that Informatica apply the technology to its own customers and developer network to demonstrate how it works for their businesses and then look at how it can advance its marketing efforts as good steps to validate the new capabilities.

One of Informatica’s key technology partners is MicroStrategy, which has launched new products for social media intelligence that I recently assessed (See: “MicroStrategy Infuses Social Media Intelligence into Marketing”) and develops social media applications on its mobile application platform. It is interesting that neither of them is promoting the other in the social media realm. There is a natural bond between the two companies and they have found success together in the business intelligence and data integration markets, so I wonder why they are not more connected in their social media initiatives. MicroStrategy is investing in its Gateway products, which already link to Facebook and is expanding to other social media channels; why not leave the data-related side of social media to Informatica? The two are partnering on MicroStrategy’s cloud computing services. MicroStrategy could build the social media business applications and Informatica could provide the data integration to bring the data together in a consistent form. Together the two companies could become a social media business software heavyweight.

Informatica has taken the most progressive position of any vendor in data integration and information management toward social media. Now it will have to educate marketing and social media executives to perceive what it offers as part of the technology requirements for their initiatives or hope that IT gets involved to recommend Informatica as the key provider of data integration technology. As part of this effort, Informatica should build an ecosystem of partners like MicroStrategy and others that are closer to the applications and systems used by marketing and will name it as the trusted data integration provider for social media. Another example for Informatica would be to work with recruiting application software companies who are beginning to link social media sources as a channel to find pools of new talent that our benchmark in social recruiting found to be a top priority. In addition Informatica should link this to its cloud computing efforts, through which social media operates and which will require integration from on-premises and other cloud-based systems. 

Informatica has taken the lead on the integration of data from social media into business. I applaud this move, which should help it grow from 2011 revenue of $784 million to be more than a three billion-dollar software company over the next decade. Informatica’s success in helping customers process large volumes of data is evident, and our firm recognized Informatica and its customer in our 2011 Ventana Research Leadership Award for Big Data. In addition Informatica has deepened its value for the lines of business, which I advocated in my analysis and recommendations last year. The largest challenge for Informatica is to make all of this simpler to do  using its Informatica PowerExchange for Social Media and further outlined in this product brochure I found by searching on the Informatica website. It provided some great examples at the analyst summit and now needs to communicate a product roadmap and release schedule for its new social media endeavors beyond the PowerExchange connectors. Consider a dialog with Informatica  to determine how it can help you integrate and use of data from inside your business with social media data. 

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

I attended the annual MicroStrategy World in Miami to check on the progress this company known for business intelligence (BI) software has made in expanding into a mobile platform and tools company that also announced a new version of its products. While MicroStrategy’s efforts in mobile BI and cloud computing are ahead of its competitors in the BI industry, they’re not its only expansion points for enterprise software.

Social media is another. In the last few years social media has transformed how people and companies interact, as well as how the technology industry communicates and conducts research. For example, our firm has been committed to the use of social media for four years – well before other analyst firms and vendors came around to it. In 2011, we researched the use of social media in business, along with its intersection with business analytics and big data, collaboration, cloud computing and mobility. Our research across marketing, sales, customer service and talent management found many advances and revealed how using social media is becoming a business benefit. As its evolution continues, there is a shift not just to interact through it but to capitalize on it. At Ventana Research we call this social media intelligence, which we define as the practice of gaining maximum business value from social media activities, processes and systems through the use of analytics, information and action based on them.

We believe that to enable this new intelligence for socially centered marketing and customer processes requires technology dedicated to support it. This brings me back to MicroStrategy, which announced its entry called Social Intelligence; it uses social media as a source for information, analytics and engagement with consumers and customers building on top of its business intelligence and mobile platform technology. MicroStrategy has been working to provide enterprise-class software to enable chief marketing officers and marketing teams to use social media to gain strategic organizational value. The company has built a foundation from which to access Internet community sites to collect consumer and customer information and synchronize it with enterprise systems. MicroStrategy Gateway, announced last summer, currently integrates only with Facebook, but MicroStrategy plans to support other channels. MicroStrategy mentioned Google+, but I think more value lies in channels with deeper context of community, such as FourSquare and Yelp, which have more behavior and psychographic value to business to consumer type companies. MicroStrategy Gateway uses permission-based sharing of information from Facebook, such as exchange of Facebook tokens and linking them to a unique customer ID that might exist in a company’s own customer information systems. I predict that this sophisticated type of social media-focused application and data integration will become as important as traditional data integration is for interfacing to enterprise sources of data. It also requires refining abilities to manage large volumes of information such as those covered in our research on BigData and Business Analytics. MicroStrategy’s enterprise-class cloud computing service can be used to support this these requirements for supporting social media intelligence.

MicroStrategy also has applied its knowledge of marketing and customer analytics to an application called MicroStrategy Wisdom that can segment, analyze and target consumers and customers. This applicationwasannounced and released in beta last fall, and MicroStrategy provides a free demonstration version to download from the Apple AppStore. With it, you can quickly access more than 30,000 individuals who have already provided permission and their Facebook tokens and analyze their friends’ fan information – this resource includes information from more than 5 million people in what MicroStrategy calls the Wisdom Network. You can analyze your own Facebook friends’ fan information, as I did, and contribute it to the growing Wisdom Network. It took only a day to do, as MicroStrategy processes the data overnight and sets up the analytics for use in the application. The native Apple iPad application that I used was easy to use, and you can navigate through and interact with the information to quickly ascertain how to use the Facebook information. It is not clear what level of your Facebook friends’ details is exchanged into MicroStrategy, and this should be a reminder to check your Facebook privacy settings (which have not been easy to understand and change).

To demonstrate how a company can engage and interact with customers and consumers in Facebook, MicroStrategy built an application called MicroStrategy Alert that it announced last summer and also can be downloaded from the Apple AppStore. Once you have given it permission and shared your Facebook token, the application uses your Facebook information to let you review news, events and offers in a simpler manner than Facebook itself. With this product MicroStrategy wants to demonstrate how easily your organization can build a mobile customer engagement application to monetize a company’s fan base. MicroStrategy shows its expertise in mobility with two other sample applications: Usher for managing events and Emma for social listings and engagements; both operate across your Facebook friends and their friends. Organizations uncertain about what is possible in mobile applications for social engagement will find these applications useful examples of how to engage customers with a social media intelligence strategy.

All of these developments should help MicroStrategy gain credibility for its brand and software with marketing organizations as part of their social media strategy. The company’s unique approach puts it in a league of opportunity by itself, as most other approaches are just focused on analyzing social media sentiment or monitoring activity across different channels. MicroStrategy can also address these needs through its BI products and through partnership with Clarabridge.

I presented at the conference on best practices in social media intelligence and let me know if you want a copy. To achieve these require organizations to advance their existing efforts in marketing analytics, big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media so they can layer in these new technologies without significant new resources and investments. That in turn requires organizations to be more efficient; for example, our benchmark research on marketing analytic found that marketing personnel spend 53 percent of their time related to analytics on data-related tasks rather than analysis. In addition, our research into social media found that more than one-third (39%) of organizations have a closed social media policy, and more than half actively prohibit use of social media during the workday. This will need to change to get a workforce engaged with its company’s social media-related processes.

To make the most of this opportunity, MicroStrategy needs to address a couple of points that aren’t directly related to its software. First, it needs to hire staff who have experience in the broader aspects of brand, category, consumer and customer marketing. At the conference, it was evident that a large portion of the MicroStrategy team was not personally fully engaged with social media. Its move to shut down electronic communications during their conference keynotes, while many of us wanted to use social media to dialogue and discuss these advancements, left the wrong signal. MicroStrategy also needs to continue to engage with forward-looking marketing organizations and not rely on consulting-centric marketing agencies or other intermediaries. Lastly, MicroStrategy needs to apply its knowledge and early adopting customers to new customer deployments, helping them utilize enterprise systems to energize social media intelligence to improve marketing performance.

MicroStrategy is no longer just a BI technology company but an enterprise software company that can help organizations utilize the cloud, mobile and social media to business advantage. It is good to see MicroStrategy making its applications available to anyone to try without any sales involvement, which is a pleasing aspect of the new generation of enterprise software marketing. MicroStrategy has a unique opportunity to strategically advance companies’ use of social media but must supercharge its own marketing and social media processes to fully influence and engage marketing executives and consumers alike.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

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