Managing large volumes of enterprise data continues to challenge IT organizations as they deal with administration and storage of no longer just terabytes but now petabytes of data and costs increase accordingly. This massive size of data complicates the underlying issues of where and how to store it easily in low-cost hardware and manage the data efficiently. One attempt at a solution is Hadoop, an open source community-based project. It began as part of Yahoo and was led by Doug Cutting, who used the MapReduce concepts for large-scale distributed computing to create a distributed file system. Yahoo itself runs the largest deployment of Hadoop. Doug Cutting is not new to the open source world, being involved in the creation of Lucene, open source search technology among many other open source community projects.
The demand for access to business information and applications through mobile technologies such as the Apple iPhone and iPad, devices running Google Android or using RIM Blackberry is surging as consumer preferences and behavior spill over into the business workforce. The massive growth of adoption of these technologies around the world as consumers seek instant access to information has many business managers wondering how to benefit from the trend. The drive for mobility is part of the 2010 business technology agenda (See: “Using Innovative and Disruptive Technology in 2010”) as a source of innovation inside the enterprise and in interactions with consumers and customers. Of course in a business rather than personal context, more types and complexity of information are needed, ranging from access to documents and presentations, to status on initiatives and processes, for specific application needs to performance in what is known as business intelligence.
The proper management of data is ever more important and complex. Business people must have easy access to data from all over the enterprise, but unguarded access and distribution may enable users to bypass the IT organization’s rules for data management, copy and paste whatever they like into spreadsheets and share it in uncontrolled fashion. Firm control of enterprise data requires policies and practice for governance, yet our benchmark research found that only 12 percent of organizations are innovative in their data governance. Reaching this highest level of maturity is not easy when you have to manage a portfolio of policies and rules that span business units and IT and must take into account people, processes, information and supporting technology. Despite this it is essential to address this data governance need and as I wrote is a 2010 priority (See: “Optimized IT and Focus on Information Technology in 2010“).
At its Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) analyst summit in Washington, D.C., IBM provided direction on the state of its software and services in this category of business technology. This annual event goes back to 2005 when IBM started making BAO-related software acquisitions in earnest. I have written before about IBM’s focus on analytics and optimization (See: “IBM Fuses New Generation of Analytics for Deeper Business Optimization”), but I want to point out the company’s focus is not just on software but also on services, hardware and larger efforts. At the executive level IBM has communicated to investors and shareholders four strategic areas of focus: Business Analytics, Smarter Planet, Cloud Computing and Growth Markets. IBM sees itself as leading the business analytics market with unified services, software, hardware and a platform for them.
To help sales teams to maximize their value to the company, sales operations and management must find the right balance of compensation and incentives to motivate them to achieve their quotas. To do this requires the ability to design compensation plans that take into consideration products, territories and accounts and of course the number of customers and prospects. Sales managers also need flexibility so they can build plans that align to sales objectives and realistically evaluate the potential of products and services for each territory and customer opportunity. Our benchmark research on sales performance management found that many organizations fall short in these capabilities: One-third of research participants said they have no confidence in their existing sales operations and management, and 26 percent more said they are only somewhat confident in them. Faced with this negativity, many organizations are trying to improve their processes by adopting applications designed for these and related aspects of sales.
In today’s world, without information there is no business. That is, without having the right information and making it available to the right people at the right time, an organization cannot be fully informed, make the right decisions and act on them, and compete effectively enough to survive and prosper. That much is a given. Finding ways to ensure that an organization’s information is available, timely and in the right form is a complex, ongoing process; I call it the ”secret sauce” that is needed for efficiency and profitability.
Businesses continually need to improve their abilities to utilize data generated by their activities and interactions. Retrieving, cleaning and sharing data are ongoing processes, and along with data within the enterprise, applications in cloud computing are becoming critical sources. Vital data about customers and even employees among many other types is distributed across the cloud and must be integrated with the rest of data in the enterprise for applying analytics to gain visibility into the entire business.
The market for talent management continues to grow as organizations realize that they have not invested enough to make their workforces more productive and valuable. Not many human resources organizations have enabled innovation in their workforce processes or taken the next step to work more strategically with finance and operations executives. Now savvy HR organizations have been renting a new generation of talent management applications through software as a service (SaaS) in a cloud computing environment.
At the Information Builders 2010 conference I spent some time to learn about the latest in its business intelligence (BI) technology and also performance management, which my colleague has analyzed recently (See: “IBI’s Eye Popping New Performance Management Software”). But I focused more on information management, which is becoming a strategic component of the company’s portfolio. Its iWay Software includes a suite of integration adapters used to interoperate across processes and data types along with its integration server, and I investigated several products that use these two foundation components for various aspects of information management.
Many organizations want to improve the performance of their sales and customer service operations but have difficulty increasing efficiency and producing better results. One barrier to improvement is sticking with the status quo of managing sales operations and performance through spreadsheets, as 47 percent of organizations still do, according to Ventana Research’s benchmark research on sales performance management. Also many organizations continue to expect good results from using sales force automation (SFA), but our research shows that 39 percent of organizations are not satisfied with these systems. We also found that the number-one driver of efforts to improve is to make sales performance strategic. In customer service, optimizing utilization of call center agents is a top requirement; another is increasing customer satisfaction, cited by 89 percent of participants in our benchmark research on agent performance management.
Cliché or not, a business’s most valuable asset is its people, and for 15 years Softscape has been dedicated to providing applications that help human resources organizations handle a range of processes that I call workforce performance management, including what the industry refers to as talent management. Privately held Softscape operates in 156 countries, and its customers range from large companies (with 1,000 to 10,000 employees) to the extremely large (which have over 50,000 employees). It has one of the highest customer renewal rates in the industry, is growing consistently and is attracting new customers with its cloud computing offering that provides software as a service (SaaS) that organizations rent rather than license and install themselves. Softscape also has entered the expanding market for customer experience management to support processes for maximizing customer relationships.