Ventana Research’s Business Technology Innovation Research Agenda for 2012

Now finishing our first decade of providing research and education for business and IT professionals, we at Ventana Research have learned what it takes to improve the value of processes and performance in many industries. This is no easy task; it requires thorough and wide-ranging research on the best (and worst) practices that organizations need to understand as they try to increase their competency and effectiveness – and our firm is committed to that work. For 2012 we are moving forward from the business technology revolution agenda we outlined at this time last year, including business analytics, business collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media. We have added a focus on big data, a trend that has reinvigorated the dialog about managing large volumes of data and how to use it effectively. Our research framework spans a diverse set of research agendas and practices from the viewpoints of the lines of business, IT and specific industries and knits together the necessary strategies and best practices across the four critical aspects of people, processes, information and technology.

Our research agendas for 2012 again will help your organization balancing its investments in enterprise software to ensure that they deliver business value. Our expertise is built from delivering hundreds of benchmarks and harvesting insights from the more than 240,000 members of our community. The facts we’ve discovered from research and experience contribute to building relevant best practices that can save you time and reduce the risk of not achieving your full potential. More than ever it’s a challenge to find the time to understand how to get the largest return on your technology investment in the shortest period of time. I am obviously a big believer in the kind of research that as I wrote last year is diminishing rapidly in analyst firms that tout themselves to be experts without putting in the thought and effort necessary to become them.

In this context I am proud to offer the following well-defined and methodical research agendas and insights for 2012. Thanks to all of you for rating me as the number-one industry analyst in enterprise software for 2011 as determined by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations. That sort of recognition is most meaningful because it comes from the community that utilizes our research to help improve their competencies and extract full value from technology.

Here are the six areas of business technology innovation that can help your efforts in 2012 whether you are in business or IT but have a significant responsibility for your line of business’s efficiency and industry competitiveness.

Big Data

The variety, volumes and velocity of data being generated by businesses and received from consumers or customers on the Internet are huge and increasing, and managing it all poses a major challenge for organizations. What is colloquially called Big Data has become a point for serious discussion between business and IT as they try to figure out how not only to derive value from data-related investments but also the benefits that can come from understanding and acting on the data. Our firm conducted benchmark research on Big Data to determine how organizations are adapting to this information management challenge and working it into their business technology strategy. Managing and utilizing big data requires a framework of technologies that starts with efficient storage and integration with other data, moves to whatever processing is needed, including analytics, and extends to providing access so users can apply the analysis to their operational or decision support needs. As organizations realize they must diversify their data strategies beyond a single database and the RDBMS approach to serve the entire business, the range of technologies available to assist this change includes data appliances, in-memory computing and Hadoop. As our research shows Hadoop is fast becoming a critical component of many information and analytic strategies. Organizations that do not have solid information management practices and people who understand the information life cycle will struggle in dealing with big data in the short term.

Business Analytics

Competitive pressures force businesses to operate smarter and move faster. To do this requires having the numbers that can help business understand the past and present and anticipate the future. These numbers, often called metrics, can be used to create a range of relevant business indicators about people, performance, processes, risk and factors to guide actions and decisions across business. This is the realm of business analytics, and our benchmark research involving thousands of organizations found large gaps among organizations of all sizes and industries in terms of the business and IT skills, processes, data and technology they use to help obtain the most timely and useful information. To acquire superior business analytics organizations must invest resources and time to find the right technology to help them not just address obvious problems but discover new opportunity. We assert that they need dedicated tools that go beyond personal productivity tools like spreadsheets in order to design analytics appropriate for the roles and competency levels of their users and able to deliver insights and actions.

Business Collaboration

It is clear that organizations need to harness the potential of their people to work together more regularly to boost performance and productivity. Despite the widespread adoption of electronic communications, however, the state of collaboration within most organizations has not matured much beyond sending files by email and using web conferencing. A new generation of business collaboration utilizes the lessons learned and user experiences from social media led by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and now new digital magazines. Users of social media are both consumers and employees, and they think that in the enterprise it should be as simple to connect to people and interact for working purposes as for interacting with friends. Smart executives sense that effective collaboration can advance the mission of the workforce while also providing high levels of employee satisfaction and thus talent retention. Our forthcoming research into next-generation workforce management and business intelligence will uncover exciting new trends and best practices in business collaboration in the context of specific organizational needs. Our latest benchmark research into managing sales performance identified new demands for using wall posting, broadcasting or Twitter-like capabilities in sales. These are among the new methods to utilize collaboration technologies to serve the needs of the overall business or the nuances of roles within a line of business.

Cloud Computing

The cloud computing phenomenon has changed the basis of providing enterprise software with software as a service (SaaS). Obsolescence of enterprise software, the arrival of appliances that combine hardware and software, the challenges of fewer resources and capacity of in-house IT have driven organization to embrace cloud computing for a range of needs beyond standard business applications. Businesses that have come to accept cloud computing have found that they can establish and make available a range of capabilities in days rather than months. Cloud computing also is an avenue to acquire new capabilities such as those I’ve just discussed here (big data, business analytics and business collaboration) as well as making software readily available to mobile technologies including smartphones and tablets. But we recognize that, whether it is a public cloud used as a service or a private cloud just for one business, users need to integrate at the data and application levels with their on-premises enterprise systems; our research on Business Data in the Cloud explores this side of cloud computing. In any case, organizations that do not evaluate the use of cloud computing are needlessly closing off a path to business effectiveness.

Mobile Technology

Smartphones and tablets  are bringing consumers and business professionals into a single global environment. The instant availability of computing activated by the stroke of a finger has radically changed the expectations of workers who think that business-focused enterprise software should be much simpler and intuitive to interact with and use to complete tasks. In 2011, the shape of a new generation of applications and tools on mobile technology began to impact the user experience of enterprise software. Our benchmark into business analytics and sales found that fast access is of growing importance to business while IT struggles to move beyond its protective BI supplier mode and access control. Our forthcoming research into next-generation workforce management and business intelligence will uncover exciting new trends and best practices in mobile technology in the context of specific organizational needs. The battles of Apple vs. Android for dominating the smartphone and tablet markets are of serious interest to businesses. The other vendors of mobile products – Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Nokia and RIM – have fallen from prominence and are becoming irrelevant to the technology’s intersection with enterprise software. The rationalization of technology suppliers allows software vendors to provide their applications in the native capabilities for fuller functioning. We will be eagerly tracking a new wave of mobile business computing that will help willing organizations innovate as workers play an unprecedented role in determining their future working environment.

Social Media

The viral nature of social media has made large corporations and even nations feel the impact of people who harness their voices in a directed manner. Using Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Yelp, consumers and business professionals confront each other in an immediate manner has forced lines of business, from marketing, sales and service to manufacturing and supply chains, to change the way they operate. Social media is a new wave of influence that can reach the CEO of a company as well as its customer service agents as the opinion of one consumer, broadcast to millions of others, echoes in every level of an organization. Social media makes it easier and faster for businesses to determine customer satisfaction and the usefulness of interactions, though they may not like what people say about their customer experience and our new research into customer feedback will assess if organizations are taking it seriously. Our benchmark research on customer relationship maturity finds that businesses are not yet taking steps to use social media to stay ahead of their competition. New research that we will conduct on next-generation marketing processes will look at social media as a method to develop intelligence about customers and how to engage and deliver relevant interactions that are profitable while delivering superior customer experiences. And social media has other business uses, such as helping find and recruit talent in larger pools of people from Facebook or LinkedIn. Our benchmark Social Media in Recruiting found those who value finding the best talent embracing the social channel as critical to reducing cost and time to hire. These examples provide evidence that the impact of social media goes well beyond the “what are they saying about me?” aspect and that it should be part of every organization’s strategy.


Mark Smith – Chief Research Officer

Top Ten Best Practices Learned from 2011 Technology Market Chaos and Stupidity

While we will wait until January to publish our recommendations for the new year, we can digest the lessons learned in 2011 within the technology markets and with Ventana Research right now. That’s appropriate, since we at Ventana Research are committed to helping you with solid information and education. We help thousands of organizations make a better, faster, safer, smarter and more cost-effective environment for leveraging technology to its fullest extent. Our benchmark research worldwide across thousands of organizations of all sizes and vertical industries has found there is a lot more room for improvement than most realize or are addressing.

The year 2011 began with my assessment on the diminishing science of research in technology analyst firms. Sadly, that assessment continues to be true. Gartner, Forrester and many others aspiring to be like them see primary research as unnecessary to assess what is really happening in the use of technology. We take the opposite approach, and increased the volume of primary research we conduct as benchmark research to provide not just the facts but also education and best practices. To give you a sense of the volume, in 2011 we released 21 benchmarks (see below) spanning every line of business and vertical industry. From concept to delivery, benchmark reports take a minimum of six months and included one of our best and largest in business analytics with research from over 2,400 organizations. If that is not enough, we have 15 more benchmark reports (see below) already in design, execution or ready to release in first half of 2012, putting us on pace to potentially double the number of benchmarks that we released in 2011. If you do not think we are busy in the research factory just ask Alan Kay our SVP Research Management who along with his team continues to generate more quality research than any other firm in the market. We also have invested in research into the vertical industries that we have been assessing as part of every one of our benchmarks over the last decade. From this research we have found that organizations still have a lot to accomplish to get the most value from aligning business and IT to manage and optimize business processes. We have found significant misuse of technology for some tasks and roles, but we also deemed across our 2011 research topics five to 15 percent of organizations innovative across the people, process, information and technology components of a specific business technology area of focus.

I would be remiss to not also mention the importance of our Value Index research into vendors and products. We have now perfected the science of helping you with your assessment of existing vendors and products and for new projects with a request for proposal (RFP) approach, leveraging real-world concerns and evaluation criteria such as manageability, reliability and usability. You will see more Ventana Research Value Indexes in 2012 to ensure you get the analysis and real assessment of vendors and products compared to the less useful matrix and box assessment approaches by other analyst firms.

Our firm’s efforts to make research and insights more readily available through social media continue to expand. Our focus on the quality of what we provide in social media continues to be recognized, and while we are not the most popular analyst firm online yet, we are being recognized as the most relevant. The use of social media is also critical for technology vendors, and especially those who market and sell products to service this need. Nevertheless, many technology vendors are still not strongly engaging in this area; that fact will be part of my upcoming analysis on the lack of social media competence on the part of technology vendors.

2011 was a turbulent year for business and IT and also in the technology industry. The turbulence ranged from changes on the vendor landscape from merger and acquisitions (M&A), to executive leadership changes and scandals, to technology strategy changes, to elimination of products from the market. All of these changes impact your computing portfolio; the software and technology you use is becoming obsolescent faster than you planned, or already eliminated from the market. Businesses continue to depend on enterprise software applications and tools, which means any changes impact your business computing plans. You can read for yourself many examples of these changes and impact to the industry from the roster of our research teams’ week-by-week analysis; they may help and inspire you as you plan for 2012.

In the coming year, those who do not understand the dynamics and potential of the technology industry will find themselves operating significantly behind their competitors and cross-industry peers. Here are my ten best practices in the form of pragmatic advice and words of wisdom for you to consider as you think about 2012 and how you engage technology for your organization.

  1. Have Patience – Technology vendors can mask the full value of their products by their marketing efforts, and impede your understanding of the products’ usability by their sales efforts. Take time to see if your existing or potential new vendor will provide you the communication and detail you require. In addition, be more patient with your business and IT staff to ensure that both parties are focused on what they should be doing and not squandering their resources by implementing initiatives beyond what is necessary. Our research has found that those who collaborate and find the fastest and smartest pace of action gain the most value in the end.
  2. Be Skeptical – In 2011, marketing themes ranged from support for mobility to having the line of business and vertical industry software that is right for you. Be skeptical; demand to talk to someone who really understands your line of business area, or ask to try the offered software on your mobile device. Today I see more hoopla in marketing than I have seen in a long time, along with technology vendors who are not able to provide a subject matter expert for which the vendor is proclaiming the ability to help you in a specific business or vertical industry area. Marketing in the absence of expertise is useless. If something in a vendor’s marketing materials is not self-explanatory, it is probably something that is not well-thought-through. You should be skeptical and demand more from anyone trying to sell you technology.
  3. Cloud Computing is Not Easy – Being able to quickly sign up for and use applications that run on the Internet is exciting, and the simplicity of pay as you go can help in the short run, but don’t forget to consider the questions of management and integration on an ongoing basis. There is no free ride to technology, and the sooner you plan for the ongoing manageability and potential scaling out of cloud computing through integration of data and processes, the better off you will be in helping your organization be fast but smart in meeting its business computing needs.
  4. Mobility is Critical for Future – Many organizations are keenly aware of the number of smartphones and tablets in business use, some of which are purchased by workers and not the organization. Even more frightening is the lack of support by organizations for embracing this technology and making available critical applications and tools to simplify business tasks and operations. Organizations that embrace and extend workers’ use of mobile technology will not just improve in productivity but in the respect of their workforce for the organization. The cultural importance of engagement with mobility will be a key driver in the retention and acquisition of talent in the workforce over the coming years.
  5. Have Alternative Technology Plans – It is always good to have a backup plan for anything in life. If your existing technology provider disappeared or ceased making improvements, what would you do? The majority of organizations just accept status quo and do not examine alternative choices among vendors and products. Some managers feel creating a backup plan is too expensive or time-consuming, but have done no real analysis to determine what could be best for their organizations. Many organizations are still paying maintenance on products originally rolled out years ago that are simply not going to catch up to newer alternatives and enhance the productivity or engagement of their workforces. We have seen this in every niche, from human resources management to sales force automation to business intelligence. Look at alternative choices and backup plans, then determine whether you need to take action to mitigate any risks affecting your technology-dependent operations.
  6. Question Conventional Wisdom – Just because you have always done something that way, or because everyone else appears to be doing it, does not make something the best path. So often I have seen organizations assume that their current CRM provider is the only way to go, without considering what needs to be done to support the best possible customer experience. The same thing happens with HR and Financial Systems and ERP and – well, you name it. Challenge the status quo and look for what you can do that might save an hour a day in time, thanks to more intelligent applications, or save ten customers a day, thanks to better insight into what they need or what they think about your organization.
  7. Never Accept You Have It Figured Out – No matter how smart your organization believes it is with its business and IT teams, the reality is that the use of technology for increasing efficiency never ends. We have seen where many IT organizations thought a single RDMBS and provider would satisfy all their information needs – until they realized that using Hadoop for specific applications saved them processing time and money. As soon as you think you have it figured out, you start falling behind when it comes to new technology that can be applied to your organization.
  8. Seeing is Believing – I have seen some pretty pathetic marketing of technology in 2011, where any level of detail about the products was completely absent from the vendors’ websites and not accessible on social media like YouTube. I’ve seen mobile applications that supposedly work on smartphones and tablets but are not available in the Android, Apple, Microsoft or RIM application stores, and without demonstrations on the vendors’ websites to try it yourself. If you are not able to find real information about a vendor’s products, or see demonstrations that show the software, move on to the next vendor. Usability is the most important evaluation criteria across all of our benchmark research in 2011, and if you can’t see the products in detail before you pay for them, it’s probably because they are not particularly usable. Life is short, and so is your time, and any vendor that is not able to provide information about its products is probably not taking you seriously as a potential customer.
  9. Your People and Workforce Matter – The key to staying up with technology and using it to your advantage is having the right team of folks across business and IT who can put together the best possible path forward. I have seen cases where the IT team or business analysts across line of business get little to no kudos for their contributions to helping improve the organization’s use of technology. Make sure to recognize and reward these teams, since they are the ones that your organization depends on for applying technology for your business. Also look at where technology can make your organization not just better but a more fun place to work.
  10.  Think Hard About Your Vendor Partners – The growth of technology adoption in 2011 exceeded many people’s expectations. Those vendors that best articulated how their products saved time, utilized resources efficiently and offered financial savings potential grew, compared to those that assumed their size and brand would get them business. Our benchmark research shows that the belief that large vendors are always best or that smaller vendors will not survive is a myth. Remember that you are investing in your vendors’ ability to meet your future needs. You might not think about your technology vendors as partners, but they should be just that. The faster you see them not just as suppliers but as contributing factors in your organization’s performance, and ensure you get more demanding and selective in who you work with from quarter to quarter, the better off you will be in making the best of your technology investment.

Ventana Research will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2012. As we close out our first decade of service to a community reaching 250,000 professionals, we have learned a lot in applying our own research and best practices to our firm. With our fairly priced on-demand monthly subscription to our advice and research, along with our education and benchmark and vendor assessment services, we have been able to continue growing our research and team. We also introduced the industry’s largest leadership awards for the use of technology across business and IT in our Ventana Research Leadership Awards to ensure that both organizations and technology vendors are recognized. You did not find this level of consideration or investment from other analyst firms who are quick to get a new customer but lack any follow through on in-depth research or analysis and recognition of those that use it.

We also in 2011 migrated all of our business and information systems to the cloud, eliminating the need for any dedicated on-premises and company-managed servers and software. Our cloud computing applications include but not limited to community software, content management, electronic mail, file sharing, financial management, marketing automation, project management, website and workflow. While this migration has had its challenges and bumps along the way, the simplicity and utility of cloud computing has given our small business better insight into the advice we provide our clients.

We have many new initiatives to expand our business and research in 2012 that will make it easier for you to get education and information in the timeframe and context you deserve. You will see more and not less from Ventana Research in 2012, and with your support we can continue to raise the bar on objective and independent research. I hope that you demand more from your industry analysts and firms you do business with to ensure you are not receiving mediocre advice based only on opinion or just the IT lens since you will need a lot more to be successful.

Thank you for being part of our readership and community of professionals. I thank all of our clients and partners, who made this all possible. Also thanks to the industry analyst relations professionals who voted that I was the #1 industry analyst in enterprise software as validated by Institute of Industry Analyst Relations; my humble regards for this honor. My best to the entire workforce at Ventana Research, who continue to believe in our mission and without whom we would not be able to continue to demonstrate the value of technology analyst firms that pride themselves on research and timely analysis to educate business and IT.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward to a great 2012!


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Benchmarks Released in 2011
Business Analytics; Business Analytics in Banking; Business Analytics in Consumer Goods; Business Analytics in Education; Business Analytics in Healthcare; Business Analytics in Insurance; Business Analytics in Manufacturing; Business Analytics in Retail; Business Analytics in SMB; Business Analytics in Telecommunications; Business Analytics in Services; Business Data in Cloud; Contact Center in the Cloud; Hadoop and Information Management; Marketing Analytics; Product and Service Analytics; Sales Analytics; Social Media and Recruiting; Supply Chain Analytics; State of Contact Center Technology; Total Compensation Management.

New Benchmarks Started in 2011
Big Data; Business Analytics in Government; Business Analytics in Technology; Business Planning; Customer Relationship Maturity; Customer Service Agent Desktop; Customer Feedback Management; Fast Clean Close; Governance, Risk and Compliance; Information Management; Next Generation Workforce Management; Operational Intelligence; Predictive Analytics; Product Information Management; Sales Performance Management