Technology Innovation in 2013 is a Business and IT Priority

The proper use of technology enables businesses to be more efficient. Our recent research into technology for business innovation found that 56 percent indicate innovative technology is very important, yet only 9 percent are very satisfied with theirs, showing plenty of room for improvement. As we enter 2013, businesses have more choices than ever for technology to improve business and IT. Our firm has identified six key technologies that give organizations significant competitive advantages: big data, business analytics, business and social collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media. Our research agenda for 2013 is designed to help organizations assess and analyze these technologies and make the best possible decisions.

Big Data

Big data helps business and IT organizations manage and use information. Our technology innovation research finds only 14 percent of businesses today are very satisfied with their existing big data technology. At the same time, organizations that utilize big data vr_infomgt_information_management_initiativeeffectively have improved their business significantly, according to 28 percent of organizations. Our research in 2013 will build on our assessment of big data in 2012. We will do a benchmark research study on big data analytics and another on information optimization. We see that organizations are investing in information assets that require big data and the analytics associated with it to refine information and optimize business activities. Big data can have significant business value, but using it requires that IT coordinate with business on the benefits they can achieve. Making a business case for an investment in big data technology can help organizations address the top issue of it being too expensive, as found in almost half (44%) of organizations. At the same time, organizations need to ensure they have the competencies to meet big data needs, which include not just the technology for storage and access but also underlying information management issues such as data governance, data integration and data quality, which our research in 2012 found are still in embryonic form in most organizations.

Business Analytics

Our recent research on technology innovation found business analytics to be the top-ranked priority, and very important to more than half (52%) of organizations. Business analytics is not just a technology to get metrics faster but a set of processes to operate smarter with information, to better visualize and apply advanced methodsvr_predanalytics_predictive_analytics_obstacles such as predictive analytics, and to identify ways to better search and present information for a broad range of business constituents. Our research finds only half (51%) of organizations are satisfied with their existing processes due to lack of skilled resources. More than half of organizations say analytics are too hard to build and maintain or data is not readily available. The most time-consuming aspects of the process are data-related ones, according to 44 percent of organizations. The technology too still has room to improve, with only 20 percent being very satisfied. The most critical capabilities are in the areas of predictive analytics (49%), visual discovery (48%) and taking action on the outcomes of the analytics (46%). We also found in our next-generation business intelligence research that the use of mobile technologies such as tablets is growing across organizations. We also found in our research a high priority to use social collaboration technology with business analytics to work together on making improvements in shorter period of time than traditional email or phone calls. Our research agenda in 2013 will investigate big data analytics and next-generation business analytics approaches building on top of our research on predictive analytics, which found that organizations still struggle to integrate predictive analytics with information architectures to support analysts and data scientists. Advancing the competencies and focusing on analytics are critical processes, but businesses also need simpler communication of results to help those responsible understand situations and consider potential recommendation actions. We hope that technology suppliers will work to better align to the human dynamics of what really happens with analytics to better support communicating observations and insights to ensure that end goals are achieved.

Business and Social Collaboration

vr_socialcollab_supports_talent_managementThe revolution in social media has expanded into business, bringing with it social collaboration and helping business processes by connecting people to achieve goals personally, departmentally or across an organization. This new technology was ranked the second most important technology in our research, but only 17 percent of organizations are very confident in their ability to use the technology well. With most organizations (86%) using shared folders and documents, it should be no surprise that part of the issue is related to technology. Organizations are evaluating new methods such as wall posting (45%), social recognition (41%), earning badges and awards (40%) and broadcast or Twitter-like capabilities (39%). With only a quarter of organizations being satisfied with their existing approaches, we see a lot of changes coming in 2013 in regards to the technologies selected and deployed. Our research in 2013 will examine where collaboration is critical in areas of human capital management, sales, customer engagement and even finance. Building on top of some groundbreaking research across business and vertical industries, we see business advancing rapidly with or without IT support, since business and social collaboration can be easily onboarded through the use of cloud computing. Unfortunately organizations are mixed in the methods they prefer to use to access collaboration – embedded in applications, through Microsoft Office, embedded within tools like business intelligence or stand-alone – making it complex to have consistency for users and their interactions. Using social collaboration with business analytics is a growing priority and organizations will need to assess their technologies to see if they meet this need. We believe that social collaboration will help bridge generational divides between workers as it becomes more easily accessible through web and mobile technologies, allowing managers and workers to engage anytime or anyplace. Focusing on the benefits of social collaboration, such as knowledge sharing, is critical as our research finds as the top need in 49 percent of organizations.

Cloud Computing

Our research finds that businesses don’t see cloud computing as innovative technology but rather as a utility and becoming a standard method that can be easily accessed and leveraged as part of their portfolio of computing options. These faster methods to onboard applications have become easy and in most cases require little IT involvement.vr_datacloud_data_in_the_cloud_concerns But beyond the simplicity for business and potential chaos for IT to eventually govern and support, the cloud computing environment is now a viable platform for IT to leverage in a multitude of methods, from IT infrastructure to developing and operating applications. The cloud computing environment can be used as a central point for integrating data and storing it for the enterprise or for customers and suppliers, but most organizations have not automated the integration of data to support business processes or business analytics and decision support. The lack of automation has increased concerns for data security, which 63 percent of organizations in our data in the cloud research find to be a major concern. In all of our research in 2012, the preference for cloud computing is growing across lines of business and especially in areas like sales, customer service and human capital management. In 2013 we plan to further assess the advancements in cloud computing, from big data and analytics to information that can be leveraged from a broad range of applications and services.

Mobile Technology

The use of smartphones and tablets has become common among consumers who are also workers in organizations. Mobile technology is a new platform on which organizations can deploy applications and tools for a wide array of business needs. Yet our next-generation vr_ngbi_br_goals_for_mobile_bi_deploymentsworkforce management research finds only 8 percent of organizations indicate they have everything they need on these technologies, and only a quarter more indicate they have most but not all they need available, which leaves a large number of organizations not able to meet their mobile business needs. This might be why only 20 percent are very confident in their use of mobile technology today. The debate on whether to use native applications and tools or operate across a web browser environment still looms, with native (39%) outpacing browser (33%) and a fifth having no preference. Bring your own device (BYOD) is another area of friction, where 39 percent of organizations allow this approach with smartphones and 45 percent with tablets. Organizations have many opportunities to determine how to use mobile technology effectively, and can derive many benefits. Our next-generation business intelligence research found increased workforce productivity was at the top of the list in 55 percent of organizations. Our research in 2013 will further investigate the use of tablets across the line of business, since this was found to have the largest growth planned (34%), while smartphones are more established.

Social Media

Social media is a new path for organizations to use to expand their corporate footprint to a broader audience and to gain brand awareness by marketing products and services. This new channel of opportunity enables organizations to rethink how they operate many of their business processes, including the ones that they use to find newvr_socialcollab_factors_driving_use_of_social_media talent and track candidates into an organization. In 2012 our research into social media and recruiting found that only 7 percent of organizations are very confident in use of this channel, but half of organizations are planning to change how they use social media over the next year; for instance, 81 percent of organizations have identified it as a method to identify new talent pools. In 2013 we will continue to examine best practices and benefits of investments in this channel. We will also assess social media as a new channel for customers to engage with organizations through a new benchmark in next-generation customer engagement. Our research in 2012 found organizations benefit from using this channel to handle a broad range of customer questions and issues.

While new technologies can help business innovate, what’s old is still new, and requires a foundation of skills and resources. For example, with big data, those organizations that have information management competencies to automate big data efforts will find themselves further ahead, as they leverage the core skills of data integration to handle more data environments. Those organizations that use business and social collaboration to connect people and processes more efficiently than conference calls and email will better leverage their human capital investments.

At the same time new techniques can make it simpler to gain value from existing technology investments, such as advancements in the use of text to present analytics in a readable form, new methods to use visualization as a discovery tool on analytics, and the ability to engage employees by using new and more social collaborative methods. Taking advantage of this technology requires smart use of best practices, leadership from the top and agreement about the desired outcome. Organizations need to have technology in place to develop a business case with balanced evaluation criteria that are not about the vision a vendor has but rather about what the vendor can provide to advance business efforts. We use this practical approach in our vendor and product assessment methodology and rating called the Value Index which we will be assessing over 100 vendors in 2013.

vr_bti_br_barriers_to_use_of_innovative_technologyOrganizations should explore resources in the company to determine if necessary skill sets exist, since their lack is the top barrier to adoption of technology according to 51 percent of organizations as found in our research. Part of this process is ability to know whether the technology can adapt to the workers’ needs and capabilities, and whether it requires weeks of training. Organizations should also look to the future and examine how to use cloud computing to rent technology, and how to use mobile technology to enhance collaboration. They should also keep pace with peers and competitors through the use of benchmarks and industry comparisons.

You can depend on Ventana Research to provide sound facts and pragmatic guidance to help you leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage in your business and innovate in your processes and with your workforce.

Read 2013 Research Agenda


Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

The Secrets to Big Data and Information Optimization Revealed in 2013 Research Agenda

Managing the access, storage and use of data effectively can provide businesses a competitive advantage. Last year I outlined what the big deal is in big data, as the initial focus on the volume, velocity and variety of data – what my colleague Tony Cosentino calls the three V’s – is only one small piece of how organizations should evaluate this technology. The more balanced approach is to include what he calls the three W’s – the what, so what and now what, which shifts the focus to an outcome-based view that can handle the time–to-value urgency found in business. Big data analytics can help assess the volume of data, while the velocity of data that is potentially in-motion is best handled by what we call operational intelligence. Beyond these, techniques and technology such as predictive analytics and visual discovery facilitate extracting more value from big data. Along with a wide variety of data, these tools help organizations focus on optimizing information assets. We will soon conduct benchmark research into information optimization to determine how organizations are dealing with their information today and what steps they are taking to improve. In-memory computing will surely be one of those steps, as it can significantly improve the time-to-insight equation.

Big data does not magically become valuable, nor is it easily implemented. Organizations must realize they still require good information management competencies that address the full lifecycle of access and integration Automating Cloud Data Activitiesacross in-house and cloud computing resources. Our research into data in the cloud has found that most organizations are not prepared to handle this broad, distributed data dilemma and has become very important. Technology to harvest and integrate data must become  easier to use for both business and IT users, which means overcoming the prevailing reliance on spreadsheets, which our research has found is a larger data challenge than most people realize.

Our research agenda for 2013 calls for us to examine not just the forms of big data technology, but also the impact and value of big data tools that organizations can use to maximize the value of their information and drive better insights. Realizing the vision of greater intelligence across processes and teams takes an investment of time, effort and money. Accomplishing such a feat requires focusing on information competencies to support big data effectively, which requires an assessment of the information processes to deliver data to business effectively. Our research into operational intelligence found that the use of events is a critical part of the big data environment. At the same time the skills of master data management and data governance do not go away, and in fact become important to address the business accuracy question that inevitably pops up when more data becomes available to be utilized. Our research into product information management has found that the drive for data quality is changing organizations’ Factors in Product Information Managementapproaches, and that a comprehensive information strategy using MDM and PIM together across business and IT can yield significant benefits compared to an IT-only approach. Our Product Information Management Value Index found some startling results about which vendors really meet the business needs of organizations. Product information is one of the many priorities as well as customer, employee and finance that need to be part of a big data effort and information optimization set of processes.

To embrace big data and optimize the use of information across an entire enterprise requires not just competencies and methods to ensure effective deployment, but also the ability to understand the business cycles for information and design the technology accordingly. Our research this year will examine the varying types of big data technology, including data appliances, Hadoop, in-memory computing and RDBMSes,  all of which our big data research in 2012 indicated have a nice growth pattern going into 2013. The number of Hadoop tools in particular has expanded dramatically in the last year, making it easier for existing staffers to utilize that technology without having to hire dedicated programmers, as was the case for early adopters.

In addition, we have seen that large-scale in-memory computing architectures can provide significant value when it comes to working with big data. A new generation of data appliances arrived on the scene in 2012. Of course it is critical to explore new methods to provide analytics and gain insights from big data and not assume that your existing providers will provide you a competitive edge with innovative approaches. Also, businesses must not limit themselves to the use of structured data when they can also utilize varying forms of content to help get a more integrated view of information. Big data can become strategic, but businesses need some technical acuity to design the best possible architecture for their needs.Big Data Technologies Planned

It will be critical to understand best practices for big data in 2013 and not get caught in the neverending cycle of evaluating technology. IT organizations need to deliver value to business iteratively in order to be seen as contributing to the value business expects from technology investments. It is also critical that IT and business analysts work together to find the right big data approach. They must reduce time spent on data-related tasks; our technology innovation benchmark research found that more than 40 percent of organizations currently spend too much. Supporting a variety of data will be critical, as even location data and resulting analytics, which we are researching, is a much larger priority in business than most people in IT realize. It might very well be that businesses must adopt a distributed set of big data technologies to meet their collective needs.

Being efficient in blending big data with existing applications requires good data integration. Our assessment in 2012 found a large selection of vendors in this area, but only some are exploiting the integration points of big data technology and where they might exist in cloud computing environments. Successful data integration might require a deeper examination of data virtualization, which our information management research found to be a growing priority. This year will see a new crop of information and vr_infomgt_information_management_initiativebusiness applications that exploit the value of big data and are aligned to specific line-of-business needs. At the same time the use of dedicated analytics designed for this approach, which we call big data analytics, will require examination in 2013; my colleague Tony Cosentino has plans for new research on lessons learned and the technology providers in this area, as he outlined in his agenda for 2013.

Businesses must make sure to examine new methods of assembling and harvesting information from existing applications and systems for business, including those that might not be classified as big data but can deliver the value required for business needs. What’s old can still be new, and the role of data integration has never been more important to automate the flow of data in the enterprise. We will research further into data integration in 2013 to determine best practices and build upon our existing Value Index on Data Integration with a new report that highlights the expansion of data integration vendors’ support for big data and cloud computing.

As information becomes potentially more easily managed, organizations need to expand upon traditional business intelligence and look at the role of predictive analytics, which our research has found is essential for optimizing business processes and aiding critical business decisions. We have found the largest obstacle to predictive analytics is difficulty integrating new tools into existing information architectures. For many organizations, our research has found getting the basics in business analytics requires a dedicated approach. With the commoditization of hardware and memory and the concomitant increased computing potential, as well as the emergence of cloud computing Predictive Analytics Obstaclesoptions, these new methods for taking advantage of big data become more cost-effective for a spectrum of small and big businesses.

All of these are exciting advancements in the science of information management, and CIOs should make a point of learning about and investing in all of them. Being more intelligent with big data is the mantra for 2013. Organizations that heed lessons learned and research the right path forward will reduce their risk of not delivering the value their businesses demand. While a big portion of the technology sector attaches itself to big data, being pragmatic and assessing the right path forward will be the most important best practice for 2013.

Come read and download the full research agenda.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer