Moving From Big Data to Real Insight

by Sharlyn Lauby on January 10, 2013

I’m very delighted to share with you a new role in my career. I have accepted a position on the advisory board for the Workforce Institute at Kronos. The Workforce Institute is a think tank that helps organizations drive performance by addressing human capital management issues. It’s an exciting opportunity with a great organization, but that’s not the reason for today’s post.

During our last meeting, we were talking about trends and the subject of big data came up.

big data, analysis, Moneyball, insights, Kronos, Workforce Institute, analytics, predictive analytics

Big data and predictive analysis are very popular topics thanks, in part, to Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. For a while, I never heard the term big data without a reference to Moneyball. But this post isn’t about Moneyball or baseball. It’s about data. Specifically it’s about what we do with data.

We can generate all the numbers in the world but, if we don’t use them properly…well, the outcome will not be successful. It’s important to understand how to get insights from our data. And before companies try to incorporate big data into their strategy, here are a few things to consider.

Identify the “why”. Companies need to know why they are gathering data. Example: In the IBM CEO study, chief executives talk about building data to serve their customers. Their goal is to empower customer facing staff by using analytics to create a better customer experience.

Constantly re-evaluate the assumptions. Every set of data has a set of assumptions. And those assumptions will change over time. We have to revisit the assumptions regularly to ensure the data is still relevant.

Know what success looks like. Because you might mistake it for failure. At KronosWorks12, I had the opportunity to hear Billy Beane speak about his experiences with predictive analysis. One thing he mentioned stuck with me – you don’t have to have a big budget to have great talent. Sometimes we subject ourselves to another person’s (or company’s) idea of success. Define your own.

Understand there will be skeptics. Know your numbers. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re going to collect data, analyze data and quote data…then you’ve got to know how the number was calculated and what it means. I’ve seen HR pros lose complete credibility because they toss out numbers and can’t defend them.

Start small and build upon successes. Unless you’re Billy Beane and need to go “all in”, consider phasing analytics into your organization. Overwhelming people on the front end will not yield insight…only frustration.

Data has been and will continue to be an important feature in business. But like that old phrase “garbage in, garbage out”, companies must prepare in order to move the needle from data to insight.

Image courtesy of HR Bartender

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