Tech Insights: How Many Categories of Analytics Software Are There, Anyway?

Mar 31, 2015

It would be a fun exercise at the next HR Tech conference to count how many vendors have the word “analytics” prominently displayed in their marketing literature — or perhaps you could just take the simpler route of counting the small number who don’t.

To help make sense of this area, I’d like to take a preliminary stab at identifying some of the different categories of analytics software.

Some categories of analytics software

I invite readers to write in to improve on this; I don’t feel this is in any way definitive but it gets us started.

  • Display – Some tools are mainly about displaying information in a manager-friendly form. For example one of the main selling points of iDashboards is that it shows managers key metrics at a glance. A typical HR use would be showing managers the spending on overtime for the last month.
  • Reporting tools – A classic kind of analytics software is the reporting tool. The goal of a reporting tool is to reach into one or more databases and pull out information in a useful form. Crystal Reports and Tableau have strong capabilities as reporting tools (and to be fair, more than just basic reporting); and reporting tools are built into most HRIS and talent management systems. A typical use would be creating a report on engagement broken out by tenure.
  • Embedded – Some analytics tools are focused on the process that particular software packaging is enabling. For example, Jibe provides recruitment software; its analytics are focused on giving you up-to-date information on how that process is going. A typical use in recruiting would be showing recruiters how many people have applied for a certain opening.
  • Analysis tools – Analysis tools are meant for specialists or power users. The most common analysis tool is Excel, power tools for specialists include SAS and SPSS, tools designed specifically for HR power users include Visier and Macromicro. A typical use would be to dig in and uncover why there has been a surge in turnover.
  • Insight providers – For some vendors their product is the result of analytics; for example Wanted Analtyics gathers and synthesizes a vast amount of information about the job market. A typical use would be looking at the supply and demand for programmers in a certain location.
  • Data management tools – The capabilities of analytical tools can be no better than the databases they access, and so there is a whole other group of vendors who can do the data integration or create data warehousing, but that becomes a broader topic.

As with so many taxonomies the categories fail to be mutually exclusive or exhaustive, but it’s a start.

What is interesting?

  • Vendors are really driving forward very quickly and in many cases makes things much easier for HR. What they don’t make easier is keeping up with all the change.

What is really important?

  • Analytics is becoming pervasive. It can be difficult and expensive to implement. HR needs a plan for developing their overall analytics capability. This is a project that will take many years; and while that means we shouldn’t expect an overnight transformation, it doesn’t mean HR shouldn’t be able to show quarter by quarter improvement.