Here’s What’s Really Happening With Adopting and Utilizing Big Data

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Jan 7, 2015

For at least the past three years, there has been no shortage of articles written about the urgency of businesses and HR adopting a data mindset.

Business analysts and experts on this subject have tried everything from threatening the existence of data-ignorant companies to making innumerable cases for why it should be a part of your company fabric.

Admittedly, data is important. We cannot just go about our days wishfully doing business without the context behind what is really driving and affecting our operations.

Where analysts are losing people

When you ask for that new system that costs $500,000 you can’t just tell your boss you need the money — you need to provide a business case for how this new system will exponentially improve an operational segment and/or solve a business problem. The only way I have seen these requests approved is with data.

Now notice I simply refer to “data” and I don’t try to make it out to be this monstrosity that lies far and beyond the average person’s comprehension. My friends, this is where analysts and big thinkers are losing the masses.

When we talk about data, data is data to the average practitioner. Moreover, most companies have barely scratched the surface of utilizing simple data to make business decisions, and that it is hard for them to comprehend anything bigger. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s Talent Analytics Maturity Model, over 50 percent of companies are still working at the Reactive Operational Reporting Level.

Why is the message “buy into the idea of big data” rather than a focus on helping the everyday practitioner or CEO utilize the data they have to make the decisions they need to make?

Why can’t we make data simpler?

I suppose I’m taking money out of someone’s pocket by saying this, but I don’t get why this concept can’t be explained simply.

Bigger isn’t always better, but the perception of it is scarier.

One of my connections on Twitter mentioned last week that she was both “ fascinated/concerned with big data”for 2015. To which I replied: “Big data is a focus on data points that helps us operate in business more efficiently.”

My response got me thinking further: shouldn’t all data achieve that result? All data isn’t good, relevant, or useful. Big data will not solve all of our problems if we don’t first reframe our thinking about the purpose and use of data in business.

Finding an easy way to utilize data

To that end, here are some simple thoughts that can assist you with using data in your organization:

  • Start simple. What do you want to know about your business that data can shed light on? Start here and start to build out the narrative with data.
  • Find purpose. What is the reason this data is important to your business? How will it help you modify or change what you do currently? If you don’t have a specific, actionable purpose for this data — why bother? The data should at a minimum serve as an operational baseline, but it can also be used to identify issues and opportunities.
  • Train your people to extract, synthesize, analyze and sensibly utilize data for the optimization of your business. I remember being asked ad nauseum for “Time-To-Fill” reports for my open positions at a former employer. Leadership was convinced that aged requisitions over 60 days meant a recruiter was not efficient. They would use these reports to chastise recruiters that weren’t filling jobs within 30 days. While efficiency could have been a contributing factor to this metric, the truth was there were many other variables causing requisitions to age over 60 days (i.e. high requisition volume, hiring manager delays etc.). I provide this short anecdote to show you how a single piece of data was misused based on lack of clarity around its purpose and the inability of leadership to sensibly use the data.

You don’t need to be a certified expert

One of the most important things HR can do this year is to become more data savvy. However, take the pressure off yourself of having to be a certified expert in big data.

Instead, focus on piecing together the narratives that are most important to your business that way you can tackle the “bigger” and more complex scenarios later.

his was originally published on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.

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