Many companies still treat Big Data as a passing trend or technological advancement that’s out of their reach.
Connecting everything and hiring the right people with the skills to find patterns and make recommendations is perceived as laborious and costly. Even worse, implementing their suggestions involves change and flexibility — two words that rarely describe large businesses.
Utilizing data to improve organizational intelligence is going to revolutionize how we do business, and companies that ignore it now will have to play catch-up a few years from now.
Why Is Organizational Intelligence Important?
In a piece for Huffpost Business, Rod Collins, Director of Innovation at Optimity Advisors, perfectly explains why organizational intelligence is crucial for 2016 by highlighting how Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield was able to respond after the September 11 attacks:
“While the company had lost its machines, Empire was fortunate that almost all of its workers survived and its data had been backed up to another site on a regular basis. With its people safe and its data secured, Empire had the essentials it needed to be quickly back in business.”
Collecting data is only half the battle. The other half is utilizing this information — and the knowledge of your people — to create positive change that helps the company flourish.
In many ways, collecting data and utilizing it properly within the company will separate the lions from the impalas in the next few years. The key to success is to think strategically about what’s been given to them.
Ben Rossi at Information Age says company executives are learning to focus less on the gadgets and bytes of data, and more on how this data can change their business.
“In the early 19th Century, the steam engine enabled the Industrial Revolution, spurring new manufacturing processes that created industrial giants selling affordable products at scale.”
The advent of new technology, whether it’s adopted in 1816 or 2016, enables change and is a catalyst for innovation.
1. Data Will Affect the Whole Company Structure
The road to success through Big Data isn’t going to be easy. Many companies will have to take a long, hard look at how they run their business and make some hard choices in the company structure.
Neha Alawadhi, a technology journalist for the Economic Times, recently reported on the Big Data adoption challenges of small-to-large India-based businesses, as discovered by research firm Zinnov. India and China are two of the fastest innovators of Internet of Things technology — the network in which billions of devices will be able to communicate with one another, for which Big Data is the lifeblood.
Those countries’ struggles often reflect ours. “Enterprises are forced to undergo and manage change across multiple dimensions … products, people, process, platforms, and partnerships,” Alawadhi noted.
But while everyone wants access to data, few are willing to make the drastic structural changes to implement a path to results. Often, this is a reflection of rigid, top-down structures and an inability to consider the organization beyond a reporting tree.
Those rigid, top-down structures tend to be limited to human organizations, which reduces inefficiency and flexibility when making change.
“If the human body were organized according to a top-down structure, all the cells in the body would need to consult with the brain before acting,” writes Bruno Walther, co-founder and CEO of Captain Dash. “We would be literally incapable of moving and thinking at the same time.”
Even when companies start to evaluate their structures, they tend to draw a utopian map of what their company should look like and then get caught in the weeds of management levels and accountability.
Instead, Rupert Morrison, CEO at Concentra, recommends looking at your business like a bubble map, with people, processes, and tasks linked together. When a piece of the organization is changed, you can see who will be most affected and how ripple effects can be felt across the company.
2. Companies Will Change Who and How they Hire
Naturally, new technology and company changes will open the door to new skill sets. Some companies are prioritizing these new hires, while others are trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that talent retention is a major struggle for companies looking to make analytics a focus within the company. “Executives say it’s challenging both to find and to retain business users with analytical skills, even more than data scientists and engineers.”
Analysts in the job market are struggling to find positions that provide opportunities for advancement. Instead of having opportunities to learn and grow, they’re added randomly to an arm of the company — where few colleagues actually know what they do. Furthermore, many companies don’t offer a competitive pay rate, undervaluing the skill set these positions bring to the company.
Another important problem addressed in the McKinsey & Company study was a lack of executive support. If there wasn’t support from the C-Suite, then the analytics team’s changes rarely occurred.
Robert Allen at Smart Insights agrees. He says each analytics team needs a “big cheese” to make sure the analytics team stays top of mind across the company.
Below that, there should be a project manager keeping an eye on the overall goals, the analysts handling the data, and the support system to help them. This is how you create the opportunity for advancement and allow analysts to grow professionally while increasing their salaries if they do well in the company.
3. Data Literacy Is the Next Step in Employee Education
While organizational support is important for businesses starting to embrace data, true adoption will occur when everyone in the company has access to this information. This is one of the main trends that John Ryan, director of product marketing for Yellowfin, predicted at the end of 2015.
Analytics needs to become more digestible and sharable, so employees outside of analytical roles can understand the issues and brainstorm ways to solve them. “This shift in focus will see [business intelligence] platforms introduce new features … enabling business users to quickly connect with the BI experts in their organization to create and manage tackable tasks, brainstorm ideas, and partake in collaborative review cycles,” he writes.
After all, what’s the point of having an analytics department if its work is never shared?
But segmented data sharing can create friction within the organization. Dr. Gero Presser, CEO of Quinscape, explains that data can cause power struggles in the wrong culture. “If this is interpreted as a way to disempower decision-makers or if political factors dominate, then it will never be possible to establish this approach sustainably across the board,” he writes at Talend.
In some companies, the business intelligence team is considered nosy, trying to tell other departments what to do. This makes departments ignore suggestions produced from the data, and it creates a toxic environment. Everyone in the company needs to be involved in data processes, and understand the benefits of this tool.
4. Data Access Will Facilitate Collaboration and Problem Solving
As more employees have access to the data that the analytics team collects and processes, they’ll be able to identify what steps are needed to solve problems.
Robert Bates of Wipro Analytics explains the importance of breaking down departmental barriers and sharing information in a piece for ITProPortal.
“Data collected by one department may be able to provide insight to another, and therefore a system should be put in place to provide this,” he writes. “In order to redress and configure business intelligence practices and platforms, there must be a cultural as well as technological shift within businesses.”
With information automatically getting shared on devices across the company, more employees can keep up with everything that’s going on. Beyond that, when technology takes over our more menial tasks, we can focus on solving bigger problems that face the company.
That technological shift very much includes the emergence of the Internet of Things. Daniel Newman, Co-CEO of V3B & BroadSuite Media Group, believes the IoT will break down more than just departmental barriers. “IoT empowers employees to take control of their work lives,” he writes at The Marketing Scope.
“More employees are now working from home, using IoT platforms to stay connected to their teams at the office. Predictive devices catch mistakes, offer intelligent advice, and take the struggle out of collaboration efforts. They can make decisions based on your previous actions and perform duties without a command, thus cutting time out of the typical workday by keeping employees interconnected and using innovative methods of internal communication.”
5. Big Data Will Also Identify Friction With Employees and Departments
While the operations and production departments can utilize Big Data to save resources and make their processes smarter, the human resources department can use it to save human capital and reduce turnover-induced downtime.
Dave Weisbeck is the Chief Strategy Officer of Visier, a cloud-based analytics system for HR professionals. He recently discussed using predictive analytics to identify “at-risk” employees who might be considering leaving the company by evaluating up to 100 factors.
“In many ways, this sort of prediction is more valuable than naming individuals, as it allows HR to develop thoughtful, refined, long-term programs to reduce resignation rates by targeting root causes.” If the software does its job right, fewer employees should resign in the long-run — saving the company money.
In many companies, employee satisfaction directly correlates to business success. In the retail and customer service environments, failing to create a welcoming environment costs the company sales and lowers customer retention rates. If one employee isn’t hitting her sign-up goals for a loyalty program, or offering top customer service, she can bring down the entire team.
Some HR tools, like HighGround, allow customers to leave feedback on employee performance. Over time, management and HR can identify trends in customer satisfaction, which highlights which employees aren’t doing their jobs, Sarah White at CIO explains.
“For companies that can pinpoint the exact cause of unhappiness within a department or office location, it’s possible to save money by keeping employees from quitting just to get away from one person,” she writes. “That problem can be addressed on an individual level, saving time, energy and money in the long run.”
Your people are one of your most valuable resources, and Big Data can make sure the best ones stick around.
6. Big Data Will Never Fully Replace Human Knowledge
All the data in the world is useless without human knowledge, logic and context.
Analytics tells us that men buying lingerie spikes during the Christmas holidays. Human experience tells us that most of these men are buying items for their significant others, not for themselves. Without the context of human behavior, companies would make terrible operations and marketing decisions because they took the data at face value.
Linda Musthaler, a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corp., explains in a piece for Network World how the insurance industry pairs Big Data with human knowledge during flu season.
Patient records, profiles and past claims only paint half of the picture, she says. They need to add information about where the flu is spreading, how effective the vaccine is this year, and which groups are vulnerable. With this context, insurance companies can encourage the right people to get flu shots, reducing costs to the company — and also saving lives.
Big Data is going to change your company in the next 10 years. There will be new job titles, changes in processes, and even different skillsets to check for on resumes. However, Big Data will also make your company smarter, especially when paired with the right human capital. Analytics can improve your company’s organizational intelligence, but analysis and implementation with the right team can make it excel.