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Big Data – HR is stepping up

How technically literate are your HR people? Have they reluctantly put away their manual spreadsheets in favour of a shiny new cloud HRMS or are they clinging desperately to their abacus? Or are they looking for new ways to surf the wave of Big Data and leverage some benefits for HR?

What is Big Data

Expressed in a distinctly non-technical way (the only way I can) Big Data is simply large amounts of information that can be stored, accessed, juggled, shared, filtered, compared and generally utilised by your IT systems. And when we say “large”, we’re talking about really large – not just gigabytes but terabytes of information, such that multiple servers may be needed to process it.

However, despite the name, Big Data is not just about volume, it’s also defined by velocity (including speed of change) and variety (the different types of data and number of sources). Compared to other data sets (e.g. sales, customers) your people information may not have the same volume but HR data does change often and rapidly and draws on a range of sources.

Recent developments

Over the last few years, increasingly specialised HR systems have been in constant development, both all-encompassing HRMS packages and specific one-off programs and modules dealing with ‘niches’ such as talent management, onboarding, recruitment, performance management, compensation and benefits management… name an HR function and these days there is a wide choice of IT solutions for it. Add to this the rising wave of social media and social collaboration capabilities and the data available to these systems is enormous.

 So what?

The benefit of being able to play with all this information lies in what can be done by suitably sophisticated analytics software. By utilising Big Data’s full potential, business reporting capabilities are expanding and offering new insights into business performance; managers and owners are now able to factor in their people data (including attendance, performance, skills, payroll, and pretty much any other realm of HR-related information).

 Computer Weekly magazine have said that HR is the final piece of the IT puzzle. Systems have long (well, comparatively long) been in place for marketing, supply chain management, finance and so on; now developers have brought their skills to HR. As the possibility of asking (never before possible) questions arrives, it’s time for HR to surf, swim or be left waving desperately for the lifeboat…



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