By Dave Crisp
I know I’ve been reading too much on a topic when I start to have bad dreams about it.
I least expected to wake up arguing with people about tweeting, tracking numbers of customers and employee performance, and being threatened with dismissal over systems that didn't deliver what was promised.
I haven’t been near that actual work personally for years, but it was certainly an area I argued strategically about and thought about a lot — the need for HR to become more numbers- or evidence-based (before that was the common term) and how it should develop its own expertise and theories about what data analytics would help.
It wasn’t happening then and it’s hard to get a handle on how much is actually happening now, or what it can actually do for HR.
That debate is still going on, as mentioned in the last post. Finishing that piece didn’t end the deluge of incoming reports about where “big data” is going. TechRepublic dropped an email link to a report by Nucleus Research about ROI on Big Data analytics made available by IBM (a page that also shows links to even more reports about data warehousing and data mining). This report gives an average return on investment of 188 per cent and an upper end for in-depth analytics programs of 1,209 per cent (12 times the cost of implementation — a number that has to make anyone sit up and notice). These tend to be for large organizations, although the report suggests any size operation can benefit.
One of the confusing complications of big data is that everything on computers and smartphones logically interconnects. I liked this report called Too Much Info by KPMG made available by Retail Council of Canada.
The first article puts the use of smartphones for comparison shopping in perspective: 38 per cent globally have used coupons from smartphones for discounts (you may have seen one interesting application in movie theatres where audience members can now compete on their smartphones by answering questions shown on the screen before the movie to get discounts on drinks).
Shoppers now say they prefer online shopping to stores in almost every category. Seven per cent actually say they prefer their smartphones as their number one shopping aid, up from one per cent in 2007 — just five years. At that rate or possibly an escalating one, smartphones will be a key tool not only for shoppers but, since we are all also employees, for work data.
The third article in the KPMG report helps a lot to put big data in perspective, pointing out what clicked for me in my dream — that tweets are absolutely a part of big data. The 10 per cent of Internet users who currently tweet send 177 million tweets per day.
A great many of those tweets are undoubtedly useless, but even so it is likely a comparatively large number have to do with businesses and organizations and many represent customer opinions that can be valuable. OK, now add Facebook and then internal Facebook-like social media tools that allow employees to generate and share substantial quantities of information. If Fast Company is right that all social media together seem to account for only five per cent of existing communications, we nonetheless find it pretty overwhelming and well on the way to getting even more so.
Now you can try to throttle back just a bit, and read some stats from tech-oriented Fast Company online entitled "The $1.3 trillion price of not tweeting at work." Here we read that only 20 of the Fortune 500 CEOs tweet and even Larry Ellison of Oracle joined only in June this year and tweeted just once (I feel better).
Fast Company links to a McKinsey report to back up their headline claim. McKinsey notes two-thirds of this potential value would come from better connections and collaboration internally within companies. That may not be tweeting exactly, but social media undoubtedly plays a growing role.
I particularly like this comment from McKinsey’s preface: “This level of value creation could have transformative impact across sectors and economies. But capturing this value will be a challenge for enterprises, primarily because they will have to transform their organizational structures, processes and cultures to become ‘extended networked enterprises’ that connect well internally as well as with customers and partners. For social technologies to deliver their potential economic benefits, enterprises must be open to information sharing and create cultures of trust and co-operation.”
No wonder, as noted in earlier posts, CEOs are so eager to promote collaboration. We just don’t know yet if they’re capable of it or not.
I’m not sure who first coined the phrase “high tech, high touch,” but whoever it was captured a truth that will see us through the next century. We can see high tech everywhere we turn, exploding at an unbelievable pace. We read and hear constantly that to get value from it we need to change the way we lead and manage organizations. Collaboration has to replace command and control. We can drown ourselves in data, but if we can’t figure out useful ways of working together better to make use of it, there isn’t much point.
Dave Crisp is a Toronto-based writer and thought leader for Strategic Capability Network with a wealth of experience, including 14 years leading HR at Hudson Bay Co. where he took the 70,000-employee retailer to “best company to work for” status. For more information, visit www.balance-and-results.com.