Everyone seems to be talking about big data these days. Such analytics can improve learning and profits—but only if the organization has the right people and skills.
Article Author: Gail Dutton
Big data can be daunting, but its analysis is making significant differences in organizations. By analyzing complex data sets across functional silos, organizations are gaining insights to help catalyze change, improve access to experts, speed onboarding, retain talent, and identify root causes for complicated issues. It improves the learning environment, and even the Learning & Development organization itself.
The people who drive value for an organization aren’t necessarily those in authority on the formal organizational charts. They often are those with depth and breadth of expertise, who influence others, know how the organization really works, and can reach beyond silos to accomplish results.
EXTRACTING VALUE Water engineering firm MWH Global, for example, used big data analytics to identify the company’s top collaborators and then deployed them as catalysts to help consolidate activities as the company transitioned from a function-based IT structure to a shared services model. “The company identified the top change agents and publicly recognized them as role models. After six months, MWH Global saved $25 million,” recounts Cecyl Hobbs, SVP, Business Development and Marketing, at social network analytics company Activate Networks. By improving access to internal experts, the company was able to overcome bottlenecks and barriers more quickly than otherwise would have been possible and distribute information more effectively throughout the network.
Halliburton worked with Activate Networks to improve communication among its global sites when a network analysis showed multiple clusters with few ties among them. Based on that analysis, Halliburton began strengthening cross-platform ties by creating mixed project teams, rotating well-connected individuals to other platforms, and creating an electronic expertise locator. Nine months later, connections had increased 25 percent and operational productivity 10 percent, costs caused by poor quality were slashed 66 percent, and customer dissatisfaction decreased 24 percent. New product revenue increased 22 percent. The improvements were attributed to the ability to make shared decisions more efficiently and to exchange best practices and innovations.
Other organizations use big data analysis to retain talent. “Engagement, performance, and social connectivity are key elements of flight risks,” Hobbs points out. “Are employees sought out for their expertise, considered critical to a project, sidelined, or overloaded? You can look at this over time and understand where an individual fits. Those who are becoming more isolated and less energized may be flight risks.”
For onboarding, the extent of individuals’ networks is the key to their success. “If a consultant isn’t well-integrated within 30 days, it’s a cause for concern.” Hobbs gives corporate execs a bit longer. Within 60 days, he says, it should be evident whether new executives are working closely with the necessary people and departments. “If that’s not happening or if the network is lopsided, that’s a key indicator the executive isn’t thoroughly onboarded.”