Turning Big Data Inward

The phrase Big Data has gained a great deal of attention since I wrote about it in October 2009 in a post called, The Internet-Sized Problem.

Like all modern technologies, the field of Big Data has not been standing still and recently I attended a presentation on a soon to be released book called, The Decoded Company. In the interest of fair disclosure, I should tell you that I’m related to one of the book’s 4 authors, hence my attendance at the pre-launch presentation ahead of the book’s February 2014 release.

The book’s subtitle is “Know your talent better than you know your customers”. Its 3 basic premises are that by using the data, you can and should be accumulating on your company’s employees. You can:

  1. Use technology and the data as a coach. To train and help each person in a way tailored specifically to that person’s prior experience and current knowledge. To help them when they need help and get out of the way when they don’t. If you’re a student of the User Experience, this aspect is sometimes called a Graduated Interface in that it starts new people off with help and interactive guides, and then reduces the prompts and adds power-user shortcuts as the person gains experience with each specific task.
  • Use data as a sixth sense to help improve your decision-making. I’ve written previously on this concept in a white paper called, “How to get Priceless Insight for Free” using Inbound Marketing and Automation. These intelligent systems automatically offer users the right data elements to help them arrive at the right decision quickly.
  • Using this technology allows you to Engineer Ecosystems, as opposed to cobbling them together over time. This flattens hierarchies and improves response times while reducing overhead. It uses the feedback and control mechanisms which Big Data provides, to enhance your business processes.

It smacks of Big Brother of course and in some ways it is, but it’s one of those ideas which gets better the more you understand it and how it works. The concept here is to use the technology to improve your employee’s work performance continuously, not to snoop on them constantly.

So just why am I telling you about this? If you work for a company like Starbucks, Wholefoods, Spotify, or Netflix you already know about the trend and have been coached by your own big data, used it to enhance your decision-making process and are currently gaining power from reduced hierarchies and improved resource consumption. If you work for a smaller, perhaps less sophisticated company, these trends await you soon. The power inherent in this approach yields a competitive advantage which you will ignore at your peril.

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Think about it this way: during the last 10 years the Internet has introduced a seismic change in the way we market everything. We’ve gone from interruption marketing to permission-based marketing with the message being refined to match a specific person’s likes and dislikes. In other words, we’ve used Big Data to learn more about our prospects and clients and then used the information to market more specific propositions to their needs. What this book suggests, and the reason I think it’s going to be a big book, is that it’s time to turn that spotlight on our employees and learn how to help them help the business to the best of their abilities.

It’s time to turn the Big Data lens on your talent and learn how to make them happier and more productive at work.

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