It’s great to see Big Data becoming BAU for many companies now – it’s certainly on the agenda at Hays. The journey has admittedly been harder than any of us anticipated, no doubt about it. But watching these organisations take the steps needed to develop and upgrade their teams, their tools, and the sheer variety of information they collect… we can safely say we’re about to see the next level of business data capability.
The benefits of this move will soon be commonplace across the business world. I see 2017 as a landmark year for data, and those that take the right steps (at the right time) will be well placed to reap the rewards.
If data is truly on your radar, you should be asking the following questions of it:
Do you have enough?
The first and most important aspect to a data strategy is knowing how much raw data you have to play with. Many ventures into this discipline in the past have fallen down by expecting too much return from too little information. Data’s biggest opportunity is to identify patterns that drive enough insight to create ‘outperformance’ against today’s benchmark. Finding these patterns requires comprehensive data that spans a long period of time (slow and steady wins the race).
For example, here at Hays we first launched OneTouch, our single master database, back in 2008. We initially intended it to serve as a global bank of candidates, but with seven years of data now at our disposal, we can use this deep and detailed understanding of the market to decide how we engage with a client, or how candidates in different sectors are likely to react to different messaging. Ultimately, this insight enhances the service we provide.
It has taken years to reach this point and we’re still only scratching the surface of what we can do with this information, but a more realistic, measured and long term approach has paid dividends.
Do you have the right people?
Companies wishing to take advantage of Big Data has sparked a war for talent in the sector, and the value of data scientists is only set to increase in the jobs market.
The challenge on this point is integration. You can’t just parachute this expertise into a silo and expect it to revolutionise your business. Collection and analysis of your data needs to be closely followed by communication – sharing what they have learnt with the rest of the business. To do this effectively, your Big Data experts need to be coupled with data-literate people in the traditional functions (accountancy, marketing, sales) who can act as a bridge between this wealth of information and their own department. Cross-specialism candidates are becoming increasingly common, and here at Hays we already have people working in our marketing or finance arms who come from hard data backgrounds and have taken up a more traditional function, yet still have a foot in the world of technology.
Do you have the appropriate tools?
If your data is only accessible via complex and esoteric processing functions (SQL queries, for example) then the average employee will require relatively intense training to be able to contribute to your efforts.
However, investing in a modern analytics platform will mean your staff won’t need to know how to write code or programme – they can often simply drag and drop items to achieve what they need, with user-friendly functionality to search the platform intuitively, identify specific information, or produce simple visualisations of complex data. By focusing on making the most appropriate tools available, you can make data accessible for everyone in your business.
Developments in AI and machine learning are also set to move the data debate on in 2017. Bringing this into the equation provides the opportunity to set a simple end goal and have the computer learn and formulate the complex solution, whether that’s quickly analysing mountains of information or scaling calculations or predictions accordingly. It’s not a silver bullet though… and we mustn’t forget that technology works best when it complements the human element in business. AI is unable to judge cultural fit for example, or negotiate with candidates. These vital ingredients will always be a role for our people. But with the opportunity to scale activity to such a dramatic degree, businesses can now combine these tools with the tech-savvy personnel – improving both sides and ultimately impacting bottom lines.
Many may still regard Big Data as the latest example of business jargon, but I expect 2017 to be pivotal year that will go some way in silencing the data doubters. Companies will begin seriously considering how they can accurately capture the information at their disposal, and those organisations that started the process years ago will turn to new developments in AI to make use of the wealth of data at their disposal, moving us firmly into the world of Big Data 2.0.
Those organisations that disregard data do so at their peril. If companies don’t use 2017 to hire vital tech natives, train existing teams or invest in the right tools to collect, interpret, analyse and act on the information available to them, they will only fall further behind their competitors.
Put simply, if your business isn’t even on the data ladder now, how will you keep up with your competitors when they grab the next rung?
To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.