Big data has become an essential and indisputable source for organizations development, either through improved customer experience, service development, or raising the organizational efficiency. However, how do the assistant internal departments such as the human resources, information technology, and finance deal with big data? This article seeks to provide an adequate answer to this question.
The total volume of data on the planet Earth exceeded 20 zettabytes this year. To imagine this huge volume, it is enough to know that 1 zettabyte equals 1 million petabytes, or 1 billion terabytes, or trillion gigabytes. This number is expected to increase rapidly over the coming years. This requires starting the research on how to manage these huge volumes of data that caused emergence of the term “big data” in 2000.
There are many different criteria used to classify data as it is big data. The most common of these measures is what Gartner International for Technology Research and Consultancy developed. It defined big data as the data that are in groups whose volume of each is typically measured in terabytes. This data flows irregularly and their relationships with each other are also changing. In addition, these data take different forms, some of them are numbers and the others are words and texts. Dealing with these data requires innovative and complex methods of analysis to be used in decision-making.
The sources from which we get big data vary. Some of them are external such as internet sites in different forms, whether they are government websites, encyclopedias, bourses, or others. Some others are internal, such as electronic archiving for organizations and what it contains from papers and documents, as well as the organizational programs and databases, such as those relating to the human and financial resources and what is related to dealers and others. In addition, big data can be generated from shared sources such as media materials of images and audio- visual files, means of social communication, or even data from GPS devices, satellites, communications networks, sensors, and home entertainment devices.
Nowadays, big data has become vital to projects and organizations. The interest of organizations in it is increasing steadily. The results of a questionnaire, conducted in 2016 and targeted the top 1,000 companies in the United States, showed that about 70% of these companies consider the big data vital and very important for success in their work. In addition, more than half of the participants reported that they have at least one employee as data manager.
Despite this widespread collection and analysis of big data and use of it, however, one has to take into account some limits and consider the interest of the work in the first place. The manager must have the courage to go against the current when it is necessary, since assessing big data is different, in support services within organizations.
Human resources management does not need to be fond of big data
The existing data on human resources management are small in comparison to big data, so investing on the application of big data analysis and programs is impractical and will not come to fruition. While the simplest programs, such as “Office” desktop applications, are sufficient to provide a clear picture to the organization on the human resources movement in it. Peter Cappelli, a professor of management science and director of Center for Human Resources at Wharton School of Business, says in an article recently published at the Harvard Business Review that human resources management should focus on the accuracy and quality of their data first, analysis of staff data and their distribution and observing changes made. In addition, they should work hard to link between recruitment criteria and staff performance later. They should also rely on measuring staff impressions more frequently and at shorter intervals than the current annual practice.
Financial management and the look to the future prospects
Today most financial managers are convinced that the financial reports and analyzes are sufficient. This vision involves a lot of logic, especially with the spread of Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) programs, which provide a number of financial reports and analyzes that are effective when practicing the traditional business such as the closure of financial bookkeeping, budget preparation, and revenue forecasting, taking into account the size of the data that is handled when it is little and does not reach the limits of the definition of big data. However, in view of the future requirements and the revolution in financial transactions, the financial management of the organization has to seriously take advantage of the new spaces provided by the methods of big data analysis, which help in obtaining many benefits, especially in terms of detecting financial frauds cases such as payments to imaginary suppliers or significant adjustments to the financial statements, as well as credit risks.
Information technology in a continuous race
IT management in many organizations faces a challenge in terms of benefiting from the potential provided by the big data to develop their performance. This is mainly due to that technologies change rapidly and continuously. This makes the employees race to know and acquire the skills needed to deal with these new technologies. This applies to big data, as there is no sufficient experience to enable the practical application of such data and making use of it to improve management performance. Perhaps more two uses of big data analyzes in IT management are concentrated in the possibility of predicting attacks or breakthroughs that affect the electronic systems, and thus enhancing the cybersecurity capabilities of the organization. A statistic, developed by the company (Cloudera), specialized in technical solutions, showed that 84% of IT departments which are using big data succeeded in detecting and thwarting at least one cyber-attack, also, when the number of technical assets increases, especially databases which have become in large numbers and volumes. Therefore, to be managed efficiently by the IT Department requires the use of big data analysis tools.
Big data to analyze the employee behavior
Big data is also used to improve the performance of organizations and departments. It can also be used to analyze the behavior of individuals. Sociometric Solutions, specialized in the field of consultancy, developed and used special sensors on employee name cards. This enables it to identify the sections visited by the employee, the staff whom he speaks to more than others, and even the tone of his voice used during the work. All this is analyzed using the tools of big data analysis and access to an integrated diagnosis of the employees who provide superior performance, as well as the best ways to form successful teams in the future projects. The Bank of America took advantage of the big data to improve staff performance at call centers. An analysis of the data, which was collected by the bank on the employee behavior, showed that those who take breaks together during working hours were the highest performing employees. Therefore, the bank adjusted Staff Break Policy and allowed the members of the same working team to take breaks together. The result was a 23% improvement in performance.
Finally, the decision-makers should try to differentiate between the different levels of handling and making use of big data, and not to apply the same orientation on the work units of the organization without differentiation. Critical and necessary analytical tools to anticipate and improve customer satisfaction, for example, are not necessarily required to improve the performance of all supporting departments.
* I wrote and published this article in Harvard Business Review Arabic.