Big Data and Management

Over the last couple of weeks I have been very interested in the growth of Big Data. A few years ago Big Data was primarily found in academic and marketing writing, ie not in the main stream. This has changed with many commentators now discussing the merits that this new frontier has to offer.

For those not up to date what is Big Data?:

big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, analysis, and visualization.

In other words think the Human Genome program or where I have seen more mainstream commentary, analyzing the status updates from services such as Twitter or Facebook. There are lots of reasons why Big Data is important and understanding how to use it and leverage it will become critical for business success. The biggest issue we face that Big Data will help solve is the vast amount of data points we are generating through social networks, trends such as cloud computing and The Internet of Things.

While much of the discussion around Big Data is consumer based there have been a number of notable discussions about the use of Big Data inside the enterprise and unsurprisingly these discussions include the impact of Big Data on HR and how we can now tie employee data to other large datasets for predictive modelling and recruitment.

In her paper from April 2010, Privacy and Publicity in the Context of Big Data, danah boyd raises a number of pertinent points that I think deserve more thought an discussion in terms of their impact on business.

danah’s key points:

  1. Bigger Data are Not Always Better Data
  2. Not All Data are Created Equal
  3. What and Why are Different Questions
  4. Be Careful of Your Interpretations
  5. Just Because It is Accessible Doesn’t Mean Using It is Ethical

Each on of the above points have tremendous influence on how successful Big Data will be when used inside an organisation but I want to touch on two of her points that struck a chord with me. (However I would strongly suggest you go read her whole paper.)

danah’s first point of Bigger Data are Not Always Better Data, “Big Data is exciting, but quality matters more than quantity.  And to know the quality, you must know the limits of your data.” At a basic level just because you can review all of the tweets and connections of your employees or candidates does not mean you have all of the information about these people as they might have different accounts under different pseudonyms some might be protected others not. Just because you have access to millions of datapoints does not mean you have the right data points.

danah’s final point is the one that deserves the most thought. Just because data is accessible doesn’t mean that using it is ethical. Just because a candidate or an employee tweets or puts a status update on Facebook should we really use that data in our analysis? To quote danah:

To get here, we’ve perverted “public” to mean “accessible by anyone under any conditions at any time and for any purpose.”  We’ve stripped content out of context, labeled it data, and justified our actions by the fact that we had access to it in the first place.  Alarm bells should be ringing because the cavalier attitudes around accessibility and Big Data raise serious ethical issues.  What’s at stake is not whether or not something is possible, but what the unintended consequences of doing something are.

From here danah goes on to look at the concept of privacy and its many facets when it comes to information that has been placed in a public space. Recent case in point, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and her Christmas photo. danah concludes that our obsession with Big Data has the ability to destabilise and change our social norms, I would say it already is, but this does not mean we need to remove the concept of privacy altogether.

Big Data is made of people. People producing data in a context.  People producing data for a purpose.  Just because it’s technically possible to do all sorts of things with that data doesn’t mean that it won’t have consequences for the people it’s made of.

There are great opportunities ahead for HR with adoption of “new” technologies such as Big Data and Cloud Computing however as we move towards this new world we need to be careful not to destabilise our workforce to a point where they disengage or worse still create a world that makes Orwell’s 1984 look like a kindergarten picnic.

Mobile Recruiting

At the upcoming ATC Social Media conference (early bird prices until 30 September) I will be talking briefly about mobile recruiting. A topic I know is a little strange to some people, but I think effective use of mobile technology is going to become a critical part of a recruiters toolkit. Let’s face it mobile technology is not something you can ignore, as of December 2009 there were over 4.5 billion active mobile subscribers globally!

I am going to look beyond SMS, Bluetooth and email on smart phones, while they have a critical place in your mobile strategy there are other things to consider.

For example, while a traditional computer is replaced on average every 3.5 years mobile devices are averaging a replacement cycle of 18 months! This means just because something did not work last year doesn’t mean it won’t work this year!

Other topics I will look at include location based services, there is more to it than FourSquare or Facebook Places, areas like sales force automation and the impact of cloud computing on mobiles.

I am also trying to think of a good demonstration for the session so if you have any ideas, leave me a comment.

Who owns your employer brand?

BPLast week while I was at ATC Sydney there was lots and lots of talk about employer brands and who really controls them in today’s social media world. For example Steve Fogarty, Recruiting Captain, from adidas in North America covered the topic highlighting that recruiters need to think more like marketers to attract top talent, not to mention that everything that happens online create meta-data about your brand. Kevin Wheeler touched on the topic during his closing keynote saying the personal brands are taking over from corporate brands.

So what does this mean?

Like consumer brands your employer brand is not longer “owned” by you the employer, candidates, employees, ex-employees, analysts, everyone can now shape how your brand is viewed by the world. From a consumer perspective just look at the fake BP Public Relations Twitter account, who has many thousands more followers than the real BP PR team, and their comedic look at what is shaping up to the worlds largest environmental disaster. Every tweet has a hashtag #bpcares creating a creative and funny stream of tweets however I doubt the BP PR team is very happy.

About 3 weeks ago Facebook released a new feature, Community Pages (read the official blog post) where they are aggregating Wikipedia content, along with user generated post from across the web to create a “profile” of brands, places, organisation etc. The difference between these pages and corporate sponsored pages is that right now no one controls the content on the Community Page! Now Facebook has said they are looking for passionate people to help curate the pages content. But for now your brand is at the mercy of automated collection of content. To make matters worse Facebook profile pages have been changed and now there are links attached to employers, likes and interests, favorite books, music and movies!

You do not own what Facebook is displaying on these new Community Pages, and you may never own the content.

Still think you own your employer brand?

Twitter Bans Third-Party Ads

I noticed an interesting development over night, Twitter is looking to ban all third-part ad networks from injecting ads into users Twitter streams.

From the Twitter blog:

As our primary concern is the long-term health and value of the network, we have and will continue to forgo near-term revenue opportunities in the service of carefully metering the impact of Promoted Tweets on the user experience. It is critical that the core experience of real-time introductions and information is protected for the user and with an eye toward long-term success for all advertisers, users and the Twitter ecosystem. For this reason, aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API. We are updating our Terms of Service to articulate clearly what we mean by this statement, and we encourage you to read the updated API Terms of Service to be released shortly.

Now as the terms of service have not been updated we do not know what this really means but this announcement got me thinking with regard to Job Ads.

Are job boards just another ad network? If so will job boards be prohibited from pushing job ads into Twitter?

I’m sure it won’t come to that but interesting to think about the consequences if it does.

10 things to do in 2010

While we are still in the first few weeks of the new year I through it would be good to look at come of the things you should focus on during 2010 to.

In no particular order here is my list of 10 things to do in 2010:

  1. Have an HR/Talent Management/Recruiting application blueprint
  2. The IT environment in many organisations is complex and needs constant management, even in the smallest of organisations. To help with managing the complexity ensure you have a strategy/roadmap/blueprint to follow.

  3. Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  4. It seems finally organisations are starting to take note of the value that can be achieved from a decent career’s web site. While content and design are critical understanding a bit about SEO can help your jobs appear in the elusive number 1 spot of search results. Even if you do not have a career’s web site having your personal brand appear in search results can be a great thing.

  5. Implement a workforce planning program, with a foundation around competencies
  6. The recent CedarCrestone HR Technology survey found that organisations who were using workforce planning and competency management tools had significantly higher sales growth than those that did not. While they say they are not suggesting causality but over the last few years there has been stronger linkage between sales growth and these areas.

  7. Think beyond Facebook and Twitter when looking at social media
  8. With so much talk about Facebook and Twitter I feel people have forgotten that social media is more than just these two sites. Remember social media is about user generated content, including blogs, images, video, audio, ratings, reviews etc.

  9. Focus on high quality hires, never settle for less
  10. This should always be the best line of your hiring decisions. Period.

  11. Ensure your HR/Recruiting function is metrics driven
  12. Related to workforce planning is being metrics driven and I am not talking just about lists of headcount either. Gaining a deep understanding of your business and it’s drivers is critical to success. Do you know the best performing source of talent? What about the performance of your succession plans? But do not create an environment where you have an over reliance on benchmark based data as this basically turns the measures in to commodities by assuming what works for one organisation will work for yours.

  13. Don’t be afraid to experiment
  14. This one is for the Australian’s out there, experiment and fail!! As a population we tend to be afraid of failure. Do not be afraid. Organisations that experiment and fail regularly then to succeed.

  15. Learn about Web Squared
  16. You might be asking web what? Web Squared is the next evolution of the whole Web 2.0 idea. Web Squared builds on the idea that everything and everyone in the world cast “information shadows” or data. This data when leveraged provides extraordinary opportunities to organisations.

  17. Begin to think how you can bring real time into your operations
  18. The first part of web squared that you can bring into your organisation today is leveraging real time data. Look at real time data as key signals that form part of your business processes.

  19. Never ever forget about change management
  20. One of the biggest reasons for projects, of any sort, to fail is a lack of acceptance in the final outcomes being sort by the project. This can be alleviated through an effective change management program.

Is your HR Strategy ready for the intention economy?

I sit here typing this post during the first week of the second decade in the 21st century however some many organisation’s HR strategies are still stuck in the 20th century.

Let me explain.

Today most organisational HR strategy is based on a asynchronous model where the organisation does something and at a later time employees react. For example a new performance management policy is released, at a later point in time employees execute the performance review process. From an alternate direction an employee’s productivity begins to drop over time this becomes an issue so the organisation executes the performance improvement process.

Many organisations are aiming to move to a more synchronous environment, or real time. Here we have live chats on the career pages, real time updates on recruitment processes and continuous learning and performance management. In practical terms this can be thought of as HR dashboards and score cards that are updated live during the business day.

Real time is only part of the story the real value comes from understanding intentions. For example knowing that employees with 3 years service in the marketing department who have not changed roles in 6 months are your greatest risk of leaving and therefore Mary needs a role change. Or where a senior top performer plans to travel to a different office location your talent management system automatically suggests potential employees who could benefit from a mentoring session. Another example is where an employee is attending a conference the systems identify other employees, based on internal content, who would benefit from either also attending or receiving a briefing their return.

Intention based HR builds on the idea of predictive analytics but takes things further. Yes this is a long way off but leading organisations will start to experiment with these ideas over the next year or two. For example what could you do with these ideas; people who are looking for work in real time, or who hate their job?

On a side note based on the latest Cedar Crestone HR Technology survey only 10% of organisations have implemented predictive analytics.

(Note: I built on the ideas proposed by Jeremiah Owyang.)

What’s next with social recruiting

If you have been following this blog for a while you would know that I am always looking for the next thing. I have been doing the same thing with using social media in business.
I Want You
Social Recruiting has a lot of  buzz at the moment. How do I know there is a buzz, well 200+ people attended the Social Recruiting Summit in New York City last week, we have almost a full house at the ATC Social Media event, RecruitTech 2009 had social media as a primary theme.

But let us take a step back, for most social recruiting is just about using social media as another marketing channel. A terrible waste in my eyes.

My definition of social recruiting is:

  • Using social media tools as part of the recruiting process
  • Building a community of potential candidates
  • Engaging with candidates as people not numbers

From an employer’s perspective recruitment is about fueling organisational growth, renewal, building the most efficient and sustainable business. This can only be done through personal relationships and cultural fit. (Yes there is a bit of sales and marketing in the mix but that is just attraction, the rest of the process is all personal.)

This brings me to Doc Searls’s recent blog post “Beyond Social Media“. If you do not know Doc Searls you should, also you should read the book he co-authors 10 years ago, Cluetrain. In the post Doc raises several very good points.

  • Twitter is now as necessary to tweeting as Google is to search. It’s a public activity under private control.
  • Most other popular activities online are not owned by anyone, they are public.
  • Personal and social go hand-in-hand, but the latter builds on the former.
  • Today in the digital world we still have very few personal tools that work only for us, are under personal control
  • Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture.
  • What we’re not doing because “social” everything is such a bubble of buzz right now

Are we really finally about to enter the age of Brand You or is it another 10 years away? If the individual is now the key to business and culture what does that mean for:

  • The recruitment process?
  • The HR Management practices in your average corporation?

I hear recruiters complaining they do not have time to develop relationships with candidates or use Twitter etc.  But what happens when the candidates are developing that relationship with a potential hiring manager or potential peer? Where do recruiters add value in this transaction?

For HR the issue is just as difficult. When employees view themselves as individuals who own the ideas, conversation and intentions to create the “business”. How do structured learning and development programs remain valid in an era of so much open information? How do you keep employees engaged? How does that traditional compensation plan survive?

I could go on, but I hope you get the picture. So if what Doc Searls is saying, “individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture”, is true then the companies who first leverage these concepts will be the ones we are talking about in 5 years time. Just as recruiters now marvel at Microsoft and the like who all started on their paths in around 2005.

Twitter and LinkedIn

Earlier this week Twitter and LinkedIn announced a partnership whereby you can now share updates between both services. Given that according to Pew Internet & American Life Project a total of 19% of American online adults have posted a status update this change is significant.

Firstly it will give all those professionals on LinkedIn who feel they do not have time for Twitter a chance to create a Twitter presence that complements their LinkedIn profile.

Second Twitter users who want to provide their professional LinkedIn profile with a bit of fresh content can do so. But this is the trick.

Most people with a LinkedIn profile want to keep it professional, well the folks at LinkedIn and Twitter have thought of this.

share-settings

You can set up the integration so only Tweets with the hashtag #in appear on your LinkedIn profile.


on-twitter

All of this new content on both platforms is a gold mine for Recruiters and Employers.

How?

Many people keep their LinkedIn profile a little restricted from a public point of view, with their status updates appearing in Twitter you can now get a better view on what they are doing. But it is the integration from Twitter to LinkedIn which has the most potential. If people are using LinkedIn as their digital resume, tweets appearing alongside their professional background will allow recruiters and employers to gain a far greater understanding of a candidate.

Twitter Lists for All

For the last couple of months Twitter has been testing out a new feature, Lists, and as of yesterday Lists were available to all users. So what is a list?

Anyone can curate and publish lists, so if you have an idea for one, just click “New list” in the sidebar of your Twitter account and you’re on your way. Add accounts to a list using the “Lists” drop drown on a profile page. We believe Lists will be a new discovery mechanism for great tweets and accounts.

The ability to group Twitter accounts into personalised but meaningful groups that provide you a real time view on what this collection of accounts is doing. In typical Twitter style they have provided us with an open API so we can build our own applications via the Lists API.

Lists have several features that make them very interesting:

  • Want to keep up with lots of different people but do not want your main timeline cluttered with noise, create a List
  • What to follow some high volume feeds, create a List
  • Want to create a list of people for new Twitter users to follow
  • Create a list of Twitter users from your company, maybe a list of public officers
  • Lists can be public or private, so create a private list of your family/friends
  • Create a list about anything!

But where things get really exciting is with the API. Where you can create lists, see what lists a particular user is on, show the timeline for a list, add accounts to a list, review accounts on a list, find out who has subscribe to your list with more to come.

Some example lists:

Want to find more lists? Check out Listorious. Listorious also allows you to recommend to the list curator a Twitter account that should be added to their list.

Some unrelated thoughts

The famous Web 2.0 Summit wrapped up late last week with lots and lots of product announcements and more news stories than I could ever hope to digest. (Not helped by the fact that I have been sick for about 4 days now.)

Anyway here are a few summary items:

“Many people use it for professional purposes — keeping connected with industry contacts and following news,” said Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive. “Because it’s a one-to-many network and most of the content is public, it works for this better than a social network that’s optimized for friend communication.”


Yes all of these announcements and trends are great except the most interesting thing for me happened before the conference even started.

Web Squared.

With both Read Write Web and ZD Net providing some good coverage. Basically Web Squared is about the intersection of social web technologies with the emerging trend of real world objects connected to the Internet in some fashion, aka Internet of Things and with “Shadow Information“.

To quote Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle:

Collective intelligence applications are no longer being driven solely by humans typing on keyboards but, increasingly, by sensors. Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications; motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and how fast we’re moving. Data is being collected, presented, and acted upon in real time. The scale of participation has increased by orders of magnitude.

So to pull this rambling post to an end I ask this simple question.

Given corporations missed Web 2.0, will they miss Web Squared (or what ever it is called)?

I suspect there will be more on this topic.