When is “Big Data” in HR Just Analytics?

By Mike Vilimek

If you follow HR technology even a little, you have heard something about big data. In terms of popularity, it’s right up there with other key trends like social, mobile, and the cloud. And while definitions for many of these are not set in stone, big data is by far the most undefined and misunderstood trend of the bunch. It’s debatable whether this is because vendors are purposely muddying the waters or because the term is intentionally subjective and incorporates a moving definition of how big a data set needs to be and how many data sets are required to be considered big data.

Because of the all this uncertainty, many try to pass off business intelligence and advanced (or not so advanced) analytics and reporting as being big data, undoubtedly adding to the confusion. But without a sole definition, it’s difficult to say what is and what isn’t big data. Difficult, but not impossible.

Here are 3 popular definitions of big data:

Wikipedia: Big data is the term for 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.

Gartner: Big data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.

PCMag: Big Data refers to the massive amounts of data that collect over time that are difficult to analyze and handle using common database management tools. Big Data includes business transactions, e-mail messages, photos, surveillance videos and activity logs, etc.

If we look at the commonalities in these definitions, we begin to see some trends and requirements to measure against to determine what is big data. It appears that for any analysis to be considered big data, it must:

  • Use data sets that are too large for common database management tools to handle
  • Use data from multiple sources 
  • Derive insight from the data to help enhance decision making
If what you’re doing or being pitched does not meet the criteria above, it is likely not big data.

But here’s the thing. Even with all this cloudiness and uncertainty about what is and what isn’t big data, people keep talking about it and you will continue to hear about it because it holds so much potential, far more than your current system analytics ever could. Here’s what research done by McKinsey recently had to say:

“Analyzing large data sets — so called big data — will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus as long as the right policies and enablers are in place.”  

Imagine a world where big data allows for predictive analysis that can spot future business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, predict and prevent crimes, and determine real-time traffic conditions. Or, in the context of HR, show what drives performance in a workforce, why one salesperson outperforms his peers, or predict whether a candidate will perform well in an organization.

Paul Sonderegger, Oracle’s big-data strategist, explained the opportunity in a recent post: “The big data flywheel is open to any company that can see the data exhaust created by interactions with customers, suppliers—even its own employees—and is willing to experiment with refining, analyzing, and injecting that data back into business processes to do and decide things better.”

Because of the power big data holds, Oracle is investing in the development of solutions that expand the range of data analyzed when presenting business intelligence to include non-traditional sources of information – including structured and non-structured data; internal information and information from trusted external sources including Oracle Cloud repositories and third parties. Oracle’s big data solutions are being delivered as applications within the context of enterprise solutions such as ERP,CRM, and HCM. This allows the information presented to have greater relevance to the attainment of your goals and objectives. This information is either configured for you by Oracle to perform enterprise benchmarking studies – or by you and analyzed to help make the best forward looking decisions based upon the best information available. 

Oracle is actively building HCM big data solutions that leverage big data analysis, not just analytics.

Learn more about how big data is being leveraged at upcoming Oracle CloudWorld events. At these free, day-long events, you’ll hear insightful keynotes and real-world case studies, have the opportunity to participate in hands-on demos, and get the chance to engage in honest dialogue with your peers. There’s an entire track devoted to modern HR so you won’t want to miss it.

See event locations and register now.

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Mike Vilimek is an experienced technology professional and an active blogger, presenter, and thought leader on topics including recruiting and HR technology. As the Director, HCM Product Marketing at Oracle, Mike is responsible for defining global positioning and messaging for Oracle HCM solutions. Prior to joining Oracle, Mike led the product marketing teams at Talemetry, a recruiting technology provider and Oracle Platinum Partner, and data analytics provider ACL Services. Mike has been a frequent presenter at HR Technology events and webinars and has most recently presented at Oracle CloudWorld 2014, Oracle Open World 2013, the OHUG Annual Conference, and Collaborate.

Mike graduated from Simon Fraser University with a business degree in Marketing and International Business and was a member of the SFU Football team. Following graduation, Mike had a 7-year professional football career in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeVilimek

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