The Future of HR Big Data

As HR applications continue to evolve, HR needs to consider the new data sources and types that are coming towards them. It is no longer sufficient to simply track basic employee information. With the evolution of HR, companies now have wide ranging options including video interviews, dynamic and social learning and development solutions, social monitoring for talent identification and internal collaboration, external survey benchmarks (including but not limited to salary, skills, performance, behavior, and personality), application logs, and predictive models for understanding cultural fit and preparedness for new jobs.

This complexity provides the need for HR Big Data. To deal with the variety and velocity of social data, video, documents, and transactional logs, HR departments need to work with other departments that may have already needed to work with these new data sources. Social monitoring is typically associated with marketing, video is often seen as a corporate communications or public relations tool, document management is seeing a new renaissance with the development of social and cloud-based software solutions, and transactional and network logs are core IT tools. Continue reading

Buffett’s Billion Dollar Bracket Bet

Lightning photo courtesy of

The NCAA tournament has become a cultural phenomenon where everyone suddenly becomes a college basketball expert whether or not we’ve ever watched a game. This expertise has raised to a fever pitch this year as Quicken Loans has offered 1 billion dollars to anyone who provides a perfect bracket. But why?

This contest, underwritten by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is often described as a one-in-9 quintillion change of winning, or 2^63rd power based on there being 63 games played by 64 teams in this single-elimination tournament. However, this model is obviously wrong since we know that some of these teams are better than others. Even the most casual NCAA bracket filler knows that a 1-seed (presumably one of the top 4 teams in the country) always beats a 16-seed (which is typically one of the worst 4 teams in the tournament). Similarly, a 2-seed almost always defeats a 15-seed with rare exceptions. After this point, the expectations start get a little trickier and the March Madness descends into full effect. Continue reading

Do HR Organizations Really Need Big Data?

Big Data Funnel
Big Data photo courtesy of hrringleader.

Over the past couple of years, the hottest trend in enterprise technology has been the evolution of HR applications from basic benefits, payroll, and workforce management to a variety of applications covering a much wider set of needs – from finding potential employees and predicting the need for specific skills to optimizing employee capabilities to the appropriate offboarding and succession of core talent. To get a strategic advantage, HR departments are being asked to use “Big Data” to “Moneyball” and quantify their approaches. But is this really the right way to go?

To determine this, consider what Big Data really is. Big Data is a set of technologies designed to store, process, and analyze data that does NOT fit into traditional spreadsheets, databases, and other basic structured data sources. Depending on whether you need your data to be faster, bigger, or more varied, you may be looking for specialized high velocity messaging solutions, cloud-based and multi-tenant storage, high performance analytic engines, Social Network Analytics, sentiment and natural language processing, or video analytics. This is the world of Big Data. A practical definition of Big Data would be 5+ terabytes of data, including some aspect of machine data, interactions, video, or high velocity streaming data. Continue reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest, 2014

Pinterest: Not Just B2C Anymore

Pinterest: Not Just for B2C Anymore

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing places to be on social media now, and there’s a lot you can do on it. If you’re thinking about starting a Pinterest account for your business, though, you’ll get more out of it when certain things are already in place:

  • a website on your own domain that Pinterest can verify. This will let you take advantage of Pinterest Analytics for all images hosted on your domain. With such a website, you can also implement rich pins, which will make pins of your content stand out on your followers’ Pinterest feeds.
  • prior content, especially content that can be hosted on your verified website. This includes images, slideshows, videos, audio recordings, reports or whitepapers, and blog posts (especially those with accompanying images; if you’re not already including relevant images in your blog posts, start thinking about doing so!).

As Jay Baer (no relation, as far as I know!) said, “Content is fire, social media is gasoline.” But what can you do if those parts of your content strategy aren’t ready yet? You can still get started on Pinterest!

  • Create your account. Fill out your bio and add an icon (ideally at a 160×165 resolution). Keep your bio simple, but readable; use keywords so that you can be found in Pinterest search but write for humans, not for Google search. Use your company logo for your icon, if you have one. The red and white pin icon is the Pinterest equivalent of the Twitter egg icon. It’s important to make your Pinterest page look like you’re participating in the community.
  • Follow relevant people and companies.You can connect your Twitter, Google+, Gmail, and Yahoo accounts to your Pinterest. This will let you see if any known-to-you colleagues are already on Pinterest. You can also use Pinterest’s search function to find new-to-you people and companies to follow. Type in relevant keywords and terms, click on pertinent results, and then you can choose to follow all of an account’s boards, or just specific boards. What are boards? More detail on boards in a little bit.
  • Be conversational. When somebody comments on something you’ve pinned, respond! If somebody you’re following posts an interesting pin, comment to their pin and participate in the discussion. A repin doesn’t necessarily require a response, but it’s worth paying attention to what the pinner is saying about your pin, especially if they’ve taken the effort to change the text you originally pinned with. You’ll get the most out of Pinterest by being social and community-oriented.

This is a familiar idea from our previous Twitter for Beginners post; create your account, follow, comment, share (whether by retweeting or repinning). The big difference: in order to share things on Pinterest, you need to create boards on your account.

What’s a board? A board is a collection of pins, usually created with a specific theme in mind. It can be run by just one account, or it can be a group board. There are boards for social media, big data, data warehouse, Platform as a Service. (The first three of these links have primarily relevant results. The last one, Platform as a Service, has a fair number of results, but not all of them are relevant. It’s a good opportunity for someone in the PaaS space to get in there and create a quality PaaS board!)

Following other companies’/peoples’ boards is good fodder for thinking about what sort of boards you’d like your account to have. What are others pinning? What kinds of boards are they creating? Who are they following? Does any of it resonate with the type of content your followers would like to see and the message you would like to share?

What should you share? Again, similarities between what you can share on Twitter and Pinterest; just slightly different approaches. You have more space in Pinterest descriptions (up to 500 characters); use it wisely to provide guidance and recommendations that you can’t provide on Twitter.

  • Share relevant things that you create. You can create boards specifically to showcase your own content; you can even pin said content to multiple boards. And you’re not limited to images – you can pin videos and slides, too. You probably have more images as part of your company content than you think – charts and graphics from existing whitepapers and blog posts, screenshots of your website or images of your product or service in action, photos from events, staff photos and bios.
  • Share relevant things that others create. You cement your business’ reputation as an expert in your industry, and you show that you’re a member of the community by pointing out when others have made awesome things. It’s also a great way to supplement your own content. Just be sure to credit properly generously share the wealth.

Once you’ve started pinning content to your boards, it’s also worth considering following some of the people who comment to your pins, and those who repin your pins. Look at their boards and take their comments to you in context – are these potential or existing customers? What do their interests tell you about them, and why your products and services are important enough to them to interact with you?

So if those are the similarities, what are the big differences between what applies to Twitter and what applies to Pinterest?

  • Images. On Twitter, image dimensions and orientation don’t matter that much, nor do you have to include an image with every tweet. On Pinterest, you cannot pin without including an image, a video, an audio file, or a slideshow. And tall images will display more prominently in Pinterest feeds than wide ones will. You do want to be careful with ultra-tall images such as some infographics – Pinterest will hide a portion of those images behind an “Expand Pin” trigger if they’re really long. Their proportions can also affect your followers’ ability to repin and to comment on those images – if your image’s width-to-height ratio is less than about 1:3, it may be too long for easy repinning. Still, infographics are quite popular on Pinterest.
  • Hashtags. Pinterest search does not currently support hashtags. Adding hashtags to your bio, board descriptions, and pins doesn’t help your account show up more in search results; it’s the keywords that matter. Make sure that you use appropriate keywords in your descriptions, and in the file names of your blog posts and associated media. Hubspot wrote a great guide to Pinterest SEO about a year ago (it’s the #1 Google search result for “Pinterest SEO”), but some things have changed since then – especially around hashtags. Their example of the #KnowlesChapel hashtag search only yields five results today; searching for the two words “Knowles Chapel” yields 104 results. Time for an update!
  • Using Pinterest on the go. With 75% of all traffic to Pinterest coming from mobile apps, there is a lot of pinning activity being done on phones and tablets! However, on mobile Pinterest, you cannot change descriptions of repins, or add your own description of pins of web content. So, be aware that many of your followers will likely be pinning on the go and only able to use your text description! The more complete your description, the more likely your pin will place high in relevant Pinterest search results.

So you’ve already set up your Pinterest account and are pinning, repinning, and conversing away, great! If you haven’t yet, get started – at last count (July 2013), Pinterest had 70 million users, and you probably have an opportunity to own your niche. If you’d like to learn best practices for using these tools, or have further questions, please contact us at to schedule a free consultation.

The Power of One is the Future of Marketing

soccer ball
Soccer ball photo courtesy bigfeet98.

This morning, I saw an interesting press release from Informatica stating that they were working with Everton Football Club. So, I don’t usually care about specific press releases and I don’t follow the English Premier League, so why did I care?

What got my attention was that Everton is taking all of their data from their retail stores, website, marketing data, ticketing, and on-site systems to work on individualized marketing approaches. Everton believes that a top challenge is to maintain and grow personalized relationships with fans and this may be more true in sports than in any other vertical. After all, for those of us who are sports fans, we know that our relationships with our teams are personal and often lifelong. And, to be sexist, there are a lot of guys out there who don’t like clothes shopping, yet have taken time out of their day to buy a sports jersey! Continue reading

What Happens in Vegas is TDWI and the Future of BI

Las Vegas Sign photo courtesy

In late February, I had the pleasure of attending TDWI Las Vegas as an observer. A key differentiator between TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute) and many of the other tradeshows I attend in the Big Data and Analytics space is that TDWI focuses on deep subject matter expertise taught by luminaries such as:

Continue reading

Social Strategy: Look Up and Look Down

Flying to Vegas
Social Strategy from Milwaukee, Chicago, and the stars

One of the downsides of being a technology “expert” is the constant travel from show to show as I meet with vendor executives and corporate IT managers to keep on top of the latest trends, offerings, and use cases in social, analytics, mobility, and the cloud. It means a lot of time away from doing hands-on work and away from my chosen developer and line of business technology user communities.

But even so, I’ve never quite gotten over the miracle of air travel. The photo for this blog is a picture of Jetblue 777 to Las Vegas while flying over Milwaukee, with Chicago out in the distance. And all you see are lights upon lights upon lights. For all of the crazy things that we do as humans, we are the species that literally lights up the earth. (My alma mater, Amherst College, would be proud as our motto is “Terras Irradient”, which literally means to light up the earth.)

To create these concentrations of light, which are readily visible from space, takes immense amounts of power, miles and miles of transmission cables and wiring, and thousands, if not millions, of hours of manpower to take care of these oceans of lights. We take it for granted every night that we see a streetlamp go on or work extra hours in our offices and homes, but up here at 34,789 feet, you start to see the scope of just how immense this network of light can be.

And that’s just what you when you look down. When you look up, you can see something even more amazing on clear nights. The stars are just a bit brighter up here and each little pinprick of light typically represents a star larger and brighter than the sun that has traveled for hundreds or thousands of years just to get to us in that very moment. The power needed to make that little spot of light is greater than exists in our entire solar system, yet all we see is a tiny twinkle that we might miss from night to night if we blink or never look up.

Looking up and looking down, I think of two different phenomena that we don’t always take advantage of as social creatures. In looking down, it is easy to just think of the light that we see outside our own doors and to ignore the infrastructure that makes this all possible. Instead of just trying to think of how to make our own individual lights brighter, think about the big picture: how do our lights get there and how are they connected? And how do we bring our individual lights come together? That is when our light burns brightest; when we take advantage of the power of being together and learn the specific characteristics of what strengthens networks and when we make sure that these networks stay together,

And in looking up, stars are so powerful that they help in unexpected ways. It’s highly unlikely that these stars were designed expressly to provide directional guidance for the lifeforms on a plant thousands of light-years away, but when you burn brightly enough and seek to inspire, you can affect other people in unexpected ways. From my perspective, this is the value of fame. Fame for its own sake is, frankly, pretty meaningless. It is only when fame is used to inspire, guide, and change the world that fame really becomes useful. Likewise, it’s easy to get carried away in yet another Like or another retweet, but social fame only means something if it helps people out. Getting 1,000 retweets for acting like a drunken fool may be entertaining, but it doesn’t make you a star with enduring value. We as a “social” society get caught up in the ephemeral nature of social shares rather than providing meaningful insight, especially in the social marketing world. But in today’s day and age, marketing is fundamentally about educating, not about going viral.

So, as you think about how to make a difference, think about looking down and looking up. Build networks and provide guidance and inspiration. Light up the earth and be a star. By keeping those simple thoughts in mind, you can avoid the pitfalls of this increasingly connected world we live in, stay grounded, and use technology to help others.

Look up, look down, and be social.

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter, 2014

According to Sandy Carter of IBM, 77% of Fortune 500 companies are on social media in some form, whether just to listen, or getting their feet wet. If you’re not on board, you’re getting left behind. When you bring up social media, people-in-the-know keep mentioning Twitter, and you’re not sure why – what makes Twitter different from Facebook?

When people start considering social media for their business, they tend to have at least some familiarity with Facebook, which is generally about connecting with people you already know. On Twitter, that’s a good starting point. But Twitter is more useful for connecting with people you may not already know personally, but share common interests with.

On social media, your username is your brand. If you’re creating a Twitter account specifically for your business, use the name of your business. If you’re creating a Twitter account for your professional self, use your name. Sometimes, though, you may find that you’re unable to do this – your name may be too long (more than 15 characters), or it’s a popular name that’s already been taken. In this case, consider variations that incorporate useful information. Include your industry: Andrew Borg of e3C Consulting, a mobility consultant, goes by @TheMobileBorg on Twitter. (@andrewborg is a different person.) Another example would be to include your business’ location, such as @ArtBarCambridge for the ArtBar restaurant in Cambridge. (@ArtBar belongs to an unrelated person.)

Fill out your bio and add a userpic. If your profile looks incomplete, especially if it still has that egg picture, people tend to not take you seriously (at best), or assume you’re a spammer (at worst). With a business account, use your corporate logo; for a personal account, a headshot is fine. Don’t forget to customize your profile design to coordinate with any existing websites for your business. And send out that first “Hello, world!” tweet! You’re here to engage.

Follow your colleagues and others in your industry, including competitors. At IBM’s recent Entrepreneur Day in Cambridge, Bobbie Carlton of Mass Innovation Nights put it this way: “Where is your audience? Where are your influencers?” I would add: where are your peers? Following others is key; when you don’t, you’re perceived as being on social media solely to broadcast announcements, not to have conversations. That’s not what social media is best used for, and others will think you’re out of touch. On Twitter, you can follow and reply to anyone you’d like. This is a great way to keep up with current discussions and breaking news in your industry, as well as networking and starting conversations with people who share your interests. It’s fairly common now for people to even list their Twitter accounts on their business cards; you can look at their tweets before deciding to follow them. At DataHive Consulting, we put our Twitter usernames on our business cards, as seen below:

Business Cards

Share relevant things that you create. Whether that’s blog posts, software, pottery (assuming you run a pottery business), you can share links and images and video of these things. Even short-form thoughts can be conversation starters. If you’ve got a sneak preview for an upcoming project, share it and get feedback. If you want to offer a discount on something you’re selling, share that! Something special on tonight’s menu at your food truck or restaurant? Share a picture and get hungry people lining up to eat it.

Share relevant things that others create. One of the people you follow wrote a really thought-provoking blog post about an issue in your industry. Tweet about it! Somebody made a tool that’s changed your everyday workflow for the better. Tweet about it and tell people why. Your colleague tweeted something smart and succinct. Retweet it!

Keep up with your interactions and mentions.. In the “Connect” tab of your Twitter account, you can see replies to your tweets, as well as tweets that mention you; who has starred a specific tweet of yours as a “favorite;” and who has retweeted one of your tweets. Also, you can use Twitter’s search function to find out who’s talking about you or your business that might not necessarily know you have a Twitter handle. All of these are invitations to further conversation with these people – strike while the iron is hot! Being responsive to people who’ve shown an interest in you on Twitter encourages them to connect further with you.

Use hashtags properly. Hashtags are a powerful tool. They assign a label to a specific tweet, which makes it easier to find in Twitter search. A hashtag can be as generic as #socialmedia, or as specific as #datastorm14. At conferences or in webinars, the organizer will often suggest that you tweet using a specific hashtag. You can use tools like TweetChat and Twubs to track the hashtag of your choice in a chatroom-like environment with near-realtime updates.

Sort who you follow on Twitter into lists. Once you’re following a number of people, it can feel like you’re trying to drink from a firehose just to keep up. Lists can help filter who you follow into useful categories – a list of your webdev compatriots, a list of your information architecture colleagues, a list of all the Twitter accounts of the software you use. This filtering makes it easier to focus on one subject at a time.

Use Twitter on the go. 75% of Twitter users visit Twitter via a mobile device. Download a Twitter app to your phone, whether the official one, or a third-party offering like Tweetbot or Hootsuite. Check up on your replies or mentions in a quiet moment and respond, or just see what people are talking about. You can fit Twitter into interstitial moments without being tied to your laptop! Just be consistent – check in for a few minutes every day.

So that’s our beginner’s guide to using Twitter. Once you’ve mastered these tips, there’s a world of useful tools beyond the basic Twitter website and mobile app: third-party clients that enable more advanced actions like scheduling tweets, analyzing social data, and better brand and hashtag tracking, among dozens of other use cases. We cover some of this in our Social Media Primer series. If you’d like to learn best practices for using these tools, or have further questions, please contact us at to schedule a free consultation.

What Big Data Can Learn from the NBA

94Fifty smart sensor basketball photo courtesy 94Fifty.

On Thursday, February 13, Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote an article on the latest technological development in professional basketball: measuring biometric information in game settings. Four D-League (the NBA’s developmental league) teams will start using one ounce sensors fitted on player jerseys to start measuring metrics such as heart rate speed, and position. These sensors are currently available from one of three companies: STAT Sport, Zephyr, and Catapult. These sensors are not new to professional basketball, as nearly two-dozen NBA teams already use these devices. However, NBA teams currently only use these sensors in practice settings, rather than in game-time situations.

There are a couple of interesting Social Big Data lessons that professional basketball could potentially learn from this experiment that every Big Data expert should be interested in finding out.

First, consider one of the quotes from the Grantland article:

“As the research-and-development arm of the NBA, the NBA D-League is the perfect place to unveil innovative performance analytic devices in-game,” said NBA D-League president Dan Reed.

This concept of an R&D product where you collect more data in an experimental setting is one that many technology companies could start to use. For instance, does your core cash cow product have a corresponding R&D product that can be tinkered with without affecting your revenue? This is a good role for your freemium or single user product. (Heck, Facebook does this for their core platform, although DataHive does not recommend the level of iteration that Facebook provides unless you have a monopoly or duopoly of your core market.) This new use of heart rate and other physical information will provide insights on team tactics and performance if used correctly, thus leading to not just Big Data, but interactive and social Big Data where each player’s metrics are dependent on each other.

Second, and more interestingly from a tactical perspective, this measurement will allow basketball teams to more closely align physical effort with results. It is easy to simply believe that hustle and effort lead to better results, but these metrics may actually show that a lack of hustle could be one of several things. It could be a health issue or laziness or it could be good strategy in saving energy for key moments. Hustle and physical movement should not be measured in isolation, but in context of results. If a “clutch” player ends up moving less than an average player or saves exertion for peak moments, the economics of movement may actually state that excessive “hustle” is detrimental to performance. These sensors may also show that specific team tactics lead to greater efficiency, just as our analysis of shot taking shows how important it currently is to take shots from within 4 feet of the rim or on the sides of the three point line.

From a business perspective, most of us do not put out the physical effort of a professional athlete for a prolonged basis at work. But do we waste time and energy by going in the wrong direction? Are we getting stressed because our managers are not telling us the right information? There is a key challenge of understanding how to use this information productively rather than punitively. It can be easy to fall into the trap of simply stating that more time at work equates to greater productivity, but it may actually be that after a certain point, the error rate or lack of clear thinking outweighs the incremental productivity that would be expected. Follow the real business metrics rather than pure resource utilization.

However, as this occurs, one of the biggest challenges will be to translate sports analytics to business analytics. Keeping score is very easy in a rule-based sports environment, but more difficult in a business environment when it can often be difficult to define KPIs. Based on personal experience and interviews with multiple basketball analysts, DataHive has found that the academics and number crunchers conducting this analysis are largely unaware of the value that these findings could provide in the sports world. Although business analysts can quickly see how the heat and activity maps associated with basketball could translate into greater retail, field, and manufacturing success, one of the great challenges is that the sports analysts currently doing this work do not understand how their work could be translated to other fields. In our role of supporting Social Big Data for Human Insight, DataHive serves as a Sports Data Whisperer that wrangles the findings and techniques used in the sports world and brings them to the business world.

DataHive’s principals have long believed that the structured world of sports serves as a natural testing ground for the predictive, geolocated, and biometric data that is being introduced to the corporate world. Video feed metadata and sensor-based data are the Next Big Things in Big Data and it is only a matter of time before the corporate world follows suit. Regardless of your personal interest in sports, Big Data professionals should keep track of the surveillance and sensor data being used in the basketball world to see how this controlled setting provides potential insight for future enterprise technology efforts.