A Data Deluge Is Coming, Courtesy of Automation

By Drew Robb January 11, 2022
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As more automation is added, systems are integrated, and sensors and Internet of Things devices are hooked up, a deluge of data is gathered that can rapidly swamp IT and HR systems.

In fact, it is already overwhelming some systems. Organizations, therefore, not only need to find a way to deploy technology to harness this data but also must prepare for a data deluge that is going to get much more severe in short order. 

HCM and Data Overload

Systems for managing people, operations and strategies, such as human capital management (HCM) technology, already collect more data about the current workforce than organizations know what to do with, noted James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

"The arrival of more automation tech also means that more data from those systems about the workforce is coming fast," he said. "Organizations don't have a clue how to manage that employee data to lower risk, much less how to explore it to provide meaningful guidance to increase motivation and productivity."

McQuivey has observed a surge of sensitive workforce data over the past two years due to the widespread addition of collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, as well as a host of systems to track employee behavior, keystrokes, activity levels, morale and employee sentiment; organizational network analysis to identify communication and social-technical networks within an organization; and even tapping into employee Fitbits and Apple Watches to keep wellness costs down. This new flood augments an HR department that is already equipped with increasingly more efficient tools to capture and store government identification numbers, dates of birth, payroll and bank details, benefits and medical information, background checks, and more. There is no doubt that data is exploding across the organization—particularly in HR.

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Analytics Sophistication

One obvious approach to this growing mountain of HR data is analytics. Analytics applications are already in many areas. But these are mainly being used for marketing and high-level management. They need to be deployed far more heavily in HR, experts said.

"Leading organizations and vendors have started to manage these surges with ways to prevent data misuse while also ensuring positive, insightful workforce analytics to improve their workforce and business results," McQuivey said.

Workforce analytics is one of the fastest-growing segments of the HCM market. According to Forrester, the annual HCM tech growth rate of more than 15 percent means it will be almost a $2 billion market by 2025. If these systems continue in a business-as-usual fashion, they will accumulate mountains of information that organizations will not capitalize on.

That's one of the factors driving the adoption of more analytics tools in HR that add a great deal of automation to the decision-making process to eliminate manual labor and delays. Many vendors are adding such features to existing HCM systems to keep pace with the trend. Others are bringing new tools to market.

Spanish multinational banking firm BBVA is using Visier Talent Advisor to reduce turnover in revenue-producing roles by 44 percent. Big HCM firms like Oracle and SAP are revamping their platforms with analytics and artificial intelligence to ensure they don't fall behind.

"AI and automation can take on the daily, routine and repetitive tasks," said Gabby Nizri, chief strategy officer at Resolve Systems, an IT automation provider in San Francisco. "HR should consider simple, no-code, self-service solutions that can help automate the common HR processes to bring positive value to the company and that also benefit employees. For example, today's AI-powered virtual agents tied to key HR processes can fulfill important tasks for employees in an efficient and consistent way."

The toolset for AI and analytics applications will continue to evolve. Machine learning and deep learning platforms are entering the mainstream and will attain the same level of maturity as specialized data analytics. David Groombridge, an analyst at Gartner, believes such tools will help HR find ways to utilize the data it gathers to greatly improve decision-making. But it will take investment in automation and the use of augmented analytics, simulations and AI.

"By releasing creative new technology solutions in this area, you can scale and accelerate your organization's digitalization," Groombridge said. "This will create applications more rapidly that can automate business activities, optimize AI and enable faster, smarter decisions."

Drew Robb is a freelance writer in Clearwater, Fla., specializing in IT and business.

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