The World Cup and HR analytics.

Several vendors have sent me links to World Cup related versions of their analytics tools. Some of them are really clever. I can drill down into skills, real time results and so on.  Neat stuff, mashing up data sources from all over the place, with compelling charts and stats, and good social sharing features. Easy to use, no training required.

Yet it is a sad indictment of analytics space in that vendors can quickly cook up engaging, immersing and rich dashboards for the World Cup, whereas most HR dashboards are poorly designed, unimaginative, dull and have very limited adoption. 

  • My advice to analytics vendors. Take the learning from how you have visualized football players and apply it to your workforce analytics offerings.
  • My advice to HR departments. Look at the World Cup dashboards and do it with your workforce data. You have the data, you have the tools. By the time Germany are crowned champions in a few weeks time you could have it built and deployed.

Ada Lovelace day. Two academics.

I’m featuring two academics for this year’s Ada Lovelace day. It is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

 Firstly: Dr Sue Black. 

I’ve not met Sue, except on twitter,  but I have admired her efforts to support Bletchley Park for some time now. She blogs about them here. 

I think Bletchley Park should be a global heritage site. It is one of the cradles of the our industry, and the work of the people there was as heroic as that of any soldier. Sue’s work in raising the profile of Bletchley is my main reason for featuring her, but her campaigning for women in technology is relentless, and her academic research is well worth a read too. 

 Secondly:  Theano.

I’ve not met her either, and she isn’t on twitter.

Theano of Crotona was the wife of Pythagoras.(born c. 546 B.C.),

According to tradition, Theano was the wife of Pythagoras. She and her two daughters carried on the Pythagorean School after the death of Pythagoras. She wrote treatises on mathematics, physics, medicine, and child psychology. McLemore writes that her most important work was the principle of the “Golden Mean.” But discerning what Theano actually did is extremely difficult. As stated in the article in the Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science,

That Theano continued to operate the school of Pythagoras after his death is often affirmed but not confirmed. Thus, it can only be stated that, according to tradition, Theano was a mathematician, a physician, and an administrator—someone who kept alive an important training ground for future mathematicians.

In addition, Damo (ca. 535-475 BC), the daughter of Phythagoras and Theano, is said to have published her father’s treatises on geometry as well as treatises on the construction of a regular tetrahedron and the construction of a cube.  via this site.

According to one source, Theano’s principal works included a Life of Pythagoras, a Cosmology, The Theorem of the Golden Mean, The Theory of Numbers, The Construction of the Universe, and a work titled On Virtue. None of the primary sources that remain, however, reveals anything of her personality.

Theano’s most important work is said to have been the principle of the Golden Mean. Like the geometrical constant pi, the Golden Mean is an irrational number that shows up in many relationships in nature. Its decimal value is approximately 1.6180. In geometry, a “golden” rectangle is one whose sides are related by the Golden Mean ratio, for example 13:8. Both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians designed buildings and monuments with proportions based on the Golden Mean. It is now known that some growth patterns observed in nature occur in accordance with the Golden Mean, examples being the spirals in the nautilus shell and the ratio of clockwise to counterclockwise spirals in a sunflower.

In a treatise on the construction of the universe attributed to Theano, she reportedly argues that the universe consists of ten concentric spheres: the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Earth, Counter-Earth, and the stars. The Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury move in orbit about a central fire. The stars are fixed and are not considered to move. In Theano’s theory, the distances between the spheres and the central fire are in the same arithmetic proportion as the intervals in the musical scales. via this site.

It is a shame that the work of both Theano and Damo is lost in the mists of time. It is my view that many of the great scientists of the past owe much more to their spouses than history lets on. Programmers may have heard of Theano as a python library.

A review of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 book and a bit of related Gartner research.

Cross posted from my Gartner blog.

I received a review copy of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 just before Christmas, so I added it to my book pile as an extra Christmas present. Thank you Andrew and the publisher, HBS.

In reviewing books, I have a simple test. Would I spend my own money on a copy? This book passes that test.

There are a goodly number of reviews on the web already, so I’ll keep this review relatively short. I found Jon Ingram’s review to be particularly useful.

The book is clearly written, well structured and it is refreshingly devoid of hype (other than the slightly jarring tagline). McAfee writes well, aiming at a management rather than a geeky audience. It is an easy but nutritious read, there is little technical jargon yet it doesn’t over-simplify or seem condescending when explaining technology. More importantly It isn’t just preaching to the enterprise 2.0 choir, nor it is the Iskra for the Enterprise 2.0 revolutionaries, whomever they may be.

In the same way that technologies and new business practices have changed businesses in the past, so to are new technologies and business practices changing things today. McAfee shows through 4 case studies how collaborative technologies are changing the way we work, and will work.

The term emergence is important to Enterprise 2.0, and McAfee explains this thoroughly. I particularly liked this sentence, Emergence is the appearance of global structure as a result of local interactions.

The section on ROI is also very useful, and not just for Enterprise 2.0 projects. He goes through the limitations of ROI models in some depth, even though he uses baseball examples, it makes sense.

It was also good to see that Argyis and Schön’s Model 1 and Model 2 theory of behaviour, Granovetter’s The Strength of Weak ties, and Burt’s Structural holes were referenced in the book. I’m of the view that we need to be applying more organization design and sociology to business and IT thinking. There are many models in the sociology that we could use to better understand organizations and how they change.

McAfee also references von Hippel and John Allen Paulos. Both are essential reading.

I would have liked to have seen a further reading section. The HBR book site  wasn’t available when I looked today. This book would be well served by a supporting web site, emergent or otherwise.

The final 2-3 pages of the book are key. They link the Enterprise 2.0 proposition back to his broader research (with Brynjolfson, Zhu and Sorell) into IT and competitive difference. He briefly makes the case for how Enterprise 2.0 can improve ERP, and I wish he had made more of this argument in the book.

With regards to the relevance and the extent of emergent technologies and social software in an enterprise context, let me take the liberty of pointing to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients have a look at The Business Impact of Socialization: Real-World Measurable Results. This collection of research highlights 16 examples of social computing that were not open-ended, undefined experiments, but rather were purposeful engagements resulting in actual measurable business benefits. (client access needed)

Somewhat selfishly, I would have liked to see more on the HR implications of enterprise 2.0 in the book. I’m doing a lot of work in this area at the moment. I have recently published a collection of short case studies on social software’s impact in HR as part of 2009 Business Impact series and I field a lot of calls from HR and IT who are looking at the HR implications of social software, both behind and beyond the firewall. In 2008 I published a note, The Business Impact of Social Computing on HR Data. (client access needed) but here is an excerpt.

 Social computing’s impact: With social computing, we’re seeing a new set of HR-relevant data: volunteered data. Employees, managers, executives, applicants and customers share HR-relevant data, but only in ways that suit them, rather than in the structured format that is required by traditional HR processes. People are sharing data to get things done and to socialize. Examples include employees maintaining internal blogs, in which they discuss their skills and interests; workgroups and document sharing via wikis; and social networks. In addition, networks such as Facebook and Xing often offer richer, deeper insights into career history, skills, qualifications and business interests than traditional HR skills and career history databases do. Organizational changes often are reflected in LinkedIn before they appear in the transactional HR management system.

I made this strategic planning assumption then.

By 2012, volunteered, HR-related data will exceed mandatory HR data in volume and value. Leading HR organizations will invest more time and effort in managing and exploiting voluntary data than they spend on mandatory data.

This is similar to the points McAfee makes about imposed, emergent and competitive advantage.

I look forward to reading his next book, and continuing to follow his academic research. As a final aside,  McAfee cites JP Rangaswami in the book. I’d suggest reading his blog. JP is high up on my list of people who I’d like to have write a book.

Thanks again, Andrew, for the copy.

Shakespeare groks in memory databases

I’ve been trying to get to grips with in-memory databases. Seems the bard beat me to it.


(image via wikipedia, thanks)

Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full charactered with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity:
Or, at the least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be missed.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more:
To keep an adjunct to remember thee
Were to import forgetfulness in me.

Sonnet 122.

Thanks to the sonnet a day site.

Flowers and HCM systems architecture.

I’ve tried this metaphor on several client calls recently, so let me inflict it on you too.



via Flickr, the cc licence of Rodolfo Cartas thanks.

In this architecture, everything is from one vendor, and integration with third party applications is rather difficult. Typical ERP /HRMS pitch of the mid-nineties. Why do you need other software? We can do everything.



via Flickr,  the cc licence of C.S. 2.0 Thanks

Big core system, running most of the processes, with a series of smaller, tactical solutions interfaced around the edges.  Typical HR IT architecture of many ERP-Centric organizations today.  ERP runs the core transactions, with bits of SaaS tacked on around on the edges.



via Flickr,  the cc licence of law_keven Thanks

Small core system on premise, but most of the action takes place in the systems around the edges. Increasingly common as SaaS vendors continue to deliver richer functionality. Some challenges with integration, as there are many applications trying to connect to the core. 



via  Flickr, the cc licence of Gertrud K. Thanks

No significant core system, SaaS petals dominate.  Still very rare, but we expect to see more of these, challenging the traditional core and peripheral model. 

What sort of flower does your architecture represent?

Linking performance to pay. The G20 and HCM software.


(photo CC 2.o attribution, thanks to g-hat!)

World leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh to discuss banking reform and other pressing matters. According to the Guardian,  the discussions are likely to be rocky.

European leaders appeared to be on a collision course tonight with Barack Obama and Gordon Brown after Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, warned that the G20 summit must not be diverted from clamping down on bankers’ bonuses and hedge funds.

The article continues.

Sarkozy has suggested that bankers’ pay should be capped at a certain percentage of their institution’s assets or revenue.

Fredrick Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister and current president of the European council, promised a “specific discussion” on bonuses including proposals for individual caps on bankers’ bonuses, that bonuses would be linked to achievement and not given if there were losses, and that there would be transparency on precise decisions taken by boards. “We from the EU will ask to be very clear on that” he said.

Putting aside the ethical and political debate, if Fredrick and Nicolas have their way, this would particularly riveting for anyone in the business of HCM software.

It looks to me this is a demand for an integrated employee goals / performance management, compensation and incentive compensation system that also integrates into a corporate performance and risk management system, combined with a significant dose of compliance reporting.