The value of Big Data has found its way to the core of many organizations. NewVantage Partners’ 2021 executive survey showed that 99.0% of the companies they surveyed are investing in data initiatives while 96.0% attest that Big Data and AI efforts were generating results.
However, working with Big Data is not easy for all companies. The survey revealed that 92.2% of leading companies consider culture (people, process, organization, and change management) as the top reason why becoming a data-driven organization remains challenging.
Organizations should recognize that integrating Big Data into performance management would allow them to further improve their performance , make strategic decisions, and achieve higher efficiency in many areas of business.
How does that happen? First, it is important to know what Big Data is and what it is not.
Big Data is not about having a higher volume of data. IBM defines Big Data as “a way of harvesting raw data from multiple, disparate data sources, storing the data for use by analytics programs, and using the raw data to derive value (meaning) from the data in a whole new way.”
Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier, authors of “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think,” wrote that Big Data can generate new insights and develop new forms of value in a manner that changes how people live.
The reason is that Big Data can reveal trends and patterns. In an ever-changing business landscape, organizations working with Big Data would allow them to make decisions based on facts. This echoes what Geoffrey Moore, a famous American organizational theorist & author of “Crossing the Chasm,” was quoted saying: “Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like deer on a freeway.”
Big Data’s Role in Performance Management and Measurement
The value of Big Data lies in improving the performance and processes of an organization.
For instance, Big Data can provide insights into customer preferences. Understanding customer preferences and using them as a basis for strategies can lead to increased sales. With better forecasting, Big Data can guide companies in determining where they need to invest. A manufacturing company would be able to accurately identify the equipment that needs replacing. Moreover, the automation of high-level business processes can make organizations more effective and efficient.
In the conference paper, “Is Big Data the Next Big Thing in Performance Measurement Systems?” the authors concluded that the presence of a variety of data could expand the horizons of PMSs due to the application of different kinds of metrics. The applications of Big Data in PMS are in planning, controlling, and improving business performance as well as in strategic planning, controlling operations, and processes improvement.
The authors found the reasons for using Big Data and PMSs similar, and they revolve around decision-making and action-taking. “PMS supports decision-making [by] providing meaningful and appropriate data [developed] through a series of activities, such as analyzing and interpreting data from past actions to influence the future performance.”
Big Data in Action
The success of Netflix, a streaming service company, is attributed to their usage of Big Data. For content development, their objective is to determine what their audience would want to watch next. To analyze the behavior and preferences of their over 140 million subscribers, Netflix used metrics, such as “What day you watch content,” “Searches on the platform,” “User location data,” “When you leave content,” “The ratings given by the users,” and even “Browsing and scrolling behavior.”
Netflix also uses Big Data in addressing challenges in production planning, such as determining shoot locations and arranging a shoot schedule. With prediction models, Netflix can minimize their efforts and reduce their expenses.
Xerox, the world’s largest provider of digital document solutions, once faced a problem with its workforce and needed to cut employee training costs and lower the premature attrition of its employee pool. With the help of Big Data, the company executed a predictive recruiting program in order to assess and filter applicants. Big Data and Big Data analytics helped them recruit people who have more technical skills and are more likely to stay longer with them. This means lower cost of training. The reduced attrition successfully helped the enhancement of Xerox’s bottom line.
Big data is a new source of competitive edge for any organization as it permits them to provide faster and more intelligent decisions, makes information more transparent, generates unprecedented insights into market situations and customer behavior, and optimizes business performance.
If you would like to discover new knowledge and the practical application of best practices used in analyzing statistical data, sign up for The KPI Institute’s Data Analysis Certification.
Image Source: aleksandrdavydovphotos | Canva
The COVID-19 pandemic has left a strong mark in all aspects of our lives. It has impacted society – our habits, routines, and the way we interact. It has pressured the economy, its financial stability, and the way we do business.
Thus, what has changed in the way managers are doing performance management in these volatile times?
1. The way we do strategic planning
Before the pandemic, risk management, scenario planning, and business continuity plans were specific to large corporations. Nowadays, even small organizations will have a plan B ready for different scenarios of the COVID-19 evolution. There are industries, like retail, where all planning revolves around foresting based on historical data. Nowadays, using data from the past to plan the future seems a futile attempt to regain the feeling of control.
Moreover, most organizations, regardless of their industry, rely on annual if not 3 to 5 years planning. It is obvious that in the present circumstances and given the complexity of managing a business nowadays, these strategic planning practices seem useless.
2. The importance given to performance measurement
More than ever before, real-time data is a vital management tool. Access to data is critical in managing a crisis. One of the positive side effects of the pandemic was the pressure to digitize operations that create opportunities for data collection and better measurement of operations.
3. The way employees can be evaluated
Remote work and hybrid systems (combining work from home with office time) are no novelty, but in the COVID-19 circumstances, they gained significant recognition and became the norm rather than the exception for many organizations.
Managers and team leaders can no longer directly observe employees. There is a series of soft competencies, like communication, collaboration, proactivity, and creativity that are very difficult to evaluate in an online working environment, and yet they are essential skills for many jobs.
What is the way forward?
1. A different way of planning
Risk management must be an inherent part of organizational strategy, regardless of the company size. You don’t need a risk management office to have a proactive management approach and handle risks well. Small organizations can use their performance scorecard and populate it with leading KPIs or Key Risk Indicators.
For example, setting a red line level for # Days in accounts receivable can help you manage better cash flow, monitoring # Safety non-compliances can provide insights into the risk exposure to # Work accidents resulting in mortality. Identifying different scenarios in key areas of business and having contingency plans can give any organization a heads-up in case of a crisis.
Strategic planning must concentrate on shorter time horizons and reassess a series of factors that organizations may not have considered on a quarterly basis.
Government interventions, international economic context, competitors’ reactions, customers’ preferences, customers buying power, suppliers’ situations, internal capabilities and optimization potential, and employees morale and productivity are factors that have changed post-pandemic and need to be investigated. Moreover, agile strategic planning processes must be set in place to enable the organizations to react fast to changes.
In the face of chaos, the most effective tool to put everyone on the same page is to use clear objectives, KPIs, and initiatives, even short-term ones. The challenge is to adapt the measuring and reporting of performance to respond to tight deadlines. Data must be available fast, preferably in real time.
Thus, identify five to 10 KPIs that are easy to use, concise (tackle the problem directly), and can be collected with high frequency (weekly, monthly). These will be the ones that help you navigate a crisis. Now is the time to replace complex measurements and reports with simple yet relevant tools.
In the medium term, most likely for many organizations, the entire strategy must be reconsidered and linked to relevant performance scorecards in which simple measurements can be combined with more complex KPIs to provide a holistic overview of performance.
3. Focus on building the right mindset for each job than defining the specific job outputs
Many organizations invest a significant amount of time in identifying the right KPIs and targets to capture as precisely as possible the employee’s performance or productivity. Moreover, the more complex the job is, the more difficult it is to capture all contributions in relevant KPIs. In a volatile business environment, such an approach makes targets and KPIs obsolete the moment they are communicated.
The performance criteria used for employee evaluations should be flexible, easy to adapt and more focused on the extent to which the role is successfully achieved, as compared to looking at operational details. For example, it should be less important if the employee delivered one or three safety awareness sessions to factory workers if their awareness level is at the desired level.
One methodology that can be used at the employee level is the Objectives and Key Results Framework. OKRs are set and reviewed quarterly, but they can be changed even more often if the result set is no longer of interest. They emphasize on the importance of personalizing the objectives and key results and making the employee accountable for setting and monitoring them. Not all key results have to be KPIs; some of them can be reflected by completing an initiative or other types of results.
The end purpose of an OKRs system is not to compare employees or indicate what percentage of your staff are high performers. This methodology aims to facilitate communication, clarify expectations, align work activities to corporate strategy, and to provide a tool for managers and employees for discussing individual performance and improvement opportunities.
You can learn more about OKRs through The KPI Institute’s Certified OKR Professional Course.
When formalizing and implementing a performance management system (PMS) based on key performance indicators (KPIs), there are multiple activities to be considered and many stakeholders to be engaged in the process. Therefore, you’ll need a project plan to make performance management an ongoing process within your organization.
What matters most is not to have an extra process in place, but to do it right by connecting strategy formulation with strategy implementation and KPI across the organizational levels. The way you will design and implement the PMS based on KPIs will play a huge role in the way it will be perceived by the employees. This is exactly why our approach is based on a combination of analysis and research, workshops and feedback activities.
Zooming out, the proposed project plan includes 14 stages:
- 5 Stages: System Design
- 5 Stages: System Activation
- 4 Stages: Project Management
Zooming in, all 14 stages include major sub activities that indicate how granular this puzzle can be. A real image of efforts and resources engaged.
What are the key elements to ensure that a KPI implementation project plan will be a success story?
The differentiator in creating successful conditions is represented by the employees’ trust in the project. Why? Because change brings fear, and fear must be managed in connection to the implementation of KPIs.
- Fear of becoming replaceable or unnecessary
- Fear of unrealistic (too high) targets
- Fear of extra work
As what I wrote in a previous article, if fears exist, then managers should consider looking for a course, training, or coaching session on how to guide their employees in managing their fears. Another step is to have an organizational message with a system that reinforces the organizational culture and the real intentions and effects of such a project, reassuring everyone that they will not be swept away by it.
Could this project be considered for departmental level only?
The KPI implementation project plan can be applied to the departmental level only. It has advantages and disadvantages Since this KPIs system is not a stand alone, the departmental level will ultimately get connected to the strategic (superior) and individual level (lower).
One advantage of this approach is the system will be founded on a strong understanding of operations and specific processes and developed at departmental (mid) level. Another advantage is increased involvement of employees in developing the system. This can generate a high sense of commitment and engagement based on their contribution.
Meanwhile, the disadvantage of this approach is that starting with the lowest level may not ensure a strategic orientation, and it may be predominantly narrow instead, given the limited understanding of the overall organization’s mid- and long-term commitments.
If you would like to learn more about KPI measurement and KPI implementation, sign up for The KPI Institute’s Certified Professional and Practitioner training course.