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What Can HR Learn from the Top Three Trends in Business Intelligence?

Posted by EmployeeChannel on 9.21.2016

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HR has come a long way in shedding its process-driven reputation and becoming more strategically data-driven. The rise of cloud-based HR technology has helped to streamline and automate HR processes, more effectively serve contemporary employees, and better analyze people and workplace data, but there is still a lot HR can learn to become a more strategic business function.

The Business Intelligence industry, which is currently experiencing a massive shift of its own, offers insight into how HR can better leverage the rise of cloud technology, the explosion of Big Data, and the growing preference for user-friendly, mobile self-service tools to benefit the organization and its employees.

The Business Intelligence Revolution

The Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics space is undergoing a radical transformation.

What was once a tightly controlled and prohibitively complex set of tools, technology, and processes is now trending toward a democratic, decentralized, and user-friendly paradigm.

Gartner defines Business Intelligence as the applications, tools, and best practices that “enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.” Given that this intelligence is critical to company-wide growth and performance, one would assume that relevant data is easy to access, right?

Well, not always.

Though BI and analytics are vital to company wide strategic planning, the right data can be notoriously difficult to access. Traditionally, centralized BI data could only be procured by IT and/or a professional data analyst. Tools which enabled analysis among professionals lacking in data science skills were extremely limited.

This hands-off approach leaves data in the hands of a chosen few, precluding accessible or efficient insights. It’s really no wonder some people are intimidated by data and analytics!

Cue the Rise of Self-Service Intelligence and Analytics Software

"2016 is the year of the modern BI and analytics [BI&A] platform," says Rita Sallam, a Research Vice President at Gartner who focuses on BI and analytics. "The BI&A market is in the final stages of a multiyear shift from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to pervasive, business-led, self-service analytics. Organizations will continue to transition to easy-to-use, fast, agile, and trusted modern BI&A platforms deployed across the enterprise to create business value from deeper insights into diverse data sources." 

The BI&A market is in the final stages of a multiyear shift from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to pervasive, business-led, self-service analytics.Rita Sallam, Research Vice President at Gartner

The astronomical rise in enterprise adoption of user-friendly, widely accessible BI&A tools has been extraordinary. Gartner even predicts that most business users will have access to self-service data analysis tools by 2017

Does any of this sound familiar? Easy-to-use and innovative self-service HR tools are also gaining ground at an incredible speed and it's increasingly important that HR technology buys are both strategic and eminently user friendly

The latest trends in BI&A hearken toward a more data-driven, intelligent, and progressive organization, and HR must channel these trends to become more strategic business units.

Learning from the Top Trends in BI

If It's Not in the Cloud, It Probably Should Be

Dan Vesset, GVP of Analytics and Information Management at IDC, projected that 2016 spending on cloud-based business analytics technology will grow 4.5x faster than spending for on-premises solutions. This isn’t surprising considering the rate at which global spending on public cloud services is growing every year. A day will come when on-premise software is obsolete. 

HR is already moving infrastructure into the cloud (particularly HRIS systems that streamline and automate a wide range of HR processes), but let's not stop there. Even big, fuzzy objectives like employee engagement and employee communication can be streamlined and measured with the right tools.

Thinking beyond HRIS systems, HR can leverage cloud-based apps to:

  • Communicate more effectively with employees

  • Enhance and measure workplace engagement and communications

  • Collect real-time employee feedback and gauge employee satisfaction

  • More effectively recruit, hire, and train new employees, and better manage ongoing employee performance

  • Continue to become more data-driven with access to a wider range of workplace data

  • Be more agile as a company grows or changes direction

  • Benefit from faster access to innovation and greater ease-of-use than many on-premise systems

  • Support greater employee productivity and enhance the employee experience with user friendly, contemporary tools.

Data is Everywhere, and Everything

As the Internet of Things grows, so does the potential for analytics and insight.

Business Intelligence leaders believe that every user interaction has meaning and every business function can benefit from greater access to data. The democratization of data is freeing valuable data from their silos while business intelligence tools are helping to translate that data into actionable, approachable analytics. 

“HR is the new frontier for data science applications in business,” says CareerBuilder CEO, Matt Ferguson. “CEOs are looking for HR to be just as data-savvy and digitally savvy as other areas of the company and take quick, measurable actions that move the business toward its goals.”

The right tools can help HR access, analyze, and take action on a wealth of tactical workforce and talent, market, and customer data to make more effective decisions for the department, the employees, and the organization.

User-Friendly Self-Service is the Future

The most popular Business Intelligence providers have adopted a self-service model that enables professionals of all kinds to access data on-demand, generate insights, and design their own reports without assistance from IT or data scientists. This new breed of BI encompasses easy-to-use tools with a limited barrier to entry, and helps compensate for a gap in data science skills. 

Self-service makes data and insights more accessible, but also more enjoyable to use. When on-demand tools are intuitive, relevant, and user-friendly, more people will use and find value in them.

We see this preference for self-service everywhere—people want to seek knowledge and solve problems quickly on their own. The rise of mobile technologies and the convenience of anytime, anywhere connectivity augment this trend. The right infrastructure and self-service solutions can empower both HR and employees to be more productive and engaged. 

However, it's important to recognize that just because your organization offers an employee self-service tool (such as a company intranet, for instance), there is no guarantee that employees will use it or benefit from it. These tools must be easy-to-use; they must leverage currently popular technologies (like mobile); and they must be designed for the needs and enjoyment of the employee—the end user. This is known as design thinking and is extremely important for engaging users and providing lasting value. 

HR tech decisions should accommodate the preference for digital self-service tools built around the principles of design thinking.


The prolific rise of self-service BI technology portends a movement toward more data-driven, intelligent digital organizations and more self-sufficient, analytical employees.

In these times of rapid digital change, HR can become a more strategic and indispensable businesses function by adopting agile cloud applications, embracing data, and providing employees with the latest in user-friendly self-service tools.

Want more content like this?

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Topics: self-service, hr tech

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