Magazine article Information Management

Following the Data Trail for Competitive Advantage

Magazine article Information Management

Following the Data Trail for Competitive Advantage

Article excerpt


The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers by Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush examines and describes methods to utilize the pervasive trend of tracking data about everything around us. While this book is not intended specifically for records professionals, anyone working with people will be interested in the ideas advanced by the authors.

The Decoded Company

The key to "sustainable competitive advantage," according to the authors, is to become a decoded company: one that is "talent-centric, data-driven, flexible, and fast." The authors highlight companies like Google, Starbucks, and Whole Foods, who use big data for serving their customers--and have turned their algorithms inward to decode their own employees.

The authors write that decoding the "real story that is embedded in the data trail" that follows employees and their projects allows companies not to "get the better" of their talent, but to "get the best from them."

3 Transformative Ideas

The Decoded Company distills how this process works with what they call the following "three transformative ideas."

Technology as Coach

The first idea, "Technology Can be a Coach," posits that by personalizing processes to the individual based on experience, an organization can offer training interventions precisely at the teachable moment.

For example, the telecom Sprint was struggling with customer service issues in 2008. The authors' relate how Sprint was able to identify a troubling statistic in one call center:

   Thanks to their informed intuition,
   managers were able
   to track down and identify
   the problem: a group of recently
   hired agents were
   unfamiliar with certain features
   on a newly released
   device. Therein lies a teachable
   moment. Sprint was
   able to identify the agents
   who needed training at the
   precise moment when they
   really needed it. They were
   able to intervene with real-time
   training ...

Data as Sixth Sense

The second idea proposes that "Data Can Be a Sixth Sense." By collating organizational insights using actual data, organizations can watch their blind spots and give their people enhanced decision-making ability. An example cited in this section is Google's "Did you mean.?" feature. In the authors' words:

      What you probably don't
   know is that it works entirely
   based on ambient data fed
   by Google users into a sophisticated,
   statistical, machine
   learning algorithm ...
   the algorithm looks for a repeated
   pattern of a search
   term entered followed very
   quickly by an almost identical
   term seconds later. That
   pattern indicates someone realized
   the mistake they made
   the first time and fixed it the
   second time, teaching the algorithm
   one way to misspell
   the correct term. With its
   steady diet of ambient data
   from hundreds of millions
   of users, Google was able to
   create a spelling correction
   system without teaching
   the system anything about

Engineered Ecosystems

The third idea is that "Engineered Ecosystems" that give employees flexibility and autonomy will prevail over hierarchies, reduce bureaucracy, increase transparency, and be wildly inspiring to teams. The premise is to deliberately engineer data-driven cultures guided by clearly outlined priorities and vision. …

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