To whom it may concern,
For the last 2 years I am proud to have run my own People Analytics consulting company - PeopleAnalyst, which I like to call the first Independent People Analytics Design Company - but On January 1st - I will be joining One Model. These are the reasons:
1. I believe that People Analytics is important to the future of HR, the future of business and humanity – perhaps one of the most important business trends in our lifetime.
I recently shared the principles I hold, supporting this thought here: Future of Human Resources - in 10 Principles.
Beyond these principles I frequently try to point out that we had Accounting before we had Finance, we had Sales before we had Marketing, and we had HR (People Operations) before People Analytics. In every historical case, the application of an analytical framework to the pre-existing operational function revolutionized the way business was done, and those who were early to it were able to exploit lucrative informational advantages for a brief period of time before they became ubiquitous. In face of history these changes did not occur that long ago but today we think of them as always being the way they are. People Analytics’ time is now – in the future it will be “required for entry” in the big girls/boys club, but not be as much of an advantage as it is now.
Pay very careful attention to the investment companies like Google and Walmart have made in People Analytics – 30+ people each and growing, going back several years. These companies are not stupid – this says something - they saw something.
Google is “cleaning up” on the application of data to the People Operations/Talent area and in many markets they are a force to be reckoned with - nobody is anywhere near them on what they offer and how they do HR today. They are a steamroller.
2. Long ago I decided that my work - the application of data, math and science to HR - is my reason for being and part of the intentional legacy I want to leave on this earth.
My commitment to what we now call People Analytics is unchanging - the key for me as I go through life is just figuring out where my efforts will have the most impact. I make moves when I sense the math on this has changed. Merck -> PetSmart -> Google -> (brief cross functional divergence)-> Children’s Medical ->PeopleAnalyst (my consulting company - the first People Analytics design company) -> now One Model…
As we move forward, I think my area of greatest contribution will be to embed my unique way of approaching People Analytics into a technology environment, making it more realistic, accessible and affordable to more organizations. It is quite an amazing thing for a guy like me to have access to an engineering team with seed funding – I’m not going to pass on that opportunity.
3. Team - I believe in the magic of teamwork.
I saw this video, which reminded me of what can be accomplished with teamwork : http://wapo.st/1U19g0M Gives me chills - the good kind.
InfoHRM --> Success Factors --> SAP
If you know anything about the history of enterprise reporting solutions for HR, the foundational predecessor to modern HR Analytics, you will find that the engineering team at One Model has a very interesting pedigree. Going back 10 years, the only system in this space was a little company called InfoHRM – they were out on the leading edge of HR reporting, essentially running a “cloud-like” solution before we even knew what the cloud was. InfoHRM was acquired by Success Factors (purportedly to help them crack the HR data reporting challenges they couldn’t seem to solve on their own), and then Success Factors was later gobbled up by SAP.
I don’t know the whole behind the scenes story, but my general impression of what happens to people in these big company acquisitions is that how the product is perceived, the dynamics of working for an organization, as well as where you fit into all that really change. These guys fell out of that. When you see people who helped built a product category before anybody else was doing anything like it, who say now we are building something better knowing what we know now, you stop and listen - at least I do.
TechStars – The Top 1% of Startups
Another thing I really like about One Model is that they came out of the TechStars Accelerator program.
Accelerators like TechStars are super-selective--less than 1% of applicants get in. You could say they are pickier than schools like Harvard, Stanford and MIT. In addition to direct assistance in getting the business model on the right track, and the well know “Pitch Day” TechStars alumni have access to a network of investors and advisors for life. In the Startup world, access to capital matters and access is primarily determined by your network. An element of this may seem like a superficial game of “who you know and who knows you”, but an element of this is ability to get to people who have been through good and hard times and can help you solve really difficult problems.
Austin - SXSW and Food Trucks about say it all.
These guys came to Austin to launch their company a little after the time that I did. I’m an HR guy – I’m all about culture and Austin has the right culture for me. Austin is hip (some call it weird), is second only Silicon Valley for startup community, in a US state that is friendly to business, has a lower cost of living than either US coast, and is well positioned geographically for US enterprise sales – 4 hours by plane to either coast and within driving distance or very short plane flight of 3 other major cities (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio).
The startup community is tight-nit, collaborative and with a lot less of the showmanship and games you see in the Silicon Valley – I think a higher percentage of people here take creating a real business more seriously. Beyond these intangibles, when it comes to HR data, keep an eye on Austin, this is where it will be, there is some important stuff going on this space here right now.
Mostly I just love Austin – it is an island of authenticity and creative energy unlike anywhere else.
4. Product Focus – oh where we can go together.
One of the big mistakes I see in the field right now is that most people that are thinking at all about the space are thinking too narrowly. They think People Analytics is just one type of question, one type of data, or the application of a certain method of working with data. Let’s say prediction, for example. Examples include, how do you predict hires who will perform well in your environment or how do you predict what people are most likely to leave in a given time frame. However, some of these strike me as gimmicks - not standing up on real solid data - People Analytics is much more than this.
For example - I have personally worked with data on HR on decisions involving how organizations select (staffing), onboard, pay (compensation), perk (benefits), the origins of happiness and motivation at work, quality of managers, employee commitment/turnover, performance, diversity, learning/training, time off policy, the relationship of HR outcomes to sales outcomes, etc… Others have worked on topics I haven't - the list continues.
On top of the varied subject matter focus, you can focus on how you collect data, the tools to make data flow more efficiently, the methods you can use to analyze it, statistics, how you visualize the data, how you distribute to other people, etc. Any and all of these are potentially viable areas of business focus that you will see niche products in. As methods, machine learning algorithms and prediction are hot right now – all these are in our future, but we still have a lot of work to do on them.
Here are the main perceptions I will offer on product focus at this time:
People Analytics is eclectic, expansive and inclusive.
In its essence, People Analytics is the systematic application of behavioral science and statistics to Human Resource Management to achieve probability derived business advantages. We need solutions that enable analysts to be better analysts, in the world of possibilities, not try to replace the analysts entirely. We need solutions that create more heros, not less.
People tire quickly of gadgets and nobody wants to purchase and manage an ever-expanding assortment of gadgets (or only if they are all made by Apple). I’ll put it another way - One Model looks more like an aircraft carrier to me than a paper airplane.
Organizations operate as holistic systems, therefore the answers to problems span across areas of specific functional responsibility, expertise and operational data stores.
We have a lot of silos of data in HR – HR has undergone progressive advances through technology specialization and will continue to. The great irony is that the future of HR Analytics may be just reversed: synthesis, not specialization. The differentiating premise of One Model is synthesis. Many advantages will stem from this vantage point. If you care about synthesis of data in HR One Model should be on your short list.
To do any analytics, simple or advanced (prediction, forecasting, optimization), accurately, regularly, in a timely and efficient way requires address of sprawling un-integrated operational HR data sources and process.
One Model decided to start with the ‘data munging’ fundamentals and build from there. That doesn’t sound sexy and is a little more difficult initially to get the same kind of PR as a result, but it is important, and they will steadily deliver increasing value on that foundation, offers a lot of possibilities, and takes customers into the future in steps, not all at once.
Imagine showing up to the board room with predictions about employees but you can't accurately answer or get to quickly any of the basic employee ins and outs questions. Begging the question - do you really know your workforce? What exactly do you do here anyway?
I'm all for prediction and One Model is going there but don't over promise, really get to know HR data specifically, get the 'data munging' fundamentals right, organize more sources data more efficiently than anyone else, and delight and surprise the customer progressively as you go. I agree with this – I think it works better, fits the needs of today's HR function, and matches my practical MidWest (US) values.
Cloud / Software as Service is here, is the future.
The premise of One Model is that they can invest big in infrastructure and innovation on that infrastructure and distribute those gains to everyone. It only gets progressively better and more efficient over time. Why should every company invest in homegrown infrastructure for HR Reporting and Analytics independently? To reinvent all HR Analytics workflow internally at every organization is unrealistic for most organizations as it is a ludicrous business proposition. We no longer design our own homegrown HRIS systems today - why create and maintain our own technology infrastructure for HR Reporting and Analytics? I think 5-10 years from now we will look back and wonder why we used to do this at all, evoking the puckered sneers that “legacy HRIS solutions” get today.
Don’t get me wrong - you should invest in ultra advanced or niche innovations in analytics unique to your business, in your environment, however in order to have the time and resources available to apply that kind of focus, you can rent everything else. How about getting on a platform that can speak to those applications and everything else.
Like I do, these guys believe in "play nice with others" and that good guys do win too sometimes.
You want to come along for the ride?
Who is Mike West? Mike has 10+ years of experience building People Analytics from the ground up at companies such as Google, Merck, PetSmart, Children's Medical, Jawbone and other places.
Mike's passion is to develop thought leadership and to cross pollinate the frameworks and processes he helped develop and pioneer as an employee at these places. Mike spends most of his time teaching, coaching and writing on all things People Analytics.