Making Data Work

|   Feb 13, 2014

Yesterday, I spoke at the 2014 Strata conference in Santa Clara alongside a brilliant and like-minded data scientist, Kim Stedman.  Every year the conference brings together the top minds in the data world to talk about the most important issues companies are facing. In past years, there has been a strong focus on new technologies like Hadoop, that are enabling organizations to store, process and analyze vast quantities of data. While these tools are exciting things to talk about, we are seeing a shift back to the fundamentals of data, and the most important question of how to get value from the data that we capture and store.  After all, the tools are a moot point if we don’t know how to make data work for our organizations.

In both my first hand experience as a data professional, and as a member of the community of data scientists, I have all too frequently seen companies hit road blocks that don’t allow them to realize the potential of data.  Before we go any further, it is important to understand the goal of data science. In its simplest form, the goal is to use data to discover insights, but more importantly it is to use those insights to cause change that returns positive results for our companies.  Sounds simple, right? Actually this can be a complex issue when you try to execute against it. In our talk at Strata, Kim and I discussed some of the biggest roadblocks we see in turning data into actionable information, and gave the audience practical advice to overcome these obstacles.

So, if the goal of collecting data is to get value from it, how do we do that when it comes to Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)? It ends up that the value of ESN data can be divided into two categories:

First, it can bring and return value to an ESN in the following ways:

  • Companies have many goals when it comes to launching an ESN, however these goals rely on having engagement in the network. Therefore, it is critical to use data to measure engagement levels (membership, visitation and posting /contributing rates) so that you can not only understand these levels, but even more importantly use the data to cause change and drive improvements in these critical areas.
  • Next, ESN data can help you understand if you are meeting the goals you established when launching the network. To justify the investment in Enterprise Social software use data to measure success. If you are in the early stages of launching an Enterprise Social Network, outline your goals, and then translate them into metrics that you can track and measure. Just be aware, sometimes these measures will need to be combined with other forms of data collection. For example, if your goal is to increase employee engagement, you may need to conduct primary research in addition to the data captured in your ESN to truly understand what success looks like.

Second, ESN data can help drive your business to achieve company goals. One of the more exciting areas of ESN data is its ability to improve business.  For example, you can use data to find people who excel in specific areas to fill open headcount, or to better understand topics your employees are passionate about, or capture new ideas they have created.  The possibilities here are many, but before starting to mine the data, start with a hypothesis.

How are you using data from your ESN to drive your business forward? We would love to hear about it!

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Author Spotlight

Cameran Evans
Cameran Evans Chief Data Scientist View full bio

What is Socialcast?

Socialcast by VMware (NYSE: VMW) is a social network for business uniting people, information, and applications with its real-time enterprise activity stream engine. Behind the firewall or in the cloud, Socialcast enables instant collaboration in a secure environment. Socialcast is headquartered in San Francisco, California.