Capabilities for HR Analytics Success (Source Systems)

We’ll cover the first of these topics: Source Systems.

Accessing your Data from Source Systems

Once you’ve identified your analytics project areas (3 x Do. 2 x Help. 1 x Fix.), you need to identify your overall data needs, where this data resides, and who owns it.

Given you’ll likely need to source your data from a number of systems, you will need to consolidate this data into a single data source. Let’s quickly look at a few of the most popular:

  • Spreadsheets
  • DIY Tools
  • People Analytics PurePlay (fully managed solution)


For some this is the simplest approach to data consolidation.

You may already be very handy and experienced with this approach, but if not, this is where you may need help from your Finance friends, and possibly your IT team.

Of course, spreadsheets aren’t perfect – let’s have a look at the pros and cons of spreadsheet- based data consolidation.

– You likely already have a spreadsheet tool on your computer
– You can get going easily
– You likely have some basic spreadsheet skills today
– Spreadsheets can be fed with .csv data dumps/extracts from most systems

– Upgrading your spreadsheet skills might be more difficult than it sounds
– Specifically, you will need to focus on things like moving and manipulating data, cleaning and formatting data, pivot tables, developing formulas, developing charts and presenting dynamic data
– Data security and privacy risks of spreadsheet-based reporting
– Data and formula integrity in the reporting spreadsheet is always at risk
– Each spreadsheet tends to be at a point in time, and can require a lot of manual manipulation every time you need a new cut on the report
– You spend a lot of time in spreadsheet maintenance mode, as opposed to actually using your data to drive decisions and build value for your line of business

DIY BI Tools

There are also other solutions available like Tableau and Qlik – which deliver capabilities way more powerful than a spreadsheet, however you still need to have very handy-people on the ground to develop the data source, develop the algorithms for your calculations, develop the visualizations, reports and outputs, and to constantly feed-and maintain the solution.

These under-the-desk business intelligence solutions, while very capable, can present challenges with scalability (moving from an under-the-desktop tool to an enterprise accessible platform), and may actually introduce unintended risk – from a data privacy, control and security perspectives, and for ongoing sustainability given the technical hurdles when moving from under-the-desk to a fully supported, enterprise-wide production capability.

Even though the license may be on your desktop or available for a few thousand dollars, the total cost of ownership of these solutions as you scale them can be quite high – often reaching levels beyond that of a pureplay or fully managed solution.

Analytics PurePlay or Fully Managed Solution

Full disclosure – this is the space we occupy at HireRoad. We help HR accelerate data driven HR through our turnkey offering in people analytics. As a pureplay, we make it very simple for our customers – all they need to do is feed us their raw, disconnected data. From that, we ensure the data is always up-to-date and available for ongoing reporting and analytics.

We’re different from some of the others in this space in that we’re focused on helping mid-market companies and our team of experts works with our customers in an ongoing fashion to be sure the analytics and reports evolve as business needs change.

This is how we operate as a people analytics pureplay:

Regardless of the technical approach you adopt, you will need to do the following for each Use Case:

  • Describe in a sentence or two the metric, calculation or algorithm that will give you insight
  • Start as simple as you can and over time, increase complexity
  • Identify where this data resides
  • Identify the owner of each data source and obtain their approval to use it
  • Coordinate access/ receiving a download of each data source
    • While there are always exceptions, these raw downloads can be quite simple to dump/deliver and should be something your HR Systems Administrator or HR Ops resource is already doing.
    • Take an extra 15 minutes and ask this person specifically what they need to do – or ask to see them when they actually run this data dump – and you’ll be able to see first hand the level of complexity.
  • Consolidate your data into your “tool” for data analysis
  • Build your calculations and visualizations in your “tool”
  • Play, Test, Iterate. Play, Test, Iterate.

This is going to be an iterative, or agile process – starting simple and increasing complexity as you gain momentum, trust and deliver results.