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Moving Toward a People Analytics World

Earlier this year, and in my continued quest to understand the evolving trends in the professional and commercial endpoints space, I started to dig deeper into the wearable realm to gauge its impact on business settings. I looked into a broad spectrum of devices from smart watches, to head-mounted displays, to digital wrist bands and digital badges.

One main observation my research yielded was that digital analytics can become a top driver of wearable technology in the enterprise space.

Employee monitoring/feedback services are expected to notably increase in the future, aided by wearable intelligent technologies such as digital badges, for example.

One company that has been growing considerably in the field of digital analytics is Humanyze, a highly innovative Boston-based startup that uses both digital communications data and intelligent wearable badges to uncover patterns on how work actually gets done.

Humanyze applies behavioral science, organizational network analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help organizations make better decisions. Aside from data gathered from digital communications media, such as the email, calendar, and chat interactions, Humanyze takes things a step further with the digital badge, which analyzes speech patterns, scans for proximity to others, shows individual stress levels based on heart rate and voice inflection, and more.

While the field is still quite innovative and new, Humanyze's solution is already used by several Fortune 500 companies.

In order to shed more light on this fascinating, but still untapped field, I had the chance to ask Michelle Bradbury, chief product officer for Humanyze, a series of ten questions relevant to the company, its traction, and its vision of where the market is headed. Bradbury has spent more than 15 years working in data analytics, so had lots to share. What follows is the edited interview:

Can you tell us more about Humanyze and how it all began?

Our four founders met while working on their PhDs at the MIT Media Lab. Working with Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland, they researched the impact of communication patterns on organizational outcomes. Motivated by the belief that quantitative metrics can have a large impact on business decisions, they founded Humanyze, Inc. in 2010, with the goal in mind to bring data-driven decision making (people analytics) to organizations around the globe. Since then, Ben Waber coined the term and published the book, People Analytics, Humanyze has grown to a 30-person company, and we've built a leading People Analytics Platform, Humanyze Elements. Over time, we've accumulated more workplace interaction data than anyone in the world. Large Fortune 500 companies all over the world use our technology to inject new intelligence into their people decisions.

How does your company help businesses with what you coined as "people analytics?"

People analytics is using behavioral data to understand how people work and change how companies are managed. With our people analytics platform, Humanyze Elements, we help companies measure digital and face-to-face communication to answer specific business questions around organizational design and business processes. Our goal is to help companies understand their most valuable resource and to align processes to help them achieve their goals.

According to Frost & Sullivan's TechVision division, more than 50 billion connected objects are expected by 2020 which will generate over 500 zettabytes of data over these years. The growing popularity of big data in recent times has been the major driving force behind the development of predictive and user behavioral analytics tools. How do you envision the space is going to evolve within the coming years?

With big data, organizations have an increased retention and blending of broader data. With this data, organizations could send signals to adjust room lighting and temperature based on the best productivity benchmarks for a given team. I can envision employees receiving a text message to notify them of the optimal location of their scheduled meetings depending on who has checked into shared work spaces.

I have heard that your Humanyze technology is used by tens of thousands of employees and a good number of Fortune 500 companies. Can you please tell us more about traction? Also, what type of companies have been the early adopters of people analytics?

People analytics, and specifically Organization Network Analysis (ONA), has been gaining traction throughout Fortune 500 companies. It's not localized to specific industries. Companies with a large number of employees tend to be our largest segment because their people assets are a large part of their cost and success. They are motivated to make more informed people decisions and promote retention, engagement, and productivity.

From the adoption examples that you are giving, can you also provide some ROI examples achieved via the Humanyze offering?

Oil and Gas Company:

  • With Humanyze, teams assessed safety and productivity data to complete a multi-billion-dollar plant expansion with greater speed and certainty, resulting in 16x ROI, annually. They used the Humanyze Space Management Module to measure individual interaction and team communication patterns through digital and badge data.

European Bank:

  • Humanyze helped identify a strong relationship between communication, team trust, and office layout. They used the Humanyze Teamwork and Engagement Module to measure team communication patterns, tenure and demographics, and office layout through digital and badge data. Group bonuses and space rotations were implemented to increase teamwork, which increased sales performance by 11% and resulted in 13X ROI, annually.

U.S. Bank:

  • Humanyze was used to prove that the most productive and engaged employees had the most cohesive networks and interacted with their coworkers on their break. They used the Humanyze Teamwork and Engagement Module to measure call statistics, staff work, job attitude, and staff tenure through digital and badge data. A new break structure was implemented which resulted in 28% less turnover, 23% decrease in call center call time, and 27X ROI, annually.

Global Technology Firm:

  • Humanyze helped measure organizational gaps and workloads among their engineering staff. They recognized that training, experience, and educational levels were inaccurate predictors of performance. They used the Humanyze Teamwork and Engagement Module to measure team communication patterns, task completion, staff training and tenure, and compensation through digital and badge data. As a result, they identified key leaders within the organization. When employees collaborated with key leaders, their task times sped up by 60%. They also discovered that employees collaborate frequently during individual tasks, so they distributed group bonuses to encourage collaboration, increasing productivity by 10% and growing revenue by $22M.

Pharmaceutical Company:

  • Humanyze helped measure communication networks between sales and marketing teams to identify bottlenecks and campaign success. They used the Humanyze Collaboration and Delivery Module to measure team communication patterns, individual success, work environment, and team demographics through digital and badge data. New processes, metrics, incentives, and workspaces were implemented, which accelerate on-time project delivery, resulting in 10X ROI, annually.

When it comes to the evolving scenario of digital analytics, who do you see as competitors in the realm of what you do?

There are a few players in this space, but most notably is Microsoft, which gathers digital data to measure individual productivity, then aggregates these benefits at an organizational level. Humanyze's approach is to measure digital and face-to-face data through our proprietary Humanyze Badge to holistically analyze all communication. With this data, we recognize patterns and analyze the data against internal benchmarks and KPIs to understand organization processes and address systemic issues that benefit each individual.

How does your company deal with concerns related to privacy or 'Big Brother' type of concerns?

Humanyze is committed to protecting personal privacy; it's at the forefront of all our product design and how we conduct business. It's part of our mission to set and shepherd the ethical standards by which data should be gathered and analyzed. With the increase of data in the workplace, it's critical to develop and abide by data privacy policies to protect personally identifiable information (PII), and private confidential information (PCI). We abide by three main principles: Employees can choose to opt-in/opt-out, all data are aggregated and anonymized, and there is no recording of communication content. We've designed our product to limit or eliminate any privacy data. We don't give organizations access to individual's data because the problems we seek to solve are systemic by nature and require analyzing the organization, holistically.

We are beginning to see more startups that are offering solutions based on artificial intelligence, making use of vocal intonations, facial muscles movement, and individual's writing, to capture and analyze the "human element" of emotions. Do you envision Humanyze to expand its analytics tools in the realm of emotional intelligence?

We are focused on helping organizations better understand and engage their workforce. Using the Humanyze Badge, we have helped organizations develop stress level benchmarks to identify stress drivers. We will continue to hone emotional analytics intelligence as it corresponds to organization goals and opportunities.

What would you say to companies that are still hesitant to use tools such as your innovative Humanyze Elements Platform?

Organizational change is hard -- even more difficult for large corporations. There's challenging and always changing objectives, it's difficult to assess which solution has the greatest impact to overcome those challenges, and proving ROI is a timely and nearly impossible task. Traditionally, companies have relied on minimal data like surveys, management observations, and business process diagrams. These data sources are error-prone and subject to human variability. Now, there's been an explosion of data in the workplace that can be gathered: emails, chats, phone calls, scheduled meetings, and impromptu chats at the water cooler. Measuring and analyzing all of these data will be crucial for reducing costs, optimizing productivity, and lowering organizational risk.