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Analytics Articles: Human Resources, Supply Chain, Diversity and Business Analysis

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The Future of HR Analytics: Consolidation, Self-service and Mobile


During the first few weeks of the year, we inevitably see various organizations issue predictions of what “will be hot.” Unfortunately, these are greatly unreliable because they tend to match whatever that organization wants to sell you this year. Yes, call me cynical. I prefer to gather views from clients and practitioners who live in the real world and who are best equipped to understand the impact of those challenges on what can truly be accomplished today. Based on this type of feedback, here is what I see continuing.

The Rapid Consolidation of HR Vendors

Consolidation of players is a natural progression in any “industry.” I’ll put that in quotes since the HR Analytics world is not an industry. However, what’s happening inside this space is behaving like an industry. Niche vendors are being acquired by larger HR vendors is an attempt to provide users with a more integrated HR experience. 

One set of vendors is focused on managing the PROCESSES within HR. If you use the same vendor as your competitor, then you will be using identical processes. Many of the processes within HR are quite tactical in nature, so there’s not much concern here when it comes to losing any competitive advantage.

Another set of vendors is competing to be your supplier of choice for MERGING data into one interface with basic reporting and analytics. It’s important to realize that in this case, your data remains in the originating system and is “copied” occasionally over to the merged interface. With these vendors, the more often you need your data “copied,” the more you pay. In the recent past, I spoke with one gentlemen whose company could only afford to “copy” the data once per month. He admitted that once they were half way through the month, the data in the merged interface was useless to them. They found themselves delaying data-driven decisions until the scheduled copying of the data.

Another set of vendors focuses on being a combination of your core system for storing employee data in combination with various levels of reporting and analytical offerings. This approach gets you an excellent quick win in eliminating a lot of manual reporting, but you will read below why this isn’t the end of manual reporting for once and for all.

The Rise of Self-service Reporting

The rise of self-service reporting is not a new occurrence. It has been going on for quite some time as companies attempt to move away from hundreds of Excel reports. Not that we don’t love Excel, but all of those manual reports consume vast amounts of employee time. Virtually all HR software vendors have built-in reporting capabilities, but the overwhelming comments from clients and system users is that the reporting functions are not meeting their needs. All of my clients head down the path of extracting data from these systems and analyzing it with an external tool. Some larger companies also head down the path of creating data “cubes” to gather data from multiple systems into one place. Both directions lead companies to the tools in the next section of this article.

The Rise of Self-service Analytics & Business Intelligence

The top tool choices today for the creation of self-service analytics are products like Tableau, Qlik Sense, Power BI and Domo. Each has its benefits, and each has its limitations. You’ll only discover the limitations of each by actually using them. All of these are excellent for providing your internal customers with current (or near-current) business information in graphical form. Most also provide ways to share the information and control access to it.

Mobile Reporting and Analytics

We live in a mobile world. We view web sites and cast TV shows from our mobile phones and tablets. The desire of business leaders to see HR Analytics while they are “on the move” is no different. All of the more popular data visualization tools include this capability. I’ll just warn you that trying to interact with a dashboard on your phone in an airport is far too painful. The tablet experience is the way to go if you need mobile access.

The Use of R and Python

The most popular programming language today remains Java, but that’s only when we look at ALL applications of programming languages. On the same list, Python comes up at number 2 and R never makes the list. But when it comes to the application of programming languages to analytics, Python and R remain at the top. R is on a quick rise for its mathematical and statistical capabilities. It also seems to be the language of choice for BI tools integrating statistical libraries. I tend to use both languages depending on the specific goal of a project. If your team is budget-sensitive, don’t worry. You can access both languages and their programming interfaces at no cost. As an example, I have Microsoft Visual Studio for Python and have programs that tap the BLS for data every month. I have R Studio and Minitab to satisfy my statistical cravings.

I have no doubt that HR Analytics / People Analytics will remain strong in 2018 and for many years to come. Dedicated professionals will use their strong will to hurdle the data, political and regulatory challenges that our “industry” faces.


Tracey Smith is an internationally recognized analytics consultant, speaker and author. Tracey has worked with and advised organizations, both well-known and little-known, on how to use data analytics to impact the bottom line. Her career spans the areas of engineering, supply chain and human resources. If you would like to learn more, please visit  or contact Tracey Smith through LinkedIn. You can check out her books on her Amazon Author Page.