Activ8 Intelligence: A Mission to Move HR from Reporting to Analytics

Putting HR analytics directly in the hands of everyone who makes decisions about the workforce

Matthew Lymbery, the founder and CEO of Activ8 Intelligence, recalls the frustrations he experienced with reporting during his time implementing HR systems to over a hundred different clients. “Tools were so complex even for basic reporting and now, with the growing demand to analyze data across multiple HR and talent systems this has only compounded these frustrations”. So in 2005, he founded Activ8 Intelligence with the mission to make analytics accessible and understandable for everyone who makes decisions about the workforce.

The company’s bold claim to be pioneers in the HR data space is born out when they used predictive analytics to double the quality of 1,000 hires for their first client long before big data or HR analytics were recognizable concepts. The company’s latest flagship product, Mission Control, has just been released and represents the pinnacle of all the groundwork Lymbery and his team has put in over the last 10 years and their hope is that it will be a shift change in the way that HR will work with data. Lymbery is clearly proud of what his team has achieved as he explains how Mission Control works–“It intelligently combines all employee data together into one place, automatically searches for and presents precious nuggets of insights in straightforward English sentences and makes ad-hoc queries or testing of your hunches about the workforce as simple as Googling”.

“Activ8 designed Mission Control to make HR Analytics directly accessible and understandable to everyone who makes decisions about the workforce–HR and non-HR”

What is holding HR back?

To understand what the main barriers preventing HR teams adopting great HR analytics were, Activ8 commissioned research with over a hundred medium to large organizations. “The research showed that we first needed to solve the foundational challenges that were preventing both large and small organizations from moving to an evidence-based HR function” says Lymbery.

The research found several recurring themes which prevented or slowed HR’s progress–the top three being:

1. Consolidating employee data held across the various “best-of-breed” systems. HR continues to across the various aspects of ‘doing’ HR into one place. In this case, Lymbery had full sympathy with anybody trying to do this for the first time and explained why he had formed a Centre of Excellence which handles this complex task from end-to-end, taking the pain away from busy IT departments.

2. Missing or poor quality data. At this point, Lymbery became quite animated “I’ve been accused of being a data heretic when I say you quite often don’t need to have total accuracy. In day to day life, we make many accurate decisions with incomplete data, forming a pretty good view based on what limited information we have.I have a mantra that data only has to be “directionally correct” to be of use, yet to proven wrong!” He added, “Some of the stuff we can do with our categorization and data transformation techniques makes Imperfect data really quite powerful without the need for a huge data cleansing project”

3. Overwhelmed by time consuming basic MI tasks. The biggest of these being the compilation of the monthly reporting pack where organizations were taking 3 to 8 days per month. “I remember for one of our clients, we managed to transform the quarterly report pack for
the whole organization into a pack that was published monthly plus individual packs specifically designed for the unique needs of each of the 13 business partners allowing them to engage more fully with the business unit leaders,” Lymbery explained.

Traditional reporting and dashboarding solutions are failing HR

On top of this research, Lymbery has a unique approach of keeping close to his clients. “As CEO, I personally implement one system every quarter to stay in touch with our clients’ requirements, frustrations, and aspirations–and I insist that my senior management team do the same.”

This is where Lymbery saw at first hand his clients struggling using the traditional dashboard approach activ8 had developed some years ago. “We had managed to get good quality data, had a great set of powerful metrics and a nice way of presenting them but people were still spending far too long trying to find useful insights such as important exceptions or future trends”. At that point he realized the whole dashboard approach needed a complete rethink which is where Mission Control was born–a complete reversal of where the system has the intelligence built in to automatically find any insights and present them as simply as possible.

A second challenge that regularly surfaced with a majority of organizations was with ad-hoc reporting–normally requiring a go-to expert or MI team to complete who are often coping with a back log of requests.

“When you have a hunch or an idea about something–maybe why turnover is higher in one location compared to another-you want to check it to see if you’re right–possibly even refine it. Experiencing delays because you’re reliant on someone else creating one report after another is no longer acceptable. You need answers quickly,” explains Lymbery, “so we cracked that challenge too”

A “Game Changer for HR”

Since its release, Mission Control is gaining praise from many plaudits-one of the Big 5 HR consultancies described it as a “game changer for HR”

Lymbery reflected on this high praise “It’s great to get this type of feedback and seeing 10 years journey coming to fruition! Mission Control fills the massive chasm between simple dashboards–something which most vendors now include in their product and label as “analytics”-to the other extreme of running an expensive team of external consultancies, dedicated data scientists and IT specialists trawling through data. We have a pragmatic solution deployable very quickly which has a great early return on investment”.

It wasn’t hard to see why Lymbery was so proud of his company’s creation with key features like:

•Intelligently combines data from all employee systems into one place
•Automatically seeks for insights and predictions through two high powered “analyzers” which slices and dice the data in every way imaginable meaning you don’t have browse through endless dashboards
•Spots trends and projects them forward so HR has an early warning system for future possible challenges
•It summaries all these findings into simple English sentences and ranks their importance so there’s no need to try to work out what a chart or graphic is telling you and work out whether it’s important.
Matthew Lymbery, Founder & CEO, Activ8 IntelligenceMatthew Lymbery, Founder & CEO •Allows anybody to test their theories or design new reports with the same simplicity of English sentences that has become second nature when searching the internet using Google
•Automates the production and enhances the potential of the Monthly Report Pack
When Lymbery was asked what new feature he thought most useful, he rather surprisingly replied “The new functionality is truly fantastic but without the experience of implementing HR analytics for the past 10 years and all of the smart HR and employee centric business metrics which came from those experiences its value would be diminished”

Employee centric business metrics, a phrase coined by activ8, gives line of sight between people measures and business outcomes by combining data such as sales figures, call center metrics or financial performance with employee data.

“Mission Control ensures that the relevant insights are accessible directly to all HR and non-HR users - the people with the corporate knowledge to act on the insights improving the quality of decision making about the workforce”

This is a pragmatic approach to HR analytics. Substantial benefits are achievable in weeks. I urge HR to think about putting their existing data to work, not changing their system

So what next?

Activ8’s guiding principles guarantee that the company will continually strive to find a better way of working which is tightly aligned to the line managers’ way of working.

The company encourages innovation throughout its workforce–for example, one of its senior developers had an idea that he could add voice recognition to the report writer–his prototype has now been added to Mission Control meaning users can literally talk and create their own new reports!

“We continually innovate either through understanding our customer challenges and creatively thinking about a particular challenge HR might be facing,” says Lymbery, “Everything our team does is to deliver competitive advantage by making HR more efficient and more effective. We have an exciting product roadmap that builds on the key concepts enshrined in Mission Control. Exciting times”
- Lisa White
    October 26, 2015