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April 06 2012

Four short links: 6 April 2012

  1. FBI Uses Agile (Information Week) -- The FBI awarded the original contract for the case management system to Lockheed Martin in 2006, but an impatient Fulgham, who was hired in 2008 to get the project on track, decided to bring it in house in September 2010. Since then, the agency has been using agile development to push the frequently delayed project across the finish line. The FBI's agile team creates a software build every two weeks, and the pre-launch system is now running Build 33. The agency is working on Build 36, comprised mainly of features that weren't part of the original RFP. Fulgham says the software is essentially done.
  2. Lucky Meat (Matt Webb) -- the man is a mad genius. If you believe "mad" and "genius" are opposite ends of a single dimension, then I will let you choose where to place this post on that continuum. Then when you choose your tea (or coffee), the liquid is shot as if through the barrel of a gun BANG directly at your face. We use facial recognition computer chips or something for this. It blasts, and splashes, as hard and fierce as possible. And then the tea (or coffee) is runs down the inside slope of the "V" and is channeled in and falls eventually into a cup at the bottom apex where it finally drips in. Then you have your drink. (But you don't need it, because you're already awake.)
  3. Quietly Awesome -- how are your hiring processes biased towards extroverts? See also I don't hire unlucky people.
  4. How We Will Read (Clive Thompson) -- Clive is my hero. I feel like we see all these articles that say, “This is what the e-book is,” and my response is always, “We have no idea what the e-book is like!” All these design things have yet to be solved and even thought about, and we have history of being really really good at figuring this out. If you think about the origins of the codex — first we started reading on scrolls. Scrolls just pile up, though. You can’t really organize them. Codexes made it easier to line them up on a shelf. But it also meant there were pages. It didn’t occur to them for some time to have page numbers, because the whole idea was that you only read a small number of books and you were going to read them over and over and over again. Once there were so many books that you were going to read a book once and maybe never again, it actually became important to consult the book and be able to find something inside it. So page numbers and indices became important. We look at books and we’re like, “They’re so well designed,” but it took centuries for them to become well-designed. So you look at e-books, and yeah, they’re alright, but they’re clearly horrible compared to what they’re going to be. I find it amazing that I can get this much pleasure out of them already. AMEN!

October 12 2011

Data in the HR department

Human resources departments are already familiar with data and analytics. These departments track who's hired, who's promoted, who departs and so on. But as organizations become more data driven, new opportunities emerge for HR to put data to use.

In a recent interview, Kathryn Dekas, people analytics manager at Google, discussed the relationship between data and HR. Highlights from the interview (below) included:

  • HR data clearly benefits a company, but Dekas said it can also help employees. "If you know the company [you work for] is using data to make important decisions, it provides an additional layer of trust," she said. "Things are being done based on objective measures over someone's intuition." Moreover, if employees have access to their own HR data, they can then use this information to take ownership of their positions. [Discussed at the 00:42 mark.]
  • Dashboards are often a useful tool, but Dekas said a form of data blindness can creep in after repeated exposure to the same metrics. "What you really need is to disrupt the more typical feedback mechanisms with insights based on questions that are relevant at that moment," Dekas said. "It's easy to become comfortable in sending out metrics regularly, but what you want to do is think about what's timely and relevant." [Discussed at 2:02.]
  • Is there a connection between HR data and the sensor-driven Quantified Self movement? While Dekas said that placing sensors on employees has a "creepiness factor" and isn't likely to happen anytime soon, she did say there are broader ways to view and define workplace sensors, including employee surveys and other feedback mechanisms. She also drew an important distinction between the default state of personal tracking — where you share only if you want to — and the HR environment, where some amount of employee data is shared within an organization. [Discussed at 3:25.]

The full interview is available in the following video:


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