Why I Love My Job

More often than not my daily world is drawn into a couple of buckets.

1. What roadblocks need to get torn down?
2. Where are my own and my teams current priorities coming from?

Both of the above are worthy goals for any day and I am happy to spend the majority of my energy (at work anyway) fighting these fights. This answers a very important question around my work… What do I do all day. However, this leaves an even more important question unanswered. Why do I do what I do?

For the love of action!
It feels good to create a report, even better a grouping of reports (better known as a dashboard) and even more so an actual analysis. Regardless of how many of these objects get created or the size and level of the distribution list, the vast majority go unnoticed, glanced over or in some cases misrepresented to justify previous decisions. However, in those rare cases (hopefully decreasingly rare) an analysis begins to turn the ship. I use the ship analogy mostly due to the image it conjures of a large wooden pirate ship desperately working against a strong wind to correct course. It is in those times when a powerful analysis can come and help course correct.

These are the times I love! This is why I do what I do, to impact business, employees and customers (patients) in course correcting ways. As an analyst (that I am still at heart), being a part of a group driving real change through analysis is my own personal drug, having that analysis be repeatable, accurate and impacting is why I do what I do.

Hopeless Romantic
Call me a hopeless romantic, maybe I saw too many Disney movies growing up, but I truly believe things like “1 person can make a difference”! What has changed since my younger years is not what many would expect. I have not become a hardened cynic after years of fruitless struggle, I have gone the other way. Although I will never be a prince charming (prefer to be likened to Shrek…) my team’s work can play the knight in shining armor!

I can talk about the power an analysis can have on a business, how a decision goes from reactive to proactive based on leading indicators, but the reason I really love data is to see it perform miracles to better a persons life. The romantic in me will always believe that the work that me and my team strive to do is really changing our customers (and eventually their customers (or patients) lives, and it keeps us going hard!

Those that can’t… teach
Finally, I love teachers! I love learning new things and I look for those same traits in everyone around me! Why do I love teaching and learning? Who knows, just love it. “Live Learn Pass On” (to steal from Dave Tate) has become a bit of a “code to live by” of mine. It is becoming ever more important as both a manager, analyst and (most importantly) a parent to:

1. Enhance the lives of those around me
2. Enhance my own skills, knonwledge and abilities to continue the work in step 1

Which is why I love data and all the teaching (and more often for me learning) points that it has to offer.

How much can anyone truly love their job? I would say for those in my shoes with my attitude, it is 100% possible to leave the office on even really difficult days and lean on the reasons “why” I love this work and smile.

Sound interesting? I am hiring a manager! and a sr. analyst! or drop me a line at the twitter or linkedin links above.

A rose by any other… Metric

Human Capital Analytics, Human Resources Reporting, Workforce Intelligence or the ever popular People Intelligence and Analytics…
The new glimmer in many an executive eye spawning an exponential growth in new thought leaders, practitioners and linkedin groups!

people analytics is the new kid on the block, but cannot forget our predecessors.

Look to the groups of analytic past…

To be clear, this is not another commentary attempting to categorize and name what it is that these groups do touting the difference between intelligence and analytics. In this case the rose is analytics and the other names are the groups that have gone through the analytical transformation before us.

People Analytics must look to its forefathers…
In the past decade or so many groups have been the new shiny toy for executives to use as investor fodder, remember the first time you heard about the new trading algorithm that was going to beat Wall Street, or when the EDI systems at Walmart were enhancing the speed and accuracy of logistics 10x? What about more recently when the marketing world became “real-time” with online ad re-targeting or when you visit Amazon and see exactly what you are looking for in the suggestions box?

Mistakes of the Father

1. Data quality = Analytics quality
Countless BI, analysis and infrastructure initiatives have failed on poor data quality. The quality of the data is the less sexy brother of the front end flashy charts and pictures that sell these projects and as such can be forgotten in the process. Spending the majority of any of these initiatives NOT focusing on the data coming through will lead to a not-so-fun conversation post launch around the useless investment that was just made… This rule becomes even more important as most HR systems are user input driven which by its nature will be laced with issues long ignored!

2. “Advanced” is a moving target
Everyone wants “advanced” results NOW. Again, very cart before the horse but knowing that what is advanced today may not make the prioritization cut in the very near future. Building an incredibly strong foundation that can transcend the waves and trends of that next big shiny “advanced” bouncing ball far exceeds the value of constantly chasing this moving target. Informing leadership that the first order of business is not that predictive measure they have all be aching for but rather the data warehouse is much like applying the deferred gratification cookie test.

3. Beware of the snake oil
Vendors descend on new groups of analysis. Take a few factors into account. Analytics as an industry group is in a bubble that everyone wants a piece of. The new kid on that block is HR. The technology to perform these tasks is not ground breaking and is being done across a multitude of areas. This is not to say that hiring a skilled vendor to come and help build this practice is a poor decision, however hiring a toolkit out of the box which delivers immediate results is snake oil. No one gets out of foundation data work and to not include lots of data scrubbing, testing and more testing in every scenario is just wrong!

People are not roses

1. Privacy means so much more
This is not to downplay the importance of privacy in ALL aspects of data and analytics, but when Human Resources comes to mind, what data is there? Compensation? Social Security? Past transgressions and behaviors? What about all of your dependent data as well? Not just security but the confidential nature of People data is more than important, it is essential.

2. Predictions have real effects
No one likes to lose an employee, especially not a gifted one, especially not in a surprise attack. Think everything is going great until “we need to talk about my position here…” or some other similar ice breaker. Then what happens, more money gets thrown, promises for better work happens but it is usually too late. In comes this amazing idea, what if we could predict who was leaving our organizations and stop them! Sounds great right! This is a touchy subject but how and what of this is delivered to managers can be taken or reacted to in a number of ways, not all of which are going to be in the employee’s best interest. Retail may be tracking you on your cell phone when you are in a store, but getting a call or even worse being denied time off because you are “suspected of wanting to leave” could be disastrous.

Finally, although we are different we are the same. To get to a strong base, the same requirements that have plagued business intelligence and analytic projects in other industries and groups will continue to be an issue. As HR, Human Capital and / or People analytic and reporting groups, we can either learn ahead of time or from our own woes. However, we must maintain some of the longstanding confidential culture of HR professionals and be ever conservative in our approaches as we read data to understand employee hearts and minds.

Fun with HCAHPS Data and Shiny

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAPHS), besides being a mouthful is…

“HCAHPS (pronounced “H-caps”), also known as the CAHPS Hospital Survey, is a survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience” — cms.gov

This survey is meant to represent all consumers satisfaction with the quality of care they received as well as how they were treated while at one of the Hospitals in question.

Why is this important?
To me, easy, I work in healthcare and no matter what anyone says, it is the patient who is the most important part of that industry. With that in mind, I tend to focus some energy on understanding micro and macro trends associated with patient perceptions. Also, the data is fun and can have multiple implications for futures. To everyone else… If you have a choice between providers, and you always have a choice, how will you decide. I would like to think that some part of the population would put stake in these figures and sway their decisions in that direction.

What are the measures?
There are a number of measures within the survey, I focused on only a few…
1. How clean?
2. How quiet?
3. How well did your nurse communicate?
4. How well did your doctor communicate?
5. Where they on time?
6. How well was your pain managed?
7. How well was your medicine explained?
8. Did you understand your home recovery information?
9. Did you understand your post care needs?
10. What was your overall rating of the experience?
11. Would you recommend this provider?

Some overall stats…
+ 4,619 Hospitals were involved
+ They had a mean survey response rate of 21%
+ 22% (1,042) of Hospitals had fewer than 100 or no responses to the survey at all
+ There is a .8 pt difference between the mean overall rating of the first and last quartile
– 9.5 vs 8.7

Some exploratory fun…
The real reason I wanted to check this data set out was to give myself an excuse to work with shiny again… I have used it historically in a few instances but with the expansion of shinyapps.io I plan on expanding the use much more.

This is my first release with many many more ideas coming around. I hope to continue to build on this and go from there.

So many thanks to the amazing tutorials, galleries and forums on http://shiny.rstudio.com/ that saw me through my first public exposure.

Find my analysis here: https://frampton.shinyapps.io/hcahps/
and the code here: https://github.com/jonframpton/hcahps

Thank you and as always I look forward to any feedback.

Inform, don’t dictate

listening to the amazing lineup at People + Talent Analytics + Planning in San Francisco today was inspiring in more ways than I can count. There are a few over-arching themes that, although I doubt they were pre-planned to be so, were mentioned by most presenters that included the likes of IBM, Google, Chevron, Mercer and Intuit. (LinkedIn and Gap coming tomorrow)

The main theme that I picked up today was one I feel tends to get missed by many of the analytically focused articles, events and thought leaders. And an idea I have actually recently written about.

We are here to inform, not to dictate.

The reality is, that although many areas suggest that more and more decisions can and should be made by applications using whatever the latest buzzword is (big data to internet of things to artificial intelligence) that removing the human judgement from these decisions does not always make sense.

In my world of data used to influence decisions around people this rings even more true. Would I ever feel confident enough to remove the human element of decisions such as who gets promoted or demoted? Probably not. These decision are perfect opportunities to have a strong data / analytic presence that is meant to inform not dictate.

Analytic Product Teams

What is a product based team and what does it have to do with running great analytics? On the onset almost nothing. Do you need a great team to build an amazing analysis? No, individual contributors build great data models all over kaggle.com. Do you need a team to build a reporting (BI) ecosystem? No again, I have personally witnessed great feats of individual effort in this arena as well. What about when you want both? And your audience is vast? The waters are wide and deep? What about when functional area knowledge is required? Now we are talking.

A product?
Not just a project with a new fancy name, a product is a project that will never end. Some great examples come from the eCommerce world. Think mobile. Is there ever an end to the changing needs of the mobile world? Do you think those that are responsible for mobile experiences ever stop and say, “well, on to the next project, we have this mobile thing conquered!”, probably not. I have worked with two of what I would consider to be the top of the mobile game and they are in a relentless pursuit of better [everything].

What a product team is NOT.
A product team does not mean that everyone is wearing pastel colored skinny jeans and drinking $30 latte’s chatting about their favorite band that no else has heard of yet. (Sorry, probably just my first impression) Product teams are essentially diversity done right, by combining minds from all different walks of the business focused on a single goal… Delivery. A product team is also not simply a group working on a project, reporting to their respective department heads with unaligned goals. Although, in my experience this is what I have witnessed it is not something I would consider a long term approach.

The importance of goals and incentives.
Whether a team is aligned under a single department or not, they should always share goals around the ongoing success of a product. Great intentions aside we are a function of our immediate goals and if our leader’s goals are not directly aligned with our product, our focus may (and often do) waiver from that to wherever the cheese is.

The importance of proximity.
Although not as important as goals, close team proximity will lead to necessary cross training as well as an increase in effective communication across disciplines. If physical proximity is not possible, any barriers to communication between teams need to be drawn down. As each team member will be held up by all others, any instance where communication should have happened (but didn’t) can cause large unforeseen downstream effects.

Why analytics?
Analysis and reporting is the ultimate cross functional product.
We must be technical, we must be very business focused and we must be fast!

Example Dream Team:
Technical – design, maintain and optimize the infrastructure, databases, meta-data, release schedules, product / report development
Business – deep business knowledge, model design, statistics
Fast – Customer service specialists and demand management

The Analytics Product
The important message is not that product team are the end-all-be-all for successful teams. My main concern is building a team that, because of it’s diversity (in both personal and business traits), it’s commitment to the end goal of great results and it’s leaders leading by collaborative example can break down any departmental barriers and challenge any norms that may get in the way of delivering an amazing analytical product.

operational-ize your information

operationalize your data and information

it all feeds from operations

What is the point of data? What about a report? What about a dashboard?
Let me rephrase my thought here…
If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it…
If a report is built and no one uses it to inform a decision is it useful?

I would argue no.

This line of thinking has multiple implications for analytics or BI groups:
1. How we internally measure success
2. How our efforts are delivered
3. Future group organization structures

Are we worth our weight?
I find it interesting that the groups focused on delivering measures and analysis to help other areas of business track and improve performance often do not measure their own efforts effectively or at all. there are plenty of articles that propose a number of attempts at measuring a “return on analytics”, do a google search and hundreds of pages will appear. I have probably read at least half of these articles but none seem to cement the theory for me. I had to step back and think outside the realm of data and analytics to create my opinion.

we measure success by the decisions positively influenced.

You may be wondering how to track these occurrences? An elaborate form based web application directing users to explain how data changed a process or thought? What about a survey that we could run basic sentiment analytics on?

No, how about a simple spreadsheet? I know, so inefficient right? but effective, I think so. But this approach lends itself to the next two pieces of the puzzle.

Ding, pizza is here!
Traditional report delivery.
1. Please find your report attached…
2. Please click the link to view your report
3. Please check your folder to view your report

As the groups building these reports move more and more into the functional areas we should be tailoring our delivery methods to those areas. To track how our data/information is being utilized to drive value we must be in the functional meetings where the processes are being discussed, where the decisions are being made and most importantly (in many cases) where the planing is taking place. We need to be in those early stage environments to ensure that the user cannot escape the data and it becomes a hardened part of their daily process. It is much harder to miss the tree falling if it is already in your way. That is where the information needs to be delivered.

An oversimplified use case…
As a small business owner opens their invoicing software to build another invoice, the customer’s payment / order history is front and center with call-outs to late payment tendencies with small quantity invoices which in turn leads the owner to wait to invoice for a larger quantity saving him the later hassle of collecting late fees.

Does this change who we are or will be?
The standing (paraphrased) definition of a data scientist is someone who is a better at statistics than a programmer, better at programming than a statistician and with greater business acumen than both. So what am I saying, we also need to be experts of process design? And need to be great at sales and influencing end users of our value? And responsible to our leaders for our financial impact? And must run marathons, do crossfit and bodybuilding… wait, too far. but everything before that, yes.

What mighty superhuman being could do such things? None that i have met, at least not well or in any sustained way. Here in lies the value of great product teams.

In addition to all of these functions not living in a single human, they (in most of my experience) do not live in a single business function or under a single leader. this is where the idea of product teams consisting of many stakeholders with a single (incentivized) goal can fill that void.

I will save my product team rant for another day

To wrap up, our jobs as analysts, data folks, report monkeys, analytic squirrels or even the famed data scientists are changing… for the better. As long as we focus with the end results and impact held very close to our goals on every deliverable we will be successful.

They will tell you… {3/3}

Not everyone needs to be told.
At the heart of it this little article has been about gaining approval from your peers and superiors for a job well done. But, does everyone need that? No, of course not. In my experience there are more that crave that than would admit it, but in some cases people will simply toil away happily and never need the encouragement or justification associated with a pat on the back.

Some people will never tell.
There are those that will simply never tell, they are either too busy, too invested in themselves or too oblivious to see the efforts being made around them. (I would throw in malicious but this has never been the case in my experience)

Some tell too much.
I promise no rant about everyone getting a participation medal, but hearing how good you are for even the most menial task can be debilitating. If your previous supervisor was constantly singing your praises for what your new boss considers just showing up, you will be hard pressed to find any satisfaction doing what you have always done.

Finally there is everyone else who tells when they feel the initiative is being taken and proactive value is being produced! Be in that group, take calculated chances, put yourself out there and build an incredibly proactive practice of going beyond the next step.

Good luck all!

They will tell you…{2/3}

Where the issue starts. aka taking initiative

I am a firm believer that consistent encouragement can help drive great results in people, however my interpretation of what and when to encourage has changed over the past few years. Somewhere the idea of taking the initiative was altered to be restricted as if it has been worn down overtime and is a shadow of it’s former self. I have always thought of it as “doing something before you were asked”. Simple right? At the face of it yes, but what really gets done prior to being asked in a fast paced, need everything yesterday environment, not a whole lot. So to me there are two flavors of initiative taking.

1. Taking the next step:
Simply adding a bit more insight to an analysis or trying to answer what the customers’ next question will be. This seems like it should be commonplace but I see it rarely accomplished. I would consider this, although rare, to be a part of one’s daily existence and not ground breaking work. This is where I think most people think initiative ends.

2. Taking the first step:
This is the something. This is laying it on the line, dangerous and fun! This something can be simple;
“hey I think it would be awesome to see X compared with Y broken down by Z across T” or more complex like quantifying geographic share of wallet or the importance and influence of grass roots marketing campaigns or even building an app / feature / product to do all of those. No matter the size of the effort, it is the uniqueness that counts! I would even say it is not always the uniqueness of the idea (others have probably thought of it), but maybe the process you go about it that counts. (I did it for x vs a third party that would cost $$$)

There is another part of this process in terms of gaining acknowledgment for your deeds. This quality is represented in every facet of successful life but is rarely talked about. It is mentioned in undertones by Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly when explaining the 10k hour rule. It shows up when we admire the athletes competing at any professional level, writers that continue to produce amazing prose as well as the successful entrepreneur that seems to continually defeat the odds.

I am talking about consistency. Good old fashioned, roll up your sleeves, grind through the difficulties consistency that is lacking in many of us today.

How does this relate to taking the initiative? Showing some initiative once will get you noticed but in my reality that attention fades quickly. It is your ability to consistently (there’s that word again) show up and perform that will create value, not only for your organization but for yourself as well.

Last part coming soon…

They will tell you… {1/3}

“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.”

Walter Payton

How to get told?

Have you ever really worked for something?  I mean put your heart and soul into every part of the process from initial inkling to final design and execution.  It is an exhausting, exhilarating, emotional journey that can (and has) dropped many to their knees.  The something is almost irrelevant.  My somethings have ranged from in-depth analysis and models, web apps, visualizations, my fitness / health, my family and so on.  In each of these cases I have (an continue) to put my everything into them.  So… (coming back to the point here) you can imagine that when I “finish” one of my somethings I would love some sort of recognition of the work, time, genius that went into the something, everyone would.  Sometimes simple “pat on the back” or “good game” is enough to suffice, other times it takes a bit more, but in any case it is a welcomed acknowledgment of usefulness.

more coming soon…

Starting is easy…(re-post from first site)

starting is easy it’s the staying that’s hard.

I cannot even begin to describe the excitement I feel at the dawning of 2014. New challenges, new opportunities in family, work, fitness and faith. I have hopes to conquer them all! But I know this is the easy part, the real work starts in February as the newness wears off and the work required to meet our goals sets in.

3:45AM – January 2nd 2014:

In my garage, staring at the dirty floor covered in leaves that blew in over the past week, having yet another internal battle about getting down and getting to work or crawling into the ever so tempting warm covers of my bed and crashing until it’s time to head to the office. This was at least the 4th mental battle I faced today and so far I had been winning, but this was the last step. I know if I can just get on the floor I will finish my warm up, the subsequent workout will have the prescribed intensity and that morning shower will feel just right, my drive in will be less exhausting, my day at the office much more productive and my food choices will be that much better. I stood shivering for another 30 seconds and got to it. Today I won. Tomorrow is yet to be fought. I wish I could write this as someone who has always accomplished my goals, finished my lists and saw every project to completion. But that would be a lie. I am a (by my own admission) a starting junkie. I have great ideas and tons of initial passion but at some point a change occurs. An external force summons me in another direction. In some cases this is a blessing (the opportunity to move closer to family) in others a disappointment (fell of the diet again…) but in almost all cases these changes are my reaction to an external party. (Sorry Stephen Covey, the book was great, but had not sunk in) So why write about this now? What new external force is driving me to put myself out there, to be more active and truthful in my approach… hopefully just me.

I am NOT going to write about the new fitness craze (although I will speak at length of my love for the physical)

I am NOT going to write about how Big Data (*cringe*) is changing my existence (but I will talk about my experiences in analytics)

I am NOT going to talk about how to fix your personal lives (but I will bring up my family often!)

I will NOT talk about my spirituality and church community (but I swear I will always work to be a better Christian and ask as many questions as people will answer and that will happen here.)

So with that I say HAPPY NEW YEAR and 2014 is looking great! I am excited to keep this outlet going and look forward to the freezing garage floor, the long drive to the office, the politics I cannot change, the frustrating up and down of work and life balance but most of all I look forward to creating my own path and only allowing the external forces that I choose to affect my life.