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Interview

How to manage data for an effective cloud strategy

Aaron Alburey explains the issues that the FTSE250 are experiencing when it comes to their cloud strategy.

Daniel Richardson

HR data management
Credit: @orathaim164 via Twenty20

Unleash Your Curiosity Cloud strategy has become increasingly important during the pandemic, but many are not optimizing the data that is available to them.

  • Aaron Alburey, Managing Director of LACE Partners and fellow of CIPD gives insight into HR data.
  • What is the current situation when it comes to cloud strategy within the FTSE 250?
  • Are there solutions that can enable CHROs to make positive changes?

As an HR consultant, Aaron Alburey has a wealth of experience when it comes to working with the FTSE250.

Interestingly, this led to his shocking estimate that ‘50% of FTSE250 CHROs/HRDs/clients, see data/analytics as an afterthought when developing a cloud strategy.’

While this isn’t an official figure that had been substantiated with a study, UNLEASH was keen to discuss the solutions to this recurring issue.

Firstly, Alburey, who is the managing director of LACE Partners, an HR transformation, change, and tech advisory consultancy supporting FTSE250 businesses, shares insight into the problems large enterprises are experiencing.

Alburey explains: “We see about 35 to 40 clients a year, so quite a substantial number of clients come past our door, and it’s fair to say almost every one of them has a challenge still around people and analytics and data.”

Alburey notes that although “almost every one of the HR directors understands they need to get analytics right, they know they have to do something. But there is a focus on getting the basics of HR right – the processes, the systems core, the operational reporting – [and] that overtakes the actual requirement that the business has for data, and I think that’s where the big challenge is.

“When we see organizations looking at HR analytics [and] looking at insight there, they are focused a lot of the time in potentially the wrong area that is focused on how to measure what they are doing as a transaction in HR, rather than the outcome for the business from a people perspective.”

HR Data optimized
Managing Director at  LACE Partners, Aaron Alburey

Perfecting your Cloud Data Strategy

In terms of tackling this widely accepted problem, Alburey says that there are “a few things to get right.’

Firstly, Alburey outlines the importance of “getting that business partner population comfortable talking about people data, talking about its influence proactively on a strategy.

“So involving, in the business discussion, that actually you can’t open that many branches because we can’t hire that many people, right. There’s a capability element for business partners, which is a softer skill, but something that needs to be developed.”

Conversely, “the other extreme there is, within an HR function, is the need for discipline on data.”

Alburey notes that “you’re only as good as the data you’ve got” before adding the importance of data ownership.

He states “the best organizations understand that and they embed in the HR function, a real ownership of data, data quality. And quite often, we see that as being one of the major missing elements.”

When ownership is a missing element people do not “feel accountable for data” and ignore issues.

Culture And Technology

Discussing individual accountability, Alburey talks about the importance of culture and technology. Alburey acknowledges that technology helps with processes and can make workloads easier for staff to handle.

“There are certainly some products and tools out there that can help from various different levels.” He adds that data extraction tools and visualization software that enables staff are vital.

However, he continues that combining software with working culture is hugely significant when it came to addressing issues within a cloud strategy.

“I think a lot of organizations will have found through COVID-19, just how gappy that data is, as they went through. But no, it’s cultural mindset shift around data ownership that will unlock it.”

Changing How Data Is Handled

In terms of solutions, Alburey explains how he approaches the issues companies face within their cloud strategy. A part of the solution “is understanding what structures and governance are in place around data and reporting in that organization.”

Alburey states: “ Understanding the roles that you’re going to have around analytics and reporting, understanding [that] it requires capacity to do well.”

Alburey adds “Getting those in place, that’s certainly one of the things we look at, we look at governance, data ownership is another big thing.

“So data, the data architecture, if you like, the data specifications, and the ownership are quite key governance; you still got to get those basics right. And when we go into an organization that is struggling to meet the requirements, from the business, that that is one of the first things we start with,” notes Alburey.

The other element that is vital is understanding “the demand that is coming in” and breaking that demand down.

He explains that when he works with a company they typically use a two by two grid and have “strategic, and transactional on one arm, and on the other HR and business.

 “You can take most demand out there for reporting and grouping in those four and then help make some calls on where you spend your time.

“And most strategic business requires a level of sophistication around data or a level of sophistication around at least coordination between different groups finance, customer sales, and HR to be successful.”

Despite this, “you can still do quite a lot on the strategic people side strategic HR side,” according to Alburey.

“But I think what we find is when we take people through that activity, and then you reflect on what they’re actually doing, they’re typically doing bottom left-hand corner, because it’s the easy bit, which is transactional, HR.”

Alburey concludes that changing this transactional approach, which he labeled “reactive,” is essential. The best way to do this is to have employees become responsible for tools and take ownership of data.

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