Data is pervasive across almost every organization. An yet, many small and mid-size companies still have not adopted a formal data strategy for business intelligence (BI) purposes.
Companies that don’t have a formal BI strategy still make daily business decisions based on the information they have access to. Perhaps they just don’t formally acknowledge that they make data-driven decisions. Or perhaps they don’t have a formal process for reviewing and analyzing data. Even “gut instinct” is a form of data processing and pattern matching, when you think about it.
First, what is Business Intelligence?
Gartner defines business intelligence (BI) as an umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance. Quite a mouthful. Perhaps a better description is that BI provides actionable insights for your company based on available data. A rudimentary example of BI would be a weekly sales report. A more sophisticated example would be a customer propensity model that predicts the type of customer you should target based on past sales success.
But we don’t have enough data…
A lack of data is a common misconception preventing many organizations from formally adopting a BI strategy. The rationale behind this argument is that data must come in the form of IOT sensors or databases. Baloney! Think about every piece of information that your employees use to help make decisions: accounting systems, ERPs, POS, spreadsheets, even handwritten receipts. Each one of these items is a data source. And we’re not even taking into consideration data available from outside sources, such as weather, commodity futures prices, etc.
You likely already have a diverse range of data sources in use to support decision making. But if you’re not formally tracking the thought process or analysis, you most certainly are not optimizing the decisions that get made with this data.
OK, we’ll create a dashboard.
Building formal reporting tools is a great start. There are many self-serve visualization tools available that can help companies build easy-to-understand dashboards.
The issue for many companies is when they stop at basic dashboarding. Or worse yet, they limit themselves to ad hoc analysis. Business intelligence should drive a continuous process of self-improvement for an organization, which means making a formal effort to regularly review insights coming from trustworthy data sources. Non-data scientists often make rookie errors when analyzing data by:
Stopping an investigation as soon as the data confirms their initial hypothesis
Allowing confirmation bias to cloud their judgement
Broadly sharing initial results too early
In fact, one risk with self-serve visualization tools is that they look great! A well formatted report with an incorrect conclusion can be dangerous when shared with a broad audience that mistakes good formatting for thoroughness of analysis.
But the data is difficult to access.
If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well… sort of. Yes, it might take effort to get access to all your data. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that your organization will have data trapped in many difficult-to-access places, including legacy systems, old spreadsheets, etc.
The thing is, BI becomes interesting when you start extracting novel insights that you weren’t expecting to find. And this only happens when you can connect different systems that normally don’t communicate with one another.
Don’t worry too much if you can’t connect everything at one. Start with what you have and build a plan to incorporate as many different data sources as possible over time.
I’m convinced – what next?
Well, the first step is to take a quick assessment of what sort of analytics is already being done at your company. Chances are, there are small groups already formally performing BI and analytics.
However, if your in-house team isn’t sufficient you’ll want to consider working with a respected BI firm. Ideally, such a partner should be able to:
Work with you to build out a BI strategy
Build simple dashboards that incorporate disparate data sources
Ensure that stakeholders and technical experts can communicate and work with each other
Recommend data infrastructure upgrades for today and the future.
The good news is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of firms out there that can help. Just do a quick search for “business intelligence consultants” or “BI consultants” and you’ll find a long list of professionals in your area.
Before engaging, make sure that you’ve identified some specific goals. Don’t dashboard for the sake of dashboarding. Ideally, you have a specific business problem in mind with an expectation of some data to review.
BI isn’t rocket science – you just need to take the first step.
While one-size-fits-all messaging is easier to write and distribute, it's not the most effective open enrollment campaign strategy. Strategic list targeting leads to more focused communications and higher employee engagement. If your objective is to help employees enroll in the best benefits programs for them, then you need to understand your target audiences and tailor your messages accordingly.
Employee groups at different stages of their lives and careers require different benefits. Likewise, each employee brings their own level of understanding of your programs. Your open enrollment messaging for new hires and young employees should be quite different from your messaging for long-term, senior employees.
By bundling all benefits information together, you require employees to figure out where they fit and what is appropriate for them. This often leads to feelings of confusion or of being overwhelmed or annoyed by irrelevant information.
When you distribute a tailored message to each group, your communications will better address the unique needs of your diverse employees and, more importantly, prove that your company understands and cares about those needs. By segmenting your audience, you build trust and optimize your open enrollment communication process.
4 ways to segment your audience
You will likely segment your internal audience based on two things: what you know about your employees and the benefits paths that fit best. Common audience segmentation criteria include sociodemographic factors (e.g., age, marital status), tenure, location and current benefits selections. To properly segment your audience and avoid assumptions and generalizations, you will need access to employee data. Here are four ways to segment based on that data:
Sociodemographics such as age and stage of life are often the most influential factors in selecting a benefits plan. For instance, a young employee who is thinking about starting a family has different concerns – and therefore requires different benefits – from someone who is recently divorced or someone planning to pay for their kids' college tuition. Segment these audiences into separate lists and prepare messaging tailored to their anticipated needs. When employees clearly see how a benefits package aligns with their life, engagement will improve.
Your open enrollment communications strategy should vary based on each employee's tenure with the company. New employees will likely need a basic introduction to your benefits program and enrollment process, plus a broad overview of your benefits options. On the other hand, an employee who has been with the company for 20 years has been there, done that. Rather than bore or annoy your senior employees with routine information they already know, develop a streamlined program that only addresses any changes since last year. Both audiences will be far more receptive and likely to complete the process earlier.
Open enrollment communications will look different for in-office employees, satellite office employees, remote employees in the field, manufacturing floor workers and employees who work from home. Employees who frequently work outside of the office have less access to managers and HR resources for in-person help. Particularly for the remote office and work-from-home segments, you may want to use more video. In a recent video communications case study involving 173,466 employees, 78 percent of employees who received a video email "postcard" related to benefits viewed the video at least once.
4. Current benefits
By categorizing people by what they have enrolled in and what they are not enrolled in, you can address segments who may have made poor selections or are not taking full advantage of what your company offers. People may not be aware of certain options they have within the programs they currently participate in. By identifying these groups and providing educational messages targeted specifically to their situations, you can achieve higher levels of benefits satisfaction and employee engagement.
Better follow-up for higher enrollment
Depending on the tools your company has in place, you may be able to measure employee behavior with your open enrollment campaign overall and for each audience segment. A typical open enrollment campaign consists of an announcement message with a dense array of information and numerous reminders right up to the deadline. Using communications interaction data, your campaign can be more responsive and effective.
You might resend information to those who ignored it the first time. You may send FAQ materials to those who have visited the benefits pages but have yet to make a decision. You might send deadline reminders only to those who have not completed enrollment. This type of follow-up campaign, while more challenging to construct, is more thoughtful and keeps employees more productive.
Once you understand how you want to segment your audience, get your hands on the data, which will generally come from your HR systems. You will want to export lists into spreadsheets, manipulate and organize them into your final lists, and import those into mailing lists. You might need some HR or IT help to create custom rules and logic. Even if you can't get as detailed as you want to this year, establish your processes, goals and data access requests to get an early start for next year.
Employee satisfaction and engagement ratings are often related to the employee benefits experience. It's important to help each employee understand their benefit options and make informed choices without experiencing decision fatigue or information overload. An effective way to accomplish this is to use data to segment your audience, design more targeted campaigns and ultimately create more effective communication programs for open enrollment.
We're in the thick of online holiday shopping season, but if you're not an e-commerce business, you might not see why that's relevant to your company in terms of internet security.
The fact is, regardless of what your company sells, holiday shopping season provides an ideal opportunity for hackers to scam their way into your employees' (and company's) bank accounts and sensitive data. In the midst of the holiday hustle and celebration, it's crucial to stay vigilant to fraudulent activities that your employees may be susceptible to.
Here are some of the top holiday shopping scams to be on the alert for this season.
1. The CEO gift card scam
Your staff members are likely used to getting requests to make purchases. Sometimes, you might be in a meeting and ask your assistant to book you a flight or purchase gifts for clients. Scam artists take advantage of this type of relationship by hacking or spoofing CEOs' and senior managers' emails, asking employees to make large purchases – for instance, one Vancouver government agency worker was the victim of a scam in which she was asked to purchase $500 in iTunes gift cards on behalf of her boss. She soon discovered that her boss had never made the request and someone had hacked the boss's email.
How to avoid it: This type of scam may come in different forms, but it is often focused on getting a more junior employee to purchase something of value, supposedly on a senior manager's request, and often on short order.
To ensure your staff doesn't fall victim to this scam, remind them to always:
Verbally confirm the request, either in person or via a phone call.
Avoid responding to any email they are suspicious of, as the account may have been compromised.
Ask themselves if they are expecting this type of message; in other words, is it outside the norm of what their boss or manager would ask? Encourage employees to question the authenticity of these types of emails.
2. The fake delivery attempt
A common email phishing scam that's especially easy to fall for around the holidays is the "Where's my package?" scam. In this type of phishing attack, a hacker sends an individual a link to track a package. When the user goes to the page, it can download malicious software, including ransomware. If one of your employees falls for this attack while using a work computer, it could infect your entire network with ransomware or other computer viruses.
How to avoid it: Let your employees know about this type of scam in your next company meeting, so they're aware that it could target them.
Ask your employees to follow these guidelines for interacting with a shipping-related email, whether or not they are expecting a package:
Don't click on any links in such emails. Instead, navigate to the shipping company's official website and manually copy and paste the tracking number from the email into the shipping company's track package search feature.
Call the carrier (e.g., FedEx or UPS) directly to verify if an email is authentic and to report any fraudulent activities.
3. The deep discount scam
Starting around Black Friday, scam artists often take advantage of shoppers' desire to score a great deal on their holiday shopping. For instance, they might create a website offering something like 50 percent off regular pricing for a short time. Or they might place a malicious shopping app in the App store that will push malware to your phone or tablet.
A RiskIQ analysis found that more than 5.5 percent of apps that included terms like "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday" were malicious apps that featured credit card skimmers, malware or ransomware, so the risk is very real to your employees and to your business if the malware makes it to your company devices.
How to avoid it: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make employees aware of the scam and ask them to:
Avoid downloading any shopping apps to their company smartphones.
When receiving an email from a company about a holiday deal, navigate to the company's website directly rather than clicking on an email link.
Inspect email domains carefully: If something is coming from apple.co rather than apple.com, for instance, it's probably not legit.
Other red flags for common scams
Scam artists are creative, and they come up with new tricks all the time. The most important way to keep your company and data secure is to train your team on the basics of cybersecurity awareness. For instance, phishing emails tend to have some or all of these elements in common:
A tone of urgency or panic
Spelling or grammar mistakes
Suspicious, spoofed, or misspelled email addresses or websites
It's also important to ask your employees to use caution when an email asks them to complete any action, such as:
Fill in a form
Click on a link to a website
Open a file or attachment
Make a financial transaction, such as pay an invoice or make a purchase
Reply with confidential information
When completing any of these actions, ask employees to verify anything verbally with a co-worker or manager if they've received a request, link or invitation from any co-workers or business contacts that doesn't seem typical or ordinary.
It's easy to get caught up in excitement around the holiday season, but by taking the time to review common scams and cybersecurity best practices with your team, you can stave off scams and keep the season merry and bright for your company.