HRBoss Blog

The Fundamentals: Big Data & HR

Big Data is revolutionizing business without many people knowing what it actually means. So…what exactly is Big Data?

Gartner introduced the 3V model in a seminal 2001 MetaGroup research publication, ‘3D data management: Controlling data volume, variety and velocity’. The 3V model is still widely regarded as the definitive explanation of Big Data.

1. Volume

Big Data entails large & rapidly increasing amounts of information. Previously, employees were solely responsible for creating data but now data is generated by machines, networks and countless human interactions on systems such as social media and blogs.

So, how ‘Big’ is ‘Big Data’?

  •  Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes—the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress.
  • Facebook is home to 40 billion photos and counting
  • According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, in October 2012, the number of tweets per day had reached 500 million up from 400 million in June 2012. These are the last official recorded statistics available and we know already that stats in 2013 broke these records.

2. Velocity

The flow of data is now streaming in realtime continuously. Our data now flows in and out of sources such as business processes, machines, networks and human interaction with other platforms such as social media sites, mobile devices, etc.

So, how fast is Big Data?

In the past, decoding the human genome took ten years the first time it was done, but now analysing all 3 billion base pairs can be completed in just a week.

3. Variety

Big Data stems from a variety of data types and sources. Previously, data was found in sources such as databases and spreadsheets.

So, how varied is Big Data?

Today, data types and sources include photos, emails, videos, PDFs, audio, monitoring devices …and include structured and unstructured data.

It is important to note that Gartner’s definition of Big Data states that it requires ‘new forms of processing’ to reap the benefits of analytics and improved decision making. It is not just about the  data- it’s about how you interpret the data and apply these insights to your business.

Together, the 3 Vs – Volume, Velocity & Variety describe a set of data and a set of analysis conditions that define the concept of Big Data. Click here to view ‘What Is Big Data? Infographic’.

Since the introduction of Gartner’s 3 V model in 2001, the definition of Big Data has never remained static. The concept of Big Data has constantly been evolving to better represent the changing characteristics of data. One more additional 'V' that has been more recently discussed by IT, business and data scientists is the concept of ‘Veracity’ as introduced by IBM. Veracity is believed to be the most critical aspect of Big Data.

4. Veracity

Due to the Volume and Velocity of Big Data, biases, noise and abnormality in data is not uncommon. Veracity, therefore, simply refers to the accuracy of data.
So, why is Veracity most important?
Essentially, what businesses want from Big Data is its untapped insights to make fact-based, data-driven decisions. In order to get value out of Big Data, it needs to be reliable and supported by accuracy. Good business decisions is thus ultimately dependent on having quality data. If data lacks the “veracity”, strategies implemented may not benefit the organisation.

Data Analytics today means not just being able to connect previously disjointed data sets, but performing in-depth analysis with accurate data. Hence, for traditional analytic tools, “Veracity” brings to the field a unique challenge. Big Data now leverages sophisticated algorithms that can handle inaccuracies inherent in data. 


Big Data means that you can now have answers to ALL your workforce related questions – including those which were previously too expensive to pursue or impossible to answer. Why? Because until recent advances in hardware and Cloud-based technology, the amount of data was too enormous, too fast & too varied to handle, let alone leverage for historic or predictive analysis. Improvements in technology have made it quicker, simpler and more affordable to manage and interpret Big Data. It is no surprise that Big Data is now accessible and available for every sector, including HR.

So how exactly can Big Data help HR?

Click here to access the rest of the eBook.