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The Burden of Big Data

“Big data” is one of those trending biz terms that makes the rounds in the ample company of intimidated corporate types who have the twitching sense that maybe they’re not getting from the stuff what they might. Which is precisely what a new global IBM study has revealed.


The study in question — the joint product of the IBM Institute for Business Value and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford — reports that, in spite of the fact that most big-ass data initiatives in which big-ass companies engage are ostensibly designed to improve the customer experience, less than half of them are including external data in the mix.

That, say the analysts, is because the bulk of these organizations really don’t know what to do with the information. For one, there’s the inherent dubiousness of social media (which makes up a big chunk of this float-y data mass) that puts them off. Where’s the credibility precedent in a status update, after all, or in a breezy restaurant review?

For another, they suffer a lack of experience in managing the material on their own. The IBM research — which polled more than 1,100 business and IT executives with a view to understanding how they’re extracting business value from big data —declared that the material is simply too unwieldy and unfamiliar for most organizations to tackle on their own.

They lack the advanced capabilities required to analyze unstructured data — data that don’t fit in traditional databases such as text, streaming data, sensor data, geospatial data, audio, images and video — they say. Indeed, only 25% of the survey’s respondents themselves feel they’ve got what it takes to evaluate the ever-accumulating vastness of such ungainly material.

And this news arrives in tandem with the finding that 63% of these same folks apparently believe that employing and analyzing these data are activities that represent a competitive advantage for them (a 70% increase in affirmative assessment of this reality over 2010).

Sounds like a case for calling in the experts.

At Keen, our data-service offerings — including data collection, warehousing, reporting and analytics — are designed to enable clients to harness intelligence and meaning from their data. The alternative, as the IBM researchers discovered, simply unearths a whole lot of promise, but a decided absence of the chops required to put it into practice.

Executive Women Can Advance on Traditional Turf

The talking heads dominating the political scene south of the border may have given a passing nod to the role the fairer sex has to play in a thriving economy during the second presidential debate, but in this country, the binders full of employable executive-level women suffer no such slight. In Canada, women are an undismissively integral part of the economic engine and, further, stand poised to capitalize on even more opportunities in days to come.






A new study by Ipsos Reid polled Canadian female executives and concluded that the best bets for their swelling ranks appear to be in the “traditional” fields.

Specifically, says the research, the healthcare and education sectors offer the most potential for advancement for this country’s executive-level women. Some 58% of the 500 female managers and executives polled say they feel that healthcare provides the best chances for growth in the next three to five years — more than anywhere else. A little more than half of respondents (52%), meanwhile, point to education as the most promising territory for feminine success.

Other professional fields that ranked high on the list were the not-for-profit sector (35%), financial services (32%), hospitality (29%), professional services (23%) and the public sector (22%).

Information technology (11%), engineering and construction (6%), oil and gas (3%), and transportation and logistics (2%) rounded out the list. The industry cited as the least promising for women on the climb (surprise, surprise)? Manufacturing, at just 1%.

Understanding the Ys

Generation Y, or that segment of the population born between 1980 and 1995 (depending on where you draw the lines), is a distinct lot. Much has been written on this unique cohort, most of it unflattering. Labelled “trophy kids” and “the overscheduled generation,” this band of fast-talking, digitally fluent, socially engaged, texting, tweeting, technologically proficient multitaskers has been accused of a multitude of sins.

They have short attention spans, they insist upon instant gratification, they’re praise junkies, they lack ambition, they’re high maintenance, they swing a big entitlement bat. Etcetera.

Either way, these whippersnappers are the ones who’ll be running your companies and funding your retirement.

Eep. Better get to understanding them.






Some useful datapoints:

Playtime isn’t negotiable. Gen Yers have been raised to believe that a dynamic balance between industry and play is a right. According to research by American research firm Universum USA, work-life balance tops the list of those characteristics graduating students seek in employers.

Life trumps work. Unlike boomers who loaded their careers with a sense of priority, today’s youngest workers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives.

Perks are standard. This generation wants time off to travel, a generous view of personal time (including the ability to go part time or absent themselves from the workforce temporarily when children are in play), the opportunity to grow within a company, the flexibility to telecommute, opportunities to volunteer and access to personal wellness tools.

Change or die, goes the adage, and its dire message is no more relevant than today, as the battle for talent escalates, and as the biggest demographic bulge heaves itself into its retirement years.

Bridging the Immigrant Employment Gap

Everybody’s heard the story about the brain-surgeon cabbie or the chemical-engineer office cleaner. These are the Canadian immigrants who arrive on our shores qualified to the gills but unable to find employment in their new country to match the skills they brought from their old.

Immigrants move to Canada because they’ve heard it’s got lots of jobs and generous benefits. It’s why we take in about 250,000 newcomers a year — more, on a per-capita basis, than any other industrial country. By 2031, StatsCan suggests, one in three workers could be foreign-born.

But these folks’ integration into a new society comes with myriad challenges. In addition to securing employment, there are language, cultural and educational hurdles to be overcome.

According to a July 2008 report, 54% of people who’ve settled in Canada since 2002 have been university-educated. But the unemployment rate for these souls, as of 2007, was quadruple that of Canadian-born residents with university degrees.


Some resources and advice to help this population find its employment feet.

• Bridging programs, like those from the province ( or Toronto’s Ryerson University ( offer mentor-matching and arrange mock interviews with real employers.

• The Canadian Immigration Integration Program ( is a federal government initiative to help newly landed workers find jobs that recognize their experience and education.

• Municipally based programs, such as those on offer from the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (, offer workshops on such esoterica as how to behave in a business meeting, and operate mentoring programs that pair skilled immigrants with established pros.

Planning to Work in Canada ( is a government-produced workbook for individuals who’ve recently arrived.

• Work in Canada ( is an online resource managed by the Montreal-based immigration law firm, Campbell Cohen. It has a slew of resources for foreign-born workers struggling with the transition.

• The Best Employers for New Canadians competition ( recognizes the country’s best employers for recent immigrants, as assessed by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

• Professional Networks for Immigrants ( is a list of networks run by internationally trained professionals in a range of professions, useful for anyone looking to develop relationships in their field.

• Alternative Jobs to Regulated Professions ( suggests non-regulated job alternatives for different regulated professions.

• Staffing and recruitment outsourcing firms are excellent first and final stops for new Canadians. Check out the bounty at