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Big-Data is changing how every company department does business and human resources is no exception. I’ve written about the top ten technology trends impacting HR in 2014, and recently had the chance to talk with mick.collins, many HR departments are still using manual spreadsheets and dated software. What’s more, early adopters are more likely to be struggling with disconnected systems that don’t provide decision-makers with valuable insights they need to make talent management decisions so companies can make the right planning, hiring, training, and performance program decisions.

For HR departments that are typically overwhelmed by mountains of historical and disconnected data, Collins suggests beginning with the right questions. “Take a step back from the data, and ask two to three questions that are most relevant to the company’s business, operational, and functional strategies and risks. Then you can prioritize what data is needed to address those questions whether it’s about recruiting, retention, learning, succession, compensation, diversity, or employee relations.”

According to Collins, short and long-term workforce planning is crucial. “The company has to be strategic, looking two, three, five, ten years out into the future to determine what kind of workforce it needs.”

During economic booms, often people are seen as the greatest asset of a company, viewed as revenue generators. But when times get tough, people can be seen as a cost to be better managed or even reduced. With a little foresight and the right software, HR can help companies smooth out the peaks and valleys while building a more prosperous future.