Microsoft Workplace Analytics Lifts the Veil on Employee Productivity

Based on Microsoft's acquisition of VoloMetrix in 2015, Workplace Analytics provides managers with insights into how their employees really get work done.

employee productivity

Workplace Analytics, Microsoft's new workforce productivity analytics tool, is now generally available, the software giant announced today. The tool is available to customers with an Office 365 enterprise plan as an add-on.

"Workplace Analytics taps into Office 365 email and calendar metadata, including to/from data, subject lines and timestamps, to shine a light on how the organization collaborates and spends time," wrote Ryan Fuller, general manager of Workplace Analytics at Microsoft, in a July 5 blog post. "It turns this digital exhaust—the data that comes naturally from our everyday work—into a set of behavioral metrics that can be used to understand what's going on in an organization."

The offering builds on Microsoft's acquisition of VoloMetrix in 2015. The fellow Seattle-area software provider's big data processing platform monitors employee use of business and productivity applications. After applying behavioral analytics, VoloMetrix's technology provides managers and executives with visibility into the daily activities and collaboration patterns of their workforces, giving them a clearer picture of their corporate culture, along with areas that could use some improvement.

Now as an officially supported part of the Office 365 ecosystem, Workplace Analytics offers customers a more integrated user experience and management toolset.

For instance, security-conscious firms can use the offering's built-in privacy and compliance features to point the tool in the right direction without catching the ire of compliance officers or regulators. The metadata used by the product is anonymized and aggregated, Fuller assured, helping organizations avoid potential privacy violations.

More than a dashboard that shows users how much time their teams spend in meetings or how many hours were devoted to collaborative work, Microsoft hopes that Workplace Analytics will serve as a decision-making tool for managers.

An early customer used Workplace Analytics for office space planning, reported Fuller. Using the insights gleaned from its calendar item tracking and analysis functionality, the firm slashed each employee's travel time to meetings by nearly half (46 percent) following a relocation that was informed, at least in part, by Workplace Analytics' findings.

Workplace Analytics is also having an impact in Microsoft's own human resources (HR) organization.

"Our HR Business Insights group is using Workplace Analytics across a variety of initiatives—from understanding the behaviors driving increased employee engagement, to identifying the qualities of top-performing managers who are leading Microsoft's cultural transformation from within," said Kathleen Hogan, chief people officer at Microsoft, in a statement. "We believe people analytics is a competitive necessity for any HR team."

With Workplace Analytics, Microsoft joins SAP and other software providers in helping enterprises turn their advanced big data analytics tools inward, improving business outcomes and helping to create better working environments.

Last year, SAP added new capabilities to its SuccessFactors HCM (Human Capital Management) Suite that address workplace bias and gender diversity. Using text mining and machine learning powered by the SAP HANA platform, the software can analyze an organization's hiring and management processes to identify and track workplace bias and inequality. 

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...