Dark data poised to change the future of work

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Despite a years-long data mining frenzy, there's still data that's invisible to the all-seeing analytics eye. It's called dark data, and the term refers to any data that exists but has yet to surface. But never fear, data pros are digging that up and bringing it into analytics' sights now. One thing dark data is likely to change is the future of work. Yes, employers can soon see everything you are – and aren't – doing at work. And I mean everything.

Dark data generally exists in bits and pieces of information spread about pretty much everywhere within the organization and heretofore thought to contain little or no value. Data like cancelled meetings that appear on the schedule as having actually happened, for example.

You know the story. Someone reserves a meeting room and everyone plans to get together there once, or maybe weekly or monthly. Trouble is, schedules get crazy and sometimes those planned meetings just don't work out. Emails are sent around so everyone knows not to show. But somehow the meeting room reservation didn't get cancelled and neither did the notation on the higher-ups' planners. Voila! The phantom meeting is born and the productivity management software is spewing skewed results.

Dark data exists that shows the meeting was cancelled or postponed and what everyone who was supposed to attend was actually doing. So, if you can analyze that dark data, you'll get a better read on actual productivity. You'll also get insights into how much meeting room space lies unused in the process. This is important to know because usually there are other groups who could have used that space rather than travelling offsite to meet where their travel time bites into their productivity.

Further, if the meeting did happen – on or offsite, you need a read on whether those meetings are actually productive or simply time drains. Dark data exists on that as well, often in the form of notes, emails, minutes and reports. Sometimes the data is in video or mixed forms, as in Skype meetings and such.

EventBoard, a cloud-based meeting display and analytics company, says it believes that this is the year of dark data, and that "IT and facilities will increasingly use it to capitalize on information beyond simple sequences of events" such as computing worker productivity more accurately like in the meetings scenario above.

The company says that "by the end of 2016, we foresee that more than 35% of U.S. companies will have the ability to give insight on how much meeting time is productive."

That's a lot of peering into the minute details of worker's workdays. And more peering is likely to occur as employers seek to ratchet up productivity to unprecedented levels.

Not all employees will find this a bad thing however as it is a common complaint that most meetings are indeed a waste of time. Now there will be data to prove it and give many workers a Get Out of Meeting Free Card.

But beyond the bonus of fewer but more productive meetings, employees should be prepared for job roles and responsibilities to shift as dark data reveals ways to improve productivity and dictates which duties are better performed by automation.

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