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Bringing start-up thinking to people analytics

By: Ralf Bovers

Factory workers with purple overlay

Prioritization and thinking like a start-up can ensure your people analytics project creates value and has impact

At the outset of any people analytics project, the to-do list could be overwhelming. Don’t know where to start? Maybe it’s time to think like a start-up. Start-up companies are lean machines that are adept at making decisions on the fly, prioritizing on a shoestring budget, and working out where they can have the most impact.

Bringing start-up thinking to people analytics can ensure the project is focused, and the right questions are being asked. Prioritization is key. This begins with focusing on the million-dollar questions that will have the most impact for an organization: What are the business problems that need to be solved? Where can people analytics add the most value?

When embarking on the people analytics journey, it would be a mistake to start with a list of requirements, or a checklist of features and tools that you need. Instead, the focus must be on the value and impact; the business needs of the organization must be prioritized.

At Crunchr, we often advise our clients to focus on two or three business challenges that need to be solved. And consult business leaders about what these challenges are! After all, people analytics cannot exist in isolation. People analytics is not solely an HR project – it ultimately exists to help the organization deliver its business objectives. For any project to be successful, it needs to have the buy-in from the business leaders and the support of at least one business sponsor.

A key part of the prioritization process is considering the intended impact of the project from the outset. Crunchr advises to start with a pain point that your organization is struggling with and then developing a minimum viable product that solves this issue. This could, for example, address questions related to diversity and inclusion such as whether the organization is meeting its goals, if there are differences across the organization, why these occur, and how they can be addressed.

The people analytics team needs to define and seek a product-market fit with their business sponsors and develop a solution that makes sense for the stakeholders concerned. It also needs to be developed with the control functions of the organization, such as legal, compliance and finance. The solution needs to be developed, and then tested, with the business sponsor’s involvement.

The concept can be tested with a minimum viable product (MVP). Rather than building from the ground up, aiming to build a complete, full-service solution, the MVP is a way of testing a fully-functional slice of the idea without committing huge resources upfront.

The idea of the MVP comes from Lean Startup movement, which was pioneered by Eric Ries. His description of the MVP is the “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

This concept is often used in agile thinking, either by software developers, start-ups or organizations that have adopted agile methodology. The MVP aims to incorporate all aspects of the design into the solution that is being tested:


It is important that the product is properly tested with the stakeholders. Is it working as expected? Does the solution deliver value?

This are just some of the ways that you can bring start-up thinking to a people analytics project, by delivering value with a limited budget. And from there you can scale up and build into a product that can have impact across the entire organization.

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