SEATTLE – Joyce Juntunen balances an open laptop on her left forearm like the appendage it has become.
It's with her throughout the day as she checks the progress of her 20-person sales team at Bizible, a tech start-up in Seattle that helps companies gauge the success of their marketing efforts. And it follows her home at night where, sitting on the couch with her husband, she can call up a series of charts and graphs to gauge the team's success and view trends.
Juntunen started her career in sales when it was a numbers game: Call as many people as possible on a brokered list, and snag as many sales as you can. Now she plays a numbers game of a different sort, one driven by data that are changing not just her workplace but the way she works.
"It's transformed the profession," she says, calling up a screen on her computer that provides an up-to-the minute visual snapshot of what and how her people are doing.
In a matter of seconds, Juntunen can tell who's killing it, and who's falling behind.
Juntunen drills down even further to see how many prospecting calls each salesperson has made, the number of appointments they've made, the number of e-mails they've sent or had generated by a computer on their behalf. She can tell which e-mails were opened and when, and which got traction.
All told, Bizible uses about 10 software programs to analyze data about itself and its clients to improve productivity and determine which marketing efforts are paying off.
It might feel like Big Brother has taken over the office. But Juntunen says there's nothing nefarious or creepy going on here. In fact, the salespeople have the same information, and can change what isn't working to be more successful.
"Data enables better measurement and more accountability," says Juntunen.
If any of this troubles Bizible's employees, they can express their displeasure to the boss on Fridays, when the company sends out a weekly survey via e-mail, or later when the monthly happiness survey lands in their inboxes.
The real-time measuring and feedback, and the ability to make a case for change with the click of a mouse, is what the job of a high-tech salesperson looks like in 2016. And it's what a lot of work is going to look like.
"Big data" is recasting jobs in everything from retail sales and medicine to education and professional sports.
"There's really big things going on," says Ellie Fields, vice president of product marketing for Tableau Software, a Seattle-based firm that is helping create a new type of work culture — and a new type of employee — by making data easier to understand and analyze.
"We call it the culture of analytics," says Fields, whose firm turns raw numbers into dashboards of tables, charts and other visuals to answer questions that can be quantified.
The vast quantities of data being uploaded to the cloud represent a small fraction of the information that eventually will be collected and accessed from anywhere. Already, the tools for analyzing that data are changing work itself, leading to the creation of what one analyst calls "the quantified employee."
Data analysis is far from new. The big change is the scale, the speed and the breadth of the information, and how it's used. Instead of hunches and gut feelings, decisions are guided increasingly by data, and productivity measured by an increasing number of metrics.