Big data is big news across a number of industries, who are increasingly using it to implement cost and time reductions, improve business decision making, and to develop new products and services to better serve the needs of clients.

One area where big data is coming to the fore is in the field of people analytics: a method of using data to improve people-related outcomes in a business or educational environment.

These outcomes may be related to the individual, the team or the business as a whole, ensuring that the right people are hired and processes are up to speed. By combining extensive datasets with psychological elements, people analytics is proving to be a successful way of providing insight into human behaviour.

Bristol and Bath companies are very much leading the way in people analytics, and here we focus on three businesses making waves for educational and recruitment purposes.


Bath-based Cognisess have developed Cognisess Pro as a means of improving the recruitment and talent management processes. The cloud-based system allows firms to analyse both existing and potential employees across a range of metrics in four different areas – Cognitive, Emotion, Personality and Wellbeing – which enables each business to better understand its most important asset: its people.

You can see Cognisess Pro in action here:

The Cognisess platform offers a fun and interactive approach to testing, keeping participants engaged while collecting a wealth of data that allows both recruiters and employers to measure current performance across these four areas, as well tracking any changes over time.

 “There is no doubt that people analytics is disrupting traditional ways of working. Data, science and technology are combining to challenge the status quo”

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Chris Butt: Revolutionising recruitment

Chris Butt, Founder and CEO of Cognisess, says: “There is no doubt that people analytics is disrupting traditional ways of working. Data, science and technology are combining to challenge the status quo and I expect sectors like education and the workplace to fundamentally change the way they use these tools over the next decade. For progressive institutions, good use of data analytics is both liberating and democratic – countering traditional biases and inertia.

“Take recruitment as an example. The days of high street recruiters simply sifting CVs, charging 20% and not providing a better way of assessing and filtering a candidate are numbered. Employers are looking for more sophistication, scale and efficiency and people analytics platforms allow companies to manage this in-house.

“Schools and colleges are also turning to platforms like Cognisess to provide insight for both teacher and student. The greater use of technology in the classroom means that we can now collect mood, sleep and performance data using game-based assessments on a regular basis. The resulting data shines a light on how students learn, potential issues where teachers can intervene early on, and also highlights students that have great potential but the current system is not able to identify.”


Operating in a similar space are Bristol-based ‘smart educational assessment’ firm Obrussa, whose online, data-driven platform aims to help learners (currently focusing on those studying the UK maths curriculum in schools) to identify gaps in their learning and to address these gaps.

Students are able to take these tests online free of charge, receiving post-test guidance that will help them to improve on areas of weaker performance. For parents, the Obrussa platform is a useful tool to monitor and guide learning, while teachers are able to log in to a personalised dashboard to view the performance of both individual students and the class as a whole, allowing them to tailor future lessons and one-on-one coaching sessions accordingly.

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Bill Hutchison: Making sense of education

However, Obrussa’s offering is not just a simple maths test: it’s a platform that has big data at its core. The system works with huge datasets – every test collects hundreds of different data points – and the state of the art technology at play not only calibrates an individual’s results against the entire universe of test takers, but also adds plenty of personalisation too.

Obrussa tests begin by establishing a test taker’s current level of knowledge and ability, and uncover whether refresher courses are needed. Short tests and drills can hone skills, while practice tests can identify knowledge gaps.

“Our research rivals anything coming out of Silicon Valley”


Finally, the personalisation element of the Obrussa system chooses the type and difficulty of questions that are most appropriate for each user before providing intelligent and personalised feedback that can lead to smarter learning.

Bill Hutchison, Founder of Obrussa, comments: “We’re using people analytics in educational assessment. This allows us to understand learners better, identify gaps and weaknesses and recommend learning resources. Through analytics, learners are empowered and teachers teach more effectively. I’d say our research rivals anything coming out of Silicon Valley.”


Also in Bristol, PeopleGraph define themselves as: ‘A Search Engine, For People’. Founded by Tom Savage and Razvan Dinu, PeopleGraph is essentially a people aggregator – a ‘Google for people’, as Tom puts it.

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Tom Savage: A profile for success

The platform indexes and aggregates the data found on a variety of websites to provide simple, comprehensive profiles, and it’s used by customers in recruitment, sales, events and marketing.

PeopleGraph enables companies to access information using the PeopleGraph API or via their nifty Chrome Extension which helps users find people when searching social networks or Google.

“30% of all online searches are for people”


When asked who he expects to be using PeopleGraph, Tom replied: “30% of all online searches are for people, so eventually everyone.” The young company certainly has big ambitions.

Leading the field

Data is a powerful commodity in any industry, providing huge benefits to individuals and businesses alike. The three companies noted above are certainly proving that the South West has its finger on the pulse when it comes to using data as a people technology tool.

Thanks to Chris, Bill and Tom for taking to talk to us. You can follow @cognisess and @peoplegraphs on Twitter to keep up with their updates.