Humans of HR: Cisco Business Intelligence Leader Michael Krupa Creates Stories With Data

Business Intelligence Leader Michael Krupa

Michael Krupa uses business intelligence to inform Cisco's employment decisions.

Michael Krupa's job title is a mouthful. He is the Senior Director of Digitization and Business Intelligence for Cisco's Office of Inclusion and Collaboration and People Planning. Ironically, despite the long title, Krupa's job is all about distillation. He and his team analyze all sorts of data to best inform Cisco leadership about the diversity of their workforce, as well as trends in employee movement, workforce planning, performance and succession planning.

It's a lot of data. Cisco employs more than 70,000 people and believes that just about every employee can push the organization forward. That means Krupa's duties aim to ensure Cisco leaders have the information they need to create a diverse workforce and be on top of who's working where.

"We have to provide information that is absolutely accurate," Krupa said recently in a telephone interview from his San Jose, California office. "It's important to provide information you can absolutely stand behind."

Preparing the Data

Krupa's workdays typically start early in the morning and end late at night, either in the office or from his home in San Francisco. He oversees a team of 15 people and communicates with many of them by using the same workforce collaboration technology that Cisco sells, such as Webex Meetings and Webex Teams.

Crunching and preparing data calls for a wide range of skills, and it's Krupa's responsibility to keep his team on the same page. "You need people who can create models and pull information, but sometimes, they aren't the best at visualizing it," he said. "So I spend a lot of time making sure we have the right skill sets pulling the data, modeling the data and making the data visual. In the end, we have to tell a story about the data."

Those stories describe, in broad and tight perspectives, the real-time status of Cisco's employees and teams. People planning focuses on hiring, attrition and other standard metrics that illustrate the particulars of the workforce and allow management to fine-tune departments and their respective teams. Krupa's team presents the data on dashboards that now include analytics on diversity and creates custom headcount models for workforce planning consulting engagements.

To help Cisco's leaders see how the organization's efforts on inclusion and collaboration are faring, Krupa and his colleagues use homegrown technology to review every possible benchmark about diversity. They drill down to a level of specificity about Cisco employees and the job market that he says is not found in most organizations.

"Most companies are not transparent in the data they provide," he said. "You'll see, for example, that in the aggregate, 'X' company has 'X' percent by gender and ethnicity. But that doesn't tell you how that is broken down by region, facility, position — something that we do."

"We knew that to benchmark ourselves against the market, we would have to build our own model. We ingest information from many sources so our business leaders can learn what is the talent in the market for any job family, for any location, for any experience level."

The Story Behind the Data

If Krupa had to provide a story about how he got to Cisco, it would go something like this: Born in Denver and raised in Lakewood, Colorado, he went west to earn a bachelor's degree in commerce, with an emphasis on information systems, from Santa Clara University. He landed in Silicon Valley, and had a series of software and hardware development jobs. His first taste of HR technology came when he implemented an HR system at Tandem Computers, a business that was later purchased by HP. He's been involved with the technological side of HR since then, including a 10-year stint as a consultant.

Cisco approached Krupa in October 2016. "They needed someone to help them on this journey. It sounded really interesting," he said. "They understand that a diverse leadership team and a diverse workforce make for a better company, a better product."

When Krupa isn't staying on top of data, he's trying to keep up with Pinot, a 4-year-old greyhound he rescued from a racetrack, the fourth such adoption he's made. Pinot continues to exhibit the energy that led her to win 14 out of 97 races. "She's a fast dog and super sweet," he said. "I was attracted to the rescue component. They are horribly mistreated. But they have great personalities, and they make for wonderful pets."

Show and Tell

Besides showing what is happening, Krupa's data has to also explain the why. Analytics mean little if an analyst can't define what's behind a statistical finding. "It might be perfectly explainable. It might be normal, but you have to show why it is what it is."

Effective business intelligence busts myths and puts leaders in a stronger position to make decisions, he added. "People create a story in their heads, and without data, that story can grow and spread," he said. "Compelling data can show the story isn't true. Now, that could be good news; the thing you thought was a problem isn't one. Or it could mean the thing that was viewed to be great is not so great. But that truth is needed."