How do experts actually want to work – or create the most value for their organisations?
They want the deepest possible understanding of what is happening around them.
They might want to be put in touch with people at a similar expert level to discuss something.
They might have a complex decision to make (which they might want to make going for a short walk, not with ‘decision support software’).
What they definitely don’t want is software which gives them a list of tasks to do, without explaining why they need doing, how they fit into the overall organisation’s processes, what the software does with them, and how it ends up.
In short people like to drive themselves (and their software), not have the software drive them. A sense of serendipity is quite essential.
There are many people talking about data analytics and decision making software. There are many companies in this field. It is hard to tell the difference between the companies most of the time, but still it is clearly an interesting area. I think it would be hard for anyone else to add value there, beyond taking analytics to a new level, perhaps within a specific domain.
There are also many people talking about improving organisations – this is not a new debate. There are news stories recently published about how horrible it is to work at Amazon, and whether that is ultimately good for business. There are people talking about how to develop character and how this doesn’t happen very easily in big organisations (unless you count narcissism or self centred ness as character). In the oil and gas sector, people are starting to talk about how to bring back trust.
What we offer which is new, we think, is the idea of bringing both of these together. Can more expert centric software help experts both to make the best use of analytics software, and make organisations better to work in? Are we solving two problems at once? Or just merging together two ideas which don’t fit?
Many people are getting excited about the potential of analytics and big data, writing about how, one day, we might be able to find any answer we want – about health, public transport, future sales, finding oil and gas – by gathering tons of data and analysing it.
The ideas are worth getting excited about, even though they haven’t happened yet (although I have read the story a couple of times about the teenager’s father who got upset after his daughter received promotional materials from a supermarket about a pregnancy. The father didn’t know she was pregnant, the supermarket had guessed she might be pregnant after seeing patterns in her purchases which pregnant teenagers usually make).
But another thing worth considering is the risk of people losing track of fact when they are buried in a sea of analytics.
In any job there are key facts that someone in charge of any organisational function needs to know. (For example, what their boss wants them to do, some key change which is happening that they need to respond to, or be aware of).
How can analytics software make it clear what is fact and what is analytics?
Or should be limit the role of analytics software very specifically as analytics – ie here’s a place you can go to, to get analysed data – which is a very different place for where you get your facts?
Some people in the world are happy to be led everywhere, given instructions and told to follow them. They don’t mind using software which gives them a list of instructions to follow as well, with the user having little understanding of why they need to do something or what the software is going to do with the information.
There are also many people in the world who don’t think that way – who like to explore things in their own time and their own direction, who want to ask for information rather than have it forced onto them, and like to use the full power of their brains to understand a scenario based on the information available.
You’re probably familiar with the basics of this discussion – school has been designed to get people to follow the rules because that’s what the industrial revolution needed 200 years ago, and it still suits many companies today having employees who do what they are told, and Google developed a much more freewheeling working environment and look where it got them.
But still – we think – enterprise software has some catching up to do. Most enterprise software still takes users through a list of steps, or gives them tasks for follow, as part of their ”workflow”.
This was fine 10 years ago when people wanted software to automate these tasks, and make sure the company’s processes for sending out purchase orders and so on were followed.
But now we’re at a bit of a cross roads with software. Software can do much more powerful stuff with business intelligence and analytics – and it creates the potential to make software tools much more geared to the way free thinking people like to work.
How can software work better for free thinkers?
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Triometric, a company based in Surrey, Uk, offers specialist analytical tools for the travel industry, including airlines and online booking agencies.
For airlines, it can help understand how customers are using online websites.
For hotels, it has business intelligence tools which can help you understand the performance of your ‘inventory’ (ie rooms), suppliers and distributors.
It also provides tools for accomodation wholesalers.
Travel booking systems are getting very complicated, with systems making multiple requests to different databases at once (for example if you want to book a flight, and you use an online website which sends the request onto 20 different airlines).
It is quite easy to lose business in this scenario from computer systems which are sending back wrongly formatted data, but you need sophisticated analytics to figure it out.
Companies are developing sophisticated systems to “understand the customer” but they can also backfire, for example if the same customer often books business class flights for work (with one spending pattern) and economy flights for family trips (with a different spending pattern).
The customer might be looking for the most cost effective option for the family trip, but the software might think it is better to try to sell her lots of expensive upgrades, thinking she is a high end business traveller.
Are you the sort of person who likes to understand why you are being asked to do something before being shown how to do it?
Are you the sort of person who prefers to think through how to do something rather than being given a list of instructions?
There are many people like this, but most companies (and the software which runs them) isn’t built for these sorts of people.
Process management consultants have turned our offices into production lines, which need people to do specific tasks. You get trained how to do the tasks, but you don’t know how they fit together into the big picture.
What we are trying to do here is establish a movement – and by extension, new software tools – for people who like to understand the situations they work in, why tasks need to be done, what information they need to do them.
Such people can lead their companies to be extraordinarily productive, and beat their competitors, and provide their investors with more than one or two percent returns.
We’re not sure how to do it yet but perhaps you can help us.