Alan RaffertyCEO and CTO
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is important, direct communication more so, study after study by HBR, McKinsey, Bain and Co. Wharton, LBS and others reiterate this time and again. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Set clear goals, track progress. If it’s not measured it’s not managed. These are phrases that are so well known they’re almost cliché. Yet most people and organisations of all sizes still struggle.
1. finding information is hard
2. finding data is hard
3. getting people to vouch for it is hard
4. gathering it all together is hard
5. translating large amounts of data into small, manageable amounts is hard
6. structuring and formatting it all so it makes sense is hard
Getting reassurance for what you’re about to put your name to is harder yet again. Communication is tough. There’s no doubt about it. That’s why people struggle with it and shouldn’t feel bad for doing so.
Communicating from the helicopter
However, for businesses, reports and the information in them are vital. They are the verifiable medium of exchange of data and explanations of actions, plus they’re signed off and reliable. Reports are sent in many forms but, their goal is the same; to clearly communicate what is planned, what happened, and why. Reports are signed off by a person with authority, they’re rich with human explanation of why something is the way it is. They are repositories of professional judgement and insight.
As you progress from the coal face towards the board, you move further away from the source of the information and rely more and more on reports to get your helicopter view. The thing is that in a large organisation the layers between the customer, the coal face and the Board can be 10s deep. How does the person at the coal face know that the work that they do counts? How does the Non-Executive board member and Executive know that the information they have is sound? How do they, or indeed how do you, ensure accurate information is shared efficiently and is available when it’s needed?
Modern businesses from SME to international powerhouses use software to run their business. These software packages offer “reporting” aka communication as a feature. What we have learned after 1000’s of interviews with people and companies is that “reports” in this case normally means a dashboard or an excel export. The problem with this approach, aka “death by PowerPoint”, is that it doesn’t focus on what is needed, it focuses on what the tools do and their challenges. The workflow to create the report the user wants is often:
1. Complex (problematic) (merging multiple reports, in different formats, from multiple systems),
2. Time consuming (gathering the info from multiple people and editing it),
3. Inconsistent (with limited controls beyond peer to peer in terms of version control) and,
4. Difficult to trace or realistically impossible to identify the source of information.
This is because “reporting” as a feature really translates into “you can dump the data”. You get stuck and you lose sight of what you wanted to communicate. To use an analogy, you get so busy wrestling alligators, you forget you were there to drain the swamp!
At kMap we look at things very, very, differently.
Good decisions are based on Knowledge not data
Recent advances in AI have lowered the cost of prediction by automating much of the work around forecasting. Prediction is about using data that you have, to generate the data you need. Lowering the cost matters, it’s an input cost to a host of activities from transport to finance, but it’s not the only thing. Validated data and forecasts inspire Trust, and with kMap you can also lower the cost of validation. Prediction, especially when validated, helps speed up and improve decision making.
But still this isn’t the key to decision making, judgement is. Something only people with knowledge and experience can readily provide. Judgement is how people work out the benefits and costs of different decisions in different situations. Judgement complements prediction, so when the cost of prediction falls, demand for judgement rises. We all want to benefit from more human judgement. We all need the judgement and insight of the knowledgeable and experienced people in our teams. How do you connect directly with the people you rely on to reap the reward of AI? How do you directly benefit from their knowledge and experience, to hear and discuss their judgement when it matters? How do you scale and reuse it?
Over the coming months, we will share with you our story, our customers’ successes and why we don’t start by asking “show us your data”…. We ask the most important question of all…. ”What do you need?”.