By Greg Lush
There are those things in your work life that you just never forget. Consider yourself fortunate if you have a few to reflect on over the years. One for me is the first time I tried to explain what was in my head to a data scientist. Let's break down that sentence a bit, first "what was in my head;” not an easy process, regardless of the topic. My married readers have firsthand experience in translating their thoughts or ideas to another human being. "Talking to a data scientist" is in of itself not too much of a challenge, instead I think about it more like speaking with any person in a field of specific expertise. Depending upon the way the question or statement is formed, your message may or may not be communicated effectively. So, you are in a tough spot. How can you take those brilliant ideas which will revolutionize your business, nay, your entire industry, and transport them to the world of artificial intelligence? Not a single week goes by that you do not run across an advertisement, colleague, or manager asking you "why aren't we using AI?” Of course, that is a very vague question, yet one that remains top of mind. Wouldn't it be great if I could just figure out a way to translate my ideas into a workable output?
You might be picking up on the fact that I like to tell stories. I have found that telling a story helps add dimension when required and makes it interesting. A few years ago, I was searching for a tool to help with my story translation needs and ran across a wonderful book. Design A Better Business by Patrick van der Pijl, Justin Lokitz, and Lisa Kay Solomon is a fantastic approach to helping businesses with their challenges written in a creative format; you must check it out. Included with the book is access to a very handy website packed with templates. Trust me, the templates are fantastic. Find the "storytelling" template and read the tips on its use – it is very helpful. The example that I am going to provide will be in context of an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) design that we were translating to a handful of data scientists and internal supporters. Our project, which was narrowly scoped, had a total of eight "stories." I started with the business need template to collaborate with the organization and nail down what we were trying to accomplish. Once we came to consensus, I created an outline of which stories would be relevant and support one another. It is critical that you can thread a string through all of the stories. For me, it was tough to get started, even with the tools provided by Design A Better Business. Hopefully this example, based on the IIoT project, will get you kick started:
Story: Unmanned and Unitary (highest level story)
- Subject: Clients with unmanned buildings, a significant density of unitary systems and a desire to transition to condition-based service and maintenance
- Goal: Maximize client comfort and asset life by consuming and correlating all factors which holistically affect the building as a constantly changing environment.
- Audience: Our portfolio clients (with >1 building) and their customers and our internal and external workforces
- Before: Unmanned and unitary system-based buildings often go together. While larger properties have property managers and central plants; a significant majority of unmanned buildings (94% of all buildings per a survey conducted in 2014) are less sophisticated and in many cases may only have localized elementary control
- Set the Scene: The simple fact is the barrier to entry to work on unitary systems is quite low. In the small to medium business space it is not unusual to see inexperienced, untrained, and one-to-two-man companies. Without substantial forms of differentiation, we will continue to face margin challenges in a sliding and commoditized labor market
- What's the Point: To go head-to-head with our competitors, simply turning wrenches is an exercise in futility. Instead our best approach would be to leverage our size and ability to invest in science-based approaches to field service
- Conclusion: Our ability to invent, test, and tune designs across our broad customer base is unmatched in our service areas. Admittedly our concepts could be perceived as "cutting edge" and a bit risky. However, our efforts today will position us favorably for years to come with respect to margins and available labor
- After: A digital convergence of data spanning site logistics, PM contract configuration, site automation, financial performance, asset probability of failure, client relationships, influencers affecting the building has a solution, and worker skills. These variables leveraged through artificial intelligence algorithms designed to enhance customer value and increase productivity. Our investments in IOT and science-based approaches will change our industry
Years ago, a CFO I worked with told me, "Greg, the odds of me scrolling down to read content, is very low.” He continued, "Anyone can get their point across in 100 words, yet only the skilled communicators can explain themselves in 10 words.” The folks at Design A Better Business must have also worked with our CFO; you will see that all of their story telling templates are deliberately designed with small fields for your words. It takes me days to write these stories, I take a first pass often packed with too many words. I take a break, come back and whittle down the words. Although not evidenced by this book, I typically shave off double-digit percentages of words. This is not easy; however, you will find that less is more for you, your colleagues, and AI partners.