By Kevin Parent
I’ve devoted my career to telling stories with technology. Part of that decades-long work has focused on improving the ways in which humans interact with machines. Along the way, two things have become clear.
First, the things that computers and humans are good at are complementary, not duplicative. While machines are steadily improving in their ability to carry out complex automated processes, there are classes of decisions that will always need to be made by humans.
These range from unforeseen crises that require real-time responses, and for which algorithms simply can’t be pre-scripted (think of a military commander whose unit comes under attack), to broad strategic undertakings that require an organic approach to choosing data and developing insights (think of an executive team considering a possible international expansion).
Only human judgment ultimately transforms complicated algorithms and data into a proposed course of action that is easy to understand, explain and share.
Second, as organizations gain access to exponentially increasing amounts of internal and external data, they need to take a radically different approach in order to allow leaders to use the data to make better decisions.
Attempts to integrate disparate systems have invariably been resource-intensive, prone to failure and non-scalable to new applications. Relying on analysts to retrieve data introduces lag time between question and response. Analytics programs and dashboards provide information that’s valuable, but can be narrow in scope.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead using technology to generate ever-more overwhelming amounts of data, new technologies can help people use data in a way that is much more like telling a story than running a regression.
In order to realize the true promise of the ever-increasing explosion in data, I believe that enterprises and government agencies need to find ways to make all of that data available, intuitive and actionable for their decision makers.
Here’s a real-world example that illustrates the possibilities: when a utility faces multiple power outages in a large metropolitan area, instead of waiting for customers to call in, what if the grid supervisor on duty could use a single screen to see which transformers have been affected and which repair teams are currently in the field?
What if she could also access maintenance records, and can pull in real-time traffic and weather reports as well as photos of the exact locations involved for better situational awareness? How about adding the ability to bring specialists in and share schematics with tablet computers in the field?
But there’s more. What about visual representations of service histories? What if training certifications could be obtained to ensure the most qualified personnel are on the scene, and social media feeds to acquire real-time information from the affected areas?
With the ability to seamlessly navigate all of these different sources of data, the grid supervisor would be able to respond to the situation more rapidly and more effectively than if she had been forced to rely on multiple people in separate locations working with silo-ed systems. And that is exactly what is possible right now.
We’ve found that this is indeed the type of solution that forward-thinking organizations are searching for.
Enterprises and agencies using our systems find that by giving leaders and their teams full, intuitive access to the information that new technologies are generating and gathering, they unleash their potential to make more effective decisions, to achieve their objectives more effectively and to realize vastly greater value from their technology investments.
Kevin Parent is founder and CEO of Conduce Inc. Conduce’s technology unifies all data from internal systems and external sources in a single, intuitive visual interface – without requiring any integration. It allows your people not just to find information, but discover its significance – and act on it instantly. Prior to founding Conduce, Kevin co-founded Oblong Industries, managing teams of hardware and software engineers to meet client business objectives.
Prior to starting Oblong, Kevin spent ten years in the theme park industry. At Walt Disney Imagineering he led many projects and was Project Engineer for the Ride and Show Control of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction. He holds a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in physics. His undergraduate thesis work was conducted in MIT’s Media Lab. He holds six patents.
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since its original posting to reflect the company’s name change from Mission Control Technologies.)