I’m going to get on my soapbox a little bit this month and take a slight tangent from the “Big data & AI” topic. I’m going to focus on a critical area that I believe can and, in many areas, needs to be addressed and it’s not necessarily about the volume of data or the application of machine learning, but it can leverage many of their underlying technologies to deliver real value.
Through my work with SetSquared over the last couple of years I was lucky enough to support the founders of a start-up called Transparently – https://www.transparently.legal/. Their platform seeks to promote integrity and remove conflict in legal matters. It seeks to provide a single point of truth to maximise the opportunity for issues to be addressed fairly and transparently.
Only in my recent personal legal engagement (a house move, not Transparently’s target market, but one that could seriously do with some assistance) did I realise just how dire communication can be between multiple parties, all with differing legal representation, third parties like estate agents in the mix and the vagaries of how and when they all communicate – email, phone, text, fax (?!) and post.
Oh, how I wish the sale and purchase of homes was managed by a service like Transparently having just emerged from weeks of wrangling to get exchanged.
The problem isn’t one of the volume of data, rather the ability to all work from the current situation, to see all the facts and communicate accurately.
On multiple occasions in the painful approach to exchange of contracts I was told one thing by the vendor, another by their estate agent and then contradictory information from their solicitors. A gargantuan game of “pass the whisper” seemed to circulate, with voicemails being left to share out of date information often hours after the facts on the ground had changed.
If you ran a business like this – complete disarray in the understanding of the facts on the ground, conflicting and often contradictory information circulating – you’d be doomed to failure, or at the very least hideously inefficient.
So how is it that one of the most important financial transactions in a consumer’s life is so convoluted, disjointed and frustratingly opaque?
I suspect a healthy dose of “don’t rock the boat”, “the status quo makes money, who’s going to break that?” underlies the lethargy to modernise, but I do wonder if this “dark ages” area of modern life is ripe for modernising. It’s a multi-party, federated task that needs sharing of information, indelible agreement and confirmation of facts on the ground as you agree fine details and orchestrate multiple parties. These are all problems that have been solved, but somehow not in this area of life.
It doesn’t need to displace the current players in the market, but there’s opportunity for them to increase their value, to transform their operations to deliver a better service for consumers and potentially make themselves more efficient and productive in the process.
Physics describes four fundamental forces of the universe – weak and strong interaction (nuclear forces), electromagnetism & gravity. I’d argue that change could be added as one of the fundamental constants of our world and my instinct is that the change will come here.
As most macro technology and business trends show us – from cloud computing to streaming video on demand to challenger banks – those that embrace change, help lead the charge with it and define the new normal will be the winners. Those still resisting change, still keen to send a fax and wait days for a response, because it’s “just enough to say you’ve done something” rather than be proactive and engage to get the outcome the customer is looking for will surely be have numbered days remaining.