CeBIT Conferences 2017  

2
Feb

Data knowledge management: An Aussie start-up changing the landscape as we know it

Data knowledge management: How this Aussie start-up is changing the landscape as we know it

About 19.8% of business time is wasted by employees searching for information to do their job effectively. That’s almost one entire day, per working week, spent looking for things. To add to this, a LinkedIn study found millennials job hop at least four times before they’re 32. Add the searching for information and the job hopping together and what do you get? A lot of wasted time and lost data - for organisations big and small.

Data and knowledge networking, or the understanding of how systems work, the data being collected by those systems and the relationships between systems, people and data, is imperative to keep your business functioning. When an employee moves on, data relating to their role can easily be lost. That’s what Victorian start-up Eleos set out to fix. Working closely with the Victorian Government, Eleos created a data management system that helps catalog multiple data sets from the one system, so that businesses don’t lose a thing. The project resulted in the creator’s own start-up. We caught up with them in the lead up to CeBIT 2017 to discuss their answer to the problem and to learn more about their challenges and successes of their bootstrapped start-up.

The complicated landscape of enterprise data management

Employee turnover costs organisations tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per employee. Not only does it cost the company or organisation time and money to rehire and retrain, there’s time wasted searching for the information needed to get the job done. And what happens if the employee suddenly leaves? Typically, managers don’t know where they store things, and frequently there is no documentation of how the employee does their job.  Just like that, the knowledge is gone.

Employee turnover is not the only culprit of lost data. Many organisations have multiple work sites where there is no visibility over what data sets are being captured at each respective location. According to Eleos Founding Director, Chris Kirk, most technical directors would advocate to bring all data collection together into one system. However, when Chris was brought onto a project with the state government to do just that, he stood back and assessed the situation. “We did an audit and found that while the data was across different systems, it was well structured, it was stored well and accessible to employees in those locations, but people outside that location didn’t know it existed, and those inside the location didn’t know how to communicate it,” he said. “It was clear people in Geelong didn’t know the team in Parkville had this dataset already and if they did, they didn’t know how to get to it.”

The solution

Chris then worked with his team to design and code an architecture for knowledge management known as EMMA (an Enhanced Metadata Management Application). EMMA connects systems, people and data from across an organisation’s systems. It gives access to all of the organisation’s collective knowledge and data, and it does so in an innovative way. Three lines of Javascript are added in each location where data is stored. This could be on a website, in a CMS or even in a project management tool. From there, the call to the APIs in EMMA syncs the data when each new piece of information is added to that system or location. For example, it could be a new blog being added to the CMS. EMMA can see that and catalogs this. As a result, the organisation has a 360 degree view of all of the data across the business, and it is all easily searchable.  

EMMA works with existing systems and models, which means an organisation doesn’t need to bring already-working systems into one hub. It breaks down organisational silos by allowing organisations to discover, formalise and show the relationships between people, projects and knowledge/data across a range of different systems. It's the key point of difference between EMMA and a federated document/content management system. Imagine discovering a long lost friend because they're friends with a mutual friend on Facebook and then apply that to related documents, projects etc. A great example can be found in this case study with Agriculture Victoria.

The Eleos team

The challenge for an enterprise knowledge start-up

Eleos is no stranger to industry recognition. The team won the Bigtincan Enterprise Mobility Leadership Award at TECH23 2015, which ignited the team’s approach to the US market this year. Last year they won the Public Records Office of Victoria 'Sir Rupert Hamer Award for Excellence in Innovation in Records Management' and Eleos was listed in Anthill’s Smart 100. But as with all start-ups there have been challenges along the way. The business-to-business start-up space presents some substantial challenges.

Communication with companies and organisations

“You can’t go in and tell people they’re doing it all wrong,” says Chris. With a background in engineering in the navy and 20 years in the corporate world behind him, you can understand why he might want to do that. But he knows that when working with governments and enterprise-level business, it is not a successful strategy. “What people have to realise is, there doesn’t need to be changes to your systems, there needs to be changes to your processes. And that’s what can be hard to convey.” Convincing the CIO to see things in a different way is especially hard. “You really have to convey your value proposition very clearly, which is particularly hard when you have a brand new technology solution.”

Securing the right kind of investment

“Thus far we’re self-funded and with most things like this that’s sweat equity,” he says. “That’s lots of time and effort and money we've put into it. We have a product that will make many business’ and organisation’s lives and jobs easier. But as with everyone, we need investment to expand into other places,” says Chris.

“There’s plenty of investment out there but what we’ve found hard is getting small amounts of investment. We’re not after millions, we want a few hundred thousand - micro investment really, and so far in our experience, has been harder to secure.”

Access to investors or opportunities can be challenging. It’s only been a small challenge for Chris and his fellow directors - they’re constantly at industry events, tradeshows and networking through their connections. Their current access to opportunities has eventuated through constantly pursuing these avenues. However, finding the financial level of investment they need has been hard.

The start-up mindset you need to succeed

Focus

Many diverse industries have expressed interest in EMMA’s capabilities. From mining companies to pharmaceuticals, the team has lots of options. However, Chris says that this year, the start-up’s main aim is to stay focused. He and the fellow directors believe it’s critical to the success of the business. “It’s easy to get excited and want to take things in a different direction. We’re constantly meeting interesting and intelligent individuals who give us new ideas. But it’s important to stay focused on our main offering before adding or changing anything,” he says. With new technologies that can be applied to so many different kinds of solutions, Chris says it is important to gain product-market fit, and to stay singular and focused about commercialising in one place before diversifying.

Network and enter awards

Networking might be painful for some, but it’s imperative to success, says Chris. He met fellow directors Phillip Guthrie and Rendle Williams through previous projects but it’s through their combined network that new doors have opened. He says that awards and industry recognition are important to big enterprise and have a big impact on whether or not they will take meetings with you and listen. The lesson here? Go to industry events. Network. Meet people. Stay in touch. Work those contacts. Enter awards!

Teamwork

All three of Eleos’ directors have a specialist expertise. Chris is the technical architect. Rendle is the IT practitioner who specialises in systems. Phillip is the marketing, communications and public relations specialist. It’s the dream when you’re an IT start-up. The team also has more than 50 years of experience and contacts between them. “We really embrace the fact that we all have different background, experiences and networks that can deliver for us,” says Chris. “That’s the key and also what makes us nimble at solving some of these difficult problems.”

Final thoughts

Strong data knowledge management isn’t an easy feat for any organisation. And being a business-to-business start-up in this space is also challenging. But, with rapid increases in information creation and exchange, comes an exponential amount of knowledge being lost by organisations, and a need for simple, innovative solutions to solve this problem.  

To learn more about start-ups and the innovative ideas Australian founders are bringing to the worldwide marketplace join us at CeBIT 2017. Get your free passes to the exhibition and supporting features to be part of the start-up scene!

View the CeBIT Australia 2017 Conferences Program