In the beginning…. Filing Cabinet 1.0
Since commerce emerged at scale, people have had filing cabinets to help them manage their affairs. Typically, they would be used to store key documents such as birth certificates, wedding certificates, passports, driving licences; and then over time – bank accounts and statements, investments, mortgages, insurances, loans, big purchases/ assets (e.g. houses, cars), warranties, medical records and no doubt a lot more.
Our logic in maintaining these filing systems is that their contents underpinned ‘jobs to be done’. That is to say that the contents of the filing system will be required at some point to complete a process, and therefore that one would know where to find the necessary information when required. In other words, people do not wish or need to be thinking about their documents or admin all the time; but do want to know where to find things as and when they do need it.
We might refer to this age-old methodology as ‘Filing Cabinet 1.0’. Here’s mine. It works okay; documents and files tend to come in standard sizes, colours and formats; no-one tells me how I need to set it up or use it. My family can find it/ share it as needs be. The flip-side; there is no built in intelligence, decision-support, automation or reporting – despite being chock full of data.
With the Web came Filing Cabinet 2.0
My Filing Cabinet 1.0 used to be bigger, i.e. three drawers in the cabinet rather than one. The World Wide Web drove that change; many of my suppliers moved their business (and thus my documentation) online. Initially they maintained both paper based and online versions; but these days the vast majority are online only. That shift, let’s call it Filing Cabinet 2.0, has been largely great for the supply side – cost reduction, outsource work to the customer, the remit to communicate endlessly at very low cost, and lot’s more data to analyse. But let’s face it, once the initial novelty wore off; this change has not been great for those of us on the demand/ customer side. There are numerous reasons for that:
- Each document/ page/ data attribute lives in a silo, run by the supplier of the asset, product or service. They set the rules and define the user experience, which leads to:
- Lots of check boxes
- Unreadable and deliberately unfathomable privacy policies
- Endless cross-selling, up-selling and retention tactics via communications that are difficult to switch off
- Structural barriers preventing the individual making most effective use of the data therein (e.g. run their own algorithms)
- Volume – one of the net effects of The Internet and smartphones is that we all have many more product/ service/ subscription relationships to manage – often hundreds, all in their own silos.
- The management of accounts, user-names, memberships, subscriptions and passwords has become an industry in its own right
- Cookies…, the time consuming, surveillance ones rather than the helpful or tasty ones
But individuals’ data is still controlled by organisation
Many organisations have ‘optimised customer experience on their site/ service’ over the years; the problem therein is that this ignores that many things that people need to do require interaction with more than one supply relationship. This optimisation needs to be re-visited with the holistic customer needs driving the experience rather than those of the supply side.
Over the years, some have pinned faith on the concept of data portability as a means to drag data from the silos and into intermediaries and data services acting on behalf of the customer. Indeed the much vaunted General Data protection regulation (GDPR) mandated that customers should be given access to key relationship in data machine readable formats. If complied with this should be enough to kick-start the demand side data services that would really benefit the customer; but so far very few suppliers make data available, and regulatory enforcement has been non-existent.
Filing Cabinet 3.0 moving control back to individuals
So, how do we move on from here? I would contend we need Filing Cabinet 3.0…
Like Web 3.0, Filing Cabinet 3.0 is digitally native, decentralised and heavily sprinkled with cryptography. In functional terms it enables customers to:
- Gather data on their many and varied assets, products and services, and the supply relationships around them
- Categorise and enhance that data
- Run analyses, reports and automated processes on that data
- Plug-in additional services/ apps to extend the functionality into a whole array of specific data management and use scenarios (for example decision support tools, comparision tools or life event management tools)
The key difference between variants 2.0 and 3.0 is that the latter returns control and oversight of their data and documentation to the customer. Even in the very conceivable scenario in which an individual or household outsources their filing cabinet management to a service provider, then 100% control and agency for the individual is a must have feature.
How might that look in practice then?
Recognising the complexity of a data-driven life
It may be a good start point to imagine an individual sitting at the centre of their virtual data graph or cloud of data points representing their many and varied assets, products and services. This is illustrated in the visual below. They can be categorised or tagged any way, or indeed multiple ways. Relationships between the things and their providers, or to other things, can be added. It is easy to imagine that when one buys (or sells) something, the product/ service is exchanged; then its digital twin is also pushed into the relevant filing cabinet. In that mode, when customer and supply are collaborating around a single view of an asset, product or service then the view controlled by the customer/ demand side becomes much richer than any other source. We move towards a much tighter relationship between demand and supply than we have at present.
Filing Cabinet 3.0 give individuals so much more than previous generations
There is then the critical difference between Filing Cabinet 1.0 and Filing Cabinet 3.0. In both variants, the individual is in control; that is to say they have full agency over the cabinet, everything within it, and what it does. But Filing Cabinet 3.0 is digital, and natively so. It runs on ultra-modern technical and data management architectures and is built to cope with a wide range of access methods, uses and ways of interacting with external systems.
In practical terms for the individual whose files and related data are being managed this means a whole lot more automation and intelligence than in the old manual v 1.0. Both points are key and benefit from the same underlying point – the individual is in sole control and therefore has much more trust than in Filing Cabinet 2.0 scenarios. More trust, with ultimate oversight allows the individual to automate more than they would were someone else running the process automation. And as in so many data scenarios, the richer, deeper, more accurate the data inputs, the better the outputs and outcomes can be. Specifically, machine learning and artificial intelligence in support of the individual can be trained and run on much richer, cross-context data than they can in the current 2.0 siloed mode. A persons travel requirements will often be a function of their health; their financial situation a function of their skills and employment situation and so on. Only when the individual is 100% in charge can this joining up be done.
What Filing Cabinet 3.0 would look like
To understand what Filing Cabinet 3.0 looks like in terms of a user interface; here is an example from the work we are doing at DataYogi. What amounts to a long list of ‘stuff’, can be sorted, filtered, searched and made available to other apps and services should the individual in charge wish to do so.
This is one interpretation, but the more important point is that these capabilities be open and sufficiently standardised across personal data service operators for the supply side to connect to without having to have a separate data schema and API for each interpretation. Start points for these open schema are at https://dictionary.mydata.org/ .
The above can be populated manually, by supplier push to an API, using data portability tools or via the use of tools such as open banking/ open finance and similar emerging in other sectors.
Enabling a better Customer Experience
One of the main benefits from Filing Cabinet 3.0 is that dealing with issues (i.e. customer service) becomes a lot easier when both customer and provider have a view onto a shared record. And of course, people have ‘lots of stuff’, but they are also regularly in the market for new products and services, either for themselves and their households or as gifts for others. There is a surprisingly close relationship between the assets, products and services that people already have, and what they are in the market for at any point in time. The screen below shows further Filing Cabinet 3.0 functionality in which prior purchases are used to shape active buying interests. It is perfectly valid for the person going to market to use their data to pull in ‘my data’ data-driven recommendations and offers via adverts, email or other notification channels. As you can imagine, such content coming in driven from the customer’s own data will be vastly more relevant and timelier than the current scatter-gun and interruption-based approach from the supply side. It’s more akin to ‘find’ than ‘search’ which is often our best start point in 2.0 mode.
Also in the customer service context, where people have a change in their data (e.g. change of address, change of contact details, change in circumstances/ preferences); filing cabinet 3.0 enables those updates to be made across all or a sub-set of connected suppliers with the minimum number of clicks. In turn, there are various times within buying and ownership cycles where people need to ‘prove things’ (e.g. ‘I am over 18’, ‘my Covid status is X’, ‘I am the new owner of this thing’). Filing cabinet 3.0 has the ability to leverage their data and relationships to generate verified credentials; this allows them to share data on a ‘minimum disclosure’, privacy-respecting way.
How will the change happen?
‘How might Filing Cabinet 3.0 come about?’ is the obvious question. We suspect that it will be slowly but surely, possibly one sector at a time. Automotive and financial services are both good examples of where assets are significant enough, and existing data flows sufficiently poor as to drive change from both demand and supply sides. Then again, any number of sectors can improve their customer experience by delivering digital twins of their products and services to customers alongside the actual products and services. If you represent an organisation willing and able to explore that model in a prototype or proof of concept then please get in touch.