Gemstone’s CTO Dr. Jianfei Xu on Why Most Business Systems Aren’t Putting Data to Use (& Why They Should)
Dr. Jianfei Xu is Gemstone Logistics’ Chief Technology Officer. He came to Gemstone with 15 years of experience as a design engineer, field engineer, software architect, and senior software developer. He was driven to find full-fit solutions to common data management challenges faced by businesses across the globe. His goal to create a fully configurable system has become the framework and driving force behind ILLUMYS and Gemstone’s flagship application CIRYS.
Before forming a partnership with Gemstone Logistics, Dr. Xu completed his Ph.D. in Construction Engineering and Management from the University of Alberta. He worked closely with a construction company for several years and began to notice the challenges they faced – challenges that were not unique to this particular company.
Why a 90% Fit for Data Management Software is Not Enough
The main issue was an overload of data being captured but not used effectively (or at all). Amidst a mess of documents, forms, spreadsheets, and small data capture programs, the company struggled to capture and analyze the correct data in a meaningful way. There were also major inefficiencies in the capture and use of data, leading to hundreds of extra hours of labour.
Most systems available on the market provided an 80-90% fit for the needs of the company. The 10% of the data that wasn’t covered by the system was still a major obstacle. It resulted in duplications of data entry, multiple solutions that didn’t integrate, and other administrative challenges.
After spending many hours in the field with them, Dr. Xu knew that to solve this problem, the construction company needed to apply a new methodology. They needed to take a systemic approach to data collection and analysis. He helped them implement a streamlined and inexpensive solution for data management.
After his initial experiences with data management systems, Dr. Xu was left with one question: If everything in a business is driven by the data, why isn’t the system driven by the data?
His vision was simple: Create systems that start and end with data.
Dr. Xu imagined a configurable system called the Uni-Engine. In this design, all of a company’s data would be collected and stored in a single “hub,” which would also complete all of the functions they needed to put the data to use.
The “uni” aspect of the Uni-Engine describes several of its ultimate goals:
• To unify data in a single location and make it “come alive” in that it is both the end goal of the system and part of creating the system.
• To fit with the unique needs and methods of the companies using the system by making the system configurable rather than customizable.
• To be a universal solution that can work for all businesses because it is driven by the data, not features.
How the Uni-Engine Solves Traditional Challenges in Data Management Software
The Uni-Engine provides a single, unified solution to several of the largest challenges facing companies today. We’ll take a closer look at these challenges and how the Uni-Engine takes an uncommon approach to resolving them.
Challenge: Data is Valued as “Transactional”
Dr. Xu understands data differently than many people do. He views it much like the cells in an organism, alive and contributing to the whole of the organism (or, in the case of businesses, the whole of the organization). One of the greatest issues with many current data management systems is that they take a transactional approach to data. Instead of using the data to inform the system and define business processes, the collection and use of data is only the end goal of the system.
Let’s look at an example of this in Gemstone Logistics’ travel and room management software for workforces, CIRYS. In a typical situation, a company will employ multiple travel coordinators to manage commercial and charter flight schedules, itinerary changes, and the availability of accommodation at the final destination. It’s often messy and time-consuming.
Meanwhile, CIRYS takes a unifying approach to this data. It translates data from multiple other systems (such as airlines and hotels) and brings it together so that it can be read from a single, intuitive interface. Instead of approaching multiple systems that weren’t designed for them, but for the service provider, CIRYS allows companies to integrate those systems into their own operational tool.
Challenge: Companies Don’t Own Their Data
Intellectual property was another challenge faced by many companies, which often have a unique business process and don’t want to share those values with other companies or solution providers.
The Uni-Engine solves this process by providing the infrastructure for customers to manage their own data internally. All in all, Gemstone Logistics’ goal is to provide the tools and infrastructure businesses need to manage, own, and use their own data with less effort and fewer obstacles.
Challenge: There is Not a Single, Up-to-Date Record
Many companies rely on multiple systems for the features they need to run their operations. This “patchwork” approach to data management often leaves a company without a single, intuitive dashboard where they can view a single, complete record of all data. The Uni-Engine approaches this challenge by merging all of the data into a single dashboard that has multiple access points but remains fully up to date at all times.
One important result of this is that the reconciliation of data is completed automatically. For example, in the ILLUMYS project control management system, job costing for LEM happens instantaneously as values are added.
Challenge: Generating Forms that Collect Data and Work with the System is a Challenge
Data collection is another area where inefficiencies are common. Companies spend millions of dollars per year on inefficiencies in data collection and data entry. This is mainly because most solutions do not allow companies to create custom forms that input data where it’s needed. In the Uni-Engine, data flows into, through, and out of the system efficiently because custom forms with well-defined fields are linked to other functions and features.
An example of this concept is group bookings for travel and accommodation. CIRYS allows specific data to be grouped together and treated as one unit, making booking as simple as a few clicks. A company can use a form to enter employees, group them together in specific ways (for example, according to their regular shifts), and then allow that group to be booked simultaneously for flights and accommodations. This eliminates repetitive work for travel coordinators and eliminates human error.
Challenge: There is Not Enough Flexibility
Business moves quickly, and when it doesn’t, it’s often data management that’s holding up the process. In the Uni-Engine, changing one value leads to changes in the related values. Rules can be easily added to the system to guide this systemic change.
Let’s look at Gemstone Logistics’ CIRYS flight and accommodation software again. Changes happen often in travel management, and companies need to adapt their travel coordination to fit perfectly with their operations. Let’s say that a company using CIRYS wants to ensure that their employees only travel with a specific airline. Instead of implementing training and procedures for travel coordinators to achieve this, a new “rule” can be configured instantly within CIRYS that automatically filters the airlines.
Data-Centred Solutions for Business
Dr. Xu’s expertise in engineering unique software solutions has allowed Gemstone Logistics to create software that is configurable for specific business operations. In doing this, we’ve been able to eliminate that frustrating 10-20% grey area.
If you’d like to learn more about Gemstone Logistics’ products, get in touch with our team for a personalized demonstration and consultation.