Part 4: Productivity, Productivity, Productivity
My first thoughts about productivity in conjunction with the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) were selfish as I needed the thousands of times productivity increase that AI would give my engineers. It was imperative to accelerate the development of features and performance enhancements as well as to create a platform for new products. Not long after, I recognized (and articulated) that the underlying reason I had for creating the Advanced Technology Center in the first place was to enhance my customers’ experience. The best way to do that is to improve their productivity through the use of Lytica’s technology and tools. In fact, in setting the objectives for the ATC, I’ve made accommodation for customer co-development as a means to enabling their achievement of productivity gains similar to those I sought from my engineers. Now I’m thinking that my ATC investments could also benefit my customer’s customers due to productivity gains in their products and services hence, Productivity, Productivity, Productivity – or P3.
I see three ways in which I can aid in increasing my customers’ productivity. The first is to deliver reports and results faster with enhanced information. The second is to help customers clean up and organize their data so that efficiencies within their organization can be realized. Many of my customers suffer from this problem; I know this because I can see from their data input files the issues that they live with resulting from M&A integrations, system constraints and good old human error. The third way involves my customers working in (or with) the ATC to develop focused Artificial Intelligence applications which can directly impact a portion of their operation; this may be the most beneficial way to influence the productivity of their customers.
In support of this third way, I have drafted the ATC Participation Agreement which will accommodate different levels of customer involvement. The simplest level is as a lead customer/early adopter during the alpha or beta stage of new products and capabilities development which will include involvement in product definition and early trials support. The next level will entail co-location (or partial co-location) where a customer’s engineer becomes an on-site participant in defining a Lytica product and the customer is granted early access on a preferred basis. Another level will offer a co-location option to develop a unique, custom application for the customer using Lytica’s AI platform; this will involve NRE charges and licensing of the AI technology.
In the meantime, it’s through the first way that I can have the fastest impact on my customer’s productivity and I have structured the R&D program around this priority. The announcement of an Advanced Technology Center has excited the team and, even though the facility is still under construction, the technology and product developers are energised by the ATC culture and our success in delivering on a set of preliminary development milestones.
Recently, one of our popular products – Component Cost Estimator (CCE) – began to show a decline in response time; in one extreme case it failed to deliver a report. CCE is an application that reports market pricing at selectable competitiveness levels, most commonly used by procurement professionals for pricing spot checks and by designers for new BOM costing. The use of this product has grown exponentially as more and more customers sign up for licenses. In addition, several major corporations have set up APIs which are continuously making calls on the system. Although we recommend limiting the size of an upload file to 500 components to keep run times low, many of the files being loaded contain a much longer list.
Our engineers had been expecting the impact of growth and were working on solutions. Under the ATC umbrella, they assembled new code, algorithms and techniques to deliver and verify a solution. The results of this work are astounding. Tests were executed using an input file of 38,000 components; both the old and new methods delivered exactly the same result. So, what was astounding? With the new method, run time was reduced from 10 minutes to 9 seconds – a 67 times improvement. This was a small step, but a confirming one for the ATC.
The next deliverables from the ATC focus on match rate enhancements through BOM Cleansing that will be equally dramatic. These milestones are scheduled to align with our grand opening in the October timeframe. While productivity is the hard deliverable from the ATC, another exciting aspect is the alignment of our technology development with improving the customer experience. This cultural shift gives everyone an enhanced sense of purpose and a greater feeling of achievement. Energized people do great things!