Alert and Connection
Evelyn Johnston glanced at her screen when she heard a metallic “ping!” from her computer’s speakers. She hadn’t heard that penetrating tone in weeks, but knew its importance. Before she could turn to her computer she heard two more “pings!”, one from her tablet and one from her phone.
It signaled a serious supply chain problem, nothing trivial. She knew it would swallow every second until she fixed it.
If she didn’t solve this today she wouldn’t earn her annual bonus. Her KPI’s required her to be fully engaged with a supply chain problem in 2 hours, and solve it in less than 24 hours. Her job had been totally transformed since they started using real-time Expandiverse Shared Spaces to solve problems immediately worldwide.
The motivation made sense but made her sigh. For almost a year her company’s supply chain had been accelerating constantly, approaching real-time global operation. She used Expandiverse Shared Spaces to work everywhere, all day long. This real-time process had succeeded enough that she hadn’t heard an emergency alert in weeks.
But she hadn’t forgotten the drill for an alert: Identify the issue, check for a previous solution, then use an Expandiverse Shared Space to connect in real time with the real people in their locations, include their data, figure out the problem and fix it. She had grown to enjoy sharing CGI screens with them. Like the movies, your screen was what you wanted it to be: Everyone participating was cut out, sized and lit as the background was changed, and placed naturally for working together around the world. They made the background the actual problem when possible, whether it was in a factory or a warehouse. Or if it was a data problem the person who owned that application blended it into their background so it was clear to everyone. As they drilled down the participants changed with some released as they finished and others added as the problem entered their area.
If a person joined from home because of their time zone he or she didn’t have to dress. The system changed their clothes to a presentable outfit they liked. Women could even add makeup, and the first person who dropped 20 pounds and 10 years on-screen started a “screen diet” fad that included both women and men. There were no excuses — only the world’s first opportunity for everyone to instantly look healthy, well dressed and fit — almost everyone “re-configured” their profile.
Evelyn wasn’t quite ready to start. First she needed to see the problem, understand it and be ready to dive back into an Expandiverse Shared Space and fix it immediately.
She laughed when she saw the problem was just inaccurate data again, from a supplier that had been a serial offender at triggering bad data alerts in the past. While common, this was one of the most expensive and troublesome problems in every supply chain. When a supplier’s data is unreliable the next party in the chain typically orders 10% or 15% more to cover possible shortfalls. When there are several parties with unreliable data, the whole supply chain too often winds up stuffed with excess product and capacity — a profit sucking nightmare called the “bullwhip effect.” These repeated cycles suffered through excess production, inflated shipping costs, surplus inventory and clearance sales to get rid of the extra sh*t.
Evelyn realized this improved supplier had slipped backward, and used her PC to Focus that supplier’s Expandiverse Shared Space. Its Active Knowledge displayed previous solutions for that trigger’s inaccurate data. She picked the solution at the top, knowing it would be the most closely aligned to the latest problem: the last Shared Space used to fix this supplier’s unreliable data. She displayed it and examined how it would Focus if Activated. It was like a pre-deployed capability package with the right people, locations and data systems ready to be Focused and Activated. Its Active Knowledge was the list of steps that were used to solve this problem, at that supplier, the last time. She decided to start with only the supplier’s factory manager, not all the participants. She simply moved everything to the side except for the factory manager. Though she started with him she was immediately ready to Focus any of the other people, locations and data systems from the previous solution.
Before Focusing him, however, she had to win the cooperation of their Hong Kong agent, his Shenzhen agent and their local factory rep. All of them wanted to stop her from working directly with the supplier. They wouldn’t care that Evelyn is a senior manager of a multi-billion dollar company, responsible for fixing this problem right away.
She had the Shared Space’s Presence System alert her as soon as their Hong Kong agent became available. Since it was late afternoon for her on the U.S. West coast, and almost 8 AM in China, she’d stay late because she knew they started early just so they could stay connected with their US customers.
Within a minute her HK agent appeared.”Excuse me,” she said, “It’s Evelyn Johnston at EXT. Can you help me? I just received an alert about a data problem with our supplier’s latest shipment.”
The agent looked incredibly realistic on-screen, with simulated 3D and parallax. He was genuinely surprised. She knew he saw her with the same clarity, so she showed sympathy.
“No way,” the agent said. “I thought we ended those problems months ago.”
“I agree, but since it happened again we have a couple of choices. Under the terms of our contract we can fine you for the problem and reduce your payment, and wait for you fix this. Or we can cooperate by letting me work directly with the supplier right now and straighten out the problem. If I fix this right away there won’t be any fines or penalties and you’ll receive our full payment on schedule, including any performance bonuses due.”
“Ahh, you make this too easy,” the agent said with a forced smile. “Let me get the other agents.”
Evelyn watched their Hong Kong agent use his own Shared Space to Focus in both the Shenzhen agent and the factory rep. Her screen arranged them in a group with the Hong Kong agent on the left and the two other agents on the right, as if they entered one digital office and met there. They spoke Chinese but Evelyn’s Shared Space translated for her, displaying what they said as text that streamed silently across the bottom of her screen.
None of them wanted to cooperate but the risk of losing their income was worse. “We will be there while you work with our supplier,” the Hong Kong agent said while the other agents nodded. Evelyn had already seen their agreement in the translation, so she was prepared for them to stay involved, She politely expressed thanks for their immediate helpfulness.
She wanted to Focus in the supplier’s factory manager from her Shared Space but the Hong Kong agent insisted and he immediately Focused in the factory manager. He explained that a data problem had been discovered, but he had arranged for the contract’s financial penalty against the supplier to be waived if it could be fixed right away. He adroitly presented himself as the one who made this quick solution and savings possible. Evelyn smiled to herself as she silently read the translation.
Then their Hong Kong agent switched to English, introduced Evelyn and turned it over to her.
Evelyn began with a short, friendly greeting because she had met the factory manager personally on a purchasing trip in China. She went right to the point. “Here’s the data problem,” she said blending into the screen’s background zoomed up copies of EXT’s order, the supplier’s bad data and what was actually received.
She took that opportunity to shrink the size of the three agents and move them to the bottom corner, leaving the supplier’s factory manager full size while she said, “As you can see from the data, the size of the variances are too large to tolerate.”
The factory manager examined his screen for a moment, then nodded knowingly.
“We can walk through all the numbers in detail the way we’ve done before,” Evelyn said, “or you can bring in the three managers I can work with to straighten this out. If you agree, I will finish this with them.” She paused for effect then said, “If you want to use the managers, you can wrap this up in a minute and they’ll take care of this for you.
“I think we would both like that,” the factory manager said. “Which of my managers do you need?”
Evelyn shared their identities with the factory manager and he Focused them in. Once again, her screen arranged them as if they were meeting together. The factory manager spoke to them sternly in Chinese. While she waited Evelyn read the translation streaming across the bottom of her screen. He made it clear that they were to solve this with Ms. Johnston and keep the factory manager fully informed, immediately. He wanted this fixed right away, and didn’t want it to happen again.
Evelyn smiled and thanked the factory manager, who promptly Unfocused and became Unavailable in the Presence System. She asked the three managers to stay Focused so they could start fixing this right away. She zoomed up the background that showed EXT’s order numbers next to the supplier’s bad data and what had been received. She fully expected each manager to use his own Shared Space to display the right data and people to either explain or fix the discrepancies.
On the side she displayed the Active Knowledge protocol for fixing this type of data problem. It helped to see its best practice steps while she worked with each manager to reach agreement on how to fix this permanently. It suggested the first manager to begin with, the one that had the best and most accurate data the last time this problem was solved.
She started with him. As that manager began with good resources and self-assurance, she watched the other two managers mute their Focus so they could use their other Expandiverse Shared Spaces to gather the data and people they would need when she turned to each of them.
An hour later Evelyn was alone again, with a recording of the whole solution safely filed. The translation system had used speech recognition to transcribe it, saving a searchable hard copy of everything discussed and decided. She used a copy of that to list the key issues and actions in a brief memo for everyone who also received a copy of this problem alert.
After using the powerful global capabilities of the Shared Space, her personal desk looked small and limited, but she had just used it to solve a problem immediately, half-way around the world.
To complete the incident she rated its outcome as 5 stars out of 5. She added the feedback that the key to this fast and accurate success was Active Knowledge’s using the Alert’s data problem and the supplier’s company to filter the solutions so she could choose the best available steps.
She wrote, “If we keep solving more kinds of problems, and use each trigger and each person’s work as filters to bring our best previous solutions to the top, then we will always start from the best we have done and constantly improve above that.”
She finished with a thought about what some co-workers now called the next reality. “A single person with global Expandiverse power can achieve more, in a few hours, than a dozen people could in a month in the old physical world. We’re turning a corner and are ready to accelerate even more.”