PAOGA – Where we came from
In 2001 I resigned as CEO from Izodia Plc (formerly Infobank of which I was a founder back in 1992) and sat in the garden and thought. Sometimes, as the saying goes, I just sat.
Former employees were approaching me to comment on their CVs as they looked to move on. They were terrible. Their CVs didn’t begin to represent their skills, passions, dedication and loyalty that had contributed to the growth of Infobank from a clean sheet of paper on my kitchen table to a FTSE 250 listed company competing internationally with US e-Procurement companies.
Of course we were both a beneficiary and a victim of the DotCom bubble and our market cap was as much a mystery to us as the market but our technology was solid and Infobank delivered real quantifiable cost savings to our small but growing customer base. We were automating a major portion of the procurement process using initially CD-Rom and then the Internet.
As a designer (Information Graphics at Art School in London in the 60’s) I moved through design, advertising and publishing as the PC and Desktop Publishing evolved (acquired by Time-Life). We used NAPLPS on DEC PDP11s and developed a forerunner of PowerPoint on early IBM PCs. We developed DataBase Publisher to automate publishing from any database to any page make-up package (acquired by Xerox/Ventura), marketed it on encrypted CD-Rom and Infobank was born. The underlying objective was, and is today, to automate the dumb, stupid repetitive tasks that computers do so well and is a gross abuse of people.
So, back to my garden. What is the biggest cost for the vast majority of organisations?
The right person in the right position at the right time can make a company a world leader – the wrong person can bring a successful business to its knees.
‘People are our greatest asset’ is an oft quoted cliché which is rarely acted upon – and so PAOGA was born (ged-it?).
PAOGA – What we are doing
I looked at CVs (standard format, no more than 3 pages, etc.) and recalled how I had approached recruitment and a pile of CVs on my desk. The odds against finding the right person were formidable. What a waste.
I talked with HR directors struggling with increasing compliance issues, candidates frustrated at the inefficiency of the system and press stories of ‘skills shortages’ and to recruitment agencies who, according to their own trade bodies, deemed their CV database as their property and asset with little or no knowledge of their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act (DPA) let alone European acts and directives.
Skills, the most important supply chain in the UK, was unregulated, inefficient and out of control.
PAOGA, under the direction of our ‘architect’ Peter Murton (also architect of DataBase Publisher mentioned earlier), developed an application to address the requirements of all the participants in the supply chain whilst facilitating compliance with their legal rights and obligations. We did not favour the requirer (Hirer/Manager) or the supplier (Candidate) and did not try to ‘dis’ the intermediaries (HR and Agents).
The concept was simple – empower the Candidate to build, store and maintain a comprehensive Personal Profile and let the Hirer/Manager search on the criteria relevant to them. Apply the DPA process of declaring the interest and requesting permission for access. Allow HR to apply all the Corporate compliance requirements and let Agents participate in this Open Market ASP application providing added value services such as video interviews, verification, certification, negotiation etc. To facilitate compliance for all participants it quickly became obvious that the ‘identity’ should be separated from the application data. We acknowledged that an individuals identity can be ‘deduced’ from this data but maintain that this is caused by the inherent insecurity of existing databases over which we have no control.
Our proposition uncovered some interesting facts and opinions:
- HR departments collect and maintain, at considerable cost and legal liabilities, employee records which could be held by the employee with access granted to the employer.
- Agencies consider ‘their’ CV database as a tangible asset but, according to industry sources, are oblivious to their responsibilities and obligations under the DPA.
- Candidates are increasingly frustrated at the lottery of sowing their CV with numerous agencies and job-boards knowing that the likelihood of them matching their skills with the right employers needs are remote.
- Candidates are increasingly anxious about this personal data being circulated, untraceable, out of date, and inaccurate. 70% of CVs contain ‘errors’.
- Hirer/Managers see HR departments as a barrier to access the resources they need to meet their deadlines.
- HR view most Recruitment Agencies as adding little value beyond passing on a CV.
This is a seriously dysfunctional supply chain dealing with ‘our greatest assets’.
Ricky Gervais in The Office explained that he didn’t want to employ unlucky people. So he picked up half of the pile of CVs on his desk and binned them with the comment ‘They’re unlucky people!’
Whilst the concept was simple, the execution is extremely complex.
Not only do you have to deal with innumerable ever-changing and increasing laws, rules, regulations and best practice, but you also have a defensive industry unused to being regulated and fearful of disruptive technology.
The very thought that an agency doesn’t ‘own’ their CV’s, so shouldn’t be spending time and money storing and maintaining them when access to their clients up-to-date dynamic information has far greater value and less cost/risk, seems to be an anathema to business conditioned to believe that such information is a competitive advantage. This is reinforced by comments such as ‘When we get fined we’ll do something about it’ which raises another issue about watchdogs and teeth (not for now).
Government research estimates that it costs UK Plc £100 Billion per annum to administrate red-tape (rules, regulations, laws, best practice etc.) much of which is unnecessary duplication of technology and manual intervention.
With broadband enabling on-demand applications the concept of IT departments, in the SME sector especially, is financially indefensible. Software as a utility is on its way and the IT department licensing enterprise software to create silo repositories will be as rare as company telephone exchanges, power generators, wells and rocking horse sh*t, in the near future.
When we looked at the components and architecture of our proposed solution; separation of identity from application data, collaborative document creation, roles, permissions, security, authentication, verification, certification etc., we realised that there were other industry sectors suffering under increasing legislative pressure.
The concept of the PAOGAperson was mooted as the core application by Peter.
A federated identity solution which facilitates shared services and legal compliance whilst respecting the personal privacy of the individual as a consumer, citizen, patient, employee, student or any other role.
The recent Housing Act 2004 has imposed a need for process change in the UK property market. An Estate Agent can no longer respond immediately to a house seller by calling their client base or chatting in the pub about a property about to come on the market. By law they are not allowed to market the property until a Home Information Pack (HIP) has been prepared. The government estimate the cost to the seller of £800 – £1,200 but this may well be absorbed by the Agent in return for other paid services.
- To verify and record who they have been shown to unreliable.
- To store the resulting HIPs (for legal compliance) expensive.
- For the Agency to develop and maintain a silo solution, when there is no competitive advantage, unnecessarily expensive.
PAOGA saw the opportunity for an ASP service with the HIP linked to the property (not the Agency, you may wish to use several) and the ‘ownership’ clearly vested in the property owner. Like the CV, the ‘owner’ may choose to delegate responsibility of the creation and distribution of the document to the Agent.
The HIP can be efficiently created as a collaborative document with input from the owner, agent, solicitor, land registry, home condition inspector (surveyor) etc with a complete audit trail of data input and viewing. When a purchaser is identified then they and their advisors (solicitor, surveyor, mortgage provider etc.) can be invited into the group to conclude the sale and transfer ownership of the HIP with the property.
Of course, this HIP becomes the foundation for a Home Management Service in which the new owner can record and maintain all details and documents about the property during their ownership. This can include an inventory of content, receipts, suppliers, guarantees, building permissions and plans, video tours, photos through the seasons, etc. which, with the owners permission, can be selectively made available to mortgage lenders, insurance suppliers etc and provide considerable marketing advantage when the time to sell (average 7 years) approaches and the HIP needs to be ‘refreshed’.
PAOGA provides a Web Services platform in which legal compliance and respect for personal privacy is embedded.
We put the individual at the centre and allow them to create their SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) system.
We identify WSOs with sector expertise (possibly an existing Portal, ASP or a new company who sees the opportunity with no ‘baggage’) to use our tools to build applications which embed the laws, rules and regulations of that sector and provide a joint service in which PAOGA separately stores and protects the individuals’ identity for them while the WSO provides the legal compliance as an outsourced service and on-demand application to the industry.
PAOGA – Where we are going
PAOGA, in addition to Skills and Property described above, is working with WSOs to address Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail and Government (Shared Services in Central and Local government, in UK and abroad) and other industry sectors.
Every time a story breaks about data loss or identity theft we consider if it could have happened if it had been a PAOGA application.
Not everyone in business is defending the ‘old way’, they have their ‘individual personas as well, but much of the debate is confrontational when I believe there are tangible benefits for all participants. It’s that hoary old ‘change’ issue.
Only during the past year have I become aware of the vast community of individuals, including Simon Davies, Casper Bowden, Iain Henderson, Simon Grice, Kim Cameron, Doc Searls (His article on Independent Identity prompted me to post this) et al and businesses, Privacy International, Liberty, t-scheme who have recognised this issue and have been pushing towards what I believe we all think is the inevitable individual (consumer, citizen, patient etc.) driven marketplace.
Recently, with Midentity and Information Answers, PAOGA founded the Personal Digital Identity Association which will hold its inaugural event, the PDID Summit, in London on 17/18 November 2005.
I have also been, quietly, reading weblogs and, much against my better judgement, started my own ‘blog’ (thanks to Matt Mower at PAOGA) in the vain hope that someone out there cares what I think – that respect for personal privacy is good business.