I’m able to track practically anything in my life if I want to: hours of sleep, meditation sessions, financial budgets, gym sessions, screen time in certain apps, etc. What unites all these is that all of it is proprietary to my life. The rise of technology has given us unprecedented amounts of data that we’re able to derive insights from. But here’s the caveat: as of now, these insights are generally proprietary to individual lives.
The reality however, is that no-one is an island. Relationships are inseparable from life. Everything is interconnected and businesses thrive in ecosystems. The most successful companies, like Apple, Google, Amazon or Facebook operate ecosystems and plug into ecosystems to facilitate relationships. Facebook, iCloud, and Google Drive facilitate relationships like the ones between family members or friends through sharing photos and posts.
The way businesses relate to each other is through contracts. These relationships govern the flows of money, goods, services, IP, etc. Downstream, the success or failure of these relationships impacts people’s lives and their relationships, professional and personal. Looking at this from a different perspective, business contracts could be considered an evolutionary higher order to interpersonal relationships. While technology has evolved to support interpersonal relationships (how well it’s doing this is another debate that I won’t touch on in this blog), thus far technology hasn’t been able to support the operational needs of business relationships, which are interrelated and often in very complex ways. However, through distributed systems using blockchain technology as orchestrator, we’re at the brink of venturing into the relationship-centric economy: a world in which businesses are able to collaboratively execute their agreed obligations. Through the Monax Platform and other ecosystems, business will now be able to connect with each other and manage their business relationships as effectively as social media has allowed us to manage our personal relationships.
The work we’re doing at Monax is driven by an objective to empower companies with the knowledge of where in the fulfillment of their contractual relationships they and their business partners are at any given time. It’s our mission to increase operational efficiency and to eliminate blind spots by turning implicit process knowledge that currently resides in the heads of people into a product that can be made explicitly available to the organisations involved for their consumption. This brings us full circle: to make business relationships fruitful and productive, information about them cannot remain proprietary to a specific party but must be accessible to all parties involved. Only when the information is proprietary to the relationship can it provide genuine insight.
While developing our product we’ve heard the same story in different flavours. Contracts are signed, but then the delivery of agreed obligations happens mostly from memory (at best). Only if something goes wrong would the contract be pulled out again. The reason for this is that contracts signed on paper, or even electronically, are static documents. While obligations are specified they aren’t available in a form that allows people to act upon them unless they read the document and then derive a set of actionable items. Instead of contracts self-executing, obligations are translated into actionable form by a human. In fast-paced startup environments where people often wear multiple hats, finding time for extensive contract review is a challenge. Some companies operate on only partially signed contracts. With regards to time another area emerged, namely that companies felt they were asked to deliver above agreed terms. This was particularly the case when there was a power difference between parties.
Stories like these make it clear that, due to their inaccessibility, contracts have not been serving their purpose to structure business relationships and thus are not well-suited to the needs of fast-paced startup environments. Contracts are essential in business relationships, but if time is an issue we must find ways to increase accessibility to the terms and obligations they contain. Instead of just a wall of text requiring cognitive effort, Monax also provides visually illustrative models that give all parties involved access to contract information at a glance. These workflow models visually represent the obligations agreed upon in the contractual text. These obligations then show up in the dashboard of each responsible party respectively. Having this clarity over upcoming tasks empowers startups to stay nimble in executing their business relationships, moving things forwards and evolving their company.
To attain this level of relationship insight Monax uses four layers as shown in the pyramid below:
- Insight and notifications are driven by the data in specific agreements.
- Agreements contain specific information about involved parties, price, delivery service or which ever variable information is relevant to the specific contract.
- Templates are blueprints for particular kinds of relationships, for example sale of goods, leases, statements of work, etc.
- Workflows gives life to all the layers above, through their nature of being maps for specific relationship types making tacit knowledge explicitly available to all contractual parties.
To keep each party actionable the dashboard provides an overview over all required tasks. These are driven by the underlying workflows and provide a snapshot of the current state of all active business relationships.
If this is an issue for your organisation, we’d love to speak to you and learn more about it just email [email protected]
Tobias is the strategic designer at Monax - read more about him here
Photo by ROB LAUGHTER on Unsplash.