10 Years – 10 Questions Part 1: Lessons Learned

As we continue to celebrate Factor’s 10th Anniversary, we asked our co-founders, Bram Wessel + Gary Carlson, 10 questions (plus one to grow on). We’ve broken this into two posts. In this post (part 1) we tackle the first five questions and answers, which highlight valuable lessons from the past 10 years.

1. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the work you do now vs when you started?

BW: More people know what it is. The field has grown. We can use the word “taxonomy” without scaring anyone off (usually.) 

GC: I agree, and while the actual methodology has evolved, our fundamentals are not significantly different. Because we are much more confident in our approach and the way we describe our work, we know that we are doing something unique and valuable.

2. What do you think is the most undervalued part of the work you do? Or how you do it?

BW: It’s not close: the human part. The research that is essential for information modeling for humans, what we call ‘human information behavior’ is still not fully appreciated. So many organizations think they can have machines do this step, but the reality is machines are uniquely unsuited for it. In fact, that’s how many companies have created the problems they then come to us to help solve.

GC: And I think this leads to the fact that I do not think our clients always see the value of just going through the process with us. So much is uncovered by the process that helps our clients evolve. I believe the process is far more valuable than the deliverables.

3. What is the biggest challenge facing enterprises?

BW: Definitely information and data quality. There’s all this data, but we’re very early on the curve of extracting value from it. The information environment is noisy. I would also add that privacy continues to be a major issue. Companies need to learn how to respect data that doesn’t or shouldn’t belong to them.

GC: And there continues to be an over-reliance on technology to fix these problems. From the taxonomy side of the house, I have been through many different scenarios where some “new” technology was going to solve IA – like Folksonomies. AI, Google Search Appliance, AI, Cloud computing, AI, Sharepoint, AI, advanced analytics, AI, and did I mention AI? However, none of these address the core issue of organizational alignment, brand strategy, or user experience in a meaningful way.

4. What’s the most memorable success in the last 10 years?

BW: I think when we were able to hire employees. Before that, we had only had contractors. Once we had employees, it was a big responsibility. It felt somehow more like a “real business.”

GC: Watching the Intel project grow across the organization and across multiple capabilities (Analytics, Sales Enablement, Partner Experiences, Unified CX Experiences).

5. Biggest “disappointment?”

BW: I think for me, the biggest disappointments have always been when we do great work that doesn’t get fully implemented. By contrast, when clients do take advantage of the work, it’s one of the most satisfying experiences.

GC: Similarly, it’s sometimes haunting when we’ve been unable to continue a few of our clients. It’s difficult knowing that we’ve had clients leave opportunities on the table. When you can see the path to success, but aren’t given the chance to execute it is hard to fathom.

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In the second half of our “10 Questions (Plus One to Grow On) for 10 Years” interview with our founders, Gary Carlson and Bram Wessel, we tackle early lessons, mentorship, and legacy.