FIBRES Online: Bringing Foresight into Businesses with an Intelligent Cloud Application

Panu Kause

Today, enterprises of all sizes are leveraging smart analytics tools as data becomes the core of most business processes. Such tools help them make faster decisions by uncovering actionable insights.

FIBRES Online is one such tools provider, developing FIBRES, the intelligent web app for modern market intelligence and foresight. FIBRES is a browser-based cloud application for collaborative, continuous foresight work in major organizations and consultancies alike.

FIBRES helps with the collaborative structuring and analysis of written trend-related information collected from many sources. Ultimately, the human users of FIBRES themselves create relevant trend radars for their organization, assisted by natural language processing technologies (NLP) and simple gamification.

 

The Genesis of FIBRES Online

The company aims to make the world of market intelligence and strategic management a better place. Its key assumption – justifiably – is that businesses want to stay relevant in the future, too.

The first logical questions then are: How can one identify sources of renewal? How to stay alert to emerging new competition?

With that in mind, the second question to follow is: How to organize for market intelligence in a world like today where traditional market research struggles to deliver reliable results? Better yet, what is the future of market intelligence?

Well, the so-called foresight methodologies were born for this purpose, used by default in volatile environments. Foresight work here refers to continuous weak signal scanning, information clustering, trend impact analyses, outlining of trend radars and perhaps alternative future scenarios. Also, foresight work refers to the social process of working on these topics throughout an organization transparently and collaboratively.

This further leads to the question of software tools to support all such work.

The company FIBRES Online – then under another name – was founded almost 10 years ago already, as a small consultancy in the field of foresight and strategic management. The consulting work led to the first development of FIBRES as the digital platform for the company’s services. FIBRES Online as a company has since let go of all their consulting work and is today fully focused on developing the FIBRES software only.

 

A Versatile Visionary

The Founder and CEO of FIBRES Online Panu Kause is a former corporate executive and consultant. For his entire 25-year career, he has worked with business development, and with outlining growth strategies.

In addition to being an entrepreneur, Panu is an instructor at Aalto Executive Education (#1 business school in Finland and among the top 50 executive education providers worldwide), a member of the Strategic Management Society of Finland, and a VIP member of Boardman Grow network of growth business professionals.

For the good part of the past 10 years, he has been focused on learning the discipline and methodologies of foresight – first as a practitioner, and as a consultant, today as an early-stage software entrepreneur in the field.

Most importantly, Panu has gotten to learn with dozens of organizations on their approaches to foresight and market intelligence overall, their use of methodologies, their ways of organizing the work, and so on.

Recently, the FIBRES team even conducted a corporate survey on how organizations use foresight as part of their strategic management. Some of the results were somewhat surprising, and both the company and Panu are naturally willing to share this new understanding to those interested.

 

Advanced Offerings to Clients

In practical terms, the FIBRES cloud application collects written inputs related to a company’s external operating environment from multiple sources into one database, and then FIBRES assists the human users in making sense of it all.

FIBRES is at its best when dedicated for collaborative continuous foresight work. This is especially for customers who wish to engage a lot of their people to give their inputs and to share trend-related insights throughout their organization. Ultimately, to collaborate on building their shared trend radars relevant for their businesses.

As an example, for storing of new market observations, FIBRES features the simplest web clipper there ever was – a single click to store any news piece one is reading on his standard browser. And then, with the help of automated semantic understanding, FIBRES immediately helps him find out whether there already are some related trend descriptions and discussions on-going.

FIBRES also integrates with automated data feeds from both open and commercial sources for its customers’ benefit where they so wish.

These approaches together enable for a combination of internal and external inputs on one hand, and a human-AI hybrid working approach on the other.

Some of the company’s customers use FIBRES for their systematic strategic foresight work. FIBRES is their single intelligent storage for all trend-related information: crowdsourced content and analysis contributions of their own FIBRES users, automated content from FIBRES Online’s commercial trend research partners, and content also from the customers’ own in-house news monitoring services. Users also enjoy FIBRES’ automated visualizations, the trend radar summary report, private workspaces for context-specific discussions, and so on.

Some other customers, in turn, choose to use FIBRES for example for the more straight-forward technology scouting purposes. Then, the responsible people and their cross-functional virtual teams use the tool for easy storing of hand-picked news pieces and other information in their respective research fields. FIBRES then assists them with semi-automatically finding and establishing information linkages, with writing trend summaries, and with automatically building a technology trend radar overview.

 

Resourceful Partnerships Driving Innovation 

The company shares a vision of an upgraded future for market intelligence and continuous foresight, a fundamentally changed world of strategic management overall. It is this vision that primarily drives its innovation.

It is also some of the most advanced corporations – especially in their approach to market intelligence and foresight work, that is – as FIBRES’s customers who drive further development. During the past couple of years, the company has even shared some deep co-creative engagements with some of its customers to the benefit of all parties involved.

FIBRES Online is building the perfect foresight platform. In other words, the best possible tool for intelligent, collaborative, continuous foresight work and modern market intelligence. The company’s focus is on this purpose-built application, whereas in technological terms it focuses on creating a robust best-of-breed architecture. Technology providers, especially in the fields of natural language processing, are increasingly important partners to FIBRES, and, thus a source of innovation as well.

Finally, the company is increasingly partnering with world-leading foresight consultancies, trend research providers, and futurists, whose contribution not only to FIBRES but to its end customers is of course invaluable.

 

Upbeat Feedbacks Heighten Industry Recognition

The company values its customers who wish to bring FIBRES available to large user bases throughout their organization. Thus, customer and user feedback especially related to software user-friendliness are exceptionally important. So far, the company is happy to say its customers really enjoy using FIBRES.

Panu claims that among other things, the application has been quoted as being “the best seen in this field”. Also, its customer support is frequently getting thanked for flexibility, for remarkably fast responses, and for overall kindness.

Overall, interest in both the collaborative continuous foresight work approaches and the supporting tools is increasing. Even ThinkCast – the Gartner Podcast channel – recently started a new podcast focusing on Continuous Foresight. Panu was just interviewed as an industry expert for the channel, and this interview session is to be featured during the last quarter of 2019.

 

Rising Above the Challenges 

According to Panu, the company has had its share of the challenges most startups face: gaining recognition, convincing investors, and so on.

The very topic of collaborative, continuous foresight work is a difficult one. Not even all market intelligence professionals are too familiar with these methodologies, let alone organized their work accordingly. One of FIBRES’s key challenges is then also to ensure a certain degree of maturity of work at its customers before introducing any software tool.

What the company has been lucky with is that at a very early stage it gained world-renowned customers such as Continental Powertrain (today Vitesco Technologies) and Daimler. With such remarkable references, it’s been a lot easier to build for the next stages of its growth.

 

Current Scenario Vs Future Implications 

Panu feels today a lot of major organizations are seeking new ways of organizing their work of market intelligence. Collaborative, continuous foresight work is part of this development certainly. Supporting software tools, such as FIBRES, do come along as well.

Broadly speaking, one may argue there are three phases of strategy-related work in any organization:

1. gathering and structuring of information (external and internal);

2. sense-making, that is, recognizing one’s own options and making the respective decisions;

3. acting based on one’s decisions, that is, “executing the strategy”.

 

FIBRES believe leadership, management, and the respective tools over all those three phases are about to undergo a lot of change during the following years. For one, these phases are no longer run in a linear but rather in an iterative manner – phases overlapping with each other – in a never-ending cycle.

Independent of linear or cyclical working approaches, those three phases are distinctly different in terms of their potential human and AI contribution also.

In the information sourcing and structuring phase, a lot of automation is of course already on its way. Even so, the so-called weak signals are still best spotted by humans, who intuitively recognize the novelty and “weirdness” of new observations. In FIBRES’s vision, human participation in information sourcing is highly valuable also for their commitment to the later phases of work. Thus, the company believes in crowdsourcing for inputs and insights in parallel with automated internal and external sources.

Then again, sense-making of any intelligence – in terms of expected impacts on business for example – calls for a combination of creativity and understanding of the ultimate purpose that only humans possess today. Panu believes sense-making can be heavily tech-assisted, but that it ultimately still needs to be collaborative work by humans.

Furthermore, sense-making in the sense of actually taking decisions – strategic or related to innovation for example – is ultimately done by human individuals. As such decisions will remain judgment calls, and as personal responsibility even from a corporate governance point of view is expected, those decisions shall not be left to machines.

Finally, the action part of the work, the “execution” of strategy or innovation, is also still led by humans even if intelligent machines in almost any business domain are an increasing part of the vision. From a management perspective, the transparency and the feedback loops of the execution phases can, of course, be heavily assisted by advanced technological tools if not automated in full.

In short, the company believes in a rapidly developing future of human-AI collaboration in the fields of business intelligence, innovation, and strategic management.

“We regard it almost inevitable that foresight methodologies as one approach to intelligence will gain even more ground. We all live in volatile environments where we need to find new opportunities and test our strategies against different alternative futures – and foresight methods have proven to be quite valuable here”, asserts Panu.

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