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Fireside chat with James Taylor, CEO of Decision Management Solutions

Who is James Taylor?

James has a long standing interest in software and how best to develop it – what approach to use. Having discovered tools and approaches that let companies automate high-volume, transactional decision-making around the turn of the millennium, he’s spent the last 20+ years promoting and working in Decision Management or digital decisioning.

What’s the story behind Decision Management Solutions?

Back in 2007 James published his first book – Smart (Enough) Systems – with Neil Raden and left Fair Isaac (FICO) where he had been working o promoting decision management as a coherent discipline that could be applied to a wide range of business problems – not just the credit origination and fraud problems it had traditionally been focused on. After a couple of years as an independent industry analyst, working with Neil, it became clear that several software companies were interested in adopting

Decision Management as an approach and that, perhaps, Decision Management was something you could build a company around.

In 2009, then, Decision Management Solutions was founded. Initially the focus was on helping software companies adopt Decision Management as both a marketing position – something their software could do – and on helping those same companies build out their capabilities for Decision Management. It became increasingly clear that companies needed help adopting these technologies, so the company also started to provide consulting services for large companies. In addition, starting in 2011, a new approach (decision modeling) became available for designing these decisioning systems and Decision Management Solutions developed tools to support the approach and joined an effort to create an industry standard – the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard.

Over the next few years helping these companies use decision modeling, the DMN standard and decisioning technologies became the company’s sole focus. That’s what it does today – help some of the world’s larges companies adopt technology to automate their day to day decision-making. Thi includes things like automatically paying claims, automating loa origination, determining the best marketing offer to present, suggestin steps to prevent quality problems, calculating valuations or approving transactions and requests.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Scaling up any business is hard. Scaling up a one-person business is especially hard. When you first start, no matter what you do, people equate you with the company. As the company grows and scales, you want to keep the positive impressions you have generated but transition them to the company brand and that’s hard. Plus, when the company’s small, you’re on point for everything – from administrivia to financing, from sales to delivery. Figuring out when to add what kind of help is difficult. And, in the end, you can’t do it alone. Luckily for me someone else realized this and injected herself into the business to help me run it before I keeled over…

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

One of the things that makes our approach unique is that we engage very directly with the people in operations – the people who make the decisions today. Watching them realize we can build a model of their decision-making and seeing their enthusiasm for the models we build is always rewarding. Best though, is that they often want to help us present at the end of the project. They’re so happy with the model we developed that they want to explain it to their bosses. Considering how unhappy most operations people are with their usual IT systems, this always makes us smile.

What is your vision for the future of Decision Management Solutions?

Companies are spending and wasting a huge amount of money on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) right now. Taking some of that money and spending it on the digital decisioning systems that would take advantage of those ML/AI algorithms would create a massive ROI for these companies. Yet digital decisioning systems and the Decision Management approach that makes them possible are massively underused across almost every industry. In fact, outside of a consumer credit and a few bits of direct to consumer marketing, most companies are not taking any advantage of this proven why to improve customer service, reduce fraud, manage risk and drive operational efficiency. We want to change that.

A CFO at one of our clients famously said “It’s like finding dollar bills lying in the street. The ROI is enormous and the effort tiny.” We want more companies to realize this. We want every company that has high volume transactions where its not immediately apparent what to do about those transactions to build decisioning systems to make those decisions on their behalf.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Deliver value quickly and remember that you can’t tell people things, you have to show them. We try and deliver complete, working decisioning solutions in 12-14 weeks. This lets companies see how the approach will generate value for them, and quickly clarifies the changes that will be required to truly take advantage of the approach. With more people working remotely, it’s harder to build the personal relationships that might give you more time. Manage the scope, think holistically about the whole solution and deliver quickly.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Like most companies we take a lot of advantage of tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and the MIRO virtual white board. We’ve replaced in person design sessions entirely thanks to them and we could not operate in the current circumstances without them.

Being able to deploy the machine learning, artificial intelligence and business rules technologies we use to a wide range of private and public clouds is also critical. With resources working in many time zones and clients similarly widespread, cloud computing and remote access are essential.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Well my kindle app is really what’s on my nightstand.

That said, I do have a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations close to hand for when I need a stoic boost.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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