Factor: Facilitating Human-centric Solutions for Modern Information Complexities

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Gary Carlson, Principal and Founding Partner Bram Wessel, Co-Founder and Principal Information is the lifeblood of any enterprise; there are no two ways about it. But if you cannot find, curate, and analyze the right information at the right time, then the entire purpose of bolstering an enterprise’s data-driven ecosystem becomes moot.

But, what can you do to fix this? Implement the latest and greatest data processing technologies and call it a day. Sounds simple, right? The story of a Fortune 50 multinational technology corporation might suggest otherwise.

This company’s seemingly routine task of analyzing the performance of marketing campaigns across their web, paid media, and social media channels, and linking it with their business objectives became a herculean task. All the relevant data for analysis was deeply embedded within numerous marketing systems scattered across both internal departments and external divisions. Even with tens of millions of dollars invested in cutting-edge marketing systems, it took them months of labor and several groups of stakeholders to collate the data. At this juncture, the company knew they had to revamp their enterprise information strategy.

Enter Factor—an information architecture firm with a proven track record in the enterprise.

“As soon as we dove into the picture, we realized that their problem was not in IT or their ability to integrate disparate systems across their marketing division. Instead, it was the failure to organize, manage, and share information across these systems in a way it could be easily accessed and interpreted by the people using this information,” says Gary Carlson, principal and founding partner of Factor. “Our initial assessment for this client revealed that more than 19 distinct taxonomies were used to describe the same concepts across 26 different marketing systems.” In simple terms, different departments defined the same concept differently, which made its comprehension and collation virtually impossible.

To bring order to this disarrayed information setup, Factor developed standard terms and definitions, and created a robust information model. Today, Factor’s ‘human-centric’ and ‘centrally-managed’ information model serves as the ‘singular source of truth’ across the multinational company’s marketing systems. Where once they took days, weeks, and even months to gather and collate the data, they can now do it in an orderly and timely fashion.

Why Factor?

As a leader in information architecture and user experience, Factor has empowered countless organizations to break free from the shackles of their data silos and disparate taxonomies. Its unique three-pronged methodology of assessing the client organization, mapping their information roadmap, and modeling a suitable information model has proved extremely durable, enabling its clients to gain control over their endlessly evolving pools of information and content. Notably, even though most of the companies that approach Factor seek assistance for a specific function—whether it is analytics, compliance, or personalization—services provided by the company help them derive value in all facets of their enterprise-wide activities.


Information can become an asset or a liability based on its accessibility and interpretability

Bridging the Gap between Data Repositories and Data Users

Carlson notes that information can become an asset or a liability based on its accessibility and interpretability. That is, any information that cannot be extracted cannot be used to drive business goals. “For instance, we have come across several life sciences and medical device manufacturing firms who were struggling to get their product to the market because they could not present concrete and relevant evidentiary data to regulatory bodies, even though this information already existed in their various systems,” Carlson says.

The root cause of this problem, according to Factor co-founder and principal Bram Wessel, is the gap between the organization’s three metaphorical layers. At the base lies the ‘technology’ layer. Sitting atop this is the ‘information layer.’ Lastly comes the ‘experience’ layer. Now, considering taxonomies, ontologies, or metadata might not be aligned across all the technological tools an enterprise uses, they often end up with a fragmented ‘information layer’ instead of a reliable source of truth. And this fragmented ‘information’ layer invariably impacts the overall ‘experience’ layer where users and customers interact with it.

In the absence of a unified information layer, even a simple task like gathering marketing data or generating compliance reports becomes difficult. “This is why we see many businesses fail to align around one organizational voice and a common vocabulary when they have to collect and contrast complex information from a hundred different systems,” adds Wessel. The overarching impact of a siloed information layer can thus extend to other business activities across the organization. Factor believes an organization’s information layer is a core enterprise asset—as tangible as people, products, or brand.

“Our enterprise information strategy addresses these issues, giving organizations greater control over their information layer, no matter how large or fragmented their data sources are,” assures Wessel. “Alongside this, we also help our customers with diligent, but flexible data governance and maintenance, ensuring an enterprise-wide information layer with clarified, structured, and classified taxonomies, which can be more easily used by any user, whether they be employees or customers.” As a result, Factor’s clients can witness a return on their investment within months, or even immediately. Whether it is heightened employee efficiency, streamlined operations, or personalized marketing, the information layer streamlined by Factor augments and boosts almost every business function within the client’s enterprise environment.

The Factor Approach to Untangling Information

For Factor, preparation and foresight have always been the essential ingredients for a sound client engagement, ultimately fostering success for both parties. “Our engagement approach involves three phases—assessment, roadmap, and modeling, each meticulously crafted to ensure a seamless implementation,” mentions Carlson.
During the assessment phase, Factor’s experts meet with the client to understand their information utilization problems and then delve deeper into pinpointing the redundancy, incongruity, and overlap in their taxonomies. The insights gained from the assessment phase are then leveraged by Factor to develop an enterprise-wide roadmap, often accompanied by a proof-of-concept that specifically focuses on allocating and managing business-critical information. Importantly, Factor also educates stakeholders on information architecture concepts, and how they play a role in making information workflows simpler and quicker. Once this strategic outline is approved, the company moves to modeling the solution. The end result is a cohesive and standard information layer that enables employees’ systems to access and share consistent information— quickly and effectively—to power their different goals, whether it is analytics, personalization, compliance, or any digital transformation use case.

User-centric information architecture (IA) is the cornerstone of the information-rich digital experiences many companies now demand. “We are proud of our ability to create this virtuous cycle, wherein if we solve one problem with our unified information management model, it allows our clients to take that model and build other valuable capabilities on top of it,” Carlson adds.

"Our enterprise information strategy addresses these issues, giving organizations greater control over their information layer, no matter how large or fragmented their data sources are"

Behind the Wheels of Factor

According to Carlson, the commitment to intellectual growth of the company’s workforce plays a critical role in its position as a leading information architecture specialist. Factor’s work culture attracts curious and thoughtful talents; its methodology ensures they can deliver results. From determining business goals and conducting market analysis to assessing technical stacks and performing user research, Factor is home to people with a broad range of specializations, who can look far and wide across client organizations and come up with sustainable solutions for their challenges.

“We have created a community where people are comfortable and motivated to grow at their pace,” adds Carlson. Despite a smaller workforce, Factor teams collaborate intimately with its clients. The executives at the company serve as constant guides for their project teams, ensuring utmost quality at every stage of the client engagement process. As the principals of Factor, Carlson and Wessel implicitly trust their team to steer its clients toward growth and success.

Blazing the Trail of a Data-Driven Future

Not satisfied with its accomplishments and position in the data-driven world, Factor is focusing on opening new doors of opportunities for its clients. The company is planning to strengthen its enterprise methodology and demonstrate the strategic value of the information layer even further by incorporating AI. And while the company will remain focused on the information layer as a foundation, it will also expand its capabilities to individual specializations like compliance, regulation, personalization, customer experience, and so on. Carlson and Wessel conclude, “As we enter the era of the information layer, enterprises will need more robust competencies to manage their data. We will continue evolving our information models to meet emerging requirements and stay ready to tackle any data challenge that might come our clients’ way.”

Company
Factor

Headquarters
Seattle, WA

Management
Gary Carlson, Principal and Founding Partner Bram Wessel, Co-Founder and Principal

Description
Factor is a Seattle-based information architecture consulting firm. We help enterprise-level companies untangle complex information and user experience challenges—bringing people, platforms, and processes into alignment. The company helps its clients align business and user goals by providing evidence-driven solutions grounded in rigorous user research. Its clients range from mid-sized e-commerce businesses to Fortune 500 companies, with a particular focus on enterprise-scale content management and information architecture challenges. The company focuses on how people interact with client organizations. With solutions designed to reflect human goals and behaviors, Factor helps improve outcomes for clients’ customers, employees, and business