OnlyBoth was founded in March 2014 based on technology that answered a new question about data, never before posed computationally: What’s unusual or exceptional about a given entity, compared to all its peers? The technology’s origins were in research carried out at Carnegie Mellon University in the late 90s, sponsored by the National Science Foundation under a research grant to one of OnlyBoth’s co-founders. The technology was set aside for 12+ years while the co-founders worked together at Vivisimo, which was also founded on technology first developed at Carnegie Mellon. After IBM’s acquisition of Vivisimo, Lessa and Valdes-Perez got together again to commercialize OnlyBoth’s founding technology.
But first there was a puzzle to solve. The original work was a classic example of curiosity-driven research, in which the researcher often asks “Can this be done?” after first getting an idea of a novel “this”. The story in this case is told here. If the answer is “Yes, it can be done and here’s how.” then the next puzzle is how to convert this into an innovation that serves a need or creates an opportunity.
For the last year, we at OnlyBoth have been trying to identify how this technology best meets a human need or enables new accomplishments. There was no single aha! moment, but instead a gradual realization that the underlying technology fit the goals of benchmarking in the business world.
To understand benchmarking’s goals, we had to understand the questions that benchmarking seeks to answer. After much reading and thinking, we settled on these core benchmarking questions, which we have rephrased for brevity:
- How are we doing?
- Where could we improve?
- What’s best in class? (peers may remain anonymous)
It turns out that OnlyBoth’s core technology is uniquely suited to answering these questions. But that’s only half the battle. The other half is: “Does benchmarking need improvement?” Our research revealed to us that it clearly does. Although benchmarking has laudable goals, it has a spotty reputation (e.g., see this Harvard Business Review article) because of multiple flaws, partly due to a lack of automation, and partly due to other circumstances that could be cured by moving to a more-promising playing field.
Our next post will examines these flaws and how software automation, based on artificial intelligence and algorithm design, removes them. Read here for a preview.
In view of this breakthrough, which matches a novel, unique technology with a business practice sorely in need of software automation, as of today we are introducing the novel concept, backed by mature technology, of a Benchmarking Engine and demonstrating its application openly to public data on all 4,813 U.S. hospitals as made available at the Hospital Compare website at Medicare.gov.
Going forward, our mission at OnlyBoth is now this: Universal betterment through automated benchmarking.