Google ended two browser-based feedback systems on 24 June — Google Health Records and Google PowerMeter — a week after our sister company Informing Ecological Design, LLC retired SenseDat WebViewer, a web tool that graphed and tabled 15-minute energy data.
What’s the connection between WebViewer’s end and Google’s decisions? Of course, feedback systems that seem to be good ideas are hard to make into commercial successes, even with Google’s resources. If the idea actually helps people, you still need to build, market and price the idea in ways that catch the interest of enough customers to keep the venture going.
There’s another connection. A commercially successful information system has to integrate with the user’s decision and action systems to yield benefits greater than the costs of the information system. In an EWeek blog discussion about the Google tools, there were certainly users who appreciated the Google services and invested effort in using them (that’s true for our WebViewer, too). Users who derive value typically have figured out how to link the information to their decisions and actions to get net benefits.
The Google tools and WebViewer didn’t deliver value to enough users to be worth continued investment.
We’ve touched on this value theme in earlier posts (e.g this post last month). Information systems are always subordinate to a decision, management or operations system. We use this insight in our design of Energy Stewards.
If you’re not already using Energy Stewards as part of a regular management review, try this 15-minute exercise at your next review meeting: Pick one building in your group as a focus. Identify its rank in change from baseline and current ENERGY STAR score, if available. Look at the energy graphs. What story do the graphs tell? Next, share the Action Table. What actions have you taken over the last year? Look back at the graphs–do the actions connect with changes in energy use? What actions can your team take in the next 7 days or 30 days? What impact do you think the actions will have? Document the conversation and decisions right in the meeting and post to the Forum. Commit to checking on the agreed-to actions the next time you meet.