glanced at the screen, it probably wouldn’t grab your
attention: White space divided into rectangular modules
showing pie charts and bar charts in a kind of muted neon
color palette that calls to mind an old version of Excel, not
a revolutionary piece of tech.
But in a
business environment where big data is king, that’s exactly
how North Texas-based Sapience Analytics pitches its product.
who showed off the company’s "people analytics"
platform on a recent morning say it’s a paradigm-shifting
way for white collar employers and employees alike to boost
productivity by tracking how much time workers actually spend
working — like a Fitbit for your job, only your bosses are
using your results to evaluate you.
betting that major employers will see dollar signs, no matter
how the interface looks.
really think we’re at the forefront of what’s going to be
a multibillion dollar industry," Sapience CEO Brad
— and Texas, especially — has in recent decades
transformed from an economy where the biggest companies
employed lots of people to make physical stuff to one where
the biggest companies are snapping up young college grads by
the thousand for corporate desk jobs.
last year, Dallas-Fort Worth alone has added 26,800 jobs in
financial activities and professional and business services,
adding up to a total of almost a million people working in
those sectors, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.
buoyed by an investment by the financial giant Credit Suisse,
recently moved its headquarters from India to the U.S. in
hopes of tapping into that exploding corporate market.
the seemingly inevitable growth of a business that quantifies
the kind of work that has historically been subject to human
judgment raises broader questions about the future of people
in an automated world.
workers really more productive if they know their worth is
measured largely in data points? And, on the flipside, if
their work is too easily quantifiable, how soon will robots be
able to do their jobs?
number is motivating," said Tara S. Behrend, an associate
professor of industrial-organizational psychology at George
Washington University. "But the number only motivates the
exact thing that it’s meant to count."
does my time go?’
desktop monitor, Sapience Global Marketing Vice President Khiv
Singh clicked around a page of what the company calls its work
what we’re trying to solve here is, where does my time
go?" he said. He pulled up charts that showed when he
started one of his days that week (7:30 a.m.) and when he
ended it (9:21 at night).
doesn’t mean I had a 13 hour or 14 hour day — I actually
only worked four hours and 11 minutes in that," he said,
showing how he could pinpoint exactly how much of that was
spent on corporate work, marketing activities, phone calls and
spend one hour and one minute on doing marketing activities, I
spent around two hours on corporate."
platform doesn’t require input from employees; it works
"passively," Singh explained, in the background,
logging how long workers spend in various computer
applications that are core for their job, like CRM programs,
or how long they spend on phone calls.
some other employee surveillance products, Sapience doesn’t
log keystrokes, scrape screens or otherwise track activity
that’s marked private, executives said.
talked about the benefits for employees: Monitoring can build
trust for workers who would prefer to work from home. Hard
data showing a worker’s output can level the playing field
for employees who may be less vocal about their
accomplishments when it comes time to distribute bonuses or
employees work on their days off, a good manager might tell
them to break that habit so they don’t burn out.
also showed off a "Work Yoga" function where
employees can set productivity goals for themselves, like they
might with a fitness tracker, and they can post their
successes on social media.
though, the Sapience Buddy differs from a fitness tracker in
one fundamental way: Self-improvement is an important but
secondary selling point.
can choose to use individual or aggregate time data correlated
with output to assess a team’s work. They can use Work Yoga
to challenge employees to compete against one another in order
to spur a surge in productivity.
of Sapience’s core customers are companies that have
company sends, say, 2,000 jobs offshore to India,
"outside of them getting the bill every two weeks, they
don’t really know what happens," Killinger said.
Sapience changes that.
employees demonstrate they’re productive even when they’re
telecommuting, companies can save costs on a smaller real
said most employees and high level supervisors say they like
what he described as a new level of data-driven transparency
in the workplace.
top 20 percent love this, the middle is fine because they want
to improve," he said. "And the bottom 20 — well,
they were never going to be saved anyway."
Antony, the Princeton, New Jersey-based CEO of the outsourcing
firm Flatworld Solutions said about 300 of the company’s
2,000 employees have been on Sapience platforms for a couple
employees were not too comfortable with it, because it felt
like Big Brother looking over your shoulder," he said.
"But they quickly realized it was a tool they could use
Sapience worked well for the company because it allowed
Flatworld to measure different things, depending on the team.
any case, Killinger said, human workers will have to make the
case for themselves from a productivity standpoint in the
the competition is probably not the person interviewing down
the street," he said. "It’s theoretical, with the
inefficient and inaccurate’
behind Sapience’s technology is straightforward enough: Take
the power to analyze massive amounts of data and apply it to
companies’ biggest operating cost.
for companies that don’t manufacture things, is almost
every company we work with, they still do all their budgeting
forecasts and planning based on manual interpretations —
what they’ve done, what they feel like they’re doing
during the day," Killinger said. "It’s highly
inefficient and inaccurate."
was started by developers in India in 2009. Last year, the
company caught the eye of Credit Suisse Asset Management’s
NEXT Investors fund as a tech solution for the financial
services industry in particular.
exact terms of the Sapience deal were not disclosed, but
Killinger said Credit Suisse acquired 65 percent ownership of
the company for "eight figures."
company’s founders are still involved, Killinger said. An
energetic former executive at companies including IBM and
Oracle, he was brought on as president and CEO earlier this
year to jumpstart the U.S. expansion.
initially, the company set up shop in New Jersey, Killinger
had a better idea — a cheaper idea that would also put
Sapience smack dab in the heart of its potential customer
the headquarters to Dallas-Fort Worth, which has become a
destination for corporations moving from expensive coastal
North Texas team works out of a small suite of bare offices in
a coworking space just across a manicured green from Frisco’s
public library — for now.
just signed a lease on a roughly 4,000 square foot office in
Plano’s booming Legacy area. The company has about 24
employees in North Texas, a handful of sales people scattered
around the country, and 55 in India, where executives plan to
hire another roughly 30 people by year’s end.
says it has 85 customers around the world and partnerships
with companies like Salesforce, which lists the Sapience
People Analytics @ Work platform on its enterprise app
exchange for $200 per year.
company recently announced it’s launching a new
said they expect to hit $20 million in revenue within two
on the Dog’ conundrum
observers of D-FW’s corporate labor market, Sapience’s
products fit seamlessly with moves to optimize everything,
from end-of-month accounting processes to legal documentation.
debates have become whether that means hiring nimble talent or
finding products that can do things automatically. Tasks that
once took days today now take minutes. But now, companies need
more skilled people to manage the computers doing that work.
not seeing a decline in demand for headcount at all, it’s
just shifting in the roles," said Nicole Sims, a
Dallas-based regional vice president for the recruiting firm
Robert Half. "This RPA development position is a brand
new thing that we didn’t have even a year ago."
stands for robotic process automation.
Davis, an economist with SMU’s Cox School of Business, said
that as technology disrupts industries around the world,
products that boost efficiency will be critical for keeping
any workforce competitive — both against workers in other
countries or machines.
problem, he said, is that more and more jobs seem to fall into
a gray area where measuring productivity has been tough.
accountant is certainly doing a job that’s hugely more
complicated than putting lug nuts on a Volkswagen — they’re
not creating an opera," he said. "This strikes me as
a classic problem: Do you want to measure inputs or
the George Washington University professor, cautioned that
while it’s tempting to see data analysis as a kind of savior
for companies that want to get more done for less, "human
behavior is complicated."
Fitbit as an example. When people can see competitors — even
friendly ones, or themselves — on a leaderboard, they go to
sometimes unproductive lengths to increase their standing.
know people who attach the Fitbit to their dog," she
added that the mere act of surveilling employees can affect
productivity. In 2013, she co-authored a report in the Journal
of Business Psychology that found when workers feel their
autonomy is threatened, they may become less willing to try
out or help their colleagues.
said that although she wasn’t familiar with Sapience’s
products, giving employees access to their own data as a
self-improvement tool sounds like a positive step.
the end, she said, "I have to know in the back of my mind
that this data is probably going to be used to replace