Klaro in five questions & answers

Transcript of an interview with Bernard Lambeau: About Klaro, its origin and future

Why did you create Klaro?

I created Klaro because I found that most project management software does not provide the level of precision necessary to track and manage a solo or group project. It is intrinsically difficult accurately and fully to inform a machine of all the rules that govern teamwork, and to succeed in making software truly help to organize this work. This is true for small and large projects alike.

Could you elaborate the meaning of precision?

Let's say you have lots of tasks in front of you, and 30 minutes available to work. You want to see which tasks: a) will not take long to complete; b) are easy for you; and c) help to unblock the work of one of your colleagues. You will only be able to sort these tasks from the rest if the aforementioned criteria exist in your software and as long as it is easy and not time-consuming to input this kind of data into the system. So it is a question of the precision of information as well the ease of data input.

For another example of the importance of precision, consider that project management software often provides some level of support for deadline management: for example each task can have a Due Date and the software sends reminders to team members as due dates approach. The thing is, this rarely works well in practice: I frequently receive reminder emails for tasks past their due dates, for tasks that are not priorities, and even for projects I'm no longer involved in. These are typical symptoms of project management that needs improvement.

Furthermore, some important deadlines come from global rules, for example "all documents must be reviewed within 30 days of writing". Not much support exists for such rules, beyond dedicated software development on a case by case basis.

Don't any existing solutions offer that functionality?

Yes, of course. I should be more nuanced. I distinguish between three types of software: generic, specific and dedicated.

  • Generic software is software like Excel or Trello, for example. They feature various mechanisms via which we can do different things, and being aimed at a very broad range of users they do offer some flexibility in this respect. But without dedicated programming we are constrained entirely to the generic system and requirements specific to particular projects are not catered for. This goes back to the problem of precision I mentioned earlier.

  • Specific software includes all the tools you find in niche markets that address specific working methods or sectors such as agile scrum, growth hacking, automated marketing, product owning, etc. For each of these you can find dedicated software. There are some good solutions out there, but they are still biased: the methodology and set up of these solutions is not your own, it is that of the designer of the system. If you have multiple projects, they all have to follow the same system, and this is difficult in quite a few situations. The project leader and their team end up being slaves to a particular dogma and a rigid system.

  • Dedicated software is tailor-made to support your particular way of working. Included here is the configuration of complex solutions such as an ERP or solutions like Jira. Such configuration takes more than a few days and requires programmers. Dedicated solutions are the best, but you have to know how to gather and understand requirements. Dedicated software is also by far the most expensive.

With Klaro we are looking to get the best from the three modes: generic for its overall broad scope and associated "flexibility"; specific for its methodology, and dedicated in terms of the focus on helping to find and cater for unique requirements, in a completely precise manner. It is innovative work and a type of continuous research, and we are pleased with the results we have made so far. Our clients are delighted with the balance between the price and the power offered by the software.

Who is the ideal Klaro user? A single person or a large company? Does it help to be a software programmer?

You don't need to be in software development to use Klaro. There are all kinds of possible users of Klaro. In particular we are always pleased to gain users who are tired of other solutions that are out there. It's great to be able to help them migrate all kinds of processes from other software systems.

Essentially we offer project leaders and their teams the possibility to organize themselves better using quite an analytical approach; Klaro offers above all the ability to order, organize, clarify and visualise things better. This seems to me to be an essential prerequisite to a well-run project.

For small-scale users we offer a tool that is intrinsically more simple than most other solutions, because it offers the best of generic scope and specific focus. Klaro also encourages pragmatic agility - agility that comes from real work and activity (even though personally I love books on methodology). It is ideal for startups and entrepreneurs who want to stick to their own processes but who also are not yet ready to pay for the creation/configuration of a dedicated solution. Choosing a dedicated solution too early in the creation of a company can be a real catastrophe, but to do it too late can also be a very bad idea. As our developers and partners are experts in digital transformation the conversations we end up having around Klaro often turn to this kind of question; it is striking this kind of balance that Klaro helps JZH, SAM-Drive, Greenzy and Devenco to do, for example.

For bigger users we offer the ability to retain simplicity over time, even while teams grow and projects develop complex requirements. We also offer the ability to mirror and track work methods with very precise requirements, at a level that normally can only be provided by dedicated development, but without the associated cost of implementation. We offer respite for teams with no good software solutions who find themselves stuck somewhere between Excel and their ERP. This is exactly the scenario currently underway with teams using Klaro Cards at major companies.

What is the main difficulty you have at Klaro for the moment?

I somewhat underestimated the effort required really to enter into the Klaro approach of doing things, and so this is something the team is actively working on and something that we will be addressing from multiple angles over the next weeks and months.

It is still quite a simple process for smaller teams: setting up a new software tool needs minor effort to get going if you do not have too much baggage at the outset. We offer advice and configuration during free dedicated demos, and this is something we will continue doing as it makes a big difference and helps us build constructive relationships with our clients as they settle into the approach. We are also developing a variety of rich project templates with associated methodology documentation; our template engine will follow.

For bigger operations we are aware that the Klaro approach may be seen as a bit too disruptive: it is based on agility, which requires trust and communication between teams. Even in the world of software development, where agile methodology was born nearly 20 years ago, the approach is not always well understood and practised. Outside the IT sector there is a lot of work to do to help teams really master agility and reap the benefits of this approach. We are constantly reflecting on these issues and we partner with agile coaches and rely on collective intelligence as we consider and develop group solutions.

In both cases we know that human beings are the essential element to any project. We strive to develop the Klaro business model so that we can offer a solution at a competitive price, that is nevertheless a powerful solution that can cater to the diverse complex needs of clients, while also remaining relatively easy to set up without requiring weeks of programming/configuration. But we remain very dedicated and aware of the fact that the only way properly to reflect upon and grasp processes - meaning analysis of associated requirements - is by taking the necessary time and by relying on a few good theories.

There is a fully-fledged digital and managerial transformation at stake. We would like Klaro to provide pragmatic and flexible software support in real working situations, while also being a methodological tool aiding in requirements analysis and collective intelligence.