"Our biggest problem is innovator's dilemma where we've built something that works and it's so far beyond the curve that people just don't realise it exists," says Tanda co-founder Tasmin Trezise.
Have you ever been to a bar where the queue spills out like that beer you just can't seem to order? Only one person is serving drinks. Time to leave.
Or have you ever been to a store where you're the only customer yet there are seven staff in a silent stand-off to serve or stand still?
Neither of these scenarios is ideal, particularly in a competitive market where negative consumer experiences can tarnish reputations online. And if your experience with a good or service isn't positive, why not just buy it online next time?
This is the class of problem Brisbane-based company Tanda has sought to solve through intelligent algorithm-driven systems that ensure workplace compliance, provide live wage tracking and predict optimal staff levels at any moment of time.
Tanda is making waves in the Software as a Service (Saas) space that has become something of a darling sector amongst certain investment circles. The company was a finalist in the technology category for Business News Australia's Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards 2018 and also made LinkedIn's list 25 most sought-after Australian startups.
Founded by Jake Phillpot, Tasmin Trezise, Alex Ghiculescu and Josh Cameron, Tanda's customers include Domino's, Telstra, Australia Post, Bunnings Warehouse and Boost Juice, while in the last year the group has opened up offices in Los Angeles and London to tap into the North American and European markets.
"Australia wins the award for the most complicated place in the world to pay staff, so people overseas look at us and say 'if you can deal with it there, you'll be fine here'," says Trezise.
"In these markets we're three years ahead of our competitors on the compliance curve. In terms of our customers, they're not just worried about whether they're paying their staff correctly today but what really scares them is the rate of compliance coming in and whether they'll be compliant tomorrow.
"The way we've built our workforce compliance engine is to deal with each of those rules...we've kind of built the world's first workforce compliance engine that you don't need a code to program, so anyone can just pick it up and use it," he says.
He claims the platform is not purpose-built for Australia and has therefore been able to adapt easily to different regulations in the US, where rules can vary from state to state.
Tanda now has a few "landmark" customers in the US including Aussie style café chain Bluestone Lane, while the company is also working with big-name companies in the UK but the deals are subject to non-disclosure agreements.
The transition has meant the founders are rarely in the same place at the same time, and for Trezise it is rewarding to see staff also growing their careers internationally within the organisation.
"A lot of people are stepping up and taking leadership as it's gone over 100 [staff], and that for the team has probably mattered a lot about distribution of responsibility and people having the freedom to take control of it," he says.
While Tanda is moving rapidly abroad, the opportunities are far from fully tapped at home in Australia. First there's the live wage tracker which took more than three years to develop, but the next stage is rolling out cognitive rosters and the company's predictive workforce technology.
"Our biggest problem is innovator's dilemma where we've built something that works and it's so far beyond the curve that people just don't realise it exists," says Trezise.
"The idea is you should know your labour cost; it helps people actually invest more in labour and their teams. Our whole philosophy is labour gives you your best return, invest more in people.
"If you can see that live then you get all the bureaucracy out and you can actually spend more on it and get more of a return."
Whether it be addressing understaffing, overstaffing, or just plain productivity, the Tanda approach is all about optimisation.
"That's really the next stage for us we call it cognitive rostering or cognitive scheduling," says Trezise.
"We can now pull in sales data for traffic - if you're a hotel it's beds, if you're a manufacturing plant it's orders, if you're a retail store it might be for traffic or sales, and you can use that to predict how many staff you need in a store."
Motivating workforces for success
On face value, algorithm-based predictive workforce technology might not sound like a great employee motivator. The last thing a person wants in the workplace is to feel like a mere factor of production carrying out motions prescribed by a computer, or micro-managed on their every move.
But that isn't what Tanda's cognitive rostering is about, and outside the technology's mechanics the founders also enjoy discussing solutions with customers. Tanda's work with Domino's (ASX: DMP) and its founder Don Meij is a prime example.
"I think the best thing about that relationship is to be able to sit down in a really honest way and innovate together. We call it co-creating; innovating on different technologies and different ways workforces can be more successful," says Trezise.
"Their whole shtick is sell more pizzas so you need to do three things for that. This is what we've analysed - one, automate all your administration processes so you can focus on not doing that, no bureaucracy, and focus on selling.
"Two, it's helping them be a little bit more engaged right from the start of the shift to the end of the shift in line with the company mission."
The third element is "turning the workforce into a weapon". Figuratively of course.
"So instead of having a latent workforce you're actually tapping into its potential. I think they [Domino's] know best because of Don Meij because he came from one of the stores, and they understand there is so much talent in all their stores," Trezise explains.
"If they can all do that, then they'll be incredibly successful, and they'll beat everyone in the market and that's what they've done."
The entrepreneur says he gets angry when people don't try to upsell, and believes the missed opportunity is often the result of a misalignment of values between a business and the employee.
"Usually I find it's because that employee is not engaged they don't care about the company mission, the company's values, and they don't care about it growing," he says.
"So why don't they care? That's just a symptom. The actual problem might be that they have university work, that their business doesn't know when they're meant to be studying, so all their goals and values are misaligned.
"With our wages as high as they are, you just can't afford to have employees that aren't engaged and aren't motivated."
Caption: Tanda founders Josh Cameron, Alex Ghiculescu, Tasmin Trezise & Jake Phillpot
Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Business News Australia<
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support