Service Design for Government
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providing results in relevant time

Stop talking about ‘Real Time’; ‘Relevant Time’ is what matters

Everyone wants real-time information, real-time updates, the latest and greatest.  Alerts! Give me alerts!  But you don’t need real-time, and neither does your business (probably).  You need Relevant Time.

Relevant Time is the width of your decision-making cycle – the amount of time between when you make decisions about the same thing (your OODA Loop for any military readers).

If you re-balance your investment portfolio quarterly, relevant time for you in this context is 90 days; you don’t need stock price updates any more often than that.  If you’re in the market for a new house, hopefully your real estate agent told you that new listings hit on Thursdays, so relevant time here is a week.  If you only want to read and write emails once a day, you don’t need alerts – you probably don’t even need to set up the Mail app on your iPhone.  The unpleasant secret: even real time is just very minute relevant time.

Thinking about Relevant Time helps keep you focused on whatever is important to you (vs. the merely urgent), can keep information overload at bay, can save your business money by making sure you don’t over-engineer technology and reporting, and generally helps you make better use of the one thing you can’t get more of.

Fun data point: Google search hits for ‘real time’ vs. ‘relevant time’: 318 million to 1 million.