Meet SteerIO's founders: Damien, Nicolas and Thomas

7 min.
Launched in January 2018, SteerIO is the smart project health assistant enabling project teams to deliver high quality project outcomes and create great working experiences. Based on the observation that too many projects struggle to maintain high people engagement and deliver expected results, Damien, Nicolas and Thomas developed a SaaS AI-powered solution to check the health of projects, the pulse of their teams and provide the manager with actionable recommendations and coaching along the journey.

Today, they tell us more about their solution and the motivation behind SteerIO.

What made you develop SteerIO?

Nicolas: Before starting SteerIO, I worked for Monitor Deloitte in strategy consulting, advising international companies accross Europe. Having worked for 15+ projects in 3 years, I experienced that every single project went through a succession of ups-and-downs; this is especially true, critical and costly for large-scale transformation programs involving multiple departments.

Based on what I have seen, I believe this is not a fate and can easily be changed. The challenges in a project rarely appear by surprise. How often did I see examples of people in the organization who already raised issues weeks ahead, voiced concerns or complained about the management? Often times clear warning signals made the challenges foreseeable.

Nicolas Bresson

Communication streams are ineffective, existing project management tools fail.

Yet those signals do generally not reach the relevant decision-makers. Communication streams are ineffective, existing project management tools fail: from a leadership point of view, these facts and voices are not easy to monitor with the currently used tracking spreadsheets or old-fashioned traffic lights. With SteerIO, we wanted to change that and develop a solution that puts the people at the centre of their project and makes them enjoy the ride.

Damien: Over the last 6 years, I worked for some of the largest French companies, mostly in the Telecommunications and Energy sectors. It is undeniable that these companies are increasingly working in project mode rather than routine jobs, which brings along a series of new management challenges. The quantity of projects going on in parallel and the number of internal and external stakeholders involved in these large groups can be quite overwhelming for the organisation. To me, what really made the difference for people and projects was the steering approach: I realized the importance of being people-centric rather than driving everything purely through financials and processes.

Damien Guery

Organisations still underestimate the long-lasting impact a project "experience" can have on a company's culture, engagement, satisfaction, retention and productivity.

Organisations unfortunately still underestimate the long-lasting impact a project "experience" can have on a company's culture, engagement, satisfaction, retention and productivity. Working on the human dimension and gaining the ability to leverage collective intelligence around the project is the new frontier to bring team steering to the next level and generate great outcomes. In that sense, giving teams a voice, objectivizing subjectivity, exchanging feedbacks and acting upon them is critical for companies to generate virtuous and sustainable performance cycles. Strikingly, many managers agree with this in theory but fail to transform the approach in practice. With SteerIO, we wanted to give project managers the solution to make people centricity a day-to-day reality.

Thomas Hecht

We still have not seen major game-changers in how decisions are made and organisations led.

Thomas: with my background at the crossroads of Economics, Social Sciences and Information Technologies, I am convinced that businesses are still at an early stage of transformation. While many industries have been disrupted in their business models in the past decades, we still have not seen major game-changers in how decisions are made and organisations led. Technology will play a major role and lead to significant changes in the coming years.

I strongly believe in the power of analytics to elevate human skills rather than replace them. Behind SteerIO lies the idea that decision-making can be improved by the use of Artificial Intelligence but also proper use of collective intelligence. At the end of the day, with SteerIO, we do not want to replace managers, we want to empower and upskill them. To say it with a car metaphor: we are not developing an autonomous car, we are assisting the driver with analysis and recommendations.

How does steerIO solve the issue?

Nicolas: In very simple terms, SteerIO enables the project manager to continuously monitor the health of her projects, engage her teams through regular feedback loops, and get tailor-made action recommendations. What the solution achieves is: empowered teams and managers, a positive project experience for all stakeholders and continuous learning for their manager. The tool integrates seamlessly in the everyday project journey through digital technologies.

Damien: By normalizing and structuring the feedback process, we facilitate information flow within the project and engage the whole team in steering activities. People are more involved, their opinion is valued, generating a direct impact on their motivation and thus productivity.

Damien Guery

When project intensity is high, people run from one meeting to another and are deep into their daily tasks, it is not always easy to take a step back.

We are quite specific in what we are monitoring. For example: "Are the project's objectives clear to you?” or “In your perspective, is everybody pulling in the right direction?". With a carefully selected set of questions that only takes 2 minutes to answer, we can effectively assess the project health, pinpoint the rootcauses of dissatisfaction if applicable and provide the most relevant recommendations to correct the course. Most of the time, the causes and solutions are obvious to an external party, but when project intensity is high, people run from one meeting to another and are deep into their daily tasks, it is not always easy to take a step back and answer the simple questions "How are we doing?" or “What is next?”.

Thomas Hecht

SteerIO proposes to leverage an amazingly rich hidden stock and unlock the teams’ collective intelligence in order to enrich project management and decision-making.

Thomas: While companies already own formal and informal data but they don’t use it, are unaware of it and of their potential value. During the course of a project, all stakeholders build opinions and make small or large decisions, and this every day. SteerIO proposes to leverage this amazingly rich hidden stock and unlock the teams’ collective intelligence in order to enrich project management and decision-making through a simple Data Analytics solution.

While companies tend to be afraid of Data Analytics and new tool adoption, it was important for us to develop a light, pragmatic and easy to use SaaS solution in order to integrate it seamlessly into the project experience. Besides delivering valuable project outcome and project experience benefits, we want SteerIO to save time and not cost any. Therefore, it only takes the project manager 5 minutes to set up the solution; Once up and running, usage and adoption for both the team and the manager are very intuitive and focused on the essentials.

Nicolas Bresson

We enable project teams to become more productive, save time and money, and implement best-practices smartly, maximizing value generation.

Nicolas: I would add that SteerIO complements well existing project management methods, templates and tools. Our platform generates automated analyses and charts that can be integrated easily in any project report and can serve as a support material for the next team meeting. In a nutshell, we enable project teams to become more productive, save time and money, and implement best-practices smartly, maximizing value generation.

Who is behind SteerIO?

Nicolas: We are three friends who met at the University of Paris Dauphine back in 2006, when we started studying Economics. Besides our common curriculum, we focused on different specialties: Damien specialized in Marketing and Innovation, Thomas in Social Sciences and Information Technologies and I specialized in Finance, before studying International Business and Entrepreneurship at ESSEC and the University of Mannheim.

Thomas: In the team, Damien and Nicolas bring the Business perspective. They are former consultants, worked in France and Germany in various industries and for different types of clients, like SFR or EDF to just name a few. In terms of projects, their experience ranges from Strategic projects to Organizational topics, but also Sales Effectiveness or Digital Transformation for example.

I am the Tech guy on the team, having re-directed my studies towards Computer Science and Data Science after my Master in Economics. Before starting SteerIO, I did 5 years of research in Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic. While I wear the “Tech hat”, Nicolas also brings programming knowledge to the table, as an alumnus of Le Wagon in Paris. His dual perspective is very helpful, as he understands possibilities and challenges in Product Development and can make the link to business requirements.

Damien Guery

We all bring different perspectives and skills to the table, leading to a very open, curious, productive and rich collaboration.

Damien: With the different tracks followed after we left Dauphine, we have a set of diverse experiences and networks, which is super-helpful in the development of SteerIO. We all bring different perspectives and skills to the table, leading to a very open, curious, productive and rich collaboration.

IO stands for Input-Output, right? Can you tell us more about your solution’s inputs and outputs?

Damien: To build on Thomas’ earlier car metaphor, we “fuel the driving assistant” with four types of inputs: regular team feedback, best practices from top management consulting firms, project benchmarks and the project manager’s rating of the coach’s recommendations.

Nicolas Bresson

SteerIO is a smart coach, guiding the manager along his project journey.

Nicolas: The two last elements are really where the magic happens with Machine Learning and AI: all the inputs received enable the algorithm to contextualise analyses and recommendations. This makes SteerIO a smart coach, guiding the manager along his project journey.

Thomas: When dealing with Machine Learning algorithms, input is obviously my main concern. Usually, when we talk about big data, one tend to think about data quantity in the first place. I actually first look at data quality and ramifications. For me the first and most valuable input is the team’s collective intelligence: AI simply allows to surpass traditional communication by bringing people’s feedbacks to the next level.

What are the next steps for SteerIO?

Nicolas Bresson

We see our first testers as partners really, as this will be a win-win: they get to have a big saying in how the solution will look like.

Nicolas: We are currently validating our assumptions regarding the concept though interviews with client leads as well as demos and tests of our first prototype. We are also progressively onboarding Beta customers, with whom we will further refine the solution in a very iterative and collaborative way. We see our first testers as partners really, as this will be a win-win: they get to have a big saying in how the solution will look like, have a zero-risk adoption of our solution, while we get to refine the approach based on real usage at large scale. We are super excited to get the solution out and improve it with user feedback – because you know, we are all about feedback!

Damien: Our first leads include medium to large customers from the corporate and industrial world as well as management consulting firms. While we considered the solution to primarily be a value-add to large companies, we are very enthusiastic to see interest from startups as well. Startups have different kinds of challenges obviously, but our tool can be very valuable when startups grow from being very small, dynamic and agile structures towards larger and more structured organisations.

Thomas Hecht

Our objective over the coming months is to develop a "preferred relationship" with 3 to 5 companies.

Thomas: Our objective over the coming months is to develop a "preferred relationship" with 3 to 5 companies in order to refine the solution together. After this piloting phase, we will give access to a larger market within 3 to 6 months. The adventure is only beginning, we also have longer-term plans but we will keep this for a later discussion – so… Stay tuned!


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