Peter Drucker said it best; “Innovate or Die”. These days as more and more industries are feeling the pressure to transform there seems to be an increasing sense of urgency to adapt to the new realities and “disrupt yourself” before being disrupted by others. Although change has been a constant over the last several decades this time seems different; we just simply don’t have time to execute the change.
The irony of this extreme urgency is that transformations are incredibly difficult to pull-off…full stop…As a species we are wired to resist change at all costs attempting to hold on to what is “known” and “comfortable” and look for every reason to avoid a change to our routines. More ironic is that this transformation in front of us has little to do with a new piece of software or hardware but rather a wholesale rebirth of people and process including organizational hierarchy, workflow and systems of record; the foundation of any organization.
Personally I have had the opportunity to be part of a few transformations as a key vendor and partner to many clients through the years. First as an SAP functional consultant in the early days of ERP adoption and most recently as a senior leader at VMware helping organizations to embrace “The Cloud”. Before I talk about the road ahead there are a few key learnings from the past –
- Communication is Critical (at all levels) – Too many times we have seen major projects chartered at an executive level with benefits clearly spelled out to the board. Many times, however, the benefits are not as clearly laid out to the rest of the organization. Every employee needs to be able to clearly articulate “What’s in this for me?”. Status updates need to go beyond KPIs and instead report on what’s being felt at the field level; Employee and customer engagement and overall satisfaction.
- Clarity and Role Definition determines success – People and process transformation brings tension to any organization; for good reason. Fear, uncertainty and doubt cause a “vibration” across the employee base leading to productivity loss, negativity and even attrition of key talent. Instilling clarity from Day ONE around role expectations, future state and organizational hierarchy along with a commitment to transparency and respect goes a long way.
- Iterative deployment drives better engagement than “Big Bang” – No matter how much planning. requirements “blueprinting” and user acceptance testing takes place in the early stages of development no organization can fully anticipate how customers and employees will react when the system is live. The most successful projects focus on iterative launches delivering key functionality and allow key stakeholders to adopt, adapt and collaborate on next release priorities. Focus priorities where stakeholder benefits and financial benefits overlap.
- “Leaders Lead / Followers Follow” – Transformations are an incredible barometer for leadership acumen within any organization. From the onset of the project through to completion it will become clear who your leaders are by their ability to inspire others and drive productive energy towards achieving project success. Pay close attention to what is going on and evaluate how you can empower your true leaders to take an even bigger role in the future.
- Avoid custom integration wherever possible – Across my experience in both ERP and Cloud one of the most common pitfalls is 3rd party integration. In most cases this integration was deemed essential in order to retain key business processes or tools that were deemed “too difficult or risky to change”. These integrations drove exponential complexity and in many respects were the major cause of delays and cost over-runs.
These days Digital Transformation is increasingly linked with the coming age of “The Internet of Things” (IoT). We have already seen sensors and data delivering measurable value in the world of logistics and transportation (preventative maintenance), manufacturing (yield) and public safety. IoT has proven a springboard for any company looking to transform from a traditional “vendor” into a services organization delivering its goods “As-a-Service”.
In response to this opportunity we are seeing more and more technology vendors entering this space with their “IoT ready” products. However, in my opinion, the success of these projects will not be won on the merits of the components. They will be won on the merits of two crucial elements –
- Data – The ability to not only store but most importantly consolidate and blend data from various sources (traditional databases, video, audio and sensor data) to reconstruct a single view of a customer, patron, patient or device. IoT will drive exponential volumes of data and without a simple way to consolidate and blend it organizations will struggle to “connect the dots” and turn it into actionable insight.
- Industry Insight – The ability to connect data to a specific industry in order to take the appropriate actions. To be specific;
- Sensor data on trains only helps if you understand the components of a train and how they all interrelate to drive speed, fuel consumption and engine wear
- Sensor data for a water treatment plan only helps you deliver a higher quality of water if you understand how to assess water for quality and how to adjust it to accommodate for irregularities
There are only a few companies on the globe that possess the ability to deliver IT solutions AND have the deep industry insight to build end-to-end integrated solutions in this space.
Hitachi is one of these companies with over 50 years of IT experience and over 100 years of industry experience in Operational Technology (OT). Having recently joined the company Im excited at the potential that lies ahead and looking forward to being part of this next key phase of transformation!