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Digital Transformation Planning Should be Driven by People, Not Tech

by Jay David

Throughout modern history, as we’ve progressed through various industrial revolutions, we’ve been on a journey to make everything better, cheaper, and faster. In our desire to improve, we have asked many questions at the start of every journey: How can I unify engineering, operations and maintenance? How can I make my solution more reliable? How can I make it safer? Planning for Digital Transformation is the most common answer at this stage in our technology.

To get sensible and practical answers on planning for Digital Transformation, last week, I scheduled a panel discussion with two people who are subject matter experts in the field: Stan DeVries, Senior Director Digital Transformation Consulting at AVEVA, and John Fryer, Senior Director of Industry Solutions at Stratus Technologies. Here’s a summary of our conversation.

Definition of Terms: What is Digital Transformation?

“Digital Transformation is about changing the way that organizations and people work for the better. It involves the transformation of work that is enabled by digitalization. It is about shared vision and better teamwork, which produces sustained higher margins.”

– Stan DeVries

My friend Rob Kambach, Head of OEM Sales at AVEVA, hates it when Digital Transformation is associated only as a technology. Consequently, he mentions the wasted money resulting from companies improperly addressing Digital Transformation. “What people envision to be their future should drive the technology,” Rob says, “not the other way around”.  This prompted me to ask my second question:

What are the Misconceptions about Digital Transformation?

“The number one Digital Transformation misconception is that you think you need more digital stuff. You do need it, but that by itself is a waste if it’s not improving the business or improving the work.”

– Stan DeVries

“Analytics and Digital Transformation are interchangeably used, in particular, in and around the use of AI, or machine learning. I think they’re two different things. Digital Transformation is a journey, all right. Things like machine learning and AI are technologies. People are hung-up on one bit of technology, when in fact, it’s a process and a journey of which technology is a tool to play the part.”

– John Fryer

Why Start Planning for Digital Transformation?

How do you make your business perform better if it’s already a high performer? Companies can’t address this question and improve their business by just hiring more people, buying more plant equipment, or building a new plant.

“It’s easier to say that you’re going to be more agile or some higher operations excellence, but you can’t just use propaganda, training, or even performance measures by themselves to get that higher level of performance. You need some enabler – something to help enable that higher operations excellence.”

– Stan DeVries

Your Business is Already Performing Well, but it Needs to Perform Better – How?

“Having clear leadership and somebody who really has the responsibility, who can cut through some of the cultural boundaries, or the fiefdoms that exist, I think is very important if you’re going to be successful. For businesses that are already high performers, but need to perform better, the real question is: do you understand what you mean by being a high performer in this context, or a poor performer, i.e., can you calibrate your business and understand how it performs, so you can figure out where you need to improve?”

– John Fryer

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve ever had is dealing with a high performing organization to help them truly believe that they can, they knew that they must, but that they can perform even better. We used this maturity model to help them understand the possibility. Because, as you can imagine, if they don’t believe in the possibility, you can’t even get them to the step to believe in the reality and really get them invested in the journey as it were.

In my next blog post, I’ll take a deeper dive into the maturity model and how AVEVA and Stratus work together.

Please attend the AVEVA World Conference North America this coming November 11 – 14, 2019. Visit us at the EXPO and find out how we can accelerate your technical innovation and transform your team’s future by helping you in your Digital Transformation journey.

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