Avoid the big bear trap of digitalisation


Don’t digitalise the status quo

It seems everyone these days is jumping on the digitalisation bandwagon. I was recently asked by a publication whether all of the hype was justified. My answer was a resounding “yes,” but then I had to strongly caveat my “yes” with, ”…but, we need to be very careful to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Technology in and of itself is a tool, not the solution

The daily drumbeat of hype around digitalisation is producing a powerful magpie or shiny object effect. It takes some serious restraint to avoid rushing headlong into the digitalisation fray and not be attracted to the flash and the novelty of it all – whether it’s the all-encompassing IIoT, the coolness of digital twins, the allure of predictive analytics, the sexiness of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) or the huge promise of machine learning and AI. With our imaginations running wild and carefree we want to dream the dream of digitalisation.

But we need to remember technology needs a master. It needs to be in service of something; a business process, a decision and/or an outcome. Expecting, for example, predictive analytics to magically connect the dots and provide us with actionable insight is a first class ticket to the trough of disillusionment.

Keep a level head and avoid digitalising the status quo

Many vendors are making big claims and every other vendor is jumping on the “digital bandwagon.” It is critical to keep a level head about it all. Digitalisation should not be seen as the “sure-fire” salvation for the challenges your business faces. Nor is it something you spend some money on, plug in and expect instant results.

Most important, be wary of vendors who are selling a big dream they can’t connect practically to people on the ground. Or to those eager to make a quick buck and “digitalise” your status quo. They will promise to “digitalise” the way you are currently working or what you have always done as a path of least resistance to an “easy fix” that ultimately only benefits their bottom line and not yours.

Digitalisation done right is an ongoing process that will change the way you operate. It’s not something you bolt on or optimise around the edges. It’s about closing-the-loop between various departments, business processes, systems and silos of data within an organisation – like, for example, in hazardous industries; between operations, engineering, maintenance, HSE and other departments. It’s about differentiation, not the generic use of cloud, SaaS, analytics and the IIoT. It’s fundamentally about new end-to-end business processes empowered by technology to produce positive business outcomes.

It’s hard work, and to make it work, you need to think and act differently

As Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum said -“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” The pace of technological development is accelerating. It’s having an impact on operating models, markets, and supply chains. If you are not paying attention, you are at risk for obsolescence in the very near future.

For those who get it right, the payoff will be big. But in industries where there is a race to be second, the big guys are often talking a big game but aren’t actually doing much more than optimizing around the edges.

Digitalisation requires investments in skills, people, and infrastructure. It needs to be led from the top and focused on how it can empower people with insight, new processes, and context to make better decisions.

The importance of getting “on the journey” to being a “fast fish” by building a “digital foundation” today cannot be overstated. In 3 years, the degree to which you have built your digital foundation will enable you to truly leverage the power of AI, Machine learning, predictive analytics and others.

But be sure to avoid the big bear trap of digitalisation. Avoid digitalising the status quo. It’s important to partner with vendors and service organisations who truly understand what digitalisation is about and can see further than just putting “paper on glass” and slapping a “digitalisation” sticker on it.

Scott Lehmann  has strategic responsibility for market and product segmentation, defining and delivering market driven products and solutions. Scott joined Petrotechnics in 2010 with more than twenty years of senior management experience in enterprise software product marketing, product management, strategy development and sales and channel development.

Before he joined us, Scott was Vice-President of Product Management & Marketing (and co-founder) of Nayatek, a VC-backed enterprise storage software start-up; the EMEA Security Products Marketing Manager at Microsoft; and the Director of EMEA Channel at security software vendor Sybari Software (acquired by Microsoft).

Scott’s earlier experience included being the North American Channel & Alliance Manager at TenFour, a security software vendor, and a spell as a sales manager at an IT systems integrator in the Washington, DC area.

Scott has a B.A from Tufts University and an M.A from Georgetown University.

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