By Eric Kauffman
This is the third in our multi part series on Industrial Control Systems.
It doesn’t have to be confusing
A young couple is walking through a home they’d like to purchase. Their realtor begins explaining “multiples” that consist of “cash”, “FHA”, and “VA”. The couple is confused until Keegan Michael Key steps in and explains, the realtor simply means there are many people who want to buy the same house. Relief.
Full credit to Rocket Mortgage for this commercial, which we are using to explain the challenge of “Digital Transformation”. Much of the challenge is the jargon associated with any digital undertaking. Consultants sling words and abbreviations like “AI”, “ML”, “cloud”, and “microservices”, but the reality is that knowing the meanings of the words isn’t what makes the project successful. Referring back to the commercial above, the problem the couple wants to solve is balancing the degree to which they emotionally want the house with the realities of their finances and tolerance for debt.
Therein lies the challenge for a user who recognizes the need for improvement (increased productivity, competitiveness, and well-managed risk), the solution may take “digital” form, however the path still requires definition. Whether this is called “digitization”, “digitalization”, or “digital transformation” is only relevant in Wired or Fast Company articles. For a business leader, the relevance lies in the realized business value.
“Much of the challenge is the jargon associated with any digital undertaking“
The 3 things that matter
For solutions that will take the form of software-based changes, the key is to understand the 3 key elements:
1) Your business – how your business extracts value from the assets in question and your business strategy for improving those assets
2) Your processes – what business processes will be improved by the change, including reducing transaction cost, eliminating the risk of human error, increasing the accuracy of data used in decisions, or simple reduction of process steps
3) Your people – who in your business is going to be the owner of the process, who are the recipients of its output, who is required for its input, and who is impacted if it doesn’t work
Top 5 considerations
Here are our top 5 based on our experience in software development, business transformation, sales, implementation, and long-term support:
1) You must have tangible financial value … any process improvement, particularly the first few efforts, must have very clear business value in measurable financial terms in a way that is easily traced to the income statement. In the absence of this, when the going gets tough, or if organizational change occurs, the project will get scrapped.
2) Don’t digitize a process that doesn’t exist in “analog” form … if the process doesn’t work in “real life”, digitizing and automating will only increase the rate of error production. This usually includes a very detailed analysis of the as-is process, that is the process that is actually used, not the official written procedure.
3) Start small with one process at a time … business transformation sounds great in the boardroom, but in reality change is hard and it takes time for people to adjust. Further, if the team takes the time to truly understand the process being changed, it is more often the case that just one process has many connection points far beyond the area in which it primarily occurs. The adage that 100% of something is better than 80% if everything applies here.
4) Make sure you know what “done” means … “done” doesn’t mean it works on the development server or the customer demo. It also doesn’t mean that the first instance is implemented and the local users are comfortable with the product.
5) Be wary of “adoption services” … Apple’s iPhone doesn’t come with a 100-page instruction manual, your software should be intuitive enough to not need a lot of training. The main value of adoption services is in retraining your organization to do what they used to do before, but to use a new system and to trust that system.