digital transformation ARC Forum

Digital Transformation Isn’t Just About Tools: Live from ARC Forum

February 05, 2019

As you’d expect, at the 23rd Annual ARC Industry Forum: Driving Digital Transformation in Industry and Cities, a great deal of the conversation has been about technology and tools. For many companies, however, the real struggle lies in changing organizational culture and processes to realize the true value these tools can deliver. 

In this morning’s keynote, Larry Megan, Director of Praxair Digital, pointed out, “It’s not about being more digital. It’s fundamentally about changing way people do their jobs. Projects typically fail not because of the technology, but because they weren’t able to successfully manage the change.” ARC Director of Research Michael Guilfoyle reiterated the need to focus on the organization’s culture and ability to change to succeed in digital transformation.  

As part of his workshop, “Digital Acceleration - Achieving New Levels of Operational Excellence,” Robert Golightly described how AspenTech customers have built buy-in to drive successful implementations of predictive maintenance solutions. He walked the audience through the internal process Saras used to drive digital transformation. Robert rounded out his presentation with strategies other customers have used to quickly gain value from their investments in asset performance management tools. 

Trends in digital strategies 

As part of the workshop, ARC Contributing Analyst Peter Reynolds and ARC Senior Analyst Paula Hollywood took part in a discussion on how reliability is most transformative when it balances costs with risks. Paula observed that often, companies get into “analysis paralysis” rather than focusing on the value and purpose of digital investments. As the end user community is inundated with people trying to sell them various products and solutions, she encouraged decision-makers to “be more discerning.”

For example, last year, discussion about predictive maintenance focused on whether or not it was possible at all. The market was conditioned to believe these tools were underpinned by a complex model. Now businesses have begun to recognize the huge operational benefits these tools offer – predictive maintenance is not a one trick pony; there’s no complex model hiding under the hood. It has wider and more scalable market applicability. This year, the conversation centers on what organizations can do with this technology.   

Peter explained that digital used to be about automation, control and process: “Now we are looking at data differently and changing the approach on how we implement technology.” He cited machine learning tools that deliver maintenance recommendations to an operator as a major shift. “It’s a completely different mindset,” he said. He called for organizations to focus on the human side of change. 

Both Peter and Paula pointed out the value that data from digital brings to the business. The greatest opportunity with digital transformation comes from its ability to guide better decision-making through data. “Data is more valuable to the organization than the asset. Take care of it and use it to your advantage,” Paula said. 

Focus on the business problem to solve 

In his presentation, Robert called out that winners treat digital as a strategic issue, prioritizing areas where it can add value. They define a digital destination for each area in line with their capabilities and aspirations and construct a business case for digital solutions to be put in place to drive toward that destination. Some of his recommendations included: 

  • Build the system of belief – choose early projects for their ability to influence 
  • Avoid science projects; have a serious business purpose beyond technology
  • Help throw lots of “seeds” but with appropriate oversight toward solving key problems or reaching key goals
  • Build the economic case for the enterprise plan – sequencing, staffing, partnering 
  • Talk internally now about how digital transformation will impact your C suite

Fifty-nine percent of the workshop attendees reported that their company has a corporate digital initiative with executive sponsorship. In 86 percent of cases, the projects for that initiative cross multiple workflows and business processes. This reflects the true value of APM solutions, according to Paula: “It’s all about maintenance and operations working together.”
“There’s an aspirational big idea in the successful strategies we are seeing,” Robert said. With the right cross-functional teams and change management in place, digital strategy can deliver value today – and well into the future. 

For more information on how AspenTech can help with digital transformation, stop by Booth #4 in the Innovation Showcase. 


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