Companies increasingly look to technology to drive operational improvements in their business. To reduce the risk of the costs outweighing the benefits, most companies will try to form a digital strategy that shapes their decision-making process when selecting IT infrastructure, platforms, software and vendors.
The drive to utilise technology is well documented, with numerous successes and failures highlighting the growth in this area, as well as the potential benefits and pitfalls. The end goal is clear – do the same (or more) with fewer resources.
Where companies usually ‘get stuck’ in this process is in the analysis of options, succumbing to the desire to negate risk by collecting a huge amount of data, and planning the roll-out with all the jigsaw pieces fitting perfectly together. This is exacerbated by the accelerated evolution of new technology solutions continually being created and coming to market.
Companies often become ‘stuck’ when developing their digital strategy. Being ‘stuck’ is caused by a downward spiral of investing a huge amount of time and resources into analysing a myriad of options, an aversion to risk and a continually evolving digital landscape.
Put crudely, organisations often try to plan and create ‘a roadmap’ instead of developing a true strategy – which inherently has unknowns and evolves as time passes. By the time the ‘strategy’ has been developed, investments made and implementation kicked off, the process is often halted before completion as the world and technology has already moved way past the original planned end point.
This then boils down to a fundamental flaw in how the strategy is developed – instead of being a fixed term project outcome, Operational Digital Strategies should be developed, budgeted, and managed as a continuum. In doing so it is acknowledged that today’s solution may not be perfect, and will likely be superseded, but by proceeding it enables the organisation to commence generating quantifiable operational benefits as well as increasing its knowledge base.
Digital Strategies, in particular those with an operational focus, should be developed as a continuum, rather than with a fixed end-point. This results in digital strategy being embedded into a company’s culture, and allows the strategy to evolve as new information, needs and external factors come into play.
Of course, this does not give technology and IT teams carte blanche – boards need to answer to shareholders and provide oversight to executives, budgets need to be met and outcomes achieved.
How then is an Operational Digital Strategy formulated so that it is efficient, cost-effective and quick to implement? At RemSense, we often have similar conversations with our clients. As the developer of Virtual Plant, a cloud-based asset visualisation platform, we often find Virtual Plant being included within a ‘digital strategy’ or roadmap.
The below is a summary of some common themes and takeaways from discussions with our clients who are in the process of shaping their digital strategy:
1. The Key is The Key
Digital platforms, technology and software change over time. Some improve, some become obsolete, whilst competitors develop competing products at a lower cost. Ensuring that disparate systems have common key(s) that link information to ensure interoperability is crucial. Not having relevant and functional keys results in stranded silos of data, which have ever-reducing value as they lose context (which is often the trigger for developing a digital strategy in the first place).
2. Information to People NOT People to Information
Your people are THE key asset on which your success is built. As AI and automation adoption increases, people are resources that should be performing tasks that they are most effective and suited to and provide real value. It makes sense to utilise your people as efficiently as possible - doing the tasks they’ve been employed to do – they should not be searching or capturing data because your systems don’t link to each other.
3. The Operational Digital Strategy should deliver tangible Operational Benefits!
When formulating the strategy, we should ask ‘Where are the biggest inefficiencies in my operations? Where is the biggest wastage? Do I know what they are? How are they measured and quantified?’ The answers and metrics to these questions should form the basis of the strategy and implementation priorities – knowing what the specific desired outcomes are is key.
4. Timing and Quantum of Impact
What is the bottom-line impact of the proposal? How long does it take for it to be realised? What investments are needed for it to be implemented and just as importantly, maintained? If a solution is a ‘no-brainer’ then proceed with it if it meets the caveat mentioned in point #1 – realise the benefits now and promote the culture within your company of continuous improvement via digital technology.
RemSense’s Virtual Plant is a cloud-based asset visualisation platform that was developed specifically to deliver immediate operational benefits. It is a deliberate ‘no-frills’ product that delivers triple bottom-line impact. Importantly, it enables organisations to link the information found within a purely visual environment to other data sets, using Nameplate Recognition.
Ultimately, a digital strategy is judged on the total quantum of its impact across an organisation. However, as with all other areas of the business, the aim should be for continuous improvement. Designing a digital strategy with a focus on interoperability, acting as an enabler for employees to create value and being a continuum that evolves will increase your organisation’s chances of reaping the benefits faster and more sustainably.