As with any digital transformation process, the devil is in the details, and there are many potential pitfalls that can derail projects. These include:
- Proof of concepts (PoCs) not grounded in business issues and lacking definable and measurable business benefits prevent advancement beyond the PoC phase.
- Scatter-gun technology deployments based on telling a good investor story rather than considering their cumulative effect on the business. This can lead to implementing the wrong technology at the wrong time without any positive material impact on operations or profitability.
- The lack of organizational technology familiarity and skill sets to effectively manage, implement and control the cost of deployments can lead to spiraling timelines and poor ROI.
- An unfamiliar provider environment and convoluted technology supplier ecosystem can lead to disastrous partner choices.
Probably the most profound challenge for anyone looking to implement a technology-driven transformation process is clearly understanding where you are currently in terms of solution maturity, as well as what the end vision should be.
The Industry 4.0 Maturity Model from ABI Research (tinyurl.com/mmFromABI) is designed to provide companies with a quick snapshot of their maturity level and where they can realistically look to target for advancement.
ABI Research has identified 18 key technology areas likely to play important roles in the industrial digital transformation and are interleaved into the maturity model: 5G; blockchain; generative design; AM (additive manufacturing); Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things); AI (artificial intelligence); collaborative robots; LPWA (lower-power wide-area networks); AR (augmented reality); data management; machine vision; autonomous materials handling, positioning and location; future reductive and casting; next-gen metrology; smart manufacturing platforms; and virtualization, visualization and simulation.
When approaching an industrial digital transformation project, there are several important actions to take that will significantly increase the possibility of a successful implementation:
1. Pick the low-hanging fruit.
Look for the technology implementations that will be quick wins. Find operational areas where a technology solution can be quickly implemented and will show material business benefit in a short time. This will aid in building institutional alignment for future projects and will provide huge learning opportunities.
2. Get the right folks on the bus.
The projects should include key influencers from both operational and IT roles. The early involvement of digital executives will allow for a more integrated and frictionless project.
3. Avoid viewing technology projects in isolation.
One technology project will have profound impacts on others—both good and bad, depending on how it is managed. View the projects through the lens of a continual macro process that needs active management and oversight. If done correctly, one plus one can equal three.
4. Sequence the technology projects effectively.
Poor transformational planning, unrealistic timelines and unbalanced plans will lead to friction and eventual project failures.
5. Choose partners carefully.
The need for partners in technology transformation projects is growing, and the number of partners per project is increasing. Don’t get dragged into technological dead ends based upon partner agenda.
6. Base all technology decisions in business reality.
Without a definable business benefit that can be measured, there will be no prospect of demonstrating concrete value and driving alignment for future projects.
Follow the best practices outlined above to optimize the digital transformation process no matter where you are in the Industry 4.o Maturity Model.