Connectivity that counts

A well-established cornerstone of digital transformation in the industrial space is the breaking down of data

keith larson smart industry

Smart Industry's Keith Larson

silos that exist among the range of digital devices and systems used in today’s plants and factories. Freeing those data flows is a necessary step, but what of the information flows among those individuals charged with making digital transformation happen?

For digital transformation initiatives to succeed, mission and metrics need to be communicated to each and every employee, and updated as often as needed. As with a network of digital devices and systems, information content can’t be lost in translation; there needs to be clarity even at the edges.

When employees don’t understand the organization’s strategies or their role in achieving them, engagement suffers as well, says Deidre Paknad, CEO of Workboard, a software firm working to help organizations set, measure and execute strategic priorities more quickly and efficiently. “There’s an enormous appetite for engagement at the front lines,” Paknad says. “But the brutal irony is that the way industry is managing [these initiatives] is anything but digital.”

Indeed, for even the most progressive organizations, digital strategy often remains the output of a top-down annual cycle, notes Andrew Thomas, executive director, Australasia, for EDMI, a company that designs, develops and manufactures advanced energy meters and metering systems for the global utility industry. “For us, the end result was a set of year-long objectives in PowerPoint or Word format—not living, breathing strategies,” Thomas says. “They’d go into a drawer and perhaps get reviewed and updated quarterly.”

Further complicating EDMI’s desire to more dynamically gauge progress and iterate their digital strategies more often was the use by various business units of different planning and reporting tools. “This made it difficult to track how we’re doing in a consistent way,” Thomas said. “We’d get reports, but they’re always already a month behind. We wanted a solution that was more real-time.”

EDMI now uses Workboard’s dashboards to effectively communicate dynamic objectives and key results (OKRs) to all employees, and to balance attention given to the company’s longer term digital transformation goals against achieving more short term financial milestones. “We grew from $1M to $60M in 10 years, then to $300M in 10 years more,” Thomas explains. “We were hitting our revenue targets, but were struggling to execute against our digital transformation initiatives. We needed to be able to weigh and balance our OKRs.”

“In large companies, there’s already a cadence of reporting,” adds Workboard’s Paknad. “We gather data, transcribe it, then read it to each other in meetings. A lot of process is already there–but it’s administration of leadership, not leadership. We’re aiming to change the pace on iterations, on objectively measured progress. We’re helping companies move from annual, top-down processes to dynamic metrics throughout the organization.”

Keith Larson is Smart Industry editor in chief. 

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