Digital transformation: A progress report

In a press release dated September 14, 2015, GE announced the creation of GE Digital, “a transformative

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Smart Industry's Tony D'Avino

move that brings together all of the digital capabilities from across the company into one organization.”

GE’s vision was clear and communicated by then CEO Jeffrey Immelt: “As GE transforms itself to become the world’s premier digital industrial company, this will provide GE’s customers with the best industrial solutions and the software needed to solve real world problems.”

It was in 2015 that I personally became familiar with the term Industrial Internet. I had read about the concept of the Internet of Things at that point, but frankly had a hard time putting my arms around it. Now I was wrestling with its meaning for industry.

It wasn’t just intellectual curiosity that drove my desire for understanding. I was being hired by Putman Media to help launch a new B2B information platform called Smart Industry. Our plan was to launch an event along with a suite of digital resources (a website, E-books, Webinars, email resources). And, yes, even a print publication that we would publish 4x a year. 

Having strong roots in industrial automation with Putman’s media brands Control and Control Design, Smart Industry was a natural extension.

We wanted (as Wayne Gretzky once said) to skate to where the puck was going to be.

Digital industry was that spot.

In October of 2017, just two years after GE announced the formation of GE Digital, they unveiled new research highlighting an emerging gap between executive outlook for digital transformation and the initiatives companies have put in place. “The survey of Information Technology (IT) and Operations decision makers found that while companies see the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as presenting significant opportunities for future growth and competitiveness, the vast majority are not taking the actions required to benefit from those opportunities.”

Here are the key findings

  • Digital Transformation Critical to Growth and Competitiveness: 86% believe digital industrial transformation is important to the competitiveness of their companies, with the majority (76%) rating the ability to provide higher quality services as the foremost outcome of digital industrial transformation.
  • Connectivity and Industrial Apps Most Critical for IIoT: IT and operations decision makers (IT/OTDMs) overwhelmingly cited connectivity (63%) and industrial applications (58%) as the primary technologies required for digital transformation.
  • IIoT Platform, Apps and Analytics Priority Investments: Respondents view an IIoT-ready platform (22%), Industrial Applications (14%) and Big Data Analytics (14%) as the most important technologies to invest in.
  • Cost Matters: Most respondents cited investment costs (42%) as the leading barrier to digital transformation, followed by system security (32%) and data privacy (32%) concerns.
  • Digital Transformation Will Require Organizational Change: 54% of IT/OTDMs believe their organizations need to transform to enable digital transformation.

We are now three years into our business and have just concluded our 3rd annual conference in Chicago, and our team of editors have captured key insights from some of our speakers and converted them to articles for your benefit. Each represents a shining example of people and organizations taking action and capturing the potential afforded by digital emerging and enabling technologies. We hope that they can serve as a guiding light in your efforts.

Digital progress does not come easily, and is not a destination. Smart industrial organizations will always be looking for where that puck is going to be.

We strive every day to be an important information resource to those leading the way.

Tony D'Avino is publisher of Smart Industry.