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Why Planning is Key in Successful Industrial Digitization

The first step for any industrial digitization initiative: planning the journey ahead

When Industrial organizations are considering a digital transformation effort it’s often tempting to begin by exploring the various ways that software can help you and start immediately with the digitalization effort.  Unfortunately, jumping in this way very often leads to many significant challenges down the road. Like all complex processes, digital transformation must begin in a rather non-techy way. It needs to begin by getting your whole team aligned with the objectives and ready to start!

At GE, we have been helping organizations across the globe embrace new ways of digitizing their operations. Taking on a journey towards digitization requires cross-functional team collaboration, data from multiple sources, new ways of working (work processes) and many other specific tasks.

Taking on digital transformation of your work processes is an exciting opportunity, however that journey can sometimes feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Over the years, we’ve documented this journey and collected best practices on how the most effective teams start. Before a single bit of data is analyzed, each successful project starts the same way, with a structured planning process. The project of implementing a successful digital transformation can take multiple years and a lot of investment so it should be carefully prepared.

The Digital Transformation Journey should begin by assessing your current environment and aligning around business goals and priorities. At GE Digital we find that working with our customers in a 2 to 3-day workshop is the most effective way to define the right first step. In our workshops we work with you to create a detailed inventory of your ecosystem, identify and map desired outcomes, and prioritize those outcomes to align with business objectives that will drive the most business value for the organization. 

In this post we explore the three most important, commonly overlooked questions we get related to conducting this type of current digital transformation assessment.

Who should be involved in your industrial digitization planning?

During the planning phase of your digitization effort, it’s important that representatives from across the operation participate. This helps prioritize work that will have the most impact, surfaces challenges that you might not have anticipated, and gets everyone working towards a shared goal. It builds a common vision for the journey.

The task force generally includes these roles with some of their possible objectives defined.

Why Planning is Key in Successful Industrial Digitization - Task Force

What questions must a digital transformation assessment answer?

Asking the right questions during the assessments and in the workshops is essential to make sure you are well prepared for the next phases. We recommend focusing on WHAT you want to achieve at this stage, the detailed how will come later once the team is aligned.

  • What are your key goals?
  • How are your goals measured?
  • What is the potential Business Value that can be gained from taking this Digital Transformation journey?
  • Do you have any initiatives in place today?  If so, what are they and what are the timelines and how do they align with this effort?
  • What are the current barriers blocking you from achieving the goals or making key decisions?
  • Who are the stakeholders and ‘consumers’ of the information that impact your key decisions? 

What are the criteria we should use to prioritize objectives?

Inevitably, once you get your experienced, talented teammates in a room lots of ideas will be generated. It’s important you walk away with a prioritized list that will create a roadmap of where you should start first. You want to find the right balance between business value and effort. It’s always best to start with a win that will offer high business value, with limited upfront effort, often called an early Win. This keeps digitization efforts top of mind, and builds a strong economic justification for moving forward.  

Asking these types of questions early in the Digital Transformation journey planning assessment and making sure you are completely aligned with the whole team on the assumptions pays off with a coordinated effort that delivers short and long term value to the whole organization.

In future posts we’ll explore the other three stages of digitization.

  • Road map and transformational planning
  • Tool and software evaluation
  • Performance tracking

At GE we have collected a vast experience in running such workshops and while they remain challenging, we are certain that we can support you in leading your organization in the right direction. In fact we supported, and continue to support, organizations like SABIC on their digital transformation journey. With 40,000+ employees, 63 facilities and 19 technology innovation centers, GE Digital’s APM was adopted by more than half of the employees and tangibly changed operations.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration you can check out these other digital transformation customer stories.  And remember, at one time, they were just like you – figuring out where to start.

Pieter Wielemaker, Solution Architect, GE Digital