3 questions manufacturers should address for digital transformation success.

By: Mark Humphlett, Senior Director of Industry and Product Strategy at Infor

Today’s leading manufacturing companies are adept at change. They have to be in order to survive. Innovating, modernizing and continual refinements of operational processes are driving factors in today’s complex market manufacturing landscape. It doesn’t matter if an organization makes automotive parts, industrial machinery or windows and doors, they need to stay on top of trends and challenges and adapt. New strategies and actions must sync, as well as align with and exceed customer expectations. It’s no easy task and many organizations struggle to find their digital transformation starting point.

As they work toward that digital transformation starting point, manufacturers should take a step back and ask themselves three questions before starting out on a potentially complicated journey.

Finding Your Digital Transformation Starting Point, Industry Today
Many organizations struggle to find their digital transformation starting point.

1. Are we organizationally ready for significant change?

Organizations are only as good as their people, and manufacturers must look carefully at whether they have the right people and culture to support a different way of doing things. It is the people who will be responsible for implementing change, and they should be ready, committed, and on board with any type of transformation plan.

An organization’s culture can make or break a digital transformation project and “organizational change management” is one of the key components of such a project. Organizations should aim for an inclusive culture where people feel like they are key contributors to the company’s future success.

To achieve this, management teams should encourage a culture of openness to help employees step forward with their ideas. All change, and all transformation, starts with an idea – so it’s important for people to feel empowered to put their ideas out in the open.

2. What are we hoping to achieve and what is the outcome?

Delivering successful digital transformation projects is difficult, and if an organization does not understand the destination, the chances of success are minimal. Organizations should invest time and effort up front to understand exactly what they want to achieve from their digital transformation. Ask the following questions: What do we need the change? Why do we need to change it? What is the anticipated impact?

No matter how many ideas an organization has, they will fall into one of four categories: customer alignment, employee productivity, supply chain visibility, or operational efficiency.

  • Customers. Organizations should ask whether they are transforming the way they connect and relate to customers, and whether they want to offer a new product, increase their level of service, or use data to create a new revenue stream.
  • Employees. Organizations should ask whether they are providing capabilities that help engage the workforce and how digital solutions will help improve workforce productivity, empower decision-making, and remove bottlenecks in processes.
  • Supply Chains. Organizations should examine if they are simplifying complex supply chains and increasing visibility to anticipate issues and take steps to proactively resolve potential problems.
  • Operations. When looking at operational efficiency, companies will benefit from asking whether they can streamline the way they operate as a business and if they are using technology to bring efficiency to their processes, to predict issues, and prescribe the next best action.

3. Is our systems landscape digitally compliant and ready?

Before starting a digital transformation project, an organization’s systems should be digitally compliant and highly flexible. Ideally, the organization has a systems ecosystem where people can access their work, their data, and their processes without barriers, at any time and from any location. Often having their solutions available in the cloud is the best way forward.

Also, organizations will benefit from solutions built for their specific industry with sector-specific capabilities built in, not bolted on. Heavily modified applications will almost certainly impede upgrades and modernization, introduce risk, and hinder adoption of advanced digital solutions.

Ideally, the organization’s end-to-end systems and applications should be running on a common digital platform that provides integrated modern capabilities such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data, mobility, and predictive analytics.

An organization’s IT landscape must support the concept of hyper-connectivity – not just connecting applications and digital capability, but connecting everything: their people, applications, devices, data, customers, and suppliers.

Finding Your Digital Transformation Starting Point, Industry Today
Mark Humphlett

With 25+ years of experience in technology and 35+ years in the manufacturing and distribution industry, Humphlett has spent the last 12 years leading Industry and Product Strategy/Marketing for manufacturing solutions at Infor. Previously, he managed supply chain solutions marketing and served as a principal business consultant leading presales, solution design, and implementations for several software solutions.

Humphlett spent six years in technology sales including three years as the director of supply chain sales and business development in Europe. Prior to entering the technology industry, he held sales positions with Southern Alloy of America, a division of Metals USA, and in engineering with Lockheed-Martin.

Humphlett earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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