Jim Pinto stirred up the hornet’s nest of Invensys strategy in today’s email newsletter. He continues his analysis of Invensys moves and concludes that it is still adrift without a coherent strategy and no chance for the future.

As much as I respect Jim’s knowledge and intelligence, I disagree with most of his analysis. While Peter Martin’s story of the development of the current iteration of the company may have been a little too smooth, I still buy the overall story. It may seem too smooth because they’ve had time to digest and reflect upon where they’ve come. No one starting a project–especially one as large as turning around a billion dollar company–really knows the outcome. You know where you want to go. But reality is messy. There are missteps along the way.

Without a doubt the original choice for a CEO was a disaster. That happens (look at Carly Fiorina at HP). The Invensys CEO does not owe us an explanation. I assume he “ate it” and gave a thorough explanation to his board. Then he hired Sudipta Bhattacharya to fix the mess. Bhattacharya is widely respected in the industry as the type of manager who can bring things together.

The reason I buy the essence of the story I reported here and here is that I’ve seen the development and talked with the leaders putting it together–for several years. CTO Pankaj Mody has had the technology vision for years. I’ve discussed strategy with former Wonderware CEO Mike Bradley and marketing / strategy VPs Rashesh Mody and Mark Davidson along with Martin for many years.

Most people, including Jim, have had trouble figuring out the new IOM strategy. That’s understandable. They’ve done a terrible job at articulating the message. I only hope that now that there is one corporate marketing team in place, that they will bring coherence to the message. Then the corporate CEO was just quoted as saying something to the effect of we don’t just want to peddle products. That latter comment understandably has all the product people at Foxboro and Triconex especially upset and wondering about the future.

My take is that control and instrumentation is increasingly becoming a commodity. And the consolidation and changes in the process automation supplier segment leaves Invensys DCS, instrumentation and safety systems at something of a disadvantage. I believe that they will continue to develop, market and sell “products.” But the future of manufacturing according to many visionaries (not only Martin) lies in moving beyond the control loop to enabling strategic decision making involving more than basic processes. The view must encompass more of the supply chain–and decisions must be made with an understanding of the upstream and downstream events. That is where Invensys is going.

Jim and I had a conversation while I was writing this, and I’ll address his other concern (beyond trying to figure out and explain IOM’s strategy). That is–can this new strategy make money. Is the market large enough for this type of solution to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the corporation? Can an automation company execute this vision? Can they assemble a team of sales people specific to this industry?
Jim thinks not. I’m willing to admit strongly, “I don’t know.” But I think that the strategy does reflect the coming future. And I think this team has the right stuff to execute it. But, is the market there? That’s the unknown.

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