timSowellTim Sowell of Schneider Electric Software (Wonderware) thinks out in front of the curve. His customer contacts help keep him on his toes. His new year’s kick-off blog post revealed four key areas for the coming year based on a conversation with a customer.

These insights should turn our attention away from media glitz and toward doing real work using technologies plus insights.

You might ask what about “big data” and the “internet of things” but these are technologies that will be part of the enabling system for a  new operational solution.

In his previous blog he had asked, “how much transformation was happening?” He received a comment from a friend saying the momentum of change is well underway, and happening at increasing pace.

There were 4 areas that he felt his business and associated industry where trying grapple with to stay ahead.

1/ Agility of effective, valued products and brands to the market. So the challenge of “new product Innovation” and then “New Product Introduction” and delivering it to the market at the correct margin to be competitive in timely manner is a whole focus. His comment was this is the core competitive advantage that his company identifies.

2/ Operational Workforce transformation. He agrees with me that too much focus has been on the “aging workforce issue” and that most of HR and Operational teams have missed the bigger transformation, and that is the one of new generation work methods and transformation in workspace that goes with it. He felt like his company woke up to this mid way thru last year when they could not just not fill positions, but are having significant challenges in retaining talent, not within the company but in roles. He felt like initially people thought that would just get a transition to a new workforce yes younger of different experience. But they had not realized that way in which people will work, think, interact, and gain satisfaction will also change. [I think this is a key insight. For years I have written and spoken about getting past the “aging workforce” discussion. In many cases companies had to bring previously laid off engineers back as contractors in order to get essential engineering done. They just couldn’t get the new people needed using the same old tools and methods. Gary]

3/ “Planet Awareness, Image”. He raised this as a real strategy for evolving the brand of the company to been seen as proactive to the environment, to attract further “feeling satisfaction” of customers. He also stated that government regulation, and increasing costs of disposing of waste, and energy costs also are now seen a significant bottom line costs, and must be managed more efficiently. But during this discussion, it was also clear that the perception of being “proactive to the environment” in use of energy, carbon footprint, environment etc was also a key strategy for attractive talent to work in the company. [This idea has been coming for many years. I am happy to see it gaining traction in a major company. I think leadership in our industry that attracts bright, young people must tap into larger societal themes. Gary.]

4/ Transparency across the total product value chain. [Technology has been moving us this direction for some time. Once again, human work is catching up to the technological capabilities. Gary]

It was clear that the 4 strategies was really about changing the way in which the company manages and executes operational work, no matter how big or small.

Pillars of Operational Solution approach:

  • Everyone having access to information and knowledge no matter their state or location, this means internet becomes a part of the solution backbone.
  • Cyber Security is very much top of mind, both in strategy to secure,  manage, to contain cost and risk.
  • Data validation/ and contextualization, if transparency and faster decisions are required how do you gain consistent information across different sites. \
  • Delivering a new “operational Workspace/ experience” that has embedded knowledge that does not get stale, and enables imitative learning for a dynamic and collaborative workforce.
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