Where to start with the process of digital transformation

Rob McGreevy, head of Portfolio Management at AVEVA, says that going digital can help companies to meet regulatory, customer and price challenges, but only if they carefully consider their business priorities and operational architecture

By Guest on 13 June 2018
Where to start with the process of digital transformation
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

Companies face many pressures to stay competitive including changing commodity prices, regulatory compliance, an ageing and changing workforce, and evolving customer demands. Many innovative organisations opt for digital transformation, but this is often where they falter. Some move forward with poorly conceived and designed pilots that fail to deliver the promised results. Others are intimidated by the wealth of options and don’t take any action at all.

When it comes to digital transformation, a well-thought-out business objective and operational architecture is critical. Companies should establish their business goal, asking what their key priorities are and in which order they need to be addressed.

First, companies should think broadly across the stages of the asset lifecycle – design, engineering, procurement, build and operations, and maintenance. They should identify which areas they can optimise or improve to achieve overall business objectives. Next, companies should transform those target areas by implementing everything from advanced design and simulation to predictive maintenance and augmented reality.

Organisations should also consider the production operations value stream or lifecycle. This side of the business starts with planning and scheduling, before transcending down to execution and control systems. Here, solutions such as supply chain management and manufacturing execution systems that are tuned specifically for industrial markets can help to improve profitability.

After defining their business objectives, companies should develop their operational architecture. This should be a scalable, stable and harmonised framework that supports corporate strategies. Within the confines of an operational architecture, it’s easy to understand the business value of key technologies and commercial models like cloud and software as a service. Built on the Microsoft Azure cloud, Insight powered by Wonderware Online delivers high productivity gains at a low price point. Cloud technologies like this enable businesses to configure, provision and design the exact solution they need, when and where they need it. Migrating to a hybrid model – where some systems remain on premise or at the edge – can also be a good option for manufacturing and infrastructure markets.

In these cases, the operational architecture and business objective can serve as crucial guardrails. Depending on an organisation’s objectives, it may make sense to host everything natively in the cloud, or it may be better to establish a hybrid deployment where sensitive data is kept onsite and the remainder is in the cloud. Either way, a concrete business objective and a well-defined operational architecture will help enterprises take their first steps to digital transformation success.

Rob McGreevy is head of Portfolio Management at AVEVA

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