5 competencies of digital transformation

Jim Montague

Responding to floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters requires everyone to pitch in and help. This all-hands-on-deck approach is also needed to handle most upheavals or other huge changes, including successfully achieving digital transformation in process control and automation applications. These epic challenges are likewise where neighbors, responders and other partners can provide the most assistance and value, which is why Emerson unveiled its Digital Transformation business at Emerson Global Users Exchange 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

"There's a lot of hype and confusion surrounding digital transformation, its impact and how it's progressing. People want to know what's real and how to get started. They need clarification to develop practical solutions, so we define digital transformation as smart, connected technologies used to solve problems, usually involving changes in business practices," said Stuart Harris, group president, digital transformation with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. "Digital transformation must be guided by specific problems, but it won't work unless people are engaged and appropriate technologies are adopted."

Harris reported the five essential competencies of digital transformation that can unlock performance and enable employees to perform at their best. They include automated workflows, decision support, workforce upskilling, mobility and change management. Meanwhile, the three critical success factors of digital transformation are technology decisions driven by business outcomes; scalable approach, guided by vision, instead of doing it all at once; and technology investments that are also seen as investments in people.

"However, we're still at a critical stage because, even though many companies have gained the vision to pursue digital transformations, they don't know where to start and can get frustrated," added Harris. "Other companies are doing pilot programs, and some are seeing early benefits, but everyone needs to connect their businesses and digital transformation strategies with practical applications. Strategy and business cases are what come first with digital transformation—not the technology. Once return on investment (ROI) is captured for a solution, it can be scaled across the whole enterprise."

Combined tools = easier digitalization

The $650-million Digital Transformation business consists of a dedicated organization focused on related, digitalized technologies and programs, and it brings together resources to help manufacturers develop and implement practical digital-transformation strategies and achieve industry-leading or top-quartile performance and measurable results. It also includes:

  • operational certainty consulting with facility- and enterprise-level roadmap strategies and implementation to improve reliability, safety, production and energy utilization metrics
  • operational analytics with a comprehensive portfolio of predictive diagnostics and advanced analytics, providing insights on health and performance of operational assets
  • industry solutions with deep, industry-specific expertise on solutions to drive key performance indicators
  • pervasive sensing with the industry’s largest portfolio of smart, easy-to-deploy, connected devices, including wireless instruments
  • project management with best practices, tools and resources to confidently implement digital-transformation projects.

Harris reported users can employ Emerson's digital transformation capabilities to accomplish projects, such as reliability of equipment and systems, process safety, production optimization, energy monitoring, maintenance, corrosion monitoring and others. "Our Digital Transformation business provides customers with the engineering and solutions to solve known problems," explained Harris. "The initial problem for many users is they try to take a big-bang approach to digital transformation that tries to solve everything at once, invest in technology without considering specific problems or objectives first and often end up lacking ROI and becoming frustrated."

Pilots help scale-ups take off

Once digital-transformation initiatives define their problems/solutions and goals, they must develop proofs of concept and pilot projects that can demonstrate some of that much-needed ROI, Harris reported. This not only encourages further commitment and investment, but helps participants to scale up their solutions to many more applications that can achieve similar advantages and benefits.

"Many digital transformation pilots can get started for $50,000 to $100,000 in one or a few processes, prove themselves and then scale up to many processes and save millions or tens of millions of dollars," said Harris. "Emerson benchmarks many industries, and we've learned that digital transformation is urgent because it can help users achieve top-quartile performance, add two weeks of uptime, cut maintenance incidents in half or reduce safety incidents by 30%."

“Digital transformation is urgent because it can help users achieve top-quartile performance, add two weeks of uptime, cut maintenance incidents in half or reduce safety incidents by 30%." Emerson’s Stuart Harris explains the benefits of digital transformation at Emerson Global Users Exchange.

People crucial to transformation

Beyond specifying problems, goals and technologies, digital transformation can't happen without the deep and continuous engagement of people, especially those on the plant floor, Harris explained. "Executive support is essential, and IT has to be involved; but it's most important for the operations folks to be engaged because they have the domain knowledge about where it's best to apply digital transformation," he added. "Every functional group can contribute and take on new roles. They can serve as bridges connecting lines of stakeholders or develop internal academies to train colleagues how to use new analytics tools. We provide technical resources and curriculum development to more than 350 educational institutions to help people develop the skills that employers need.

"Customers are looking for a partner that can help them on their digital-transformation journeys, and establishing our Digital Transformation business puts Emerson in a better position to be that credible partner that can help customers achieve measurable business impacts."

1 Reply

  • Think Big, but Start Small, to Scale Fast. World Economic Forum / McKinsey found Digital Transformation as multiple small projects (not a big bang) is the fastest way to scale across the plant.

    I have also found that starting with the existing historian platform, ready-made software, established I&C standards, and the NAMUR Open Architecture (NOA) helps accelerate digital transformation. Then you scale out the data platform and application framework from there.

    Learn how plants that are successful digitizing are doing their digitalization from this essay: