… it all starts with Executive Engagement

This series of posts focuses on critical success factors (CSF) for the digital journey. Many organizations agree with the importance of going digital but many surveys we have seen conclude that the vast majority have no plan. No wonder considering so many have obsolete or manual systems performing traditional Manufacturing Operations Management/Manufacturing Execution Systems. We think there are several CSFs worthy of consideration including understanding value and how to measure it, developing a fit for purpose architecture and avoiding the start, stop, re-group, re-start syndrome. We plan to delve into these and other CSFs in future posts but to start lets talk about the most important one – Executive Engagement.

Here at Brock we often joke that that we can write a book on what it takes to go Digital, including successful MOM/MES projects:

executive engagement-book

While this may come across as tongue and cheek, we know it is absolutely true. When we look back on all of the MOM/MES projects we have done over the years, and as we embark on the digital journey with many of our customers, there is a direct correlation between projects that are successful and drive measurable value and those that do not. That is meaningful executive engagement.

So why is this and what does this really mean?

Digital solutions touch almost every function in the organization.

If the initiative is driven by a single function – say Quality or Information Technology – it should come as no surprise that those functions will be optimized often at the expense of other related functions. The risk of not taking a holistic approach is creating islands of automation that do not talk to each other. Not too long ago we did what we thought was an MES project for a customer that was scoped down to track and trace only. While the system delivered the specified functionality, it did not meet overall expectations of the business. Hard lesson learned.

The role of executives is to see the big picture and connect the dots.

And make the hard decisions that middle or functional management cannot make. It is inevitable that choices have to be made as the digital journey unfolds. The pace of change in business is unprecedented and inevitable, which is why organizations will go digital (it’s not if but when and how). Setting priorities, making investment decisions, breaking ties when opinions differ are ongoing responsibilities that require executive input. Case and point – IT/OT convergence. It is happening but it is not easy. For the digital journey to work, alignment is key.

Executives set the tone for culture.

Going digital successfully means culture change – creating a culture that embraces technology along with valuable business and process knowledge. This means using digital solutions as a key tool for learning and continuous improvement. That also means trusting the data and information produced and transitioning away from legacy applications fast. The mandate to do this needs to come from the top.

The Digital Journey is a program not a project.

Going digital is a journey not a destination. Brock recently hosted Gartner to give us their perspective on the market and during the presentation they described the digital transformation process being similar to changing the wheels on a moving bus. Projects typically have a beginning, middle and end. Programs are a series of projects that are driven by a vision and business value that executives need to own.

A solid business case with commitment.

In our view, a business case with measurable return on investment is table stakes. In any transformational program there will be questions about ongoing value creation. We encourage establishing a formal governance process that steps back from the day-to-day project details and asks the big picture questions and makes necessary adjustments to goals and expectations. One certainty when embarking on the digital journey is change – change in technology, change in the business and more often than not change in leadership. We have seen many situations where there are leadership changes and along with that comes questions about investments including big technology projects. If the business case isn’t solid there is a real risk that the program will be shut down.

We have advised clients when starting on their digital journey, whether it be implementing MOM/MES solutions or launching an IIOT initiative, that if their executives are not on board don’t spend the money. And speaking of money, our next blog is going to cover the importance of building a practical business case – with real dollars and cents – that can stand up to scrutiny and propel the digital journey forward. You can click here to subscribe to our blog and receive the next installation.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, please do not hesitate to reach out to Brock Solutions.