Transforming companies for a digital advantage
Digital transformation often sounds like a buzzword for projects that companies claim are “cutting edge” but are just necessary updates to ageing infrastructure or the digitisation of assets that had previously been vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Indeed, a recent IBM webinar revealed that around 70% of all digital transformation projects fail, even though around three quarters of C-suite executives say data and data imperatives will become a key priority in the future.
This shocking stat emerged from the ‘Transform for Digital Advantage with IBM Garage & AI’ session – which was part of IBM’s wider Singapore TechX Series, which looked at everything from digitising bank guarantees to extracting actionable data from robots on oil rigs.
However, the key issue tying each session together was this: How can intelligent operations deliver more reliable forecasts while lowering costs, reducing risk and improving productivity?
The webinar, conducted in partnership with TechInformed, featured three presentations from IBM speakers, spanning IBM Garage, Blockchain, and robotics and AI, with Boston Dynamics.
It was presented by TechInformed’s reporter Ann-Marie Corvin, who opened by introducing Charu Hajan who heads up IBM Garage – a division that helps enterprises generate innovative ideas and offers access to experts, practices and technologies.
It was Hajan who delivered the grim data on DT failure numbers. The problem is, she added: “We don’t focus enough on ‘how.’ How do companies transform? Quite clearly, every enterprise including yours, aims to be nimble and agile…You want to benefit from innovative technologies, you want to make sure that you’re freeing up the focus of your talent to focus on things that really matter to you at the very top.”
“So, the question is, when you’re spending so much time, money, effort, resource allocation, how do we deal with that [70%] failure number?”
Hajan set out the history of digital transformation – starting with the wider adoption of the term ‘digital,’ saying that many of the transformations that happened in the past were more like “pet projects” which often involved adoption of interesting technologies, but rarely led to financial transformation.
Then, prior to Covid, there was a wider adoption of transformation, but this came with a “scattergun approach.”
“All of these technologies were considered ‘good things to have,’ and they were moving firms to becoming more digital, but they were happening in siloes and were led by individual departments,” she noted.
She added that this led to an overreliance of tech consultancies which were used to oversee the transformation. “Organisations leaned on the expertise of individuals to conduct these digital transformation projects. But when people left, the expertise left too,” she said.
“So, the native capability was never quite built, creating a perpetual cycle of leaning in on consultants and third parties. But come Covid, that entire paradigm was thrown away,” she added.
For enterprises coming out of the pandemic, transformation is being driven internally with CEOs placing transformation at the centre of their strategy, leading to an entire culture shift.
“This transformation you can taste and it’s truly changing the culture of the organisation: you’re having to upskill people, you’re having to put in place job requirements and to think about the people you’re hiring,” Hajan noted.
The technology leader explained that IBM Garage starts by envisioning projects in partnership with clients. It focusses on a value-driven, proven approach to transformation. Firms that have used IBM’s model range from finance giants like the State Bank of India, to snack industry leader Frito Lays, which overhauled its sales approach in partnership with IBM Garage.
“Our approach is to envision, develop and scale. It’s technology-based so it’s technology infused. Most importantly, it’s governance heavy.”
The webinar also featured a presentation from IBM Consulting associate partner, extreme automation and blockchain lead for ASEAN Saikat Podder on Harnessing the power of People, Data and Technology.
According to Podder, because businesses don’t usually operate in isolation, transformation often needs go beyond the traditional organisational boundaries to offer the fullest benefits.
When it comes to multiple organisations, third party suppliers and stakeholders working together technologies such as the blockchain and APIs offer new routes to transformation.
Podder was joined for the presentation by Lygon general manager for Singapore and ASEAN Francis Ocampo, who talked through a live working example of blockchain which has transformed the money guarantee industry in Australia.
Like many of the most effective solutions it started with a problem that was faced by multiple parties. Banks were facing a challenge with paper money guarantees – which can be used to support businesses or house purchases – because of their physical and fragile nature which put them at risk from disasters such as fire and flooding.
Shopping Centre giant the Scentre Group turned to IBM to tackle this issue, which led to the formation of Lygon in 2017 – a joint blockchain venture between Scentre Group, Westpac, IBM and the Commonwealth Bank.
Lygon’s platform allows participants to request, approve, and/or execute functions for a bank guarantee including issuing, amending, demanding, cancelling, searching and reporting, with any adjustments traceable because of the use of blockchain.
Digitising the guarantees has, according to Ocampo, saved Lygon’s partners more than 2,000 working hours, prevented over 50 fraudulent guarantees and saved over two square metres of secure storage space that would normally be filled with physical paper guarantees.
Lygon ran a proof of concept with the key stakeholders in the year that it formed to assess if distributed ledger technology could be used to manage bank guarantees. This led to a whitepaper, published in July of that year, before the system was integrated in 2019. It went fully live in 2020.
“By using Blockchain technology, we’ve been able to digitise this process, connecting all the different players and stakeholders involved in the bank guarantee process,” Ocampo said.
“And not only has it reduced the timeframe for applications from a month or two down to a day, but it’s also really had benefits around it such as offering users and stakeholders a full range of other functions and features that weren’t available to them previously.”
The final presentation in IBM’s Transform webinar looked at how smart operations can be powered by advanced technologies. IBM Consulting practice lead for edge, IoT, and Sustainability, Sridevi Srivastava explained how enterprises can use AI, edge computing and robotics- all powered by 5G – in sectors such as industrial manufacturing.
One of the biggest challenges for Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, she explained, is missing data – data that would help a system run more smoothly – which companies either don’t possess, or do not have access to.
“Connected things generate a huge amount of information, some of which can be very useful to enterprises, but accessing, processing and utilising that data is not always so simple,” Srivastava said.
Another common industry challenge which Srivastava outlined is when an ageing workforce which is beginning to retire takes its skills and experience with it.
The IBM exec claimed that robotics, supported by edge computing and IoT, could address both these issues.
In terms of the missing data, she added: “You can add lot of new sensors,” she said, “which could be IR sensors, thermal sensors, vibration sensors, a lot of this is available and can be powered by AI, and you can place it with the robot itself.
“The beauty of placing sensors on a moving robot is that you don’t need to deploy infrastructure across the entire factory floor, you can have it on the robot, which then does the job while it is moving around. This allows for a much quicker start.”
These models, she added, can run on the edge, allowing not only for the collection of data, but also the integration of this data into backend systems in real-time.
In terms of addressing the skills gap, Srivastava claims that once human workers have been trained to work alongside these robots (“co-bots” as she calls them) it allows for a much smoother factory, “because the robots can be programmed to take on the tasks that are more dangerous or repetitive, allowing the human workers to focus on more high value training and addressing key skills gaps”.
She used the example of a partnership between IBM and robot-maker Boston Dynamics, in which IBM powers the “brain” behind a factory robot, while Boston provides the actual machine. IBM used Boston Dynamic’s dog-like Spot robot which has had sensors added to it to make it more useful on a factory floor.
Full details about the collaboration between IBM and Boston Dynamics, as well as details of all the other presentations mentioned, are available on-demand from IBM, in partnership with TechInformed.
Watch the full webinar HERE
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