The Cheese Priest
One food & beverage exec, from a cheese producer, explained: there is sometimes a highly experienced and valued ‘cheese priest’, whose job it is to ‘sniff the air’ and make calculations and changes concerning the production environment, to ensure quality and yield. Replacing that role with data-driven algorithms is not easy – that is a senior position of huge value and heritage, so there is resistance.
However, the data model can consider more inputs, control quality even more precisely, and – here’s the kicker – offer a 10% improvement in yield. No matter how important the ‘cheese priest’ may be, if the producer does not digitalize, they will not be able to compete in the future. As the executive put it, “I think there will be big winners and big losers, and very little in between.”
The Middle Manager
In a similar way, another executive, this time from a household-name pharmaceutical company, talked about the impact on power structures when digital tools are freely available throughout the company. The move towards autonomous teams within a company, that have access to data and insights, reduces and perhaps negates much of the role of the middle managers who were responsible for bringing together information and insights and implementing plans and procedures.
That’s all very well, she says, but who does a company need to help implement the systems and adoption of digital transformation technology? The middle manager. Another very human challenge concerning change management and company structure.