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Digital Transformation: Three Pitfalls to Avoid With Your Next Project

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The benefits of digital transformation are undeniable. The World Economic Forum predicts digital transformation initiatives will lead to more than $320 billion USD of value for the mining and metals industries in productivity gains, energy and fuel savings, and safety.

If the benefits of pursuing digital transformation are so clear, then why did we find in our recent executive study that nearly two thirds of mining companies are stuck in the planning phase, and can’t get digital transformation initiatives kicked off? And we’re always hearing statistics like the one Gartner recently published showing that 85% of big data projects fail.

What’s the disconnect between value and implementation?

We’ve had the pleasure of successfully implementing many digital transformation initiatives with our customers over the years. Along the way, we’ve identified some common project roadblocks. With proper upfront planning, you can avoid these common traps and make your next project a success.

1. Lack of understanding

Despite its seemingly simple name, the term ‘digital transformation’ describes a big and somewhat nebulous concept. And everyone has their own idea of what ‘digital transformation’ means. It’s important to approach a digital transformation initiative with a clear consensus amongst stakeholders of what the project will and won’t entail.

Looking to learn more about the risks and possibilities that come with digital transformation? Check out our whitepaper: Digital Effectiveness – From Strategy to Action.

In many cases, it’s necessary to do a little stakeholder education before kicking off the project. Digital transformation is not simply updating your website, creating an app, going paperless or adopting social media marketing. At its core, digital transformation means bringing together technology, processes and people to find new ways to solve business problems. Some enabling technologies can include:

  • Connected workers
  • Remote operations
  • Autonomous operations and robotics
  • Smart sensors
  • Integrated platforms
  • Advanced analytics and simulation modeling

Your project may include several of these technologies, and you’ll avoid our second roadblock by selecting which technologies to adopt through a problem-thinking approach.

2. Technology-thinking instead of problem-thinking

The next roadblock many companies run into with digital transformation is through their approach to selecting enabling technology. It’s easy to see the new, shiny technology out there and believe it’ll be the game changer for your mine, but digital transformation just doesn’t work like that. If you take this approach, you’ll likely end up with a bunch of disjointed systems that don’t provide the expected return on investment (ROI).

Instead, it’s important to approach digital transformation and technology investments through a problem-solving lens. Start by identifying the problems you’re seeking to solve. THEN select technology that can help you address these problems at the source. Be wary of vendors offering a complex solution to solve a simple problem.

Another tip: you’re most likely not going to find a complete solution through a single vendor. The most successful digital transformation initiatives leverage suppliers with a strong ecosystem of partners. Partnerships and a little creativity is key. If a vendor promises they can single-handedly solve all of your problems, you should be wary.

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3. No clear project owner or prioritization plan

Digital transformation projects bring wide-reaching benefits to a company, and implementation typically requires multiple departments to get involved. However, these projects are often considered ‘marginal initiatives’ and aren’t developed or managed with the same rigor as other capital expansion projects. Without proper attention, there may be no clear project owner assigned, and no business case developed that weighs the project value vs. risk.

The most successful projects bring high value and carry low risk. Without thoughtful project management, initiatives with the highest value are sometimes pushed forward without a proper analysis of the risk. This can put a mine in a highly risky position. As with any project, it’s important that someone is weighing value against risk when planning, which means taking the time to assign a project owner and complete a business case.

Embarking on any level of digital transformation is exciting and opens the door to company-wide improvement, but the chance of achieving project success is greatly diminished without intention and proper planning.

Looking to learn more about the risks and possibilities that come with digital transformation? Check out our whitepaper: Digital Effectiveness – From Strategy to Action.

Jose Antonio Beas Reyes
Jose Antonio Beas Reyes
Regional Sales Director Latin America, Rockwell Automation

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