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Digitize or Die: An interview with Nicolas Windpassinger

Trent Salvaggio

Guest post contributed by Dr. Trent Salvaggio, Executive Director of the IoT Talent Consortium (IOTTC), an industry-wide initiative focused on building and growing IoT talent. MIT Sloan Executive Education’s Associate Dean, Dr. Peter Hirst, is a member of the IOTTC board.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Nicolas Windpassinger, the Global Vice President of Schneider Electric’s EcoXpert™ Partner Program and author of the recently published book Digitize or Die. Windpassinger’s book dissects the digitization phenomenon, reviews the potential and promise of the Internet of Things (IoT), and opens a world of possibilities for companies hoping to transform in this context. According to Windpassinger, the window of opportunity for companies to “digitize to profitize,” is rapidly closing; today’s leading companies must understand how to prepare their organization for all possible changes in order to survive, thrive, and lead in the digital transformation.

Nicolas Windpassinger

TS: You are driving important digital transformation subjects within Schneider Electric, such as your IoT partner program called EcoXpert as well as the associate business ecosystem of technology companies. And you contribute to the success of Schneider Electric’s business IoT platform, Schneider Electric Exchange. With all this going on, what prompted you to commit the time and energy to writing a book?

NW: Originally, I did not set out to write a book. Three years ago, was looking for a book with a methodology for the analog-to-digital transformation, and I discovered it didn’t exist. So, I decided to write it. I set about to create a reference, or a recipe for transforming a company’s “ingredients” from an analog offering to a digital one. To stay with the recipe analogy, it is very hard to bake a great cake, for example, if you don’t understand what all the ingredients are, or the techniques required.

Honestly, it was like marathon—there were plenty of times when I wanted to quit. It took about two years to complete. Also, it wasn’t my intent to profit off this book, which is why the proceeds go to charities (the Alzheimers Foundation and Fondation de France), I just saw a real need for this text.

TS: Who is the audience?

NW: I wrote it for those who have seen the opportunity and the risk of the IoT and know they need to do something for their company or portfolio. It’s for the CEOs, CDOs, and employees of companies that have built a performing analog business and are asking questions about what the IoT holds in store, good or bad, for them. It’s for people who have seen companies disappear and understand the need to be educated and savvy so that their organization doesn’t suffer the same fate.

The IoT transformation is at its inflection point, but it’s not too late to adapt, especially if you leverage your existing assets and resources to counteract the threats. This book presents what I call the IoT4 strategic methodology, which addresses all the important aspects of an IoT strategy for analog companies to avoid commoditization and beat competition.

TS: Who is best poised to win in this new era?

NW: The IoT will unleash an unprecedented flow of data. Owning the source of that data, building value from it, and improving the business relevancy to the end user will be among the game changers—it’s a game that is less about selling products than owning the relationships and the data. Tomorrow’s winners will be the ones that have managed to not only connect their customers but have made sense of the consequential flow of data to the end user.

Digitize or Die

In other words, the overall customer experience is the starting point for any digital experience, and the digital transformation of a portfolio is happening to serve a customer experience. And the rest follows. The book provides several examples of companies that are rising to this occasion, and well as some cautionary tales.

TS: To this point, your methodology wisely starts with customers. How would you summarize your model from there?

NW: Yes, the IOT4 strategic methodology starts with the needs and pain points of customers, then clarifies different aspects of how to digitize an analog portfolio into an IoT one. This includes understanding how the IoT is structured from a technology standpoint; differentiation strategies; business models; and the transition from an analog to a digital customer experience.

TS: At the IOTTC, we ask, how does an organization prepare for IoT and broader digital transformation? And we know—because research proves—that the answer isn’t about the implementation and use of cutting-edge technologies. Organizational-level factors, such as culture and leadership, are essential to successful digital transformation efforts. How do you address this in Digitize or Die?

NW: That’s right. It’s a multidimensional construct, it’s about having an organization that allows for the transformation to happen. If an organization isn’t set up to allow for or inspire new product offerings and business models, we never seen those come to fruition. It starts with people.

In this book I emphasize the importance of “digital mine canaries.” In a digital transformation environment, there is often someone who will understand the necessary steps toward that transformation before their peers and thus challenge the status quo. They may receive a lot of push back or skepticism, initially. But like canaries in a coal mine, they can act as an early warning detection system. Digital mine canaries are those people you need to protect to enable and accelerate the digital transformation.

Often companies focus on their customers, channels, and branding while underestimating the importance of the internal communication needed to streamline the execution of that strategy. But when properly tackled, digital transformation can ignite a sense of purpose among teams. So, leadership that energizes people around a shared vision is a key factor. Ultimately, this means creating the environment in which employees can challenge the status quo by enhancing the business model, processes, products, services, and the corporation itself.

TS: Staying on the human side of this conversation for a moment, what do you think IoT means for the future of work?

NW: The future of digital transformation is a positive one. I see jobs being better for people. IoT is going to enable us to flourish in roles that are more uniquely human jobs. Like finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. Doing those things that we as humans do uniquely better than machines.

In every transition there is opportunity and risk. For technology and for humans. That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself. If you don’t understand what’s happening, your putting everyone at risk. We must transform ourselves as well and be willing to expand our expertise, not just to survive the transformation but also to drive it. This is why the IoT Talent Consortium is so important, as your objective is to improve education for the future workforce to address this enormous gap in IoT talent.

Learn more about Digitize or Die here or purchase on Amazon.

Digital Business Strategy: Harnessing Our Digital Future (self-paced online)
Explore how new and existing business strategies can be improved through the rebalancing of three key relationships: Minds and Machines, Products and Platforms, and the Core and the Crowd.

Implementing Industry 4.0: Leading Change in Manufacturing and Operations
In the race to implement new manufacturing technologies and systems, such as the Industrial Internet of Things, it is often forgotten that factories and operations already have systems in place—and the inner workings of these systems tend to actively resist any change forced upon them. This new program is designed to help manufacturing executives and frontline leaders implement technological change at their companies while developing a company culture that puts people first.

Internet of Things: Business Implications and Opportunities (self-paced online)
Explore the opportunities for your business with IoT, from demystifying and defining IoT to creating a roadmap for its real-world application. The program aims to help people envision and lead IoT-based transformations, not just understand the technical elements. The goal is to demystify IoT jargon so that managers can start to achieve the strategic advantage IoT makes possible.

Revitalizing Your Digital Business Model
MIT Sloan has created frameworks to help enterprises define and build powerful business models that will enable organizations to compete in the global digital economy. This program illustrates the frameworks with examples from successful companies such as Amazon, Apple, LexisNexis, USAA, and Procter & Gamble and includes assessment exercises and consulting group sessions.

This entry was posted in on Thu Apr 11, 2019 by MIT Sloan Executive Education


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