Let’s dive into why engaging with key customer stakeholders during the requirements phase of a Digital Transformation (DX) Program kickoff is important.
A variety of individual expectations for functionality and results often surrounds DX programs. While the technology and software play vital roles in the program; it is not what will define the outcome of your DX roadmap. Leading the early discussions with too many preconceived approaches or preconfigured software solutions can hinder creativity, limit capabilities, lead to a lack of engagement, and ultimately impact the success of the program before it starts.
Setting the Foundation for a Solid Program
When engaging a DX program, one should start by asking two questions: What key functions and operation are the primary areas to address in the program? And, most importantly, what does success and results look like to all customer stakeholders involved?
It is critical in these early stages of the process to have the right leadership audience, speak in literals, avoid any ambiguity, and have honest, clear, discussions about what success looks like and when it appears. Weak requirements will result in an unexpected cost, schedule slips, and most impacting, a loss of faith/trust in the transformation initiative.
Without a commitment to requirements and engagement with leadership there is a significant risk that there will be issues on solution acceptance from both a plant and corporate perspective. A worst-case scenario is that during the first “go-live” for the program, the technology does its job, yet the customer does not understand it.
While a system may have exponentially more production insight and info than was ever available before, questions will unavoidably be raised on granularity, individual views and assorted other ancillary details. Even if the plan is to provide those functions in future phases, without significant early buy in and leadership guidance throughout, there is a potential for an unpleasant reaction. When this occurs, it leaves the delivery team, in the heat of the go-live battle, too scrambled to address the “new” requirements to keep the program on track. It is not an enviable position for the team.
The Foundational Approach
As a best practice for DX programs it is imperative to fully understand and vet all stakeholder requirements through an iterative process using specifications, mock ups of the system, and real world working software demonstrations. At the end of the requirement and definition process the key deliverable is a technology roadmap that consists of a standardized approach for the Controller and raw data concentration, a layer of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) to normalize and funnel the date, working in concert with a standardized Manufacturing Execution System (MES) application approach. A typical architecture includes acquisition of aggregated and pre-conditioned data, a Data Historian, and Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud based MES Performance tool such as AVEVA Insight Performance.
To make such an architecture come to life in the implementation phase, site investigations, and inventory assessments are completed for the each of the in-scope manufacturing facilities. Based on the site assessments, the team can develop detailed scopes of work (SOW’s), outlining what equipment would be deemed as most impactful and how to approach their integration. Often the first phase of the project may only include the subset of the assets for each line to drive an initial understanding of OEE.
From a solid plan and an agreed understanding of the goals, the program can be executed and delivered on the promise made to the organization.
If stakeholders are not fully engaged early and often it is easy for a misconception to occur regarding the program’s plan and intended results. This potential issue exists regardless of the DX program size. It does not matter if the program is for a single initiative within a local manufacturing facility to completely transforming the way a global enterprise operates day to day.
The beginning assessment and definition phase in any DX program is critical to defining accurate, well-detailed SOW’s and the organization’s future state. As with any journey you need to know where we are before we know where we can/should go and what that will entail. With the assessments and definition complete, we can look at the program as a whole to define what a Digital Transformation roadmap and architecture should be to propel the organization competitively into the future.