I’m writing this on my way back from the McKinsey’s IoT Summit 2023, where I had the opportunity to meet with key executives in our industry and sit on a panel with them. Even more importantly, I spent quality time and hosted a fireside chat around ‘Unlocking Productivity’ with Roger Brecht, VP of Digital Manufacturing at Nestlé Purina.
Roger shared his experience of successes and failures in implementing digital solutions throughout his career – both as a plant manager and now as a VP. Roger was a star, and our session garnered excellent feedback since he offered concrete examples on how to best apply technological solutions to the plant floor. Essentially, it comes down to making it 100% about the user.
As he put it, “You need to incorporate the shop-floor operation into any solution design. You must understand their challenges and solve their problems.”
Don’t Blame The Customer
However, a later panel shined a light on a deeply troubling issue in our industry: few people are actually talking to customers or taking them into consideration when designing their solutions.
In a discussion around why IoT projects fail, someone said most implementations fail because customers are not sophisticated enough to deploy the complexity of IoT solutions. I found this upsetting and had to respond: “It’s time we take more accountability as an industry. Instead of blaming customers for not being sophisticated, maybe we should call our product teams and tell them to stop creating complex products that no one understands.”
Putting The Customer First
If anything, this interaction strengthens my conviction on how much ground we can gain if we maintain our focus on what really matters: making our customers successful. When we make them successful, we can feel it – particularly when they’ve already spent years trying to adopt and implement this type of technology and are only now finally getting the support, visibility and traction they need from all levels in the organization.
To make our customers successful, we not only need clarity in product and service. We also need flawless execution in terms of delivery, fast wins and ongoing support. As one of our champions recently described it: “The real story here is the scalability, we installed this in four days, and saw value in a few weeks… There is nobody out there who can add that sort of value at that speed.”
Boosting the Industry
So, we already know what the outcome of a great execution looks like. And we as an industry must work hard to make sure we don’t ever fail our customers on their journey with us. We all need to be accountable for the quality of our solutions and services and the value we deliver to our customers. They are trusting us to be great every single time. It’s up to us to continue building the technologies and processes that live up to that trust.
When we do, we make our customers unstoppable. And if we are able to help instil this customer-focused attitude within other technology-oriented businesses, we will also contribute to a stronger and more future-resilient industry as a whole.
Roger nailed it when he said: “Any technological advancement needs to be driven by how it benefits both business goals and the end user.”