I talk to a lot of companies trying to go digital these days. It is what we do, and there are a lot of industrial companies now doing it. It makes complete sense. Paper = Delay and Delay = Cost.  And it not just raw cost, it’s also opportunity cost. The longer the lag between information that produces an insight that could change your business, the more revenue your company will never collect or costs you will never save.

 

form_vs_function.gifI get the rush. Time, as they say, is money. But in the blind rush to digitization, we are forgetting about “DigitALization.” It’s not 1’s and 0’s of just collecting information in digital form that is going to make a difference. It is ultimately how you are going to work differently than you do today. I see customers all the time that just want to tick the digital checkbox. Believe me, as a high growth company CEO, I feel your sense urgency. What I am advocating though, and you might think I am crazy to do so, is that you take a moment to pause and consider how form, in this case how you collect information, will translate into function, how you get the work done and how you improve over time.

Customers who buy our Connected Worker platform for industrial teams are indeed worried about how they collect the data, but they are more worried about what they are going to do with it and how they are going to create meaningful and continuous improvements to how they do business. Sure, many of them have aging workforces and millennials just won’t accept jobs that don’t embrace the all-digital world they grew up in.  Ask any millennial to interact with paper and just see what happens.

So, what I am advocating is that you strike the right balance between form AND function. Look at digital solutions that are easy for people to use and make people want to morph how they work to digital, but also consider how you want any process to be orchestrated. Do people need to chat real-time and send videos and photos to each other while they work? Does one person’s task need to prompt another person’s task automatically? What KPIs are you driving and what information, that you don’t have today, needs to come together to drive those KPIs? If you simply pave the cow path with digital, you get exactly what you do today, only in a digital format. The real challenge of making KPIs move is that the hard answers and the key information usually exists at the intersection of more than one job or more than one function. For most companies, this likely means that the information you need to collect is from a very different business process with the right orchestration to surface this critical information.

Again, for my own sake and the sake of startups everywhere, I’d like you to move fast. But just make sure you’ve started with what real changes you want to make. I think you will find it’s at the intersection of “form” AND “function.”