In the IIoT technology race, your people remain your best bet

There is a great deal of discussion and articles out there around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its promises: Smart connected technology is radically revolutionizing the industrial landscape at an unprecedented pace, and the fact that a fully smart plant will be achievable in our lifetime makes it even more exciting! Think about it: There is more computing power and communication capabilities in your smart mobile device than in the capsule which successfully landed men on the moon 47 years ago (was Moore’s Law too conservative?).

Simply put, technology is allowing people to realize what were previously only far-fetched ideas or dreams.

But we can’t achieve this with technology alone.

Technology is only an enabler to accomplish something more easily, effectively, or efficiently 1.   No matter how great the technology, its adoption – and success rate – will ultimately be determined by people (i.e. users): Remember renting a video at Blockbuster while using your Motorola mobile phone, then walking home listening to your shiny yellow Walkman? All examples of the latest technologies at the time…

People make the difference. Every time.

Where do I put the stamp
Sending email…Where do I put the stamp?

This is just as true when it comes to technology: put a Ferrari in the hands of a guy who only knows how to drive a lawn mower and chances are that he will end up in a ditch; Give a complete toolbox to someone who only knows how to use a hammer and chances are that they won’t touch anything but the hammer.

Although these examples are simplistic, they illustrate how adding more technology does not necessarily lead to better output. To achieve that, you must address the whole “productivity trifecta.”

In a nutshell, the productivity trifecta is the interrelationship between people, technology, and workflow (process): A change in one pillar must be accompanied by the relevant changes in the other two pillars in order to achieve true productivity.

The productivity trifecta is paramount to success.

This amusing video2 shows how a technological breakthrough did not necessarily lead to increased productivity because people failed to adjust the way they approached the task at hand.

There is a plethora of examples that demonstrate lower overall productivity as a result of an imbalance in the trifecta:

  1. A smartphone with no data coverage or wifi connection: A drop in technology affects how you get things done (process) – and likely your mood, as well.
  2. A system that requires you to key in entries, print out for approval, and then re-scan for processing: A poor workflow which does not leverage digital technology all the way through – undoubtedly impacting your mood, too.
  3. A spreadsheet application used only to format paper tables: Poor knowledge of the software technology prevents you from fully using the tool – your mood might be great, but the same won’t be true for the person who then has to perform task (2)!

IIoT TechnologyThe business consulting and technology integration services firm, ArborSys Group, published an article3  which looked at the impact of applying change to any one of the pillars. They found that:

  • Updating a process without having the proper technology in place to support it will result in greater people impact
  • Implementing a new technology without updating the related processes will result in greater people impact
  • Preparing people to adopt a change will lead to a greater harmonization between technology and process – resulting in lower rejection rate/overall ineffectiveness

IIoT TechnologyIn short, any change in form, shape, or scale to any of the pillars will trigger a similar reaction mechanism.

As author David Harkins puts it, “all we can control is the speed at which we adopt the change.”4

As such, you could reasonably shorten your IIoT adoption speed and ensure a much higher success rate by putting your people at the center of your change management strategy:

  • Communicate clearly so that you can anticipate and manage emotional mindsets
  • Capitalize on knowledge so that you understand how your workflow could be improved
  • Train on technologies so that you know how to best leverage the tools to come

To sum up, your business excellence journey will be as speedy and successful as your productivity trifecta management. And remember: change does not have to be painful if it is managed properly.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry




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