Three critical elements for a successful Industry 4.0 project

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Three critical elements for a successful Industry 4.0 project

Success is often defined as the achievement of a worthy goal. In today’s engineering and manufacturing landscape, Industry 4.0, digital twin, and smart factory projects are both worthy and visionary goals. So how do you make sure your Industry 4.0 projects are successful? There are a lot of variables and different recipes for success. In as many failures, I’ve witnessed several successful Industry 4.0 projects as well. In each one, one factor I’ve seen is the importance the company places on the project. In other words, is the project important enough that it has the adequate funding, horsepower, and internal dedication to the success of the project? In this article, I explain several key elements that determine the success of the project.

Do you need a dedicated team for an Industry 4.0 project?

A common question I’m asked is whether a company needs a dedicated team to usher a company through a digital transformation or Industry 4.0 project. My answer is, it depends. It depends on the company’s size, funding, and often, the type of project. However, the common denominator, regardless of whether there is a dedicated team or not, is if there is enough importance, hunger, and purpose in the project.

If something is an organizational imperative—as digital transformation is for most companies—a concerted effort has to be put behind the project to make it successful. If your company can build a dedicated team to run a project, by all means, do so. Also, involve as many different teams as possible. Bringing multiple types of people has two outcomes. First, this ensures that your project’s solutions and processes are not siloed and can be deployed across all relevant departments. Second, this builds consensus and mindshare across the enterprise. The project will be much more likely to satisfy a multitude of different priorities, teams, and locations. 

Most importantly, bringing in multiple different teams means that you’re allowing transparency and consensus resulting in stakeholders across the organization to be emotionally invested in the project’s success. Especially consider the individuals who implement the project and need it to work in order to solve a pain or challenge in their daily lives. Bringing in these people makes your project much more likely to succeed.

Of course, not every company can afford to have a dedicated team. If that’s the case, I recommend a few key items to consider:

  • Establish firm KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) across all affected stakeholders (whether or not they are directly involved in the project) not only to track your progress and understand results, but also to bring the right amount of attention to the project.
  • Reduce the number of projects and responsibilities for each person working on the project so that limited bandwidth is not dispersed on doing too many things.
  • Break up multiple projects to work sequentially. That way, the team members can focus on the project for a certain length of time before moving to something else.

Building Importance

Once your team (dedicated or otherwise) is built for the project, create a communication strategy to manage organizational change. Change is always hard, and typically Industry 4.0 or digital transformation projects create disruption. Any transformation is disruptive. A strong communication strategy is critical, even mandatory, to mitigate disruption while also creating buy-in and community culture around the project. It also paves the way for people outside the core group who may want to contribute to the project. After all, everyone wants to be part of something successful.

Broad communication strategies don’t have to be challenging. One of the easiest ways to create a buzz around your project is to build internal branding and awareness. A few ideas for what I’ve seen work well:

  • Start with giving your project a snazzy name, such as Project Spitfire, Project Clarity, etc. It may seem small, but easily referring to the project helps it to grow.
  • Have creative people within your organization (perhaps the marketing team) create posters or standees to be placed at key locations in your buildings. Don’t forget about digital signage on a company’s intranet as well.
  • Define the “purpose motive,” the concept that suggests that people are motivated by having a sense of purpose. Speak often about why this project matters. 
  • Send consistent emails or other digital communication on the status and progress of the project.
  • Host regular town halls to explain what’s happening, why, and how it will make everyone’s job better.

Gaining Executive Sponsorship

The other aspect of a communication strategy is how you communicate with upper management about the project, which is vastly different from how you should communicate with the rest of the organization. Communication within the company is all about building a culture of excitement and urgency to ensure the project succeeds. Communication with executives involves getting their buy-in or sponsorship to the project, increasing funding, or scaling once you’ve shown initial success.

First, make a list of all the executive stakeholders whose sphere of influence may touch the project. Make sure you understand the key motivators of each person. The best way to do that is to ask them directly what they want to see or understand about the project. For example, the CIO might only care about costs while a VP of Engineering might care more about whether the project matches the key product release/development timeline. Talking to each stakeholder individually to seek their opinion and insight ensures you have supporters within the executive cadre. Again, it’s all about getting stakeholders excited about the project.

Then, because you’ve already spoken to each individual, that means that your big meetings and presentations will run much more smoothly. Each stakeholder already has more than a basic understanding of the project and will be much more attentive and supportive. When planning your presentation, a few key tips I’ve seen work well:

  • BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front. Keep details to a minimum and lead with the punchline.
  • Follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule of presenting: 10 slides. 20 minutes. A minimum font size of 30.
  • Do not ask the executives for their opinion and thoughts. Everyone does that. Instead, seek out the wisdom of the group. Ask what they think you should guard against. This tacitly puts the project narrative into the “accepted project” category.
  • Do not suggest the next steps. Engage in conversation. Perhaps open up an empty slide and start typing input. The goal is to get them to suggest the next step that you’re aiming for anyway (whether it’s a dedicated team or funding you’re looking for).

This article was published originally here.


About the author

Shree MoorthyThis article was written by Shree Moorthy. He has over 27 years of experience in software product and business transformation strategy within discrete manufacturing. As Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation Strategy at Vertex, Shree oversees digital transformation and business development efforts across strategic accounts and partners. 

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