Digital transformation requires the buy-in of the whole business and will not succeed unless it's carried out by everyone, according to Siemens customer solutions CEO Dr Norbert Gaus.
Gaus kicked off Teradata Universe 2016 in Hamburg today by imploring delegates to realise that digital transformation "cannot be the task of a corporate department", and that the message needs to be fed down to relevant departments to start seeing a true return on investment in digital spending.
He explained how Siemens, which still classes itself as an engineering firm, is trying to exploit the need for "synergy" across organisations by drawing together a number of existing technologies in a system called Sinalytics.
"It basically combines common technology to form a platform for tasks where we wanted to leverage synergy in order to reduce complexity, or speed of development and so on," explained Gaus.
He showed a data lake comprising a relational data warehouse powered by Teradata and a NoSQL layer comprising Hortonworks, Hadoop and Teradata. A Smart Data Lab makes use of Teradata's Aster analytics suite for more complex big data needs.
Gaus admitted that offering big data analytics as part of Siemens' existing services in energy management, building infrastructure, healthcare, transport and more, means that the analytics aspect has almost become a "utility" and Siemens "an IT company".
Siemens is also having success with its big data solutions across so many sectors that the company is at risk of cannibalising its own profits.
"With the example of a train operator, a train has a few hundred sensors all being monitored for 26 high-speed trains. And the great thing is, this customer, based on this service, was able to take away significant market share from the airlines," said Gaus.
"But the airlines are also our customers, so hopefully we can help them on how they go forward."
But technology aside, Gaus' other message was strong: the path to real success is distributing the technology to those in the company who really need it.
"What [customers have] achieved is driven by the whole corporation with domain-specific applications in wind and gas power, and transport and healthcare that business units are in charge of," he said.
"The benefits of this are that we do what needs to get done where we do it the best. We have the domain know-how in the business units, and the data analytics know-how centrally.
"In each division we have the people who understand what drives their customers. It's the people in the train divisions, for example, who know how a rail company needs to differentiate against its competitors.
"It's there where we have the people who understand their business models, and where the many hundreds of sensors sit on a train, and why they sit there."
In this way, he argued, digitalisation becomes the task of the whole company. Digital applications would not emerge without a company-wide drive of digital transformation, and this would be "very visible" on a company's balance sheet, Gaus told delegates.
"Digitalisation cannot be the task of a corporate department. Unless this gets into every department and every process, digitalisation will not work. It's the difference between digitalised departments and a digitalised business," he said.
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