Get an experienced guide to the digital ecosystem

By Carlo Cristofari | November 27, 2017

No two businesses or operations do things the same way. So, any process, tool, or system must be able to evolve, flex, and adjust to be effective. In mining, that means embracing new thinking and new behaviors, too. To reap the full benefits you’re looking for, it can be helpful to think of digitization as an ecosystem.

In this sense, the ecosystem we’re talking about is a group of complementary organizations or companies, all of which are dedicated to getting their clients what they need and helping them reach their goals. To find the best solutions, we often pull in research organizations—universities, laboratories, and centers of excellence—and involve original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), technology companies, large asset producers, and even government support at times. The secret to making all these ingredients blend together optimally is the intel and industry knowledge that a true integrator brings to the recipe—the ability to parse all the options, select the best pieces for the needs of the specific company we’re working with, and get the whole concoction cooking.

The way we do this is anything but capricious. In the mining and metals sector, we’ve learned a few lessons about how organizations can prepare themselves for success on the digital journey.

  1. Clearly identify the outcome you want to drive. Without a clear destination, you risk a digital transformation effort that won’t deliver value. Or, nowhere near the value you were hoping for. A company can spend millions and have only a minimal outcome to show for it.
  2. Create a roadmap. Then find the right technology to help you follow it. These massive, sweeping changes take time. So adapt your measurements and adjust your expectations to allow new processes to become integrated. Today’s software tools are designed to work far more quickly than they used to. You should start seeing results in a matter of months, depending on the technological maturity of your organization. If you find you’re clocking years with no appreciable improvement, something is not working.
  3. Start where you are now. It pays to look at the landscape of technology and partners you’re already working with. Can you rejig what you already have to start moving in the right direction, rather than roll the dice on new technology or a new OEM?
  4. Be open to trying new things. Don’t alienate your current operations, but make room to test and try new ideas and technologies. Eventually, some of these promising ideas and technologies could have a significant impact on your business and will need to be integrated into your existing landscape. So keep an open mind.
  5. Set a baseline for the business. Identify bottlenecks and potential points of failure. Consider conducting a “fitness assessment” to determine just what it would take to get your operation running at its full potential.
  6. Don’t underestimate the importance of effective adoption management. Be sure to consult and involve those who will be impacted by the changes a new digital environment will necessitate. Resistance is normal, so frame the entire operation as an opportunity for both the company and workers to reinvent themselves. Build stakeholder engagement and support from the top down. Without the commitment and involvement of affected people and a proper, well-planned roll out, the project is doomed to failure.
  7. Pick the right partner. Choose one who can offer you both depth and breadth of experience in working the digital ecosystem. Insist they have experience with the full scope of digitalization, and with organizations that had challenges similar to your own. Work with people you trust, who understand your industry, how pervasive the impact of disruptive technology can be, and how completely it can change the way work is done in your organization.
  8. The play is the thing. Having the right players in place is only half the battle. They need to know how to play together in the space available, how to work together to create the kind of synergies that deliver outcomes that are greater than the sum of the parts. People need to know their strengths. Roles and responsibilities need to be clear and carefully assigned.
  9. Hedge your bets. Expand the scope of your background investigation. Look carefully at other industries’ experiences and benchmarking information. Estimate what you believe can be reasonably attained and then look for incremental gains in dollars or business impact.
  10. Look for the minimal viable product. Think big, but focus on delivering small, carefully appointed improvements. Make sure they are consistent with the plans you’ve made and that your expectations are reasonable.

With the right partner to help you navigate the landscape and work the digital ecosystem, the process can be far less painful. And the results just might exceed your expectations.