Sustainable Energy

Putting people at the heart of digital transformation

"It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.”

Steve Jobs

People are behind every technological development. Human intelligence drives artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, big data, and analytics. The future of our digital economy, with its promises of greater efficiency and sustainability, requires committed individuals and teams who fully understand the digital journey to accelerate digital transformation (DX).

Digital transformation begins at the top

Leadership sets the direction and framework for digital transformation. Today, organizations have many digital leaders and advocates, and some would say it’s becoming a crowded space. So, who’s the ultimate digital leader?

CEOs and CFOs of course still make the big strategic decisions, but there is a formidable c-suite with a growing voice in technology and transformation decisions. Chief information officers, who at one time focused solely on technology, now have a strategic voice at the DX table. Meanwhile, titles such as chief digital officer have become commonplace, reflecting the top-down momentum for digital initiatives and change.

This c-suite focus must inspire collective responsibility, because it is only by gaining the buy-in and commitment of every employee that an organization can transform its core business. It can also drive the shift in mindset and culture that is needed to transform the company.

Power to the people

Technology tends to flatten an organization by eliminating hierarchies and silos. Once a workforce is imbued with a digital culture and can follow a clear digital transformation plan, every employee will be empowered to own and accelerate the transformation process — it’s not simply a top-down exercise. In this spirit, internal innovation flourishes. Digital change doesn’t have to be a multi-layered process; instead, with the right framework, it can be unified and straightforward.

Pivot to the Future

Jean-Pascal Tricoire (CEO, Schneider Electric) shares why he believes the only real job of a CEO has is building the very best team. Discover why in Accenture's ‘Pivot to the Future’ podcast.

"Tomorrow cannot be business first, people second"

"I believe the main job of a CEO is to build the best teams and to make them work together at the best of their collective capability."

Jean-Pascal Tricoire
CEO, Schneider Electric

"A company needs to be willing to continually evolve every aspect of its business over time in a whole series of pivots."

Omar Abbosh
Chief Executive of Communications, Media & Technology, Accenture

Chemistry and collaboration

The world’s largest chemical company uses Schneider Electric to put people in control of data and assets — preventing failures while improving plant safety and efficiency.

More than ‘change management’

The widespread adoption and successful application of digital technology requires careful management. Companies must train their people to embrace the changes that technology can bring to their day-to-day work. But it’s not just about managing change. People need real-world knowledge of digitalization and its benefits.

We see this happening at Schneider Electric, a leader in digital transformation for energy management and industrial automation. As Peter Herweck, Executive Vice President, Industrial Automation, confirms: “Through our own digitalization journey, pilot phases, peer-to-peer learning, and cross-site collaboration have been most effective in ensuring the rapid adoption and appreciation of new technologies by our workforce.” Schneider Electric has incorporated these best digital practices in its smart factory in China and has already seen compelling results – with a decrease in quality issues and energy consumption, and an overall increase in equipment efficiency.

Technology redefining roles

Digital technology applies computer intelligence to human knowledge and processes, offering insights into workplace behavior and patterns, safety and wellbeing, and employee engagement. According to Gartner, rather than diminishing the human touch, digital transformation is redefining the role of humans as agents of change. In particular, Generation Z is bringing a new dynamic to the workplace. As digital natives, younger generations understand the power of disruption and the speed of innovation, and they are keen to stay relevant as employees. That means developing the skills, knowledge, and focus to promote continued digital transformation.

The new value chain

Will technology take over? As AWS CEO Andy Jassy has said, “There is no compression algorithm for experience.” Technology will create opportunities based on new roles and relationships. Robotic process automation (RPA) technologies, for example, can empower front-line teams by cutting out unnecessary tasks, enabling them to spend more time engaging with customers. And Schneider Electric is piloting cognitive intelligence in the form of an RPA bot that can narrow the window of service visit times. End-users, therefore, can schedule service visits more accurately to proactively plan for downtime.

As artificial intelligence evolves and becomes more proficient at solving real-world problems, it’s important to note that companies will always need domain experts — humans — to influence which AI models to build and train, to interpret what the AI models reveal, and to know which actions to take.

Digital transformation is a human story

People are the fundamental ingredient in all business transformations, and digital transformation is no exception. People run businesses, not robots. People provide the direction and the control, the strategy, and judgment. Even with AI and machine learning, there is no substitute for human intelligence.

But no one person — or company — can achieve true transformation without cooperation. We need cross-industry initiatives such as the Schneider Electric Exchange, an open business platform that brings communities together to share digital strategies and promote a sustainable future.

If the human elements are overlooked, if leadership and a common purpose are lacking, digitalization simply won’t work. Transforming a business requires two vital ingredients: human vision and a collective commitment to make change happen on every level. And with the continuous development of rising technologies such as 5G, successful digital transformation will depend more than ever on people.

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This page was paid for by Schneider Electric. The editorial staff of CNBC had no role in the creation of this page.