By Tony Crupi
A few weeks ago, I attended the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, FL. This was my fourth year attending the conference and it has grown to over 950 attendees, which included attendees from ExxonMobil, Schneider Electric, Rockwell Automation, GE, Honeywell, Intel, and many others. During the event, I was able to meet with many Wind River’s customers, as well as their customers. From the conversations and the presentations, there was a common theme: Digital Transformation for the industrial space is underway. This is typically referred to as “Industry 4.0”. For those new to this term, I refer you to a previous Wind River blog where we provide an excellent overview of Industry 4.0.
This is nothing new. We have been talking about how the industrial and manufacturing industry is changing with cloud computing, fluid computing, virtualization, containers, Open Stack, and Kubernetes. And how software development has embraced the concepts of Agile, Continuous Integration, and DevOps. These technologies are transforming the way we develop and deploy products and those companies that have embraced these technologies are already seeing a return on investment including faster development and deployment that is cheaper with higher quality. Harry Forbes from the ARC Advisory Group sums this up in his excellent report titled “The End of Industrial Automation (As We Know It)”. Harry explains how the traditional industrial automation industry is changing today with the move from proprietary hardware and software at the far edge to “cloud-native” software. The use of containers will grow with orchestration providing distributed configuration and management.
So, what does all this have to do with “Socks”? For those of you who know me, you’ll be thinking that I’m referring to the SOCKS Internet protocol. However, believe it or not, I do mean the article of clothing that you put on your feet! Let me explain…in addition to technology, I try to keep up with the latest trends and fashions (well sort of). I can even do my own share of “millsplaining”. For those of you that don’t know what “millsplaining” is, I suggest that you listen to Leo Laporte from his internet broadcast “This Week in Tech”, Episode 702. As the name implies, Leo used this to explain the terms spoken by a “millennial”. While at the ARC forum, I had booth duty with my colleague Ron Breault. We looked across the way at the booth from Element, and it appeared they had socks as their tchotchke. I must have attended a dozen or more shows in the past year and never had seen socks used as a trade show giveaway. And who would want these bright multicolored socks anyway? And it turned out that AT&T, Fortinet, and Inductive Automation were also giving out these multicolored socks! What’s wrong with the polished black shoes, black socks, and black belt that we know and loved for so many years? How did I miss the fashion transformation that had occurred so quickly, even though I am an advocate for “change”?
This all hit home for me when I was listening to Larry Megan from Praxair during the opening keynote at the ARC Forum. He discussed how he enabled digital innovation across his enterprise and created an external digital presence. A lesson that he shared was “Don’t forget the human in digital transformation”. This concept was repeated by David Kramer of Ford Motor Company: “It’s all about the people”. He went on to say that the people need to be part of the change. This includes new skill sets and accommodating new entrants to the workforce. The people need to see the end solution. He also mentioned a quote that some have attributed to Henry Ford: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have asked for faster horses”. But I don’t think this quote means that we should not listen to our customers, but rather, they may not be aware of a different way of doing things and will need to be educated. Ricky Eckhart from ExxonMobil went on to say that “people are the critical success factor” in order for digital transformation to be successful. Expanding upon this premise, no matter how great the technology, or how much of an improvement it can be to the business, it still requires the adoption of “people” to make any change a success. Even if people are “open” to change, they may not recognize that change is happening.
For those of you that are a little older than a millennial, you may remember the book from Dr. Spencer Johnson called Who Moved My Cheese. This book received excellent reviews when it was distributed in the early 2000’s. But it did get some bad press since it was distributed by some companies to their employees to help them deal with the changes that occurred in their organizations during that turbulent time. The premise of the book is that we must always be looking out for change that is occurring around us. And I admit, I missed the fashion change! And how many of us are missing a change that can transform our business, or worse, enable a competitor to leapfrog us when we weren’t looking by taking advantage of disruptive technology?
At Wind River we have been doing our share of market disruption with our efforts around StarlingX, Open Process Automation, and Workload Consolidation. We are at the forefront of technology again by helping to pave the path for the development journey from automated devices to intelligent and autonomous systems. Last week during Embedded World in Nürnberg, we announced our Helix Virtualization Platform which won Best in Show!
We are all creatures of habit and changes are happening faster than they have ever occurred in human history with past transformations occurring over years and decades and now it is down to less than a year. Look how fast Fortnite took off! Who would have thought a “free” video game would have over 100 million users in less than a year while earning over a billion dollars! We all need to be aware that disruption is happening to us now and we need to be ready to embrace it. If you are an influencer in your organization, you need to remember that change will not be successful by decree, but rather, by having buy-in from all stake holders, both internal and external. Education is a key factor for a successful transformation. Just like me and my socks, it is easy to miss the change even if you are looking for it. And hopefully when you see me in person, I will be sporting my new fashion statement.