Effective Digital Transformation Requires The Right People. Why?

Last week we started the series of blogs focusing on digital transformation and laid the groundwork. Digital transformation only enhances your organisations’ capabilities, and that it won’t solve underlying problems. For example, imagine you want to run a marathon. However, in order to do so, you need to train for it. And to be able to train for it, you need to be free of injuries. So, if you’re nursing an injury and still want to train for a marathon, you need to first focus on recovering from the injury before starting your training.

We touched on the fact that alignment of people, culture and processes is crucial for digital transformation to be successful. Today let’s look at the people factor.

Everything starts and ends with people. You need the right people for the job. We’re referring to people across the entire value-chain; in-house, upstream and downstream. Some of this you can control, but some, you can’t. People need to have an intrinsic desire and motivation to grow. People need to have aspiration. When we say right people, we’re not saying that people are defective. We mean the people need to have a level of willingness and abilities. People need a challenge and recognition for the good work and contributions they make. What you need is people who are not afraid that problems are surfacing, and people who are willing to put their heads together to solve these problems. What is not acceptable is problems being swept under the carpet and the parcel being passed around.

You don’t necessarily need people with the right technical skills, to begin with. Start with the right attitude, a keenness to learn, a desire to grow, willingness to get into the heart of problems and finding ways to solve them. They don’t have to come up with the right solution straightaway. Simply recognising that there is a problem and it can have dire consequences if not tackled early on, will do. The actual ability to tackle the problems and collaboratively solve these problems will come as part of their learning, training, and experience.

So, with regards to people, what exactly are we talking about? Let us explore three valuable traits.

Resilience: Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks or difficulties.  Let us face it, the world today is a much tougher place than it was perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. There are even more ways to fail than to succeed. Putting the definition of resilience alongside the state of affairs in the world today, resilience can be redefined as the ability to discover the ways in which to succeed in whatever one chooses to accomplish. It is not the same thing as stubbornness. Stubbornness is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting something different to happen. Resilience builds when we learn to accept failure, understand that it is ok to fail, learn from our failures and try new things out until we succeed (a bit like Edison).

Critical Thinking: Simply put, critical thinking is the ability to look at a given situation from multiple perspectives, some of which often conflict with our own internal biases. The good news is, with practice, one can get good at it. How does one develop critical thinking and become good at it then? A good place to start is looking at the problem and how it affects other people not just oneself. The ability to focus on a problem, combined with the empathy to understand how and why if affects the people is essential. When I say people, it’s not about passing blame or pointing fingers. It is about acknowledging that there is an impact on people and then minimising the bad and maximising the good. Critical thinking is essential to effectively solve problems, the next skill on this list.

Problem Solving: As the phrase suggests, there are again, two stages to it; the problem stage and the solving stage. The first stage is getting to the root cause of problems. Only with perseverance, inquisitiveness and willingness to ask questions, is getting to the root cause of problems possible. These are again variants on the resilience theme, in-fact these are some of the behaviours that resilient people often display. Once the root cause of problems has been identified, then comes the phase of solving the problem, or finding the solution. The behaviours required to be able to effectively solve problems with consistency and efficiency are the same behaviours required to identify the real problems.

Solving problems will indeed require technical ability and skills. However, if your people have already displayed qualities like resilience, critical thinking, a willingness to collaborate and recognise problems, it means they will pick up all the necessary technical and on the job skills easier than most others and become better solvers of problems!

Get in touch with us, we know a thing or two about this and can help you implement this effectively.

What Is Digital Transformation And Do We Need It?

Today we hear the phrase ‘digital transformation’ quite a lot. There seems to be an urge to get digital transformation going without realising what it actually means. We start this series of blog posts on with what digital transformation is, what it is not, the groundwork you need to do, how to benefit from this, and then we bring everything together. Our focus is specifically on the engineering and manufacturing sector, but this can be applied to non-manufacturing sectors such as services also.

Digital transformation usually refers to the use of automation and computing power to perform routine, dangerous (to humans), and handle-turning tasks where the repetitive nature of the job and threats to humans, combined with the speed of delivery take precedence. Simple things like programming a 5-axis machine to perform a particular task is an example of digital transformation. Using remote controlled robots in a highly radioactive nuclear environment is another.

There are a number of reasons a company may choose to implement digital transformation. Some of them include:

  1. Let’s follow the trend
  2. Technology is available and we must have it
  3. Everyone else is doing it and so should we
  4. It could be the silver bullet to deeper problems we have
  5. Let’s make our company even more effective and efficient
  6. Let’s enable and empower our people
  7. There are a number of redundant processes that we can automate and let people focus on where their strengths are
  8. There will be better transparency and visibility of our performance across all levels of the hierarchy

Here’s a question for you. What do you think are the right and wrong reasons from the above list for doing digital transformation? Feel free to leave your response in the comments section below.

If you’re familiar with drag racing, you will know what nitrous-oxide boost means. In simple terms it enables fuel to be burnt at a higher rate than normal, therefore providing an extra boost providing a higher than normal acceleration. This only works if the vehicle itself is aligned in the right direction. If the vehicle itself is facing the wrong way, no amount of nitrous-oxide boost will help the cause. Digital transformation is a bit like this, a nitrous-oxide boost for your company. It provides that vital acceleration, but works only when the rest of your organisation is aligned in the correct direction. What does alignment mean? There are three things that need to be in harmony. People, culture and processes. We shall look at these three independently in the next three posts and then bring it all together in the final post.

To summarise, three questions you need to answer before embarking on digital transformation:

  1. What is the purpose of implementing digital transformation in our company?
  2. Are the people, culture and processes in our company aligned and in harmony?
  3. Are we ready to lead from the top, but empower from the bottom up?

Next week we focus on people.

To know more, get in touch: [email protected]

Twitter: @equitus_

How To Go From Autodesk Inventor To 3D Printing With Ultimaker

As you’re aware we now have a 3D printer called Ultimaker. We now have the capacity and capability to not just design products but also do some prototyping. Understandably we’ve been playing with the printer and with Autodesk Inventor. We’d like to share a workflow to take model from Inventor to Ultimaker.

Icosahedron
Icosahedron

The above figure is an Icosahedron that we’ve designed in-house. An Icosahedron is one of only five perfect Euclidean solids in which all edges have the same length and the area of all surfaces is the same. The other four such solids are Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron and Dodecahedron.

Now that we’ve got this solid ready, we need to convert it into an ‘stl’ file. Conventional Autodesk Inventor wisdom will suggest you to go as shown in the image below and select ‘stl’ in the export file type. However, there is a better way to do this.

Firstly, go to the extreme right side on your 3D Model tab and click the downward pointing arrow. You should see the menu as shown below. In this menu, look for the option that says ‘3D Print’ and make sure it is checked.

Now you should see the ‘3D Print’ button on the ribbon as shown in image below. Click on this and you enter the 3D Printing workspace.

The 3D Print environment is shown below. In this environment you select your 3D printer and specify print settings and then export your model into an ‘stl’ file.

This is it. Once your ‘stl’ file is ready, then all you need to do is to take it into the software that will slice it and then print it using the SD card or USB cable.

Design Tools We Use – The Equitus Four-E Method

As a product development house, we use a number of tools to help maximise your return on investment in your product and us. For us a product can be many things; objects, experiences, processes and interactions to name a few. Our success lies in our ability to deliver one or more benefits, each of which can be clearly perceived and expressed. To be able to do this consistently requires us to be proficient in the usage of a number of tools and mechanism that help drive the project forward. Today we focus on our slightly modified version of the Design Council’s Double Diamond method. We call it the Four-E method.

More often than not, a problem statement that we receive may not be the root cause, but instead ends up as one of the downstream consequences of the actual problem. The way we get to the root cause is shown in the image below.

Initial Problem Statement to Root Cause

On a simple XY graph, we plot time on the horizontal (X) axis and the number of potential sources of problem on the vertical (Y) axis. Time is an important factor because it takes a certain duration to ask relevant questions, speak to pertinent people, brainstorm ideas and list down all potential sources of problem. Having the time factor also helps with meeting delivering within a stipulated duration.

We start with the initial problem statement, shown by the blue dot, and once all sources have been established, we reach the peak, as shown by the purple dot. We call this the ‘Establish’ phase. At this point we start eliminating those sources that do not fully account for the particular problem, and eventually narrow it down to a root cause, as shown by the orange dot. The objective here is to define the root cause in clear and specific terms. The more specific it is, the better. We call this the ‘Eliminate’ phase.

Now begins the task of addressing this root cause. This is shown in the image below.

Root Cause Definition to Solution Delivery

Once the root cause has been identified as shown by the same orange dot as the last image, this forms the starting point for considering various solutions that will aim to address and solve for this root cause.

This begins what we call the ‘Evaluate’ phase, where we start considering a number of potential solutions that could address and solve for this root cause. We reach the peak shown by the red dot, where all potential solutions have been considered. Then we start the ‘Execute’ phase where we look at the most appropriate solution that will present maximum value in terms of effectiveness, consistency and efficiency to solve for the root cause and deliver this solution.

So, this was a quick introduction to our Four-E method. There are a number of other tools and techniques we use, most of which are industry standard, about which we will tell you more in the coming weeks.

Happy reading!

Design Tools We Use – The Morphological Matrix

As a product development house, we use a number of tools to help maximise your return on investment in your product and us. For us a product can be many things; objects, experiences, processes and interactions to name a few. Our success lies in our ability to deliver one or more benefits, each of which can be clearly perceived and expressed. To be able to do this consistently requires us to be proficient in the usage of a number of tools and mechanism that help drive the project forward. Today we focus on the morphological matrix.

More often than not, a lot of the designs we do end having a number of components, with multiple option for each component. Listing these components and options in the form of a table helps us look at all the options on one screen (ideally) and then compare options with one another to arrive at the best combination to develop in more detail. Now, doing a morphological matrix on engineered products might be a bit longer than what a blog post might allow. So, we’ve used a product we’re all familiar with, to illustrate how a morphological matrix works.

Consider the customary kebab at the end of a long night in town. The usual options are meat + bread + salad + sauce. Consider the table below that breaks our kebab down into its constituent elements.

The Humble Kebab

This is a morphological matrix in a very simple form. Given that there are four components as shown by the four rows, and there are three options for each component shown by the three columns, mathematically we can generate 34 (81) combinations of kebabs. So, if the morphological matrix can provide 81 design combinations for a kebab with these options, imagine the number of possibilities you will have when designing complex products!

Driver Number 5: Ethics, Society And Compassion

Last week we spoke influencing factor 4: Global Perceptions. Today let us look at influencing factor 5: ethics, society and compassion.

Humans are social beings. We love a sense of community, contact, and communication. This urge to communicate with the rest of our species has by far been the single most driver of technological advancement in the modern age. What has changed is the way we communicate and the mediums we use to do this. What has remained constant is our need to be connected with the rest of our species.

Let’s briefly touch upon ethics, society and compassion.

Ethics

Companies and enterprises exist as businesses to make money. There’s no question about that. However, the way they make money is paramount. Ethics and ethical practises are more about going above and beyond the bare minimum requirements one must meet to stay within regulatory frameworks. What do we mean by this? Allow us to explain this with an example.

The rail industry in the UK is driven by a number of quality requirements and standards, which must be met for train companies to operate services. However, despite all this, the quality of customer experience has been deteriorating, thanks to delays, cancellations, rising fares and crumbling infrastructure. Whilst the legal requirements are being met, the ethics of doing business, especially in a customer facing industry are found lacking.

Society

In this context, when we are talking about society, we mean more than the people and social structures we have in place. We are talking about the ecosystem the company is dependent on to deliver it products and services. It is not only about how many direct employees you have as a company, but about how many indirect opportunities for employment you create in the form of direct and indirect supply chain.

For example, Airbus in the UK has around 13,000 direct employees, and over a 100,000 strong workforce forms part of its supply chain, which ranges from giants like Rolls-Royce to many SME, a total of around 2,500 different companies.

Compassion

Compassion is not an effect, but is the cause of good ethical practises and care for society. Having compassion as an organisation is what drives care for society and ethical practices. Compassion can be developed by adopting  and define that values that a company stands by. It is possible to be profitable and still have compassion, values, care for society and ethical practices.

For example, pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson was founded in 1886. This means, the company has been around for just under 130 years. That is an incredibly long time. How they do business is reflected in their credo, which is available on their website.

Three pointers for today:

  1. Ethics is more than just meeting the bare minimum requirements that allow you to stay in business
  2. Having a positive impact on your society and communities matters a lot
  3. The key to all this is being compassionate as a business, and it starts with putting people first

Driver Number 4: Changing Global Perceptions

Last week we spoke influencing factor 3: Inclusivity. Today we speak about influencing factor 4: changing global perceptions.


We will start by going back to our roots, reflected in the roots of our founder, Raam Shanker. Growing up in India in the 80s and 90s where socialism was the accepted norm and people’s perception of success was to score good marks throughout your academic life and apply for the very limited ‘government’ jobs and stay there until you retired. Things changed in the early 90s due to the 1991 Indian Economic Crisis, which forced a sort of liberalisation of the markets. Suddenly, this opened up opportunities hitherto unavailable to this population. Along with this, slowly the perception of success changed.


India isn’t the only country to be affected by globalisation. The clue is in the name! We can no longer classify the world into first, second and third world, or developed and under-developed, or label expats and immigrants based on skin colour and country of origin. Let’s look at a three changes in global perceptions that will drive how you design and develop products.


Perceptions of Success
Perceptions of success are no longer associated just with a good academic record or a job for life. It is about a sense of achievement and contentment with career choices. In some markets such as India, perception of success also comes with a materialistic side to it. A stark example is the failure of the Tata Nano, touted as the world’s cheapest car. As a technological and cost-cutting exercise, the Nano was brilliant, but it failed as an innovation. People don’t want to be associated with the word ‘cheap’ anymore. People will pay a fair price for a quality product and the image of pride and prestige it projects (see my piece on customisation and personalisation).


Perceptions of Market
Another mistake companies tend to make is determine affordability of people based on historical data and any cognitive biases they may have about a particular region, country or demographic. In our last piece we spoke about inclusivity. This is an extension of that piece, where the underlying principle is to not exclude anyone. The more people you can cater to, the better you will perform. The key is to not make special features or highlights too obvious to the point of embarrassment.


Perceptions of Capitalism
The old school idea of irresponsible capitalism won’t work anymore. As more and more people get access to current affairs and the state of the world, their purchasing choices tend to focus also on the ethics. Things like sustainability, care for the environment, community, society and giving back are starting to matter more to people. This is truer with the younger generation. However, don’t do it as a box ticking exercise. If you’re going to pursue responsible and ethical practises, do it in the right spirit and with wholesome commitment. Be genuine. we’ll reflect more on this next week.

Today we leave you with three pointers:

  1. The perceptions around things that matter to people are changing
  2. People are prioritising ethical issues like planet, sustainability, society and community
  3. Responsible capitalism is the way forward, but it has to be genuine and with wholesome commitment

Driver Number 3: Inclusivity

Last week we spoke influencing factor 2: Care for our planet. Today we look at inclusivity.

Go to any professional network and you hear people talk about diversity and inclusion. You might even hear phrases like ‘diversity is natural, but inclusion is choice’. These conversations currently revolve around the workplace, careers, opportunities, and to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and many such factors.

When we look at demographics that are likely to be catered to, you will always find a portion of the target market left on the fringes or on the margins. Here when we say inclusivity, we ask you ‘whether the products you design and develop cater to a wide variety of audiences, including the marginals?’. Allow us to explain this with four different examples.

Example 1: Population that drives on the left-hand side of the road

65% of the world’s countries drive on the right-hand side of the road. That is two thirds of the world. 65% market share is a high number. However, as we’re all aware, the automotive companies don’t just make cars for the 65%, they also make cars for the other 35%. They do this because they feel it’s worth the effort to cater to the minority and include these countries as part of their market.

Example 2: People who are left-handed

A number of us write with our right hand, but a lot of other things, we do with our left. Some of us use our left hand when we use knives, spoons, play snooker etc. If you’re left handed ask yourself, have you come across a pair of scissors exclusively for lefties? We admit that only ca. 10% of the world population is left-handed, but still, 10% of 7.3 billion is around 730 million. A need in the market, which now seems to have been fulfilled by specialist websites that cater to left-handed people.

Example 3: Culturally appropriate characteristics

What maybe appropriate in one culture may not be acceptable in another culture. You need to ask yourself whether your products are sensitive to various cultures and their characteristics. For example, certain cultures are more emotionally expressive, whilst the others are mellowed, in certain cultures it is the norm to mix work life with personal life, and so forth. Different people respond to stimuli differently, it’s up to the designer to determine what stimuli evoke a positive response and apply that knowledge.

Example 4: People with special requirements and needs

Not everyone is the same. Most of us get by with what’s available on the market. However, some of us require special features. Look around you and you will find tall people, short people, people with small hands, big hands, people who have certain conditions and disabilities which come with special requirements. None of their conditions should make them feel left out. Therefore, it is important to design products for people with these needs. It is also equally important to preserve a sense of subtlety, to hide the fact that it’s designed specifically for certain people.

To summarise it, we are leaving you with three things today to ensure your products are inclusive:

  1. Design for the marginals
  2. Be aware of cultural sensitivities
  3. Imbibe the designs with a certain subtlety that enables usability without the feeling of being special

To know more, get in touch!

Driver Number 2: Care For The Planet

Last week we looked at influencing factor 1: Increased need for personalisation and individualisation. Today we speak about influencing factor 2: Protecting the planet – sustainability in practise.

There has never been a more urgent requirement to care for the planet and tell the world we do. Sadly however, sustainability and environmentalism are still only at an activism level, if you look at the large-scale participation of people. There are more activists than active practitioners of sustainability, telling others what not to do. This is akin to presenting problems than solutions. This is where change needs to happen, and happen now! The good news is it is possible.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present a clear and comprehensive guideline for practising sustainability with 17 individual goals and actionable items. The image below shows the UN SDGs based on their influence on economy, society and biosphere. How to lead with sustainability is something we’ve touched on in the past, but today is more about why.

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As the cost of technology adoption is going down, the ease of technology access is going up. More people have access to high-speed Internet and therefore more people are creating and posting content, thereby raising awareness. As people become more aware, there will be a shift in mindset towards sustainably designed, sourced and manufactured products, locally sourced and produced products, products made from recyclable materials, to name a few.

Keeping this changing culture in mind, three things we wish to leave you with today:

  1. Sustainability led design and development is not optional. It is essential and will become mandatory.
  2. It doesn’t simply mean a lower carbon footprint. There’s a lot more to sustainability than this.
  3. Enabling people to practise sustainability is the right thing to do. It has to be driven at scale and for it to happen, the first question to ask is ‘how do we make the right thing to do the easiest thing to do?’.

Driver Number 1: Personalisation and Individualisation – (Or Lessons From A Kebab Shop)

Two weeks ago we told you how the product development process will change in the immediate future based on five influencing factors. Today we talk about influencing factor 1: Increased need for personalisation and individualisation.

Let’s face it; we’re surrounded by social media. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and who know what fresh platform will crop up by the time you finish reading this. With the influx of social media, there comes the inherent pressure. To be accepted. To belong. To be part of a cult. This stems from the desire to find common ground amongst our peers and the society around us.

AS a paradox, this also carries with it, the urge to express our individuality. We’re all individual people, with our own personalities, tastes, choices, desires, needs and wants. Who we are is reflected in how we express ourselves. An inseparable part of this is the products we buy and use. We no longer crave for the latest smart phone or the latest piece of gadget. We want to personalise it, to the point it has to be an extension of who we are. We no longer want our BMW to be a standard Metallic Ruby Red, we want it to be a Equitus Eternal Red!

Now, the challenge you need to overcome is to balance the desire for personalisation (value addition) with the standardisation of the parts (cost minimisation) that you have to make your products. Let’s look at it with an example that we’re all quite familiar with: the ceremonial night-out kebab!

If you live in Manchester, or anywhere in the country for that matter, the local kebab shop will be a familiar haunt. There are so many of them, specialising in serving a selection of kebabs. Flavourful food apart, we love how they individualise your kebabs.

They have the standard kebab meats, marinades and grilling style, which form your standard parts, let’s say. The personalisation happens with your selection of accompaniments which enhance the flavour of your base product. You can go with a variety of naans or pittas, then again, pick and choose what aspects of a salad you want or don’t want, and the final step is the sauces you’d like on your kebab. Your friend and you could be having the same chicken kebab, but with different enhancements to suit your individual tastes!

Three things we wish to leave you with today:

  1. The base/core product is always about meeting the requirement/solving the problem/addressing the issue. There can be no compromise on that.
  2. The personalisation comes in the bits that aren’t the base/core product, more often to suit individual taste or for aesthetics.
  3. When you’re engineering and manufacturing products more complex than a kebab, your challenges are different, and you will need specialist support from the likes of us.