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Get connected, get going, get ahead
The boss of my old firm is a gifted man. Obviously, you’d expect someone responsible for a business with over 160,000 employees to be more than a little above average. And he – Jean-Pascal Tricoire, or JPT, definitely is. But one of the things I admire about him is that he is a person of such clear vision you’d almost think he had access to some sort of device for seeing into the future.
As a business with a heritage which runs into hundreds of years, Schneider Electric has reinvented itself over the last 25 years or so. It has more than survived change, it has grown into a global giant. I would say it is one of the most digitalized businesses I have ever come across. The company uses data throughout its value chain, from product development to marketing, customer satisfaction and service.
But the unique thing I give credit to JPT for, is his idea that connected products will be a given. He started talking about this, I don’t know, before 2010. And from that point on, he was evangelical about getting Schneider to build connectivity into everything. What was interesting was his reasoning and his strategy for doing so.
Companies were well versed in drawing data from a variety of sources to gain insight about, e.g., customers, demand and costs. The thing that was missing – the thing that JPT saw – was the value of having supplementary data from the product itself. A product that you could tell you, it’s maker, about the way it is being used or abused; where it is located; the environment it’s in; how it is being serviced and maintained.
Far from being the basis for new services, this data was helpful to the manufacturer because it told the real story of its products. It was solid data on which to base improvements and upgrades to the design; understanding of the components and their suitability for the application; the need for additional functionality. It was unmediated information about whether a solution had been over- or under-engineered for its intended purpose.
I was reading a 2015 paper in Harvard Business Review by Michael Porter and James Heppelmann. “How Smart Connected Products are Transforming Companies” states that “data now stands on par with people, technology and capital as a core asset of the corporation and in many businesses is perhaps becoming the decisive asset.”
Now, you and I can have a conversation which could last from now until doomsday about how much data is enough data. The data scientists at Trackunit have a view on that. My friend and colleague Per Stjernqvist has his take. But without any further analysis, it’s clear that unless you’re harvesting data from your own products and solutions in use, you’re missing a big part of the story.
And that’s the message of this blog. If you don’t collect that data someone else will. And they will be the ones that will be able to connect machines to their use, and their users. They will be able to make better decisions about product design – because the product and its user will provide that insight. So, before you consider how you’re going to monetize data from new services your customers will pay for, think about how much more value that data could be worth to your own business.