Importance of Culture For (and On) IIoT Adoption

By Tim Shea

Industry Trends

Having had the opportunity to attend the Operational Excellence in Energy, Chemicals & Resources conference held in Calgary, Canada and participate in the Digital Transformation track (sponsored by TCS) during the conference, I found there was as much discussion surrounding the topic of culture as there was on the topic of digital transformation, analytics/machine learning, and IIoT-enabled solutions. As I pondered this I harkened back to a discussion I had during a previous OTC with a pump OEM regarding their experiences of customer having purchased their pumps with an IIoT-enabled solution designed to add “intelligence” to the pump in order to optimize pump (and related well) performance, minimize unplanned downtime and increase the availability of the assets, the pump and the related well’s production it was trying to increase.

The point of the story is to highlight that until/if when in the future technology reaches a point at which human involvement is no longer required, we cannot get around the cultural (human) impact will have on IIoT adoption. All the best analytics and machine learning in the world will likely not realize its greatest potential unless the people impacted by the technology embrace it and work to find ways to innovate and benefit from it without the fear of being replaced by said technology, and such fear creating resistance (overt or covert) that will lead to actions designed to block that said technology.

During the conference, there was much discussion on the impact that culture can also have on accelerating (or impeding) adoption of new work processes, new operations management systems or any organizational change designed to improve the operational performance in some area of a company’s business. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (often attributed to Peter Drucker) was a phrase heard more than once during several presentations, panel discussions and hallway discussions. It reminds us that the continued adoption of IIoT-enabled solutions, new work processes, and improved corporate performance always relies on the human element and corporate culture is one critical means by which ensuring companies reach operational excellence.

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