The Road to Digital Transformation

The Road to Digital Transformation

Once upon a time, in the year 1970, a mere 5% of a vehicle’s composition was electronic. Fast forward to today, and 50% of vehicles have embraced the electronics revolution. However, it hasn’t been a solitary journey—it’s gone hand-in-hand with a software surge that’s making waves across all original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Despite this, digitalization, software management, and monetization remain siloed in their early days.

One of the most common sentiments in today’s industries is that every company is a software company. This point is most evident when devices are smart, connected to the cloud, and their manufacturers actively provide invaluable software and analytical insights to enhance user experiences. Yet many traditionalists, rooted in product-focused culture, refrain from wearing the “software company” badge, with software seemingly taking a backseat as a mere “add-on.”

However, with a discernible market shift towards value derived from digital solutions, the line between product, service, software, and analytics is blurring. For OEMs, the message is loud and clear: digital transformation can’t wait. To thrive, an OEM’s future toolkit must boast software-centric solutions, making them synonymous with software, Software as a Service (SaaS), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking of AI, while our OEM blog series mainly focuses on software, it would be an obvious oversight not to shine a light on AI’s role in enhancing software and analytics. As we dive deeper into the realm of software, it’s important to understand that AI will play a foundational role. For a deeper dive into how companies leverage AI, the “TSIA AI Capabilities Landscape” by Thomas Lah and team is essential reading.

Join us for this three-part blog series as we explore:

  • The challenges in delivering software to users and its life-cycle management.
  • Strategies to navigate alignment hiccups and lay the groundwork for software management.
  • The roadmap to successful software transformation and monetization.

Demystifying Software Challenges for OEMs

As more companies adopt software-driven strategies, there’s an increasing emphasis on understanding the complexities and challenges OEMs face in the software landscape. But before we can unpack these challenges, it’s paramount to appreciate the type and nature of software provided by OEMs.

Understanding the Software Spectrum for OEMs

Let’s visualize a typical equipment manufacturer. Their products, tailored for a smart factory setting, are deeply intertwined with customer operations. A cursory glance at Figure 1, our elementary representation of the automation pyramid, illustrates the interactions, starting at the sensor level, weaving through controls, and culminating at operations.

Software landscape in a production environment.
Figure 1. Software landscape in a production environment.

What accentuates setups like this? This phenomenon is called “edge computing”. By processing data on-site where it originates, it promises swift actions and responses, especially during anomalies. Furthermore, every pyramid tier today is augmented by cloud-accessible software, knitting different software entities together and heralding newer avenues to amplify customer results.

Although traditional pyramid structures and on-premises computing retain their longstanding significance, it’s indisputable that functions across the spectrum are migrating to the cloud, powered by the cloud-first strategies of many providers.

It’s worth noting that this software-driven environment isn’t a standalone entity. Instead, it’s a cog in a much broader software-centric ecosystem, impacting multiple hierarchical levels and utilizing an array of software types, both on-premises and in the cloud. For a panoramic view, Figure 2 sheds light on the software types predominantly offered by OEMs.

The software types predominantly offered by OEMs.
Figure 2. The software types predominantly offered by OEMs.

Yet, as is the nature of progress, it’s evident that system complexities are surging. The integration of more software, coupled with enhanced equipment connectivity to varied platforms, only intensifies this trend.

Stakeholder Dynamics in Software Provision

So who champions these software components? Unsurprisingly, ownership can be diverse:

  • Research and development (R&D) takes charge of software tied directly to products.
  • Service manages software for product maintenance, including remote services, knowledge bases, and self-repair features.
  • Innovative digital teams emerge, crafting digital services, spanning dashboards, product management platforms, digital twins, and myriad standalone software products.
  • IT and OT (Operational Technology) collaborate to safeguard every connected product and process.
  • IT steers business software realms, like ERP and CRM, overseeing interfaces, security, partner management, and IT governance.

However, with multiple hands steering the ship, conflicts are foreseeable—and natural.

Picture this: The service wing is keen on bolstering remote service capabilities, urging R&D to integrate additional sensors for superior analytics. Concurrently, R&D is driven by the goal of optimizing costs. Distinct team cultures further exacerbate this tussle. The age-old methodologies championed by engineers meet the dynamic approaches of software engineers. Traditional project management comes into conflict with agile frameworks like Scrum.

Navigating these waters presents a profound strategic challenge for OEMs in software management. As we delve deeper, understanding these complexities is the first step toward devising effective strategies.

Navigating Software Challenges for OEMs: The Road Ahead

Including software in traditional hardware solutions has posed significant challenges for OEMs. Let’s delve into the specifics to help us understand these complexities.

Prioritizing Holistic Software Solutions

OEMs’ digital transformation combines automating customer processes, enhancing digital customer and employee experiences, and innovating new business models. Central to this is software portfolio development. However, as Geoffrey Moore’s “Zone To Win” suggests efficiently allocating limited resources (like talent, technology, and budget) for this transformation becomes a “crisis of prioritization.” Aligning stakeholders to deliver cohesive software-centric solutions becomes pivotal.

Software Management Alignment with Digital Strategy

OEM software and products have unique life cycles, often spanning decades. These are further influenced by specific OT and IT customer environments, custom software configurations, and industry-specific regulations. This spectrum leads to field software running on varied IT hardware, operating systems, and versions. Managing these dependencies and targeting the “growing pie” of software value necessitates defining and building the right capabilities.

The Imperative of Life Cycle Management

Customer approaches to software updates vary. While some remain tethered to the original software, others sporadically update based on vendor cycles or to address and prevent failures. The very act of updating becomes customer-specific due to distinct security protocols and documentation requirements. Achieving automation in such an environment remains a herculean task, with security concerns taking center stage. The overarching challenge? Forging an integrated, secure ecosystem for software maintenance, updates, and asset life cycle management.

Deciphering the Customer’s Perspective

For customers, seamlessly running product software doesn’t warrant updates. Moreover, when software issues arise, they’re often perceived as warranty-covered. Charging for software maintenance becomes tricky. While service teams might recognize the associated costs, customers often bypass them from sales or customer success teams. Therefore, OEMs must articulate the value proposition of paying for software and its maintenance.

The Monetization Puzzle

Monetizing software and its updates remains a gray area for most OEMs. While software updates, with their enhanced features and security provisions, undeniably add value, OEMs are still struggling to price this value appropriately.

In summary, integrating software into hardware-centric solutions presents a maze of challenges. However, they are not insurmountable.

Check out our next blog installment, where we’ll explore tangible solutions to help guide OEMs on their journey toward holistic software management and value monetization.

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