James Heppelmann is the CEO of software company PTC.
Manufacturing executives are very intimidated by what’s happening. If I were the head of a company that’s been making diesel engines for the past 100 years, my company would know diesel engines. But the definition of what is a diesel engine is now changing quickly. In the past ten years, we had the inclusion of embedded software and electronics. But now, when we step across the line from a smart engine to a smart, connected engine, suddenly there’s an explosion of new technological opportunities and concerns. I’m going to need a device cloud and big data and integration and security and applications on smartphones and tablets—and wow!Reference: How the Internet of Things could transform the value chain.
Who in our engineering department understands that technology stack? You know, not many. Maybe you turn to your IT department; it’s actually more like what they do. Maybe you’re going to have to get your IT department involved in engineering your next-generation product. My advice would be to try to understand the layers of the technology stack, try to get to the point where you are going to really add value. Putting sensors in your products, collecting data within your products—you can add a lot of value there.
You’ll probably then want to connect that to some type of a cloud solution you probably need to purchase—a device cloud of sorts. You’re probably going to need some big data analytics, and you’re going to need some investments in big data technology. You’re going to need security and integration technology and, again, that probably needs to come from the outside.
But when it comes to the applications that help you to operate and service and create feedback loops, you’re going to want to get involved again because who knows diesel engines and how to operate them better than the company that’s been making diesel engines for 100 years?
Before you plunge yourself into what technology stack means, be sure you are as crystal clear as possible about what you as the CEO are trying to accomplish for your company. 2015 business goals are undoubtedly front and center in your mind, but what are the essential purpose, values and aims that course in the veins of your people over the long run? That's Step 1 of The Core Algorithm: Begin with the end in mind. Step 2 is Walk backwards to map pathways from there and then to where you are here and now, the intent being to lay out all that what you need to reach that end. What Heppelmann more implicitly emphasizes is: You as the CEO must have solid enough understanding of what you need to do and how you need to do so, and you must have members in your leadership team who have deep grasp in how technology stack can truly add value vis-a-vis your goals and purpose.