Leave no-one behind: how to unlock your entire digital ecosystem

Posted on 27 Jan 2022 by Joe Bush

When you have data entered once and then connected safely, securely and quickly everywhere - that is real smart ‘integration’. The reality is that integration is the perfect foundation for integrated experiences, but it is not enough. Data readiness, user engagement, and the unified platform are critical to delivering an integrated experience, and will become critical to an organisation’s survival. The winners are building a modern tapestry of integrated experiences.

A recent virtual roundtable hosted by The Manufacturer and Boomi, a leading software company that specialises in integration platforms as a service and API management, saw the manufacturing community come together to discuss further.

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We asked leading UK manufacturers about the key pain points:

“We have quite a lot of analogue systems. Part of my role is looking at how we get our digital data to the right people, at the right time, to get the right insights from our inspection of our past data so we can save on our material usage.”

“We’ve got 300 independent factories and we’re on a journey to try and become an integrated manufacturing network. Central to that is how we leverage digital, while recognising that all of our plants operate on their own tech stack, often with quite varied processes. How do we manage that within the existing legacy estate, and without it costing us the Earth and taking ten years to get there?”

“I routinely experience the challenge of trying to simulate data from our own myriad of legacy systems and applications that we have across the business, but equally connecting and integrating data from our customers’ systems to try and give us a clearer picture of what’s happening. We have many systems and many different ways of extracting data and it gets complicated very quickly.”

“We’ve got a lot of legacy ERP systems so we’re currently going through a journey of trying to roll out a new one. We’re having a lot of issues with data – the accuracy, and the ability to move it from one area to the other. And that’s just at one site.”

“Our journey towards digital has had many false starts. We’re desperately trying to move towards more data driven decisions. Much of our data is secure so our ability to transfer that into a more typical platform to do some data analysis is constantly proving a bridge too far, to the point where we’re creating our own bespoke solutions which are probably not supportable in the long-term.”

Key questions

How do you win hearts and minds around digital change within your organisation?

It is a slow process, and one which you cannot afford to rush. You have to keep continuously communicating, not just in terms of what the business is doing but also for the individual – you have to ask what benefits will they see from this overall change? Is it an opportunity to learn some new skills? Is it to achieve greater visibility within the organisation? And is it really going to make the life of the workforce easier? But of course, it’s also about bringing them closer to the ultimate goal that the organisation is trying to take forward, and where their value starts to be seen at a higher level within the business. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it will take time to chip away at those individuals. However, a strategy to ensure they can see the big picture is vital.

Manufacturer insight: “We had a lot of people who were reluctant to even consider a new system – there was a lot of negativity and reluctance. But this changed when they got involved. They got into sandpits and experimented, and that helped them create scenarios and run the system in a more meaningful way. Try to create an environment with a new system that allows people to not only see it, but also to find their own way with it.

“Also, new systems take a little while to get going and for people to get used to. So don’t promise the Earth when you’re trying to drive change. If anything, tell them it’s going to be difficult – be open and honest.”

“Don’t lose sight of the end game and of what the goal is. There’s nothing worse than working on long-term programmes of change and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. If you can have a retrospective look at what you’ve achieved and delivered, you can then see how significant the change has been.

“When you ask for change the amount of barriers that come up in front of you can be many. But, once people are able to see the value, and you start asking them for more and more feedback, interest starts to grow – and that can rub off on people.”

“The communication plan is as intrinsically important as the technical element of any digital change. We specifically set up a comms team to make sure that every step of the process is a measured achievement. This is what we’re going to do. Did we do it? What were the barriers? Why did we succeed or fail, etc? For me the comms plan has been a real benefit.”

“Understanding the individual culture of particular plants within the business is important. The Far East, Europe and the US, for example, are all different and sometimes require a different tact. The same process doesn’t work everywhere, so tuning into the local dynamics, and the characters around the business is really important, as is customising the plan in line with the local context.”

“Between C-suite level and the shop floor there can be a real difference of opinion in terms of what the requirements of data are. The people on the shop floor are the ones at the pointed end of the business so understanding what their needs are is very important.”

What KPIs are being used to validate the benefits of data?

The original business case for change must be established. Is there a business case for people adopting new technologies? And how is that going to ultimately be measured? Is there going to be productivity gains? Is it going to be cost saving? Is it related to safety? Or is it purely about keeping up with competitors in the market?

Measuring engagement is often about asking people what they are actually doing. Are they providing feedback? Is there a forum where people can provide a view back around what they are seeing? From a cost perspective, is it measured by productivity in terms of the elements going through the platform? Is it driving new levels of efficiency? And where do you want to start? Is it around the human aspect or is it through a financial lens?

If you are conducting a pilot, are you doing it for the right reason? Do you have the right stakeholders who are really interested in what is being undertaken? Have you actually defined the success criteria upfront and is that truly measurable in the long-term? And has the organisation bought into driving that forward if it is successful?

And of course, do you have the right people? Are they trained to support that move forward? And does the financial business case stand up? There is nothing worse than trying to pick something and find that economically, it is never going to work. It can fail on multiple areas as much as can be successful.

Manufacturer insight: “What drove the change in the first place should help identify the right metrics. It’s not necessarily about data integrity, and the integration of data and how it’s performing. It’s about whether you’re getting the business benefit from doing what you’re doing? So, the KPIs that would drive that would be more centred around output – what are you trying to achieve, opposed to focusing on how good the data is.”

“The assumption is that change is always forced upon a business. However, we’ve got to get to a dynamic where the business starts to pull some of this change forward. Can you prove concept and value? And if you can prove value, it’s then about how to sell it and make it attractive to plant leaders, supply chain managers etc, to pull this technology, invest in it, and sponsor deployment in the business. That’s the ultimate acid test – does the business want change and is the will there to pull it forward?

“I worry that if you push change too much you may be pushing it onto an audience that don’t necessarily want it. You’ve got to change the dynamic if you’re really going to get ultimate engagement and pull.”

How can organisations (particularly larger players with multiple functions), become better organised at delivering digital solutions?

Every organisation is going through some level of digitisation. However, some businesses are setting up internal selling capabilities of what that change delivers back to the business. Ask whether you have a good relationship with your business counterparts from an IT perspective, and are bringing business and IT together.

Some businesses have dictated where they think they want to go from a high-level metric, and how digital becomes part of that. There are other instances where IT is moving away from a cost centre, to delivering more tangible value – in essence setting up an internal selling team to sell those concepts and ideas to the business. In some cases that might start with an innovation pop up lab, and building teams around business analysis to start helping internally sell IT capabilities.

Manufacturer insight: “The times where I have seen this work well is where the sponsorship has come internally from the business side – finding that sponsor within the business who is open minded and driven enough to see the potential, and is willing to invest in the people to go and do it. And then that team becomes the bridge into IT, rather than operations.

“Operational people have a very difficult job, which is to deliver, and they need to build that infrastructure around them. But if it’s not owned by the business, it will go nowhere. Find that one person in the business who is open minded enough, and then sell it to them, get them to buy into it, and work with them. And then others will see the benefits. But that sponsor is probably the right first step.”

“We need that intermediate level that combines the IT operations and leadership thinking and really play the middleman role. Without that, it’s very difficult to accelerate this type of innovation, because you’re bringing in two very different sets of people together, trying to achieve a common goal. And that’s where you see a lot of turf wars occurring between IT and the rest of the business. The key is to give people the ability to visualise the benefits, and the imagination to see the new world.”


Operationalisation, legacy systems and culture are vital. Technology clearly has a play, but it needs to be looked at in a very balanced way – both technology, and the adoption of that technology, but also people and processes.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and everything has to be dealt with in harmony when programmes of change are implemented, in order to deliver excellence in a fast and efficient way.

Also, the closer you are to the business and its stakeholders, the more you can narrow the gap between them and the change you are trying to implement. You will then get a better interrelationship with the outcomes you are trying to achieve, see less friction, and have more chance of future-proofing moving forward.