An organization’s digital transformation is a gradual, deliberate process. Find out two things that can mean the difference between success and stagnation.
Do you want to launch Industry 4.0, Quality 4.0, or EHSQ 4.0 initiatives? At the core of these buzzwords is digital transformation -- the profound shift in behaviors and business models made possible when introducing technologies for connection, intelligence, and automation.
Industry 4.0 is the digital transformation of heavy industries, while Quality 4.0 reflects digital transformation in any industry through programs and initiatives that are specifically tied to achieving quality and performance goals. These actions can include innovation, which is just “quality for tomorrow” -- that is, defining requirements, specifications, and conditions to satisfy future needs.
Saldanha (2019) takes a look at case studies from the past decade to find out what contributes to a successful digital transformation. First, he finds that managing change when multiple new technologies are being introduced is easier when executives and senior leaders anticipate a steady, gradual increase in maturity levels. He outlines five levels to gauge progress.
- Foundation - clear ownership of strategy, experiment and keep ideas that work
- Siloed - provide functional leaders with mandates, let them make strategic choices
- Partially synchronized - implement a unified, coordinated strategy
- Fully synchronized - systems support unified, coordinated, adaptable strategy
- Living DNA - culture supports constant change, ongoing assessment and action
Second, he finds that certain capabilities are essential. Leaders must help everyone in the organization gain access to information and training to keep them current on new digital technologies. An agile culture should be baked in early in the transformation process, remembering that the most important parts of agile are to work closely with the customer and experiment to find best-fit solutions. Risk-based thinking, a foundational element of ISO 9001:2015, should be incorporated because it can help to guard against disruption risks.
“Keeping daily activities moving smoothly toward organizational goals is a balancing act.” -- Bialek et al. (2011)
Overall, leaders need to intelligently balance risks and benefits while their organization advances in digital maturity. For everyone else, a focus on simplicity, clarity, and transparency can make the difference. Why? Because the success factors for digital transformation are the same as for other major organizational changes: clear goals, and a disciplined process for achieving them.
Bialek, R., Duffy, G. L. & Moran, J. W. (2011). Modular Kaizen: Dealing with Disruptions. Public Health Institute. Available from http://www.phf.org/resourcestools/Documents/Modular_kaizen.pdf
Merrill, P. (2012). Quality for tomorrow. Quality Progress, 45(6), 25.
Saldanha, T. (2019). Why digital transformations fail: the surprising disciplines of how to take off and stay ahead. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
About the Author: Nicole Radziwill is the Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain at Intelex Technologies. Before Intelex, she was an Associate Professor of Data Science and Production Systems, Assistant Director (VP) End-to-End Operations at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and manager and consultant for several other organizations since the late 1990's bringing quality management to technologically-oriented operations. She is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) with a Ph.D. in Quality Systems from Indiana State University. Nicole serves as Editor of Software Quality Professional (SQP) journal and is a former Chair of the ASQ Software Division. She is an ASQ Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) and Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB).
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