Podcasts > Operations > Ep. PTC x IoT ONE 043: How to build connected apps for digital transformation across the entire organization with platforms – An Interview with Howard Heppelmann of PTC -
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Ep. PTC x IoT ONE 043: How to build connected apps for digital transformation across the entire organization with platforms – An Interview with Howard Heppelmann of PTC
Friday, November 09, 2018

*This episode of the Industrial IoT Spotlight podcast is sponsored by PTC

In this episode, we discuss what digital transformation means for traditional companies, the opportunity and risks it presents, and how to successfully drive it within organizations.

Our interview with Howard Heppelmann, General Manager of PTC’s Connected solutions business, aims to answer four key questions: What are the key challenges of digital transformation? What are the best practices in app development to drive digital transformation in organizations? What are the 4 technologies that will disrupt traditional businesses, and how?

PTC’s leading industrial innovation platform and solutions turn Industry 4.0 possibility into reality. Learn more about PTC's solutions with the ABI Report on Smart Manufacturing Platforms.

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital transformation enables companies to go from a rear-view approach to present and future real-time optimization of their businesses
  • IIoT app development no longer has to lie with the IT department, or within certain silos. Citizen developers in the business or operations can develop apps that are most closely aligned with their individual business objectives.
  • The traditional approach to app development results in individual departments hitting ceilings and failing to achieve synergy because individual departments optimize their own silos. Platforms are able to connect various apps and pool data so that the entire organization has transparent views and each department’s optimization can also benefit others.
  • The four technologies that will disrupt traditional businesses are: 
  1. IoT and analytics: the convergence of IT and OT to utilize data with analytics improve productivity
  2. Augmented reality: the empowerment of workers in highly labor intensive operations to become more efficient
  3. Additive manufacturing: the disruption that breaks the design and operational constraints of traditional manufacturing approaches and cascades down the value chain
  4. Digital technology platforms: the integration of technologies and applications in one plane that allows companies to move at greater speeds
  • IIoT will transform industries, companies, and products, Traditional companies need to clearly define what digital transformation means for them and the value they bring to market or risk becoming obsolete.


Erik: Welcome to the Industrial IoT Spotlight, your number one spot for insight from industrial IoT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host, Erik Walenza.

Welcome back to the Industrial IoT Spotlight podcast. I'm your host, Erik Walenza, CEO of IoT ONE and your host today. T this podcast is brought to you by PTC and Live Works, the world's most respected digital transformation conference. In this series, we feature partners PTC, who are driving digital innovation and value creation today.

Today, we are speaking with Howard Heppelmann, Vice President and General Manager of Connected Solutions at PTC. With Howard, we'll discuss the key technologies that are driving technology adoption, including industrial IoT, and industrial analytics, augmented reality, additive manufacturing and digital technology platforms. We'll discuss how the digital physical convergence is relevant across these new technology domains, and how they're being deployed by companies to impact their operations and their products today.

Howard, thank you so much for joining us and having this conversation about PTC and also about the future of digital physical convergence and related technologies today. Appreciate your time.

Howard: Happy to be here.

Erik: So Howard, this conversation arose as somewhat of a byproduct of Live Works. Maybe that's a good place to start and just to frame for our listeners to an extent where PTC sits in terms of the greater ecosystem and how you see PTC role. And I think Live Works is maybe a good venue for explaining that.

Howard: Yeah. I think particularly on the topic of digital physical convergence in the manufacturing setting Live Works this year was a breakthrough event, I think, for both PTC and our partner ecosystem. The reason for that is we delivered an actual functioning factory where people were building live products. But it wasn't just PTC doing that. It was PTC in combination with the strength of our partner ecosystem.

So we had firms that are providing the infrastructure, companies like HPE that provide the critical compute infrastructure necessary to unlock many of today's new opportunities. But we also had partners there that were providing solutions that extend the PTC industrial innovation platform with capabilities that help customers more rapidly extract value. So companies like a Avena Technologies that deliver good quality and testing capability, Allied Reliability that delivered remote predictive maintenance and condition monitoring.

And then in addition to that, at this event this year, more so than ever before, we had great representation from leading companies like McKinsey and Deloitte and others who are really helping the highest level executives navigate this opportunity around digital transformation. So I was extremely proud of the ecosystem that we built for Live Works, but then how that ecosystem came together at every level to showcase live on the show floor, the actual implementation of industry for old technologies, and what that can mean for today's companies that are looking to accelerate their own digital transformation.

Erik: And I'm interested in getting a bit deeper into how you see PTC fit into this ecosystem. I think one of the things that we've really seen from IoT ones perspective emerge over the recent years is the growing importance of ecosystems. And some companies have adapted well to that. Others have fought that change. My perspective is that PTC is a company that, on the one hand, has evolved quite a bit in the past one or two decades, but on the other hand, has stayed pretty focused on specific value propositions and then really work with other companies. So I want to get a bit more into that. But before we really dive in, let's frame for the audience a bit more, where you sit in the organization and then where your unit connected solution sits within PTC, relative to the portfolio and I think it is a rather diverse portfolio.

Howard: Yeah. So first of all, my official title at PTC is on the general manager of our connected solutions business. Now I've had the great luxury at PTC of having run other businesses, like our service lifecycle management business, and others in the past that have helped position me for the role that I'm leaving today.

But when I talk about connected solutions, we really focus on two key things. And one is the companies that make products, what we sometimes refer to as the smart connected product manufacturers, these are traditional OEMs that we all know they make planes, trains, automobiles, etc, and are looking to connect those products to drive internal efficiencies in their organization, but also unlock new market opportunities as they develop their digital business going forward.

And then the second piece is what we call smart connected operations. So these are owner operators that are dealt with the severe challenge of having acquired or sourced many different types of both operational technology and IT technology over the years, and need to integrate that OT-IT infrastructure into a transformative capability that provides real time intelligence and even predictive intelligence in terms of how they guide and run their operations.

So, two distinct challenges: smart connected products and smart connected operations. The focus of this particular series is on what we call the smart connected operations. But it's really all about enabling companies to go from sort of a rear view management of their business to present and future projection of the business that allows them to optimize in ways that never happened before.

Erik: And just so I can understand how this sits within PTC, you have this portfolio of IoT solutions, CAD, PLM, augmented reality, other software solutions, how do you segment internally? So you've given us a perspective from the companies that you work with, what about the technologies? Are you working across the entire portfolio of PTC technologies? Or there’s specific segments that you would typically work with?

Howard: And again, back to our previous conversation about the importance of the ecosystem, how the broad breadth of PTC technologies and those that might exist in the partner ecosystem come together to enable solutions for our customers. So I take our ThingWorx platform, for example. And the first thing I would do at that is look at what are the specific use cases that a customer may be targeting the high value sort of well-known use cases that can be unlocked through augmented reality, Internet of Things, big data analytics technologies, and then bring together technologies both from within PTC and from what ecosystem to develop solutions against those use cases that help our customers accelerate their time to value.

So at Live Works, for example, we feature a lot about sort of up the middle Internet of Things technologies, connectivity, and conversion of IT, and OT and the analytics that comes along with that. But we also had a big dose of augmented reality technology. And while most analysts today see those as separate markets, and we think they are as well in terms of their maturity, when we look at a use case, for example, for an operator on the factory floor, those two technologies come together in a way that is very special, and drives a one plus one equals three kind of value prop; so bringing IoT to the factory floor to empower users with real time actionable intelligence, while having the opportunity then to engage them and deliver information to them in a way that may make their work output 30-50% more efficient generates a very unique and powerful combination that is only unlocked because of both IT-OT convergence or IoT, and augmented reality.

So yes, that's my role at PTC is to look at all the technologies in our portfolio. That was just two examples of some of the obvious ones: AR augmented reality and IoT, but really, more broadly than that in how those technologies can come together to unlock use cases in new and very interesting ways.

Erik: The jobs to be done that PTC focuses on, from a strategic perspective, stepping back, how do you look at this? So one of the challenges that I expect many of your customers are facing is that there's a proliferation of potential use cases of things that could be done. Likewise for a companies like PTC, there's a proliferation of businesses that you could be moving into. So we've seen, a bit of confusion or you could say there's confusion, there's also opportunity, both for end users who are seeking to adopt new solutions, and also for technology providers who are determining where are the boundaries of our company.

And I suppose in your role, you are addressing both of these. You're trying to help your customers understand what jobs they should be focusing on, and you're trying to figure out which ones you should be helping them to get done. As a business leader at PTC, what are the things that your organization is focusing on supporting? And how have you come to focus on those particular technology demands and those use cases?

Howard:  I think I would break it into really two different focus areas. But we have spent a lot of time with panelists, with key members of our partner ecosystem, the global advisory firms and leading consultants in the area, and then our own effort with customers researching use cases and personas. What we've identified is that there are a number of high value use cases that unlock tremendous efficiencies in operational improvement. Things like real time operational intelligence, or asset condition monitoring, those are perhaps the two most well-known use cases around smart connected operations.

But the other thing that we look at is the bigger picture long term strategic transformation that companies are going to. And that's where quite frankly, we spend a lot of time with our partner ecosystem helping to develop the ecosystem that's necessary to help companies navigate the complete end-to-end transformation. And this typically results in companies changing to some degree their organizational models, it may affect the business models and/or markets, as you indicated, that they play in.

So I like to separate those two, because there are some very specific areas that we focus on that deliver immediate operational improvement but in a very significant way. But I think all of the executives that have researched and latched on to this opportunity, understand that the bigger picture is a long game that quite frankly impacts their future competitiveness, and that transition is one that results in a company that may look substantially different than what it does today.

Erik: And from a deployment standpoint, do you find that these are best deployed in a cadence, meaning first, deployment can address a more near term operational objective, and through doing that, you may build up the capability, you may acquire the data that would enable a larger more strategic shift? Or are the use cases and the technologies involved separate enough that these are best viewed as basically separate deployments that don't necessarily interact with each other and are on different timelines and somewhat siloed?

Howard: I think we look at these use cases as being very interconnected and relate directly to the idea of a platform. So at PTC, we tried to identify those use cases, and make sure that our platform has the standard capabilities in that allow people to most efficiently pursue those use cases.

But one of the core value propositions here is the cross-functional, cross-departmental integration of processes. So one of the advantages that customers have in pursuing these use cases with a platform versus with a standalone application is that they are finally able to break the silos of automation that have held them back from integrating across OT and across IT, but also by unlocking new business processes that fundamentally allow them to integrate across their enterprise, both internally and inclusive of their supply chain. So, in a very simple sense, the use cases, while maybe distinct in value are highly integrated in the area of driving new process innovation.

Erik: I suppose, in one respect, it's not too different from building up infrastructure 100 years ago. The infrastructure may be separate, but the underlying capabilities, and the interactions are somewhat more than cumulative. They do support each other, and in this case, also somewhat similar. There's a tension though, I suppose, between having ready to use apps or apps that have a lower integration cost, a lower customization cost, and then on the other hand, one of the big value propositions behind a platform is that it does enable a great degree of customisation around how this data will be used in alignment with your business processes. How do you view this? Do you see a general trend? And are you driving PTC in a general trend towards ready to use or standardized applications? Or do you feel that customization is really for the foreseeable future required in order to deliver business value?

Howard: I would start by answering that question with a call out to all the listeners to just very attentively listen to what I'm about to say. Which is when we talk about customization, no, I think there is a bad historical connotation that comes with that. That challenge with customization has always been that it's expensive, that it's slow, that it results in relatively brutal applications on the back end that increase the cost of ownership for a company.

And I want to just state that the first thing we need to do is clear our mind of that paradigm. And realize that, at least in this conversation today, when we talk about customization, we're talking about rapid application development done mostly by citizen developers, and not IT developers that result in flying agile methodologies to quickly innovate and develop capabilities, which then are meant to be continually tailored in the future.

So that is as the backdrop, I think, relieves some of that tension. Again, what we see today is there is no shortage of technology and manufacturing organizations. There's the whole stack from conductivity at the bottom, so manufacturing, operations management to ERP and business systems integration. And there's some big players in those spaces and thousands of small players. And the challenge that people have when they sort of pursue a best in class application strategy is that they get targeted automation capabilities within their organization. But ultimately, just ceiling where either the cost to integrate all those technologies together is too high, or the data remains locked in the silos of automation.

So I think you see our approach is pretty simple. Number one, we start with this idea that we are providing a platform. And the goal of that platform is really to provide the layer that brings together these IT and OT data sources, and then enables the development in an agile way of new applications that sit above them.

Now we constantly look at the obvious, which is, if someone is continually building out the same functionality in our platform to unlock a certain use case, then what we want to do is build that functionality for them and although their customers [inaudible 18:36] are pursuing that use case, so that they're not reinventing the wheel. And instead, they may be adding the last mile, the last 10-20% of the application that is truly providing the unique capabilities that are necessary for their organization and the environment that their organization lives in.

So sometimes that may result in an app. An obvious one in the IoT space would be remote monitoring. You don't need every customer to have a unique and different way of doing remote monitoring. We can accelerate that capability, get them up and running very quickly. On the other hand, when you arrive at something like operational intelligence, it is almost always dependent, to some degree, on the uniqueness of that particular customers set of capabilities that they have and business processes that they want to enable.

And there we're providing more of an accelerator capability that acknowledges again, that there's a certain amount of common capability. But for people to get the full value out of that use case, they need to have that last 15-20% of tailoring that is unique to their organization. But it all comes down to the basic common sense question of if people are doing the same thing over and over again in a very similar way, then we want to take that capability and sweep it off the table for them and put it into the product as an accelerator that helps them get going faster and achieve their ROI much faster.

Erik: I was going to ask about how you segment use cases like predictive maintenance, which are very generally applicable but also unique. But I think you've answered that. The ideal situation, I suppose, is that it's not even the IT teams of your customers who are then finalizing the customization of the tool. It's an engineer for manufacturing engineering, it's somebody from R&D, it might be a business analyst, it's whoever's closest to the actual problem who's doing this. Where are we today in terms of these people, being able to actually get their hands on the technology and customize it their need?

I mean, I guess, on the one hand, we're continuing to add new technology like AR to the portfolio, I mean, just globally as a society. And that's, of course, adding complexity. One thing that PTC or ThingWorx, for example, has been driving at is making it easier for the operators to get into the code to an extent and customize. Where are we sitting today in terms of the ability for non IT people to actually direct the development of these tools?

Howard: Yeah, I mean, that's sort of been the special sauce, for example, of our ThingWorx platform from the beginning. And as you just alluded to, you've seen us pursue a very similar approach, our view forea of augmented reality technology. Today, it is totally accessible. We have a developer portal that has almost a half a million developers in it across our IoT and AR solutions.

But for example, in our AR space, we have almost 12,000 industrial manufacturers that come to that portal, download our technology, build applications, and then report back kind of just on a quarterly survey basis what they're using that technology for across sales and marketing, engineering, customer service, and in manufacturing. So it is very accessible. And I think this is, again, one of those unique ways and moments where we have to separate what we've known in the past traditionally from IT solutions, and what is potential or possible in the future.

And if you look at a typical company, the traditional bottleneck of everything having to flow through the IT organization is a big challenge. And it's neither good for the IT organization, because they're not able to serve their internal customers as well. And it certainly isn't good for the business because there are many, many opportunities to innovate that are put in a queue because there's only a certain amount of available capacity.

And so this idea that we are democratizing, whether it be the ability to build AR applications at scale that can be deployed in the hands of users to make them more efficient, or that we are giving folks drag and drop tools to innovate in the factory around IT-OT convergence is one that enables innovation to happen at a much faster and broader scale. And it's at least fundamental to the strategy that we have here at PTC, which is to unleash the power of the entire organization in the digital transformation, not to have a grand scheme for digital transformation that is then bottlenecked by limited resources in the traditional IT function.

Erik: So from our perspective, I'm sitting here in Shanghai, China, three years ago, when somebody had an event on the topic, they would be talking about what is IoT, what is industry 4.0; two years ago, they would be talking about grand strategies; one year ago, they'd get into what are some of the challenges? And now people are really focused on making smart decisions, I feel like it's at least getting here to the point where companies are moving beyond the grand strategy, they're getting down into okay, now we kind of understand what this is and let's try to figure out how it can actually impact our business.

You're probably in the US. I would imagine several years ahead of us here. Where do you see the business decision makers that you're working with today in terms of how they view these technologies, and what they're prepared to deploy as an organization?

Howard: I think, one that is this idea of how has the market developed is a very exciting reality. So I agree with you, first of all, that if you go back three years ago, shortly after we PTC got into this business, it was a lot of blank stares: what is what is IoT, what is industry 4.0, what would it mean to me? What use cases? At least in our space, we saw lots of successful pilots that we would engage a customer around industry 4.0 use case, run a pilot with them, those pilots were successful.

And then really this year, for me, has been a breakthrough year. What we've seen is that, number one, the awareness at the sea level inside of organizations has grown exponentially. And quite a number of companies at the hashtag their corporate CEO are now running official programs for digital transformation. And to me that signifies that the market is finally ready to expand. When a CEO says we are going to have a strategy, we're probably coming to look to one of our partners like McKinsey or Deloitte or someone like that, or BCG to drive that strategy across our organization at the highest levels to understand what changes the we need to make in how we compensate our people and structure our organizations, but we're going to roll this technology out across our 50, 100, maybe in some cases, 300 sites, because the CEO finally realizes that this is a bellwether on their future viability, that to me says the market has kind of finally hit its stride.

And while that's not happening at the majority of companies today, that was something that two years ago, we really didn't see happening at all. In this past year, we've seen a dramatic uptick in the number of initiatives that are being driven out of the corner office and with the eye toward digital transformation across the enterprise. So I think it's very, very exciting. On one, three years is a long time, on the other hand for a market to develop this quick from hey, what is this stuff? And can you help describe it to me to what we're seeing today in terms of enterprise-wide programs, I think it's super exciting.

Erik: Well, if you compare this to technology adoption, in past generation, certainly three years is actually not a long time for a new technology to move from what is it through experimentation to actual widespread deployment? So it's a challenge, I think, for a lot of organizations to realize how rapidly adoption is now occurring with digital technologies.

One of the interesting things for me to monitor where we say we're watching the IoT space, but we define it very broadly. Because if you're talking about drones, to an extent you're talking about IoT; if you're talking about additive manufacturing, to an extent, you're talking about IoT; if you didn't have the connection of these physical things with the internet, you really wouldn't have those technology capabilities. Which technologies are particularly exciting for you? Or are there things? Is it AR, AM analytics at the edge either? What are the things that really strike you as being either here today, or just around the corner being really big opportunities?

Howard: I think that there are four technologies that are particularly relevant at the intersection of PTC and our customers. And there are many others for sure. But the four that we tend to track that we believe, could individually disrupt our customers business, or collectively will certainly disrupt our customers business are the following.

The first is IoT and analytics. We look at the ability to converge IT and OT and then use utilize the data that comes out of that with analytics prevents and utilize the data that comes out of IT and OT in combination with analytics, presents an opportunity for companies to drive anywhere from 5% in what's already a highly automated business, a 5% improvement in productivity up to a 30+% improvement in productivity, and that's enormous in and of its own right.

The second technology, particularly for workforce intensive organizations is augmented reality. Augmented reality in the hands of users who are performing complex tasks, we sometimes referred to them as frontline workers, gives them superhuman capabilities which can unlock a 30-50% improvement in efficiency. And I use the word efficiency because I mean both the workers productivity as well as an increase in quality.

The third technology is additive manufacturing. And for manufacturing organizations, this is a point in time where we can throw aside everything we've known about manufacturing over the last 100 years, where that entire concept started with the idea that we're going to create solids and take things away, and then try to figure out how to rejoin them through fasteners and welding and things like that to an environment today that is capable of mimicking the best things we see in nature, and completely removing these constraints of the traditional approach.

So that will without a doubt, as the materials mature, and the capabilities to take advantage of these new design concepts mature well provide a complete disruption that allows companies to say reduce 1,000 part assembly down to 20 or 30 parts. And then all you have to do is look at what's the cascading effect through the supply chain and value chain and capital investments and everything that would come along with that, you can see that it's a crew with disruptive technology.

And then the fourth one is around digital technology platforms. Gartner talks about digital technology platforms as one of the disruptive technologies. And we fully believe that because it is the force that allows companies to take advantage of these multiple disruptions in a way that allows them to move with greater speed and agility than their competitors do. So if you believe that any one of these or other technologies are important, but you're going to adopt an old style approach of sort of integrating them or stitching them together on your own, and you're competing with a company that is working on the basis of these technologies being integrated into the industrial innovation platform or digital technology platform, then your velocity, and trajectory to innovate will be greatly, greatly reduced.

So those are the four: IoT and analytics, augmented reality, additive manufacturing, and digital technology platforms that we at PTC think are at the intersection of where we and our customers meet. There are clearly many others. And we're beginning to research these as well, things like blockchain. Well, you know, undoubtedly have an impact on how business is done today and in quite frankly, in the value chain of manufacturing operations I'm certain will emerge as yet another disruptive technology.

Back to the question we were talking about a second ago about why CEOs [inaudible 33:08] in this, I think it's fundamentally because in today's world, these technologies as noted have a disruptive capability on a standalone basis; but when integrated together, will undoubtedly yield a complete transformation of business, as we know it today. And I think that's getting through to CEOs today is they need to be in a position to emerge on the backside of this transformation, where these technologies became a strength of their organizational fabric, not the Achilles heel.

And we don't know exactly how they'll all play out today, literally, when we all live through the hype, the internet, around the turn of the century, there was a lot of excitement. And ultimately, it did play out that it was very, very disruptive with companies like Amazon running brick and mortar companies out of business and the rise of Uber and Lyft and other companies that really figured out how to take advantage of that. Indeed there is no doubt and we're probably still on the front end of what that full transformation looks like. But that technology was disruptive.

The difference between then and now is it's not just one technology, it's not just the internet. It's all these technologies combined, any one of which has the potential to be a threat to today's organizations, all of which in combination will certainly yield some outcome analogously similar to what we saw happen with the internet, but around these disruptive digital forces that that we're living in today.

Erik: If you look at either the largest public companies or the largest private company today, they’re really dominated by consumer internet companies that came out of the last 20 years or so and then Apple extending a little bit farther back, but still in the same path. I'm sure on the one hand, you would hope to see a similar thing for a PTC perspective. But do you see a similar possibility that the next 20 years, so now we look back, and it's industrial IoT companies who have used these radical new technologies and it's an entirely new set of leaders? Or do you think that the industrial space is different in the respect that there are adoption barriers, there's more stickiness to customer loyalties, value chains, and because of that the players that are in the market are going to have time to learn to adopt these new technologies and will be then still the leading companies? Do you see a similar threat as the occurred to the media companies, for example, after the internet age? Or do you think it will be different in terms of the way that adoption for industrial technologies plays out?

Howard: I think it is very much a similar threat. I don't have a crystal ball to say what that will look like. But it is clear to me, for example, if you take a company that makes a smart, connected product, and PTC wrote about this with Professor Michael Porter from Harvard in the first Harvard Business Review magazine article that we titled, “How Smart Connected Products Are Transforming Competition”. In that article, we talk about the fact that it's not just about connecting to the product so you can drive internal efficiencies. But ultimately, this plays out in how it's redefining the markets that you're in.

If you used to be selling equipment in the agricultural space, but now the value is actually shifting to the integration of your equipment and others equipment in that space. And you may see new competitive entrants that actually don't carry the brick and mortar costs associated with developing the products, but are harvesting most of the value and getting between you and the ultimate customer, because what they're doing is providing a new capability that focuses on yield, and perhaps that is the selling mechanism for the outcome, then clearly, your business is at risk on two fronts: one is the commoditization of your value, but also new entrants stepping in between you and the customer with a value proposition that is at a higher level.

And I think we can play out those scenarios in almost every case. If you look at NAS, that's a real live example that I think, played out; many of the companies that were building thermostats were definitely caught flat-footed with the innovation that this brought forward. Now, I think many of them have responded well today, and quickly delivering their own capabilities. But I'm not sure we've seen how that will ultimately play out, how is a company like Google now able to use that capability in combination with the pervasiveness of the rest of their platform that may exist in your house. So I'm not sure that that story has been answered either.

But what I am sure of is that when we look back 10 or 15 years from now, it is going to look very different than it does today. And there will be a digital transformation that plays out. Even quite frankly, if you're a B2C customer today, and you're not pursuing understanding these technologies, and the opportunities and threats that they create for your business, I would certainly encourage you to do so, because never before has the opportunity that comes with a first mover advantage, I think been, as powerful as it is here. A lot of this is about data.

And so if people figure out how to use their customer data in their market data in a more strategic way than their competitors do, it won't be as easy as a competitor to step back in and claw that back because the first mover will have a distinct advantage related to the data fabric that they've built.

So anyway, bottom line is, I think, every company needs to kind of stop what they're doing and poke their head up out of the sand and look around and understand what does this digital transformation mean for them. And if they can't answer that question clearly, then they better carve out some resources, or engage some partners that can help them through that transformation, because there's no doubt in my mind that 15 years from now it will reshape the fabric of their markets.

Erik: Let’s imagine that you're speaking now on this podcast to some people that are not CEOs, but in middle management and executive management, they're in conservative organizations that are somewhat either wary or just about adopting new technologies too rapidly, or it's just an organizational challenge to get pointed in that direction, what would you recommend to these people as practical steps that they can take that are feasible within the confines of their organization to begin to get their organization to look at new opportunities and to take those first steps, assuming that the CEO is not yet on board and really driving action?

Howard: I would answer that at a couple of levels. Anytime there's disruption, there are major opportunities. And we are right in the middle of that today. So if I were a plant engineer today, or what we sometimes call a control engineer, I would go explore these technologies. I would go, for example, to the PTC development portal, and download the software and start to understand it. Why would I do that? Because number one, I will be able to increase my personal position, whether it be for the company I work for today, or one of the companies that use more aggressive in pursuing this digital transformation. These kinds of skills are going to be incredibly valuable.

So the technologies are very available today. In fact, if they're not, it probably means it's the wrong technology basis. But you can get your hands on and go learn them and explore them, and then step forward, lean in. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring this capability into yourself, and then lean in with it in your organization to show that you can step up and take a new role in the process.

For sort of the more, let's call it manager and directors levels, I would say get engaged and run a pilot, whether it be PTC or some other company, invite them in, use their expertise, help identify a use case. And again, remember that this isn't a year long project. In fact, if that's what it's framing up to be, I would argue, again, that you're talking to a company who’s telling a modern story, but using old technology. So take advantage of the fact that you can run a 1-2 month pilot to solve a problem, and then use that problem as the foundation for continuing to build funding in in beginning to set yourself up again as a rising leader in the organization that can champion these digital transformations.

So I think at the individual contributor level, there is an enormous opportunity to increase your personal value by acknowledging that transformation that's happening and stepping forward and leaning in to show that you have a new capability set that is critical to the company. And then at the manager and director level, never before have companies been looking for someone to step up and show leadership. And that prevents an enormous opportunity for upward mobility either within the company you may work for today. Or if that company hasn't yet identified this as a strategic opportunity, it will be a capability that is sought by those who are perhaps a little further ahead. So I think it's an exciting time for people who want to embrace these technologies to really make a difference in their career around digital transformation.

Erik: Actually, today, I had a meeting with a client, which is I believe, also a customer of PTC is in Europe. But there was a young guy here in China who had the opportunity to likewise put his hand up and say, this is exciting, I want to be part of it. And we'll see where it leads. But he's certainly put himself on a track to be successful. So I think that's perfect advice. Howard, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. Is there any closing thoughts, anything else that you wanted to share?

Howard: In closing?

Yeah, we just say, it's a super exciting time, and all of us have the opportunity to make of it whatever we put our sights on. And I think in this realm of hyper technology velocity that exists today, there are many, many areas where you can engage and make a big difference. And I would just encourage people not to sit on the sidelines again to lean in, whether it's the CEO, the VP, level director for the front line trenches. Lean in, because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is gaining normal momentum right now. And people can have a lot of fun in the next 5-10 years.

Erik: Let's end with that thought. Thank you so much, Howard.

Howard: You're welcome. Thanks for having us.

Erik: This episode of the industrial IoT spotlight podcast is part of a collaboration with PTC, the global software company that helps companies design, manufacture, operate, and service things for a smart connected world. To learn more about PTC, visit www.ptc.com. And to collaborate on future podcasts with IoTONE, please feel free to reach out to us at team@IoTone.com.

Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the industrial IoT spotlight. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at IoTONEHQ and to check out our database of case studies on IoTone.com. If you have unique insight or a project deployment story to share, we'd love to feature you on a future edition. Write us at erik.walenza@IoTone.com.

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