Digital connectivity is creating unimagined business models and opportunities, at an equally unseen speed. Using big data and predictive analytics, Ovinto’s Fredrick Ronse is enabling petrochemical supply chain to jump on that train. And stop complaining about standardisation!
What is the most important COVID-accelerated driver of supply chain transformation today?
Connectivity is the issue that clearly comes on top. Companies always talk about digitisation, but they don't interconnect – both internally and with suppliers. When you advise them to connect, automate and streamline processes – because they’re still working with phones, emails, faxes or even paper – they typically say: before we can connect we need standardisation. They will then take few years to talk standards – and end up with wrong standards.
That’s because they are standardising the means – focusing on current technologies – and not the goal – effective data exchange. Imagine the EU drafting a directive saying that you have to share digital data on a CD. The moment the legislation is there, CD doesn't exist anymore.
It is impossible to think that 100% usage is still possible or that we need someone to tells us how things should be done. The biggest revolution in the very near future should come from connectivity that works for everybody – regardless of data interchange protocols or software choices.
You said that a lot of companies embrace digital, but then end up in digital confusion. What is the main mistake businesses make?
They wait for too long. And they don't really try anymore.
Big companies typically turn automation into overly ambitious and complex projects. Once the project becomes so incredibly big, they say: “Oh my God, how are we going to do that!?” One year later, they're still standing still, paralysed by that fear. What you need to do is to start small. Just try and if it doesn't work – throw it away. Take something else and it will work. And then move even further.
Other companies are afraid of real experimentation. They invest in small self-serving projects, just to be able to brag to customers and the world: “Look how innovative we are, we have cells specialised in innovation, and we have tried out this and that.” But ask them how many new technologies they've actually adopted.
Will this crisis push people to open up to experimentation or further increase anxiety towards change?
I think it will do both. A lot of people are even more scared now to rethink their strategies. But the moment it starts to hurt – when you see that your business is not working as it was before and you're not profitable anymore – they embrace change.
Many companies are doing the opposite of what they should do – they have a 100% investment freeze now. And this should be the moment when you say: okay guys, we have to take a risk, because otherwise we are going to lose the race. Some companies will be successful – others won't.