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MIT Sloan winner: 'Unity of effort' vital to digital transformation

As a global manufacturer and supplier of elevators, escalators and moving walkways, the Switzerland-based Schindler Group's slogan stating that the company moves "one billion people per day" isn't hyperbole. The company also has more than 54,000 employees in 100 countries, making digital strategy a must to successfully take advantage of data generated by its everyday business operations.

To increasingly digitize business processes, in recent years Schindler has incorporated IT rationalization and global business process optimization, as well as implemented innovative digital business models as a competitive advantage. For leading this substantial effort, Schindler Group CIO Michael Nilles was awarded the 2015 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award honoring chief information officers "who lead their organizations to deliver business value and innovative use of IT in exceptional ways."

In this SearchCIO video interview, Nilles sits down with SearchCompliance editor Ben Cole at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium to discuss the CIO's role in enterprise digital transformation. Nilles, who also joined a panel discussion at the MIT Symposium, pointed to Schindler's company-wide effort as the primary factor in the company's successful digital strategy.

As you know, the proliferation of digital information is disrupting traditional business models and sometimes even rendering them obsolete. What steps would you advise CIOs take to help their business adapt to the digital marketplace?

Michael Nilles: Well, there are a couple of challenges involved in developing a digital vision and a digital transformation roadmap. It's very important that you have a clear vision of what you want to digitize, and that you really look to your current business model and how it can evolve. That's the ultimate goal that you have to accomplish. I think in the transformation, you need to, first of all, join forces internally in the company. At Schindler, we call that 'unity of effort.' You have to work very collaboratively together with the other functions: with research and development, with the business lines, with the people in the field. That's very essential. On top of that, you certainly have to add experts from outside who have capabilities which you might not have in house.

Obviously, big data is a huge issue for companies. How has big data changed the CIO's role day to day? Are you supporting any big data-related advanced analytics projects and initiatives?

Nilles: Big data has become a game-changing technology for us and, in particular, in correlation with the Internet of Things. You have now equipped your products with intelligent sensors which are transmitted over the Internet of Things and the connectivity platforms. We then have big data available, and if you correlate that with value chain information, with the more transactional information, then you really can enable a new kind of business model.

We can transmit this information to our field, to the service technicians. We can provide this information to our customers who know, in real time, what's happening with their equipment and if Schindler is doing the service on-site already. We have a lot of data. Schindler by itself is moving one billion people every day. That's a great opportunity for us to generate opportunities outside of the current business model.

I've heard a lot about bimodal IT today at the MIT Sloan CIO symposium. Is Schindler taking advantage of bimodal IT at all, and if so, how?

Nilles: Absolutely. Bimodal IT, or you could also call it two-speed IT, is one of the key challenges in order to lead a successful digital transformation. You have one hand your traditional IT, which you make sure have globally optimized processes. But you also need to add capabilities which have a very fast time to business.

Again, at Schindler we call this 'unity of effort' because you have to really have a team in place comprised of people from different functions in the organization -- research and development, business line, field people and, of course, IT people who know about new technologies and new innovative methodologies.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, site editor.

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2016 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium: The digital CIO has arrived

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The people making up the business are very key as you need to have everyone on board to drive a sustainable and effective business process for a digital economy
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