7 Keys for Business Transformation

Total read time 10 min

The promise of Industry 4.0 drives digitization across all functions of Industrial businesses. Yet many companies struggle to scale beyond pilot projects. IBM has identified seven keys to successful and scalable business transformation. Learn how AI and related technologies can help you use these keys to unlock your digital transformation.


Companies that create new business platforms will lead the 4th industrial revolution.

What will you lead?

1. Create platforms to unleash Digital Darwinism

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"Companies that create new business platforms will lead the 4th industrial revolution."

Business platforms are breaking down traditional barriers and reducing inefficiencies, especially those that cross ecosystems where difficult problems can only be solved by trading partners coming together. Platform examples address supply chain gaps with blockchain, equipment failure predictions with the Internet of Things (IoT) and geological exploration with artificial intelligence (AI).

IBM and shipping company Maersk co-founded a blockchain-enabled digital platform, called TradeLens, which empowers shippers, ports, transporters, and customs authorities with a single, secure source of shipping data. Now, trust and transparency can be shared across the global supply chain, driving new levels of efficiency.


You have a wealth of existing information.

How will you tap into it?

2. Leverage the incumbent advantage in data

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"You have a wealth of existing information. Tap into it."

Over decades of operations, industrial firms have compiled a treasure trove of employee expertise, production techniques, product innovation and customer purchase patterns. Unleash the hidden advantage of incumbency by tapping into this data and knowledge, and applying AI for insights.

Honda R&D is rethinking automotive design and development by applying learnings from its vast project archives. Watson™ AI extracts relevant engineering knowledge from a trove of complex unstructured data: geometry, issues, tasks, specifications and requirements. Now, expert engineers can design right from the start, reducing rework and accelerating new product introduction.


Redefine how you compete.

Which new market will you enter?

3. Architect your business for change

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"Redefine how you compete."

Businesses are redefining how they compete. Transform physical products into digital services for greater customer value. Partner across the ecosystem to expand your market and grow revenue. Enter adjacent markets to create new revenue streams. Manage large data set workloads relying on Edge, IoT and 5G technology, underpinned by open standards and a hybrid multi-cloud platform.

Mining equipment provider Sandvik transformed their business model from physical products to digital services. An initial focus on predictive maintenance of heavy equipment grew into a digital view of their customers’ mining operations. Now, the Sandvik Optimine® solution uses Watson IoT™ to provide mining operators with insights to ensure worker safety and improve productivity by up to 25-30%.


Smart workflows continuously learn.

Which of your workflows needs 10X improvement?

4. Redesign company workflows around AI

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"Insight into workflows improves processes."

Implement new competitive strategies by rethinking how work is conducted, across engineering, production operations, asset utilization, supply chain, sales and aftermarket. Embed data insights and AI learnings into process workflows so improvements can be realized in real time, all the time.

Bearing manufacturer Schaeffler Group applies digital enabled sensors to build the bearings of the future. By tracking torque, temperature and speed, Watson AI creates insights on bearing life which inform the quality inspection process. Now, high speed trains, automotive chassis and hybrid-powered vehicles can be assured of safer operations.


Embrace agility to accelerate innovation.

Which team will be first to innovate production operations?

5. Get agile, change fast and build things

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"Embrace agility to facilitate innovation."

End customer demand has become hyper-personalized, which means greater product variations, smaller lot sizes and more frequent changeovers for manufacturers. Design, production, sales and support must be able to rapidly adapt, embracing change. Apply new techniques like design thinking and agile to systematically progress from ideas to prototypes to scaled implementations.

L’Oreal is applying design thinking techniques to become a more agile manufacturer. A team of factory engineers and operators brainstorm with IBM to define solutions to long-standing pain points. Thirty mobile applications were co-created in short order. Now, some factories can switch production lines to 20 different formats in less than 5 minutes.


Empower your team with new ways to work.

Which new skills are needed most?

6. Reinvent your workforce to ignite talent

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"Empower your team with new ways to work."

Implementing new strategies, techniques and workflows invariably requires new ways of working. Co-creation using design thinking and agile development is essential to embed technology and assist in talent transition. Agile, multidisciplinary teams bring together design experts and digital technologists with superusers. Consider new skill requirements and rethink job roles, leveraging your workforce to use their inherent knowledge rather than be consumed by repetitive tasks.

Woodside, Australia’s largest independent energy company, is preparing the next generation workforce for innovation. Woodside uses the IBM Garage™ to redesign human resources processes, creating a culture of agile operations and continuous skills building. Now, Watson AI places tribal knowledge and skills in the hands of new employees, to shorten their learning curve.


Business relationships are built on trust.

How will you foster it?

7. Win with trust and security

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"Business relationships are built on trust."

Business relationships are built on trust. Customers, trading partners and stakeholders want to be assured that business operations are secured against cyber threats. They expect industrial businesses to demonstrate integrity behind trading transactions. Socially conscious buyers raise expectations for industrial commitments to sustainability and responsible labor practices. AI detects and responds to cyber threats. Blockchain provides visibility of trusted transactions.

RCS Global, a leader in responsible sourcing, teamed with IBM to change the game in validating natural resource extraction practices across global supply chains. The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network audits and monitors the flow of responsibly sourced cobalt from mines in the DR Congo, to LG electric battery production in Korea, to electric vehicle manufacturing at Ford, VW and Volvo. Now consumers can be assured their purchases align with human rights practices and are good for the planet.

Innovate your business to continuously adapt.

Where will you begin?

Bringing it all together

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"The next-generation business model."

Successful scalable transformations take a holistic approach, balancing both business and technology perspectives. IBM can bring this multifaceted approach to your business transformation.

Start today with a simple self-evaluation of the 7 Keys. Compare your business transformation maturity to benchmark data from over 1000 industrial companies. Are you ahead or behind the pack?

Connect with an IBM expert to determine what’s next in your digital transformation journey.