Master Class (with video): At GE, digital transformation powers new lines of business

Watch and learn as CDO Ganesh Bell describes how GE Power's transformation produced $4 billion in new business. This free knowledge bundle includes an article, Bell's mainstage presentation at the AGENDA17 conference, and an exclusive video interview.

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Digitizing work is one thing. Digital transformation is another. And there's a world of difference between the two efforts, according to Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer at GE Power, a General Electric subsidiary and a world leader in power generation and water technologies.

Many organizations are working to digitize their work or drive digital engagement with customers. Those are worthy efforts, says Bell, but he predicts those types of digital transformation projects will ultimately fall short.

"[The strategy] needs to go way beyond work and marketing to really reimagining your core business -- meaning your products, your offerings, your services. That's how you create new business models. Without that, most digital transformations will fail," says Bell, who spoke recently at the IDGE's AGENDA17 conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Watch Bell's complete mainstage presentation at the end of this article.)

Key to a successful digital transformation is investing in your people, says Bell. "A big part of digital transformation is acknowledging that digital can be scary for most of your employees. You have to lead with an aspirational vision. You have to bring people along. And some of them may not make it," he says. "But over time, I promise you, you will have a new breed of employees."

In an exclusive interview with Computerworld, Bell outlines the following three keys to digital transformation success:

1. Build a belief system. C-suite executives must be committed to the digital effort, says Bell, whether the strategy is around applications, data or creating new solutions in your industry. If the belief system isn't there, it's the IT leader's job to create it.

2. Construct a framework to transform your core solutions. If you're not transforming your organization's core offerings, says Bell, you're not digitally transforming your business.

3. Transform the entire culture. Bell describes the effort to change beliefs, metrics and how your staff works. Key to this undertaking is reintegrating your staff into the digitally transformed environment.

Follow the 'digital exhaust'

GE, founded 125 years ago, is currently undergoing one of the largest digital transformations in the world, according to Bell.

"It's a simple recipe, just like Amazon and Google today are in businesses that they would have never imagined when they got started," says Bell. "How did they get there? They followed the 'digital exhaust' of all the offerings and their customers. We're doing the same."

In GE Power's case, "digital exhaust" is the data captured by its machines, literally hundreds of millions of hours of operating data overall, and in the power business alone, more than 120 million hours of operating data, he says.

By analyzing that data, GE Power can create applications that deliver more value from its assets, predict failures, improve reliability, decrease fuel consumption and improve productivity, says Bell.

Digital transformation took off from there. "We went from the machines to the workers who are touching these machines, and pretty soon we'll be connecting that to drones and robots," says Bell. "We can start following that digital exhaust to try to solve our customers' whole problem. Not just the machines or the hardware or the services, but solve their full problem. That's become a whole new franchise for us, and it's become a $4 billion new business for GE."

Watch Bell's full AGENDA17 presentation, below.

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