November 2015 Issue

CIO is pushing the right buttons

The award-winning CIO at Schindler Group is using digital tools -- sensors, analytics, mobile -- to take the No. 2 elevator company to the top

November 2015 Issue

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George Westerman, principal research scientist at MIT's Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, agrees. "Getting value from digital isn't about the technology, it's about the leadership," he explains. "You adopt a mobile app or analytics, that's not going to drive more customers to your company. But you work with your people to be smart about how they make decisions, and now value starts. So the goal isn't to have mobile customer engagement, but truly intimate customer engagement powered by technology." Putting it another way, he says, "digital is just a hammer, and it's how you use the hammer that matters."

In May, MIT recognized the importance of Nilles' work, awarding Schindler its 2015 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award. Westerman, a co-chair of the MIT awards program, calls Schindler and other successful digital companies "digital masters."

What's a digital master? "They're doing better things with technology, and they're outperforming their peers," Westerman says. He defines digital transformation as "using technology to drive big changes in the performance or the reach of organizations."

Others, too, see Schindler's work as being on the leading edge. In addition to the MIT award, Schindler won the 2015 Digital Business Innovation Award from IT services provider Capgemini, German business newspaper Handelsblatt and the University of St. Gallen. Schindler's multistage digital transformation "dramatically increased their efficiency and their customer satisfaction," says Uwe Dumslaff, CTO of Capgemini in Germany.

A prime example of the state of the art is 4 World Trade Center, a post-9/11 skyscraper in lower Manhattan that opened in November 2013. It's a building that's smart, green and 72 stories tall. Schindler provided 34 energy-efficient, high-rise passenger elevators that reach speeds of up to 1,800 feet per minute. The building uses Schindler's intelligent destination-dispatching system, called PORT (short for Personal Occupant Requirement Terminal), which optimizes traffic flow and provides personalized service. This technology is integrated into the building's lobby turnstiles and at each elevator entrance, allowing occupants to identify themselves and select their destination using preprogrammed access cards or a touchscreen interface. PORT then automatically directs passengers to the elevators that will get them to their destinations in the shortest time, using the least amount of energy. By identifying passengers and their destinations, PORT technology also provides access control throughout the building, limiting travel to authorized visitors and destinations.

Schindler recently developed a mobile app called myPORT that provides the same type of destination dispatching (and security) with a reader that recognizes individuals' smartphones at building entrances and elevators.

Foundation for future innovations

Schindler's digital transformation isn't done yet. The company continues to deploy IT-driven capabilities throughout its global operations, Nilles says, and his team is focused on developing and delivering more innovations for Schindler's clients.

To that end, in 2013 Schindler created a business unit, called Schindler Digital Business AG, to foster innovative, tech-enabled projects. Nilles is the CEO of that unit in addition to being CIO.

Nilles and other Schindler leaders declined to reveal projects in the pipeline or the business unit's long-term strategy. But Schindler is always looking at ways it can use its platform to enable more insights and more efficiencies to benefit clients--"so we can always be one of the front-runners in this industry," Nilles says. Don't be surprised if Schindler finds ways to integrate smart elevators and smart buildings into broader smart city systems, working with partners in the urban ecosystem to exploit the company's sensors and data. That, Nilles says, could be the fourth phase.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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