How Schneider Electric grooms 'digital experts' to spark transformation

Girding for the industrial IoT age, CIO Elizabeth Hackenson is training up her IT staff to think and act more digitally in an effort to spread strategic tech across Schneider’s business segments.

How Schneider Electric grooms 'digital experts' to spark transformation
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Any industrial manufacturer knows that securing its future requires tackling digital disruption head-on. As more machines become connected via sensors, Bluetooth, WiFi, and other technologies, manufacturers who don’t get ahead of the internet of things (IoT) curve will swiftly fall behind.

That’s the attitude Schneider Electric’s management is instilling in the French company’s 145,000 employees, who make industrial-scale energy management systems that range from circuit breakers to safety switches to power meters and transformers. And as Schneider relies more heavily on IoT for predictive maintenance and machine optimization, among other strategic initiatives, employees must become more comfortable working with smart machines.

Some of this will happen organically if you buy into certain trends. Gartner, for instance, claims Generation Z workers will enter the workforce proficient in smart-machine technology by 2020. This next-generation workforce will expect to use natural language to interact with computers, including chatbots and other smart assistants to complete both mundane and complex tasks. As a natural outgrowth of the consumerization phenomenon, employees that have IoT experience via connected homes, cars and schools will anticipate IoT-enabled workspaces and business networks.

Cloud underpins IoT, smart machines

Schneider is preparing for this smart computing era by implementing software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that enable employees to access critical information from any connected device, according to CIO Elizabeth Hackenson. In what Hackenson calls an “API-first” approach, these applications hook together with simple API calls, creating a seamless, service-based workplace that moves Schneider beyond the siloed, monolithic computing pattern of yesteryear. And as more apps become available, Schneider will simply plug them into its existing platforms with few modifications, Hackenson says.

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