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      Paula KleinCreated by Paula Klein on Aug 29, 2012 in Featured Content

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      It’s happened to all of us. You’re driving down the road and the “check engine” light appears on your dashboard. It could be something simple, like time for an oil change, or it could be something bigger. What do you do? Lose your car for a day while you take it to a service station? Keep on driving and hope for the best?

       

      If you’re a commercial truck driver, the stakes are higher. An unplanned repair visit means losing a day of revenue, and potentially hurting your delivery schedule, for a condition that might be very minor. But if you decide to keep driving, you risk something far worse happening to your engine – and your livelihood.

       

      This kind of uncertainty is a fact of life for many drivers. But Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is using the Internet of Things to resolve the uncertainty. DTNA is the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America, selling trucks under brands such as Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built, and Detroit Diesel through more than 1,300 dealers. In 2013, the company released a service called Virtual Technician to help existing drivers while also enabling new business models and revenue streams.

       

      According to CIO Dieter Haban, whose team identified the idea and led product development, “the innovation combines telematics, mobility, central mission control, big data analytics, and a seamless process from the truck to the driver, fleet manager, and ultimately to an authorized service outlet.”

       

      DTNA’s engines continuously record performance data and send it to their Detroit Diesel Customer Support Center (CSC).  When a fault occurs, a team of CSC Technicians examine the data in real time and offer a recommendation. If it’s just a routine repair, technicians can help the driver schedule a service appointment for some convenient time and location. But if it’s a more severe condition, they might say “You need to bring your truck in for service right away. There’s a service station 75 miles down the road. When you get there, we’ll have a service bay open and all of the parts we need on hand. You should be in and out in two hours.”

       

      This kind of service is more than just convenience. It brings certainty to a situation where uncertainty can drive tension into the driver/manufacturer relationship.

      By capturing information that formerly was available only from an in-person diagnostic test, Daimler Trucks North America creates customer loyalty and reduces risk for commercial drivers.

      It’s like driving a truck with a team of technicians on board.2014NOV05-6.jpg

       

      Haban described the savings: “From the time a fault is realized, ordering parts, to getting the truck in the shop and repaired, we eliminated all wasteful steps.  This cuts down the time tremendously.”  But the savings go beyond efficiency. The service gives drivers confidence, and that’s important for a driver who operates alone, often hundreds of miles from home. Drivers are willing to pay for that certainty.

       

      DTNA’s new service offers a number of important lessons for delivering IoT solutions, and digital transformation in general:

       

      • Look beyond the limits of the pre-digital age. Why is repair service so maddening? It’s because technicians can only diagnose and recommend services when your vehicle is actually in the shop. Daimler Trucks North America executives saw how IoT technology could fix this fundamental flaw in the design of the repair process, making the process smoother and more efficient for drivers and technicians alike.
      • Build and share a transformative vision. To the senior leadership team, this wasn’t just about telematics or new revenue. Putting a virtual technician on board each truck was just the start of a much broader process of changing the relationship between drivers or fleet operators and the company. DTNA leaders created this vision, communicated it widely inside the company, and then listened to ideas that could extend the vision.
      • Lead from the top. Digital transformation often crosses organizational silos, meeting many types of inertia and conflict along the way.  It takesstrong top-down leadership — a combination of persuasion, incentives, mandates, and examples — to make this kind of change happen.  Virtual Technician touches many parts of DTNA, from IT to engineering to customer centers to dealers. Building the service required decisive leadership to invest in the innovation, negotiate across boundaries, address issues, and engage hundreds of people in making the vision real.
      • Ensure that you have a strong digital platform. DTNA executives had to build a platform that connected engines on the road, engineers and technicians in the control center, and systems in the dealers into a unified process. Failing to connect a link in the chain would lead to service failures and unwanted delays. For example, if dealer service systems were not part of the solution, a driver might arrive for service only to have to wait for a bay to open, or for parts to arrive.  Building a platform that spans different organizational units, and even beyond the boundaries of DTNA, is challenging, but it is the foundation for everything else.
      • Foster close collaboration between IT and business leaders. In Daimler Trucks North America, the CIO is responsible for innovation, not just for IT. Business and IT leaders work closely together to identify and implement ideas. According to Haban, digital transformation is “a joint effort of IT and business. Nobody says ‘I’m the digital guy.’” This is important; neither IT nor business can do it alone.
      • Stay attuned to new possibilities.  The Virtual Technician capability is becoming the centerpiece for new service offerings. For example, fleet managers are willing to pay for a service that lets them know, in real-time, where every truck is, how well it’s working, and when it will next need repairs. The data can also help DTNA understand how to improve its engines, help customers choose the right equipment configurations, or optimize inventory management. And management is paying attention to many other opportunities.

       

      Looking forward:

       

      To date, more than 100,000 trucks have activated the Virtual Technician service. More than 85% of users have already received a notification of needed services, and 98% were satisfied with the notification process. Customers report higher satisfaction and higher uptime on their vehicles equipped with Virtual Technician.

      DTNA’s new capabilities make many other services possible for the company and its corporate family. Daimler could offer these services to commercial drivers and fleet managers in other parts of the world. It could extend its engine-focused service to other parts of the truck, like wheels or suspensions. And who knows – Mercedes drivers may someday get the same type of service for their passenger cars.

       

      The internet of things is enabling new possibilities for digital transformation in every industry. It is creating new opportunities that were only dreams a decade ago. Take a look at your business.  What can you do that you couldn’t do before? Start to do it now, before someone else does.

       

       

      This blog first appeared in Harvard Business Review on November 4 here.

       

       

      George Westerman is a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business. He is co-author of the new book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation.

      Tesco’s chairman has resigned in disgrace. The company’s market value has more than halved to an 11-year low as it acknowledged overstating profits by hundreds of millions of dollars. And a humbled Warren Buffett, after opportunistically raising his stake in the company after a surprise profit warning, confessed to CNBC: “I made a mistake on Tesco. That was a huge mistake by me.”

      Indeed. Britain’s biggest supermarket chain has not only seen its fortunes erode but its reputation for competitiveness, creativity and integrity collapse. Even before its accounting travails, a former chairman hadsharply criticized former CEO Sir Terry Leahy, who had led Tesco to market dominance and worldwide admiration, for leaving a shambles of a legacy. Leahy’s immediate successor resigned in July; his successor from Unilever now confronts more of a turnaround than he had ever expected.


      What the heck happened to Tesco?

      Many analysts and unhappy investors point to Tesco’s ill-fated Fresh & Easy convenience store foray in America just as the global financial crisis kicked in. The failed expansion effort ultimately led to write-downs topping $3 billion. At the same time, dramatically increased price competition by discounters such as Aldi severely undercut Tesco’s “every little helps” value proposition. The company still declines to say whether its systemic supplier-related accounting misstatements better reflect malpractice or malfeasance. Regardless, Tesco’s collective failures feel operational, organizational and cultural. This isn’t simply bad luck.

      Beyond the business cliches of “big bets gone bad” and “not keeping one’s eye on the ball” is the disconcerting fact that the core competencies that made Tesco a marketing juggernaut and analytics icon appear almost irrelevant to its unhappy narrative of erosion and decay.  More than any other retailer of scale, Tesco had committed to customer research, analytics, and loyalty as its marketing and operational edge.

      For example, the supermarket ingeniously succeeded at Internet-enabled grocery shopping in ways that Webvan—remember them?—could not. Tesco was digital before digital was cool. Tesco’s Clubcard loyalty program was launched under Leahy in 1995 and redefined both the company and the industry. As the Telegraph recently observed, “Tesco was transformed into the market leader in the UK—with more than 30pc market share—by being able to respond to the demands of its customers.”

      American supermarkets—notably Kroger—admired and sought to emulate Tesco’s success. Even Walmart—overwhelmingly focused on optimizing its everyday low-pricing supply chain logistics—took Tesco’s command of customer analytics seriously. Practically every retail Big Data and analytics case study over the past decade explicitly referenced Tesco as “best practice.” With the notable exception of, say, an Amazon, no global store chain was thought to have demonstrably keener data-driven insight into customer loyalty and behavior.

      But the harsh numbers suggest that all this data, all this analytics, all the assiduous segmentation, customization and promotion have done little for Tesco’s domestic competitiveness since Leahy’s celebrated departure. As the Telegraph story further observed, “…judging by correspondence from Telegraph readers and disillusioned shoppers, one of the reasons that consumers are turning to [discounters] Aldi and Lidl is that they feel they are simple and free of gimmicks. Shoppers are questioning whether loyalty cards, such as Clubcard, are more helpful to the supermarket than they are to the shopper.”

      How damning; how daunting; how disturbing for any and every serious data-driven enterprise and marketer.  If true, Tesco’s decline present a clear and unambiguous warning that even rich and data-rich loyalty programs and analytics capabilities can’t stave off the competitive advantage of slightly lower prices and a simpler shopping experience. Better insights, loyalty and promotion may not be worthless, but they are demonstrably worth less in this retail environment.

      A harsher alternative interpretation is that, despite its depth of data and experience, today’s Tesco simply lacks the innovation and insight chops to craft promotions, campaigns and offers that allow it to even preserve share, let alone grow it. What an indictment of Tesco’s people, processes and customer programs that would be. In less than a decade, the driver and determinant of Tesco’s success has devolved into an analytic albatross. Knowledge goes from power to impotence.

      There’s nothing new or unusual in a one-time business strength turning into an organizational weakness or an industrial irrelevance. But when we’re talking about customer data, insight, loyalty and all the ingredients that—supposedly—go into giving digital enterprises their information edge, then it’s time to get nervous and ask hard questions.

      Is Tesco’s fall from grace a typical tale of shambolic succession and enterprise lassitude as times turned tougher? Or is it a market signal that Big Data, predictive analytics, and customer insight aren’t the sustainable competitive weaponry they’re cracked up to be? The schadenfreude gang may be counting on the former; but datanauts who referenced Tesco to sell their bosses on analytic investments would be wise to consider the latter possibility. Or is it probability?


      This blog first appeared on the Harvard Business Review site on October 28, here.
      Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of Serious Play and the new HBR Single Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?



       

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