AVEVA CTO on overseeing the challenges of digital transformation

Andrew McCloskey joined industrial software company AVEVA as its CTO in 2006. Throughout his time in this role, McCloskey has overseen the digital transformation of companies at differing stages, and with this variety comes an array of different challenges that AVEVA’s clients tend to encounter.

“It all depends on the client journey themselves,” he said. “For example, we have some clients that they have a lot of papers still in their workflows, and it’s hard to imagine in today’s day and age, but we have some factories, manufacturing plants and refineries that were built a long time ago, and they never took the opportunity to modernise.

“Then there’s another there’s another set of clients that have have have done a lot towards digitalisation, and now they’re trying to get more out of what they’ve done and what they’ve invested.

“In either case, it’s really about turning all that information, whether it’s whether it’s paper-based, old information or newer information digitally, into actionable information.”

Securing intellectual property

As well as the process differing depending on the stage at which a company is in, from McCloskey’s experience, aiding digital transformation brings various challenges depending on the sector that he is working with.

“If you look in power chemicals and oil and gas industries, there’s a lot of IP in their models,” he said. “They have first principle based models, the ones will have a different type of operating models that that they view as a competitive advantage.

“So it’s just working with them to make sure that they know their IP is very, very secure. That’s one part of a challenge, making sure they realise that.”

A survey by the International Quality & Productivity Centre (IQPC) found that 82% of IP professionals within the oil and gas industry said that their company’s board of directors saw the valuable of IP as an asset.

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Cloud vs on-premise vs edge

Every organisation is bound to have its own goals that would work best for them in regards to venturing on a new journey.

One major talking point to be considered is the kind of infrastructure that the company wants to have.

“Some areas are more open to cloud deployments, versus on-premise deployments, versus edge deployment,” McCloskey explained. “So just walking through comfort levels and making sure they know mission-critical software applications can stay on-premise or the edge, and getting the other non-mission-critical applications to the cloud, but leveraging it still because you get a great enterprise view coming in.”

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Even for those companies that want to develop a cloud infrastructure, there is another bevy of avenues that they have to choose from.

“Then, some will want their own private cloud, some will want the public Azure or AWS,” said McCloskey. “We just need to make sure we know the boundaries of their data, their IP, where they want it, and walk them through how we keep we keep everything secure for them.”

Getting the workforce on board

Another issue that can occur can come from ensuring that the entire workforce is on board and comfortable with the changes that are about to be made.

According to AVEVA’s CTO, one aspect of this comes from the perception some employees have that their jobs may be replaced with automation.

“We try to make sure that there’s no undercurrent of job loss, because a lot of times when employees see automation, the first thing they think about is job loss,” said McCloskey. “Then, there’s a passive aggressiveness about adoption of technology, and we successfully explain to the team members, especially in times of high unemployment and high robustness of finding qualified people, it’s really about enabling them to do more with their current employees, and it’s a competitive advantage to stay ahead of that productivity curve.

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“It’s true that when you apply these newer technologies, such as AI and machine learning, that people realise that it really enables further job security in the sense that you’re you’re bolstering your company’s chances of surviving in the long term.”

Additionally, making software “as easy as possible” for employees to implement and use was cited as a vital value within the process.

“This applies even to our most advanced AI modules,” McCloskey explained, “and once everything is trained, they’re really off and running on their own with with very minor maintenance after it.

“It’s more about closing the loop of what our software is showing them, and making sure that we do close the loop, create those right work orders, do the predictive maintenance, make sure communications are being made across functions through digital workflows.

“So that’s our current approach, and that seems to be working very well.”


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.