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Ben Salama

Managing Director, Global Connected Operations Lead, Accenture Digital


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What happens when an industry is already mature in terms of data collection? Then, using digitalization in their business is more about using the data from the internet of things (IoT), rather than collecting it. These businesses have ever more connected and sophisticated equipment, driving data out – but often in siloed ways. How do you produce useful insights from that data?

In bringing together operational and informational technology, you highlight security. That’s been brought to the fore by IoT devices being converted into a massive bonnet to deliver a distributed denial of service attack. Data ownership becomes more complicated – can the data generated at a client site be taken offsite? Consumers are casual in the way we give up our data – businesses will demand more value for the exchange.

There are three major drivers:

  1. Optimization of assets and productivity of people
  2. Opportunity to generate new revenue streams
  3. Create new output-based services.

A four-stage journey to digitization

We tend to think of this process as a journey, moving from operational efficiency to the autonomous pull economy. That starts with saving money and creating a safer, more efficient workplace. But then, if I can extract performance data from my customers’ equipment, can I start selling preventative services to stave off breakdowns or rental models where you can remotely track usage?

From there you can move to outcome-based services, where you guarantee throughput rather than selling a piece of equipment. And then onwards to the situation when an oil tank in a fracking facility calls up itself to be emptied by a fleet of tankers, prevents any cessation of operations.

That’s the long-term aspiration. Right now, most companies are at the start but very interested in the next two steps.


When you dig down, almost everyone is doing something in the IoT area. They are prototypes, research or single solution operations, generally. A few – the leaders – are looking for platform-based solutions and using the platform to build new solutions at speed and scale.


eCommerce is shifting you from the B2B to the B2C space – and that’s a very different zone. People stop comparing you with your peers. They start comparing you with Amazon, eBay and so on. A few people have customer portals that really allow clients to get a 360-degree view of their transactions. Most companies are only providing sporadic solutions, though.

Digitally-enabled field force

I was surprised that this turned out to be the furthest behind because it’s where the easy wins should be. Feeding live data into the field sales force and back changes your relationships with clients. This is vital.

For example, take a big manufacturing and services business. They wanted to bring together their data to augment and develop their services operation. How do they move from manufacturing, where product innovation takes years, to an agile services company where innovation is measured in weeks? In essence, they built a digital services factory with a structure that allowed rapid ideation and the ability to bring it to market and iterate quickly.

Accenture has built a core, connected asset management solution and another one that services the connected industrial worker that links alerts from a connected device to the wearable tech on the servicing team. These solutions have been customized for a range of industries from agriculture to mining.

Buy don’t build – but bring analytics and data science to the party

You do not need to build IoT platforms yourself – you can buy it. The Industrial IoT Consortium (IIC) has created a reference architecture for the industrial connected devices. We used it to build some components that we wanted to use as enablers for some vertical applications. We’ve been rolling that out with our customers for some years now.

Connected asset management is about how you extract the data and then how you use it to make your machines work better, for longer with less downtime. That’s step one. The real value is when you bring strong analytics and data science into play towards purchasing, supply chain management and other parts of the process.

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Forget people being replaced by machines. We see a huge role for the field worker as an orchestrator of technologies to provide insights and turn them into actions. For example, you can run with smaller numbers of experts working from central locations, who directly advise and support workers in the field, who are less expert and don’t need to be real experts because they can “carry” the experts with them. This tech can also help workers stay safer in industrial environments – both sensor tech that highlights environmental risk around the worker, as well as “man down” tech to highlight an emergency and supply help. Strong health and safety stories help assuage union fears about the tech just being about performance monitoring.

We see a terrific opportunity for digitizing work processes. We have a mechanism for taking large volumes of work processes, digitalizing them, and then making them available on wearables.

For example, KPN field engineers are using Google Glass tech in their work. Accenture has an industrial IoT research center in Munich now.

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