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The secrets to transformation success

You and Susan Peterson-Sturm have something in common. You both know firsthand the power of data to drive real change and create value in your industry. A valued Cognite partner, Susan has been leading energy companies through transformation for the past two decades and she's learned a few things along the way.

Extreme empowerment with the right technology provider

Serving up fast food is a carefully orchestrated exercise in speed, efficiency and quality. Everyone must play their role or else the system breaks down. For Susan Peterson-Sturm, her summers behind the fast food counter as a teenager were a lesson in the power of teamwork, a theme that has stuck with her throughout her entire professional career in the energy sector. 

“The pace of change can be daunting,” says Peterson-Sturm about working in energy today. The transformation is very real and very necessary. And in her mind, there’s only one way to get it done. 

“The only way we can move forward is through the extreme empowerment of our colleagues, so that they can leverage work processes, technology and operational models that allow them to meet new challenges head on,” she says. 

Her first exposure to digital was in industrial cyber security, which served as the ideal springboard into the digitalization programs of energy companies across the United States and Europe. This culminated in leadership roles, delivering on digital transformation in three multi-nationals, most recently.

Scaling solutions across a company: Cognite did that for us

The company that Peterson-Sturm was working for was undergoing a transformation. They were on the hunt for a technology partner who could support them with a company-wide roll-out. They selected Norway-based Cognite, a company known for its deep domain knowledge in energy, manufacturing and power and utilities. What they got was a partner who could bring the entire company on board. 

“When selecting a transformation partner, it’s key to find one that has experience scaling their solutions across a company. Cognite did that for us. Secondly, it’s important to have solutions that can mature along with our internal customers, which Cognite delivers.”

“So, while there is a benefit in automating workflows, for example, that same data can later be leveraged by digital twins to optimize maintenance decisions or ultimately, be leveraged by machine learning algorithms to optimize portfolio performance.”

It’s a learning process for the entire energy sector. And no single company has a bunch of machine learning or artificial intelligence experts just sitting around, at the ready. Which is why, Peterson-Sturm explains, that it’s so important for the technology to be incredibly inclusive. 

“It can’t be one special group of people doing the transformation. We need to blow the top off and make it accessible to everyone. Mass adoption.” 

Digital transformation is only as good as how it’s scaled

The belief in the power of diversity and inclusion, born in boarding school, coupled with a strong sense of ‘team’, have held strong throughout Peterson-Sturm’s career and especially when leading people through massive change. 

She says that she’s learned how to lead through change from other great leaders, including some important mentors that served in the military. “In the military, people learn what it means to be a team in every sense of the word. And they understand that it involves a great deal of trust in each other.” 

Peterson-Sturm applies this people first logic to the corporate world, especially in times of change, where people may be uncomfortable or even resistant. 

“You need to earn the trust and maintain a collaborative relationship with the customers. The customers in this case are your colleagues, in all corners of the company.”

“In my experience, an expectation of a 10 times return was pretty common. The digital teams were steadfast to demonstrate this possibility, and the pilots backed it up. But the challenge remained in scaling the technology, and more often than not, it hadn’t reached the bulk of the colleagues in the actual business.”

For Peterson-Sturm, having the entire operation on board is a prerequisite to transformation success, no matter how great the ROI projections. She says that you have to be “customer-obsessed” with your internal users and put the power in the hands of the people.

“The goal is to be sticky and make the technology go viral in the company. You want the geologists and the maintenance teams talking about how they use the technology. You want to create user communities in the company. That’s success.”

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