Focus on core industrial knowledge
Drawing on his early experience in sales, Mr. Immelt said organizations and leaders should focus on using digital business to solve real customer problems. “When I would meet with our customers, they just wanted productivity and better outcomes. It became clear to me it would be through better analytics, not physics,” Mr. Immelt said. He suggested that GE’s longstanding industrial experience gives it a critical advantage in helping its customers build the necessary smart technology into their products and services.
“We’ve been making jet engines for 75 years,” he said, noting that GE understands the unique profile of how industrial products work ,and when to add information and analytics to improve efficiency for its customers. Predictive maintenance, he said, is also worth tens of millions of dollars in savings to their industrial customers. “This is a massive paradigm shift. Our products are smart, our customers want outcomes, and analytics are the grail,” he said.
Buy vs. build
Mr. Raskino asked Mr. Immelt to explain the company’s rationale for building its own software center rather than making a “tecquisition.” “There are a lot of things we shouldn’t do, but when it comes to technology and science, if we said we weren’t going to do it on our own, Thomas Edison [GE’s founder] would come out of the grave and kill me,” Mr. Immelt said. He noted that the company has acquired talent to develop its software and digital competencies, and it would continue to hire capabilities from the outside where necessary.
Why CIOs Matter
Today’s CIO has shifted from keeping costs down to helping the company improve margins and create new value by merging data and analytics with physical assets, Mr. Immelt said. He challenged the audience of 8,500 CIOs and IT leaders to rethink what it means to be CIOs of their companies.
“ CIOs: You’re now totally at the front of the line in terms of what’s important to your CEOs. – Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman & CEO”
“You’re now totally at the front of the line in terms of what’s important to your CEOs,” he said. Noting that he brings Jim Fowler, GE's CIO, and Bill Ruh, GE's CDO, into the discussion of how to get “a billion dollars of service productivity,” Mr. Immelt said CIOs should be active leaders in their enterprises. Furthermore, their CEOs should remain paranoid and “scared” in order to find ways to disrupt their own companies before someone else does it for them.