GE CEO John Flannery: 'Partners Are The Key Pillar Of Our Digital Strategy'

Manufacturing conglomerate GE is relying on partners as the company helps industrial customers transform their practices to incorporate IoT, artificial intelligence and better data analytics, said CEO John Flannery.

Flannery, speaking to a crowd of systems integrators, resellers, and ISVs at GE Mind and Machines 2017 conference this week in San Francisco, said that the Boston, Mass.-based company wants to help customers work through an IT skills gap as they connect their machines.

"Partners are the key pillar of our digital strategy going forward," he said. "We’ll prioritize the market in two areas, with resources to focus heavily in verticals … like oil and gas, transportation, and mining … and we’ll continue to work to address adjacent markets as well, largely through our partners."

[Related: 6 New GE Digital Industrial Software Solutions From Minds And Machines 2017]

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According to a GE survey released on Tuesday, only 13 percent of executives have a mature digital industrial transformation plan in place. The rest of the industrial market customers are facing a critical skills shortage as they struggle to figure out how to tap into IT tools and drive value from their operations.

That’s where partners come in, said Flannery: "Bridging this gap starts with small steps, that can help you move in the right direction," he said. "We are ready and willing to be your partner."

GE is helping its partners help their customers navigate real-time data, predictive analytics, and IoT through an array of resources, including blueprints, real use cases, and specific technologies.

These technologies include an array of new products and solutions the company has recently released, said Flannery – including Predix Studio, a solution that helps companies build and scale their industrial applications and simplify the development process.

Predix Studio, which will be available in the first quarter of 2018, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate the workload behind creating industrial IoT apps, making app development easier for operators with no coding experience.

Another technology that will help partners is Predix Edge, which will help customers monitor and analyze data in situations where they may have limited connectivity, latency limitations, regulatory or other constraints. GE has specifically released Predix Edge Manager, which allows customers to support large fleets of edge devices up to 200,000 connected devices from a single console.

James Gillespie, CEO of GrayMatter, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based solution provider and GE partner, said that he is seeing that "digital gap" in industrial companies who want a better digital strategy but don’t know where to start.

"That digital gap mirrors what we see when we’re talking to clients and prospects," he said. "The challenge for customers is their level of knowledge, skills and culture … it’s sort of a perfect storm. More people are prioritizing it as a strategy now as they look ahead."

Moving forward, Flannery said that GE, for its part, wants to help partners better understand how they can begin discussions with customers on formulating a digital strategy – because the manufacturing company has been through that journey itself.

"We know we need to lead here where we’re strong … we know we can help you accelerate your digital transformation because we’ve been through it ourselves," he said.