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A Year Under Pat Byrne, GE Digital is More Pragmatic, Less Theatrical

In an in-depth interview, GE Digital CEO Pat Byrne talks about his pragmatic approach: ‘If you put an overall umbrella around GE Digital, it’s really working with our customers, really enabling the transformation of how they solve their toughest challenges by putting industrial data to work.”

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What have you learned about the dynamics of the business in relation to the pandemic?

Digital transformation is accelerating. Wherever we were going to be two years from now, we‘re now going to be here now. Necessity is the mother of invention, so people have had to accelerate.

The second thing is that people want hard ROIs. They really want business outcomes. And we focus on those business outcomes. Digital transformation is meant to last several years, but they‘re really looking for business outcomes they can measure in less than a year. And that’s even more [true] now when budgets are under pressure and remote work has to happen, and there’s uncertainties.

And the third one is they‘re looking for resilience. They don’t know when COVID’s going to be done. They don’t know when demand is going to go back to the normal conditions. So resilience, agility, flexibility. They’re looking for technology and partners that give them this give them the ability to navigate in uncertain times. And so we have pivoted hard in the COVID quarter [the second quarter], as I now call it that we just finished, to make sure that we’re providing great support for remote work. We introduced a whole set of new products to allow remote work to happen for customers. We grew strong double digits in the second quarter in orders. And we think it’s because of all these factors. It’s because of the opportunity as well as how we’re executing.

You said you have a new responsibility within the GE leadership team and I'm just curious if that means an additional title and what kind of work that entails.

Besides being the CEO of GE Digital, I‘m also the [vice president] of lean transformation. And what this means is this is a corporate responsibility across all of GE, and it’s leading what is actually a small team, the Lean Leadership Network, across all of GE. There are lean experts in aviation. There are lean teams working on supply chain improvements, customer service delivery. And we’re using lean. And so I have a lot of experience in lean. It’s really how we lead GE Digital.

Lean is really about simple things like daily management and problem solving and in focusing on waste and eliminating waste. And so that‘s my other responsibility: Working with all those lean leaders and the CEOs of the businesses to build capability, to build talent, to build the tools that can be used, lean tools that can be used across the company. So it’s an exciting journey that GE is on. Larry Culp, who’s the CEO and chairman of GE, has a great lean background, really decades of lean leadership. I was already reporting to Larry, so this is an additional responsibility to help the company.

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