The role of IT in business is changing. No longer simply a support function, over the last decade IT has taken on a much more integral role in defining the strategic direction of most business all around the world.
“In today’s world, IT is the crux of every business. It is the very foundation that everything is built on,” says Chris Hall, VP Global Information Technology at KEMET Electronics Corporation.
“If you’re not taking it seriously, you’re going to be left behind. Businesses make decisions on the fly and so IT must be able to support these decisions with real-time data. IT has to be agile and be able to meet the needs of the business.”
The notion of IT being a foundational component that the business is built upon is key in the KEMET Electronics IT digital transformation journey. With customers ranging from producers of small wearables, laptops, and mobile tablets to solar panels, 5G antennas, and electric vehicles, KEMET is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of electronic components. This is a continuously growing market, with demand increasing faster than ever before and KEMET prides itself on its responsiveness to its customers.
“It all comes back to IT,” says Hall. “It’s about making our data available. Both from a customer perspective (our distributors and our partners), as well as, available to our internal business groups. However, they want to get the information, it’s our job to ensure its available to them.
“Plus, there’s also a responsibility to keep the lights on. IT still has to keep the network running, the PCs patched and generally the proper infrastructure and security in place. I’m here to ensure we have a very strong foundation to carry KEMET into the future, with data management and collaboration tools to make us more agile and ultimately more successful.”
Hall tries to sum up the digitization of KEMET in one, succinct sentence; to create an IT department that enables KEMET’s data to be accessible to any employee at any time, so long as they have security access granting them privileges to that data.
The challenge then becomes one of compiling all data and hosting it in the right place and in a fast and secure way. It’s here that Hall is implementing 5 core pillars to overcome this challenge.
These core pillars define the digitization process, described as KEMET 2025.
“First, we have to organize,” says Hall. “We have to have a good strong change management process; yet maintain agility, meaning that a simple change is a simple change.”
“In order to be agile, you have to very organised. Trying to be agile is difficult because you have a lot of different types of projects, different mandates, and a lot of different requirements to meet all at the same time. Creating an agile environment takes a lot of organisation, but it’s paramount to support a digital enterprise”
A consistent message throughout the digital transformation has been one surrounding data management and access to data, and Hall recognizes that in order to achieve this vision of accessible data, there must be infrastructure supporting it.
“When talking about the infrastructure, security goes hand-in-hand with it in today’s world,” he says. “You need a backbone that can carry your data as fast as possible and as securely as possible.”
“We live in a very “right now” world, where users have no patience for slowness anymore.”
Hall believes that if a company doesn’t have an efficient and robust infrastructure, it does not matter how “slick and cool” the data management and collaboration tools are, if they are slow and poorly managed, they will fail to be adopted by the business This is how digital transformations fail; when you don’t pay attention to the foundational components that are required to support it.
With the first three pillars aligned, KEMET can turn its attentions to data management and collaboration; “the fun branches” as Hall describes them.
Without the foundational pillars in place, any attempts at implementing a company-wide culture shift is futile.
KEMET is implementing Microsoft SharePoint Online as the tool set that enables real time communication between its employees. This information exchange enables far greater collaboration and “starts moving people away from email.”
KEMET also utilizes Yammer and other tools from the Microsoft O365 suite to access and share information in real time, enabling an increasingly agile culture.
“When you start discussing data management and making all of our data available, our engineers at all the sites have a wealth of knowledge that we need to be able to extract, share and integrate with all our systems data,” says Hall.
“These collaboration tools are very important in making that a reality.”
Data management in itself is a key topic among many modern businesses, not just IT at KEMET.
For some, it is a difficult nut to crack as businesses all want better access and better learnings from data, but there is no silver bullet.
Hall understands this, noting that the true key to success in data management is approaching it one project at a time with an eye towards the bigger, long-term goal. “We should enter data once and should be available wherever we need it.”
“To achieve this, it’s not a one size fits all technology map,” he says. “You cannot build the perfect big data mousetrap, instead you integrate new tools progressively into your data management architecture and achieve iterative success through greater agility. Overtime, the full data ecosystem will begin to take shape.”
An iterative approach is crucial in transforming an organization and establishing an IT function that is responsive and proactive. Hall points to this approach and its iterative success, as a means of building belief in the process and supporting a cultural shift throughout the company.
“To me, doing the work is actually the easy part. We have a culture of striving to be more innovative and not resting on our heels. That’s key to delivering success on a wider scale on larger projects.”
Another key to the successful delivery of a digitization process and technology transformation is external partners and technology vendors.
To this end, Hall feels that selecting the right partner(s) is actually more a case of cultural fit as much as it is a simple technological capabilities analysis.
KEMET relies on a number of business partners. Sirius, a leading integrator of technology-based business solutions, Halls notes, has been instrumental in assisting with the “reinvention of our infrastructure. “IBM is a critical partner in assisting with our implementation of SharePoint and other development projects.
To achieve the necessary hybrid-cloud model necessary for future digitization projects, KEMET is also partnering with Nutanix to better manage and provide the onsite compute for future projects like IoT.
These are but three examples of how KEMET is working collaboratively with vendors to serve as coaches providing core intelligence and best practices to the company.
We are partnering with people who are good at what we are not, and by doing so, bringing information and knowledge into KEMET that will serve us well for years to come.”
No transformation defined by technology can ever truly end, with technology and innovation continuously evolving and redefining industry and businesses. KEMET is working towards its 2025 vision and Hall has his eyes firmly set on achieving those goals first and foremost as a way for preparing KEMET for the future and beyond.
He feels that delivering success with 2025 will define the success of the future.
“To define success, we have to look at how we deliver against those core pillars,” he says.
“By establishing the best infrastructure securely creating a more collaborative company through communication and having all the useful information and data at the fingertips of our business users, we will be successful.”
When broken down, KEMET’s journey can be defined by one real business need and that is to be more agile. All of the pillars of transformation and the technology implementation is designed to make KEMET more efficient, more effective, and more agile to a rapidly changing market.
“The challenges of 2025 will be very different from the challenges of 2018,” says Hall.
“But if we get it right, if we are better organised and more agile, then we will be able to tackle those future challenges more effectively and successfully.”