Embarking on a digital transformation at GE Oil & Gas

This is a guest blog post by Shan Jegatheeswaran, executive commercial director at GE Oil & Gas.

My “say/do ratio” has been horrible. To be specific—my “say/do ratio” on writing this blog has been horrible (the rest of my day job is going OK). About a month late and totally out of excuses, I’m finally getting around to sitting down and just doing it. The Chinese have a saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.” Today, I plant my blog tree.

Writing this came out of an idea to chronicle the digital transformation that we embarked on at GE Oil & Gas. It has been quite a journey.

GE, like many other Fortune 500 companies, is rapidly moving into Industry 4.0 (I think that’s what the pundits are calling it these days). I’m sure there’s a wonderful technical explanation for 4.0. My take? The B2B industrial world still operates as though we’re in 1986. The existence of WebEx, laptops, iPhones, and factory automation hasn’t actually changed our management methods or the way we (as humans) actually work with each other. PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel are still our primary modes of communication. We work top to bottom or left to right—exactly how we should be working in a matrix-ed organization, right?

But then we talk about outcome-based execution, global collaboration, and machine learning. “Get things done no matter what function you’re in. Be an entrepreneur,” they say. Let’s emulate Silicon Valley and pop a foosball table in the café, tear down all walls (“glass is great”), wear jeans (“it’ll make us more creative”)! Every big company’s dream is to now operate like a startup. Really?

My question is whether all of this “change” has actually led to an evolution in the human interaction—whether it be on the factory floor or in office buildings. To truly transform, we have to change the way we (as humans) work with each other. We need to work the way the crow flies, not through the normal traffic lanes of the standard pyramids or octagons or circles (shout-out to the hype of holacracy).

Industry 4.0 is about the B2B industrial world getting with the program. Our personal lives are totally networked and digital. We seamlessly jump from one app to another, juggling banking, FaceTime, booking flights, and judging pictures all in one 15-minute Uber ride. The experience has no constraint other than what your brain wants to do next. Can we do that at work?

Throwing Humpty Dumpty off the wall

In the simplest terms, GE Oil & Gas embarked on a digital transformation last year. Our transformation wasn’t just about upgrading our CRM. It was more about kicking Humpty Dumpty off his wall, kicking him down the stairs, and then putting him back together again. Humpty Dumpty wasn’t doing anything for us in his current state. He was old, grumpy, and inefficient.

So what did we do? We rewired our entire commercial organization, redesigned our entire spectrum of commercial processes, and glued it together with a new, fresh commercial platform that (built with Salesforce and Skuid) we affectionately call Deal Machine. Deal Machine started out as a philosophy, as an attempt to help this new organization truly operate the way the crow flies.

Our business case in 30 seconds or less

GE Oil & Gas is one of GE’s younger companies (a relative term when the family goes back over 100 years). The business was stitched together over the last 10 or so years with acquisitions totaling upwards of $11 billion. That’s a lot to integrate into one company, providing technology, products and services and giving customers a consistently great experience. For our teams around the world that interact with customers a digital central station to connect them globally was essential to make a difference.

Only 30% of our commercial team members were logging in to Salesforce, yet we were paying for 100% of them to have licenses.

We found there was too much variety in digital user experiences when we started out, and that didn’t make it as easy as it should be to obsess about customer outcomes. The GE Oil & Gas machine was running on the personal commitment and sweat equity of its employees, our heritage as a GE company, and the awesome products, services, and solutions that our customers loved. We needed better systems, processes, and a renewed digital culture to grow.

Cue the drop in oil price. Cue the need for efficiency, and synergy, and simplification. Cue getting with the program.

Top results of our transformation

Today, we’re still very much a work in progress. But here are some outcomes after six months of this digital transformation going live:

  1. One CRM experience across the enterprise with 100% of our commercial teams logging in, averaging 2­-3 logins per week.
  2. One sales process across the enterprise with one commercial language and forecast methodology.
  3. A marked increase in new deals created. Remember, we’re in the worst crisis the oil and gas industry has ever seen. 

  4. Improved active management of the deals in the pipeline.
  5. Systematic clean-­up and creation of an account taxonomy. We now have one­-to­-one 
account coverage on all of them.
  6. Global pacing calls made in real time online by everyone from the CEO to local sales 
teams, eliminating many hours of reviews done off-line.
  7. Performance management and sales coaching at the individual level with systematic visibility to see employee performance and provide targeted coaching and training to 
elevate results.

I’d say those are top of my list. If it sounds like I’m boasting a little, it’s because I am. I’m boasting a lot. We are proud of what we have accomplished but also recognize that we’re just scratching the surface.

Many folks asked us how we were going to measure success when we went live. My answer was simple, “Success is going live and not blowing up the company.” We effectively flipped a switch on February 8, 2016. In one day we moved thousands of users across millions of transactions from multiple platforms and processes into one commercial CRM tool that captured a single way to get a deal done in GE Oil & Gas.

Talk about change management. Everyone had to be trained on this new way of doing business, and they could only get trained on it after we went live. Yes, we were developing and fixing things till the last minute.

A ton of teamwork and hard work…a ton of prayer. No joke—a few members of my team were with me in Florence, Italy on February 7, 2016 (the night before go-live), and we walked into a local church and attended a sermon. Didn’t understand much, but we needed all the help we could get.

This blog isn’t about technology. It is about our story of changing the culture of the way we do business with each other and our customers…and using technology as the catalyst.

Digital transformation sells magazines. Digital transformation is a major revenue source for the consulting houses of the world. They’re all great articles and provide inspiration. Tie that to the perspiration of our journey and you’ll have another lens to view this 4.0 thing from.

In the last six months, I’ve seen our culture at GE Oil & Gas changing and it’s happening where it should happen—at the individual level. The language used at our meetings is changing. We’re using words that come directly from the backbone that we have built and shared together…it’s incredible.

From Rio de Janeiro to Moscow to Houston—we’re speaking the same language. We’re becoming more entrepreneurial. Teams in Latin America now have visibility to how deals get done in the Middle East and are learning new things. People are logging in, looking around, connecting, and doing special things for the business. People are changing the way they work with each other. Our customers are winning as a result.

Want to see the technology Shan used to drive GE Oil & Gas’s digital transformation? Get a free one-on-one demo of our user experience platform.

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Shan Jegatheeswaran

Executive Commercial Director at GE Oil & Gas

I like getting things done. Simple. Elegant. Fun.