Siemens’ Gary O’Callaghan: ‘Leadership and talent are key to digitalisation’

13 Dec 2017

Siemens Ireland CEO Gary O’Callaghan. Image: Luke Maxwell

Only true leaders can really ignite a spark in their organisation.

Digital transformation is the biggest upheaval changing the world of business. For most firms, it is uncharted waters, warns Siemens Ireland CEO Gary O’Callaghan.

O’Callaghan was speaking with last week during a Siemens digitalisation event in Dublin where the journey towards transformation was discussed.

‘Leadership is one of the critical elements in all of this’

In a report by Buchele GmbH revealed at the event, Siemens found that 29pc of businesses in Ireland have no defined strategy. While 43pc of firms have a defined strategy for portions of their business, less than one-third have a strategy for the whole of their organisation.

Shockingly, almost half of executives surveyed cannot identify a digitalisation project in their company’s medium-term plans. And, when it comes to implementing technologies, more than half are still in the initial planning phase.

What is holding organisations back?

So, what is holding firms back in Ireland?

O’Callaghan said: “There are a number of things. First and foremost, it is uncharted waters. We see some examples: Amazon and Uber are the ones that keep coming up and people keep talking about and they have been extremely successful.

“But, in many, many cases, the clear business case, it isn’t actually really very clear. People find it hard to start to invest in something when they are not sure what they are going to get out of it at the other side.

“Our advice to companies is to experiment; try things. Do small things but try to do them and get into digitalisation quickly and take advantage of it.”

Realising that not every business is going to fit into the Uber or Amazon mould is one vital step, but a lack of skills is also preventing organisations from taking the plunge.

O’Callaghan echoed Engineers Ireland’s calls for a greater focus on STEM skills in the Irish education system.

“With digitalisation, we are going to have a complete layer of new disciplines that is going to be driven by digitalisation, from design to arts, to STEM subjects. Skills are going to become more acute in terms of availability and demand.”

But, with the pace of digitalisation increasing and a shortage of STEM skills, how can firms keep up?

“Leadership is one of the critical elements in all of this,” O’Callaghan said.

“If business leaders analyse exactly what happens in businesses like Uber and Amazon, and then reflect on their own business and see, is there something in my own business that I can develop, a new value proposition … then that leadership should start a spark in the organisation and get people moving.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years