Speaker Snapshot: Mark Sheppard, Chief Commercial Officer, GE

How does the role of a modern strategist look?


Mark is the General Manager and Chief Commercial Officer in the Asia Pacific region of GE Digital - a newly formed business that drives the development and delivery of GE's software strategy across the organization. GE Digital connects streams of machine data to powerful analytics and people by leveraging Predix, an industrial cloud platform purpose-built for the demanding safety and security needs of industrials. GE pairs world-class talent with state-of-the-art software capabilities to drive digital industrial transformation for big gains in productivity, availability and longevity - providing industrial companies with valuable insights into assets management and operations more efficiently. Prior to his new role, Mark was the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for GE in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the CIO for GE Global Mining. Mark’s vision for cultivating how technology supports the industry has been instrumental to the growth of GE’s Energy, Oil and Gas, Aviation, Healthcare and Financial Services businesses, in one of the company’s largest and fastest growing regions.

How do you think the role of a strategist is changing?

The modern world is moving at an increasingly faster rate, change is becoming more constant, and new-age strategists need to develop mechanisms to respond to continual technological advancements that can make existing products and systems obsolete in a heartbeat.

Five years ago, adapting to the consumer demands of social media was the focus of almost every corporation and many startups. Now the industrial internet is upon us, we are using assets to predict efficiencies and prevent failures like never before. Each year the number of sensor-optimized machines increases and the implication of these developments can be hard to predict or plan for.

The role of a strategist is a part planner, a part observer, a part futurist, and much more a master of change management than ever before.

What do you think are the main components of a successful business strategy?

First and foremost, a successful business strategy must remain true to core company values, whilst still being adaptive and reactive to change. It is important not to stray too far from the pillars that are at the heart and the foundation of the company.

Consider the key value system of your organization. At GE, we play the global game locally and do it with unyielding integrity in all countries we operate in it's paramount to the way we work.

Secondly, flexibility is key in a successful business strategy. There is a fine balance between staying true to a strategy and taking time to see it through, versus being rigid in a changing world.

What are the main challenges that companies face, when it comes to strategic execution in 2016?

The competitive landscape is changing, no longer is a disruption in a dirty world. The threat of substitution is more prevalent than ever, take a disruption story like Uber.

Uber owns no cars, yet it’s thrown the taxi industry upside down. The traditional business models we  used to have have been turned on their heads by innovative business models and startups with fresh ideas.

It is not a competitor reinventing the jet engine we have to worry about. It is two guys in the garage, developing software that will make jet engines run more efficiently that we need to prepare for.

How can companies ensure their strategy is agile?

At GE we call it a ‘Startup Readiness’ based on Eric Ries Lean Startup Methodology. We work with Eric because at senior levels we (at GE) recognize we need to be nimble in this changing world.

Traditional companies can take lessons from startups, while startups need to learn from traditional companies who have longevity.

We can mutually benefit by finding common ground and partnering together through corporate incubators, reverse mentoring and entrepreneurial programs.

We (as corporations) need to reconsider the ecosystem, be willing to try and fail, to learn from failure, and simplify our internal processes.

Controls and processes need to change. We need to follow our own advice to startups and test ideas before we invest in the rigours and processes surrounding them.

Do you have any advice for corporate strategy implementation, such as planning, resource management, communication and conflicting priorities?

Corporations have always had to deal with change. Stakeholders have become more vocal, customers have more power to influence than ever before through social media and networking.

No longer can corporate leaders lock themselves away to develop a five-year strategy in an ivory tower. We need to immerse ourselves in society, communicate with startups, educational institutions, and think-tanks in order to stay up-to-date with the changing environment and remain adaptive.

That may mean destroying every business model or product that was founded in your company because if you don’t, someone else will. 

You can hear more from Mark and other industry leaders at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit, taking place in Sydney this September 6&7th.

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