Bridging The Culture Gap Between Industrial Giants And Software

The cultures of agile software and physical machines may seem worlds apart. But I believe that mutual respect and shared goals—like uptime, safety, and revenue—can bridge any gap.

Take a hundred-year old company that has a tried and true process for running vast rail networks, moving mountains of earth, or harvesting tons of soybeans. Then pair it with a software startup known for its agile responses, rapid innovation, and lightning-fast cycle times.

Sense any friction?

I’m asked about this often. And it’s a natural enough question.

See why the World Economic Forum recognizes Uptake for revolutionizing the construction industry

However, culture clashes between two seemingly different worlds is not a given. Each of those perspectives have great strengths. And the synergy that arises when you combine real-world industry expertise with fast innovation in data and analytics can be exceptionally powerful.

But it has to be managed right, on both ends.

At Uptake, we build collaborative disruption into every step of the innovation process. That way, the deep industry expertise that only comes from decades of experience is integrated into every solution we create — or, rather, co-create.

Just as security is a part of every step of our innovation process, so too is a relentless focus on the customer. Bolting either of them on after the fact leads to solutions that don’t solve anything. But co-creating solutions with our customers from the start ensures that our products are ready to meet real-world challenges and enter existing workflows seamlessly.

That demands a laser-focused culture, with constant empathy for the people who will be using our solutions—whether they are deep in a mine, navigating the far reaches of a rail network, or on a drilling platform above a stormy sea.

Focus on Outcomes

Many software companies put out a product and then leave it up to the customer to make it work for their own needs. Often, that means hiring consultants to reconfigure and customize the solution.

By working so closely with our customers, we eliminate that middle layer of expense, complication, and distance between the creator and the end user. Plus, we sell outcomes—like uptime and fuel efficiency—not products. In that way, the risk is shared. And we have to deliver.

Respect and Embrace Differences and Skillsets

That close relationship still demands mutual respect. Our partners are some of the most iconic companies in industry, with massive supply chains and longer product development cycle times. Speed is not always the main driver when designing, say, a jetliner or giant earth-mover, particularly when a small mistake in machine tooling can stop an entire factory.

In Uptake’s software world, on the other hand, speed is everything. We innovate and iterate fast. Since the cost of being wrong in the development phase is not nearly as dire, we can afford to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them, all of which contributes to a great final product.

For the combination to work, both perspectives have to meet in the middle and align for a common goal.

Again, our customer focus is critical. What pain points need to be addressed? How can the technology be effortless and intuitive for the end-user? We ask these questions constantly. After all, with their existing workflows, these companies are accomplishing great things. Our goal is to make them even greater, without disrupting what they are already excellent at.

Prioritize Change and User Needs

We look for companies with senior leadership teams that are committed to change. That way, a consistent message is set from the top down. And with our “in the trenches” approach we (not outside consultants) work with the real users. We get to see just how the company is wired, and learn just what they need in a solution.

At the same time, they get to see our commitment to their needs, our ability to pivot to those needs with tremendous agility, and our never-ceasing focus on security. Security is, of course, a key concern for all companies, but especially so for companies just beginning to tap into the cloud and advanced analytics.

The cultures of agile software and physical machines may seem worlds apart. But I believe that mutual respect and shared goals—like uptime, safety, and revenue—can bridge any gap.

Greg Goff is the Chief Product Officer at Uptake.