CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—At the Builtworlds Unboxed conference here in Chicago last week Sopris Systems Executive Vice President Matt Pfohl chaired a panel that explored Digital Transformation in Design Build World—and how Microsoft Dynamics cloud solutions are helping Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) firms deliver better performance.

The panel included industry seer James Walsh—WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff SVP/CIO U.S., Central & South America—and Ted Kempf, the Microsoft Director of Industry Services. The experts on hand described “pockets” of innovation in digital enterprises still waiting to be born in many cases. (See the complete video here.) One of the key concepts for such companies is to understand “digital maturity,” a corporate variation of the maxim know thyself.

Dynamics AX ‘Pockets of Technology’

“I’m a great fan of understanding maturity….” Pfohl said. “The reality in assessing where you are as organization.” And Pfohl also asked: “How mature is business leadership?” within a firm. When there is “little digital innovation, immaturity in leadership [can hold back] digital transformation.”

Sopris is a Microsoft Service Industry Partner specializing in Dynamics AX Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and AZURE Cloud Platform.

Pfohl said another problem, for the group known as Fashionistas, is to be “way out ahead of the curve [with the] latest greatest bells and whistles” and “do amazing things but in silos.”

Pfohl said these “pockets of technology” in silos do not make for an organization that has reached full digital maturity. Instead, he said prioritizing technology assessment at the C-level and among upper management “will build momentum.” These companies are actively trying to create “a digital culture” that marshals resources and aligns leadership within the organization.”

Cloud Aspirations

Microsoft’s Kempf agreed there was a long way to go to reach digital maturity or digital mastery.

“I see a lot of aspiration,” he said of Microsoft customers. “They’re certainly not beginners…. “I know the questions are being asked.”

Kempf, like Phohl, said he saw “pockets of innovation” in many companies. He also said: “I think technology is opening up new opportunity for services.”

“You can now have your infrastructure and applications in the cloud…” Kempf said of Microsoft’s Dynamics AX offerings, “and easily access data that can produce insights.”

Ultimately, Pfohl said, the issue becomes: “How do we look at how assets are performing and how do we get data back to our model.… Ultimately it’s about getting that data back to the right tools.”

In reality, said Walsh, “most companies are looking at “individual little solutions,” rather than “can we extract the data” and use it “across the data chain.”

“The potential [for data] is unbelievable….” Walsh said at Unboxed. “We’re getting closer.”

The key, Walsh said, is “to have a business conversation about the technology… the business value you can create with the technology…. I sense the struggle back and forth.”

Given the list of cloud applications available from Microsoft—Office Group, Sharepoint, Skype, shared documents, shared calendars, and search across the enterprise—Kempf said the issue for Microsoft is “what else can we wrap in the cloud,” including virtual reality (VR).

Walsh commended Microsoft for its “integrated stack” of ERP, CRM, the cloud, authentication, office automation, saying the stack represented “one of the closest” integration toolsets you can find in the marketplace.

In conclusion, Sopris EVP Pfohl urged attendees to embrace “digital intensity” because “we’ve got to get our house in order.” He also embraced the cloud as “so much easier and cost-effective” with a “lot of outsource models out there”—including those from Sopris Systems—that are “very flexible.”

Phohl said, finally, that digital masters are “really looking at this as a 360… attacking all this” and looking to “consolidate into a single system.”