There is a lot of buzz right now around Canadian innovation. Montreal is getting a lot of attention with some phenomenal talent aggregating around Artificial Intelligence and some amazing work being done keep Canada on the leading edge of AI developments.
At the same time, a different type of innovation is making its mark on the other side of Canada, in Calgary. Less theoretical, more practical, but no less impactful, this innovation is being driven by the companies that provide the infrastructure that power our homes, create and distribute our energy and literally keep the lights on for Canadians across the country. The appetite and abundance of interest in this type of innovation was clearly on show at our recent packed house event, the #FutureOfOperations in Calgary.
This type of innovation is often anchored around operational optimization – how do you take a massively complex system, like a renewable energy facility for example, and drive incremental improvements across every aspect of that operation. The complexities are significant, across physical hardware and assets, people and staff, and technology infrastructure. This requires a new approach to innovation, as Mark Speaker landed at the event – you need to have an honest conversation – are you really setting yourself up for innovation vs. simply integrating the latest shiny objects technology wise, without investing in the cultural foundations required for sustained innovation.
TransAlta figured this out a while ago – you need to pair technology innovation with an innate sense of cultural innovation and ensure these are working in tandem to really make these changes stick and have impact on your business, and we were fortunate to hear first hand from Nipa Chakravarti Chief Transformation Office at TransAlta on some of the lessons they have learned along the way.
Transformation success really depends on the alignment of the people and culture in an organization, as well as adopting a smart approach to managing agility and risk. You need to experiment, but you also need to measure your experiments and ensure you are learning from every single failure as well as success. TransAlta runs an extrordinarily complex type of business, and innovation is both critical and a challenge in that environment of complexity – but by landing a people first transformation approach they have managed to drive something unique in terms of the pace and effectiveness of transformation they are undergoing.
Rockwell Automation took the stage next, showing their own of their own innovation. Rockwell offers a platform, ConnectedProduction, which ties together end to end the production chain for Oil and Gas organizations allowing companies to ensure their data pathways are secure, trustworthy and most importantly actionable.
Next we had a different type of innovation from BGC Engineering. BGC provides specialized engineering and geoscience services for all phases of projects: from pre-feasibility and design, to construction, operation and closure. Their practice, founded on an appreciation for the impacts of geology on engineered structures, is capable of addressing a broad spectrum of engineering and environmental issues related to development in challenging terrain. In particular, they have a unique and industry leading competency on leveraging mixed reality, in particular the Microsoft Hololens to bring their considerable expertise in earth sciences to life in a truly insightful fashion.
The themes of innovation continued as we closed the day with a great panel featuring T4G, Rockwell , BGC and Microsoft, and a great closing presentation from Desmond Nair with a focus on how to Predict, Prepare and Perform as you determine the best way to optimize to drive transformation across your operations.
In closing – innovation in Calgary is clearly moving ahead in its own typically pragmatic fashion – and it was phenomenal to see the energy and excitement today on show at the #FutureOfOperations!