AVEVA CEO Craig Hayman discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the world of business, and why he is upbeat about the future of digital transformation

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The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation trends and has opened the door for further data-led technologies, such as machine learning and AI (Credit: Vasin Lee/Shutterstock.com)

AVEVA entered the pandemic in a strong position as a new entry to the FTSE100, the second-biggest tech company in the UK and strengthened its position as a leader in industrial digital transformation. This meant the company has been able to support its employees, committing to not make headcount reductions or engage in government support programmes, such as furlough. Craig Hayman, CEO at AVEVA, tells Martha Robinson how the company has successfully navigated this turbulent period.


Could you tell us about your background?

Craig Hayman: My first job was working at a petrol station as an attendant. Between there and school, I learnt all about embedded software that controls things – where you can write a piece of software and move something like a valve or a pump. By the time I left university, I wanted to work for a software company – though there weren’t that many in the UK at that time.

So, I moved to the US where I took a role at Seer Technologies, which was just a start-up back then. I then moved to IBM, where you were rotated every two years – so I got exposure to sales and marketing, to executives and the C-suite, to mergers and acquisitions. I benefited a lot from that experience, especially all these years later as AVEVA undertakes its acquisition of OSIsoft.

After my time at Big Blue I moved to eBay, where I was inspired by the scale of the digital transformation in the retail sector. This view of how digitalisation has been applied to sectors such as commerce led me to apply these lessons in the industrial sector, first at PTC and now at AVEVA.


You’ve been in the role since February 2018, what have you learned during this time and what advice would you give yourself looking back?

I joined AVEVA following the Schneider Electric combination in 2018, so it has been fantastic to take the potential from that partnership and make it a commercial reality.

With a global trade war under way and now a pandemic, I have led AVEVA through a few periods of market uncertainty, but our solutions have maintained and increased their relevance throughout. I have learned a great deal about leading and driving, as well as the role of data and technology in delivering business continuity.

If I was to advise my former self, it would be to see change and uncertainty as the status quo. It can be hard to convince customers of the pace of change and yet businesses today must be agile enough to implement solutions at a drop of a hat when that change does come knocking.

For example, customers who didn’t want to hear about cloud solutions 12 months ago suddenly found it to be a vital necessity as the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

I’d also advise myself to get to know the company, its clients and everything else you can. The first 90 days in any job is the opportune time to do this, because you’re never under pressure to deliver and you are able to ask lot of questions.

And so that’s exactly what I did, I went places, met everyone – 4,500 employees around the world – hosted town halls and asked questions. Out of this emerged what I think is simply what makes AVEVA work.


How have you found running the business during the pandemic?

We entered the pandemic in a very strong position, which meant that we have been able to do right by our employees, committing to not make headcount reductions or engage in government support programmes like furlough.

From a personal standpoint, the pandemic initially separated me from my family, as I was unable to travel out of the UK while my family was in the US. I am, therefore, hugely appreciative of all who work at AVEVA, who have continued to drive the business forward during a time of such disruption.

I’m proud to say that we have been able to adjust very well to the crisis and the credit for that is down to our world-class workforce.

On the customer side, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation trends that we have been a key business enabler of for many years. The increased uptake of cloud solutions in particular opens the door for further data-led technologies, such as machine learning and AI, which is infused in everything we do.

We’ve also seen a shift in mindset, as customers now have greater clarity about where they need to get to and how quickly they need to get there. We have been a vector for business continuity for our clients throughout the crisis, providing data-driven insights as a source of truth for critical decision making.

Another new challenge for me, the team – and the broader market – is making transformational changes and conducting everyday business without face-to-face interaction.

Companies, like AVEVA, need to be able to make the tough decisions; it’s impossible to postpone these to a post-pandemic world, especially when there is so much opportunity in our sector driven by the pandemic.

For AVEVA, that means agreeing the terms of the $5bn acquisition of OSIsoft, announced in August 2020, entirely remotely. In the weeks ahead of the OSIsoft announcement, the OSIsoft management team and I came to know each other’s living rooms through the backgrounds of Zoom calls, creating a more personal experience than ever before.

Working remotely has stretched us but made the value of collaboration, trust and expertise more apparent to me, and proved, to me personally, that innovation, growth and success are possible despite the gargantuan changes these circumstances have brought about.


How do you plan to emerge from the crisis in a strong position?

With many of our customers accelerating their digital transformation plans in this new environment, there is a great deal of opportunity for us, especially with cloud technology increasingly supporting remote working.

Our products are key for driving efficiency in our customers’ operations and the focus is on protecting investment in strategic areas, such as cloud and artificial intelligence, to underpin our longer-term growth as the trend towards digitalisation of the industrial world continues.

One of the ways we’ve adapted to the current situation is to continue expanding our offering by delivering the agreed terms to acquire OSIsoft, which will help our customers further accelerate their digital strategies by levering historical data.

OSIsoft’s PI system collects, stores and streams real-time data to customers, which allows them to use cloud-enabled scale and gain visibility on their operations to a much greater extent – both of these are capabilities that have become significantly more valuable under the current circumstances.

The complementary offerings that we are to acquire with OSIsoft will mean that we will be a much stronger company and an even better partner to customers after the crisis. We have strengthened our position as a leader in industrial digital transformation at a time when this is top of the agenda for companies worldwide; we are able to be the partner they need from end-to-end at a time when they are recalibrating their entire strategy.

The fact that both companies share the values of customer-centricity and world-class talent mean that we believe the benefits from our combination will start sooner rather than later, giving us a great springboard out of the crisis.

We entered the crisis in a strong position and so our exit trajectory will be defined by how we seize the opportunity at hand and continue to look ahead, predicting customer needs and developing solutions.


Could you tell us about your plan to build a Unified Operations Center for smart city Nava Raipur?

Nava Raipur is a very exciting project for us – it’s the first city to be transformed under India’s Smart Cities Mission, and it’s an opportunity for us to showcase Schneider Electrics and AVEVA’s combined capabilities on a massive scale.

Our Unified Operations Center can monitor and control the operations of the entire city. It’s integrated with other smart systems, from Smart Grid Electrical Systems, CCTV Surveillance, Smart Water Systems, and more.

The Unified Operations Center means that all of this can be integrated real time, breaking down operational silos, making city operations more efficient and sustainable at a time when rapid urbanisation is creating severe pressure on city resources.

Smart cities are a fascinating culmination of technological progress, showing the enormous scalability of digital transformation from a single plant to a web of facilities, to an entire city.


What digital trends have been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis and what do you think is here to stay?

One of the key trends within this crisis has been adoption of the cloud technology – clients that were pushing back heavily on cloud adoption six months ago are coming back and asking for us to help them implement solutions as soon as possible – which is a challenge AVEVA has risen to.

There is a catalysing effect of digital transformation; it is all interlinked and investment in one area opens new doors for innovation. Industrial internet of things (IIoT) provides data, which can be stored and analysed through cloud, machine learning then allows you to analyse and predict, and all of this information and insight can then be displayed virtually across a digital twin model of the facility.

A broad range of trends can, therefore, be expected to accelerate and stay the same as well. The depth and scale of digital transformation means that these technology trends cascade into one another and once a business embraces digital, it has the potential to fundamentally shift business models.

As businesses embrace cloud and the powerful analytics that this opens up, data becomes more valuable. Our proposed acquisition of OSIsoft will provide deeper historical data for our customers than ever before. Data-driven insights are now at the heart of business decision making and we are only just beginning to leverage the full power of big data across enterprises.


Which new Industry 4.0 technologies are you most excited about and how do you plan to harness them in the coming years?

Well to flip that around somewhat, I’m more excited about technology in different industries. The industrial sector in particular has largely been untouched by technology up to now.

Traditional heavy industries, such as oil and gas, manufacturing and logistics have been slower to take a holistic view to digital transformation. Often, businesses are still collecting, consolidating and sorting data manually, and the time-lapse between identifying operational anomalies and implementing rectifying actions might result in an entire batch of high-value product being scrapped.

But there is growing recognition of the role that software in particular can play to help these businesses keep costs down, boost efficiency and avoid costly mistakes through automating simple processes. Even in the smallest application of technology, you can find a dramatic saving that’s often in plain sight.

In terms of specific technologies, I think cloud and AI are two mutually beneficial technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the way industrial operations operates.

Cloud not only stores data but acts as a vast computing resource and platform for analysis, allowing businesses to take the data produced across their company and apply machine learning to pick up on the smallest trends, which may lead to a significant finding.

We have one customer at AVEVA that has saved $1bn through our software. Every time they run this software, it generates $100m of economic savings. If our software can predict when a function is going to fail before it fails, it can save the customer between $10–35m – they are spending that saved money today in their business.

That’s just one company. Consider that there are 565,537 manufacturing businesses in the US alone, and over 200 oil and gas companies in the world. That’s a lot of economic value to unlock.


This article first appeared in Chief Executive Officer magazine Vol 1 2020