Thanks for taking time out with gasworld. What are we interrupting in your schedule today?

Thank you for the invitation. Today’s agenda includes: discussions with the business team to review potential new digital initiatives, start a draft version of the investment plan for next year as the budgeting cycle is approaching, and finally perform a review of ongoing projects.

We’ve taken time out with Nippon Gases this year discussing everything from Covid-19 to its transition in Europe over the last two years. But we understand you have a different topic to talk about…digitisation!

Indeed, the digital transition in Nippon Gases Europe over the past period, with some relevant investments in technology, was key to positioning our company well to manage this unprecedented situation in terms of remote working and collaboration needs. Many other companies have found it more difficult to adapt to this dramatic shift in such a short timeframe.

So how is digitisation transforming the way things are done at Nippon Gases?

In a very positive way! When we launched the Digital Transformation initiative more than one year ago, we decided to group the work in what we called digital areas, one related with customer interactions, another to improve the company agility, and the third related to employee collaboration and engagement. For each of these areas we launched several digital projects, some of them already completed and providing benefits and others still in execution phase or recently started.

A good example of a positive result would be the Collaboration area, with the introduction of several technologies for connectivity, audio and video, where we have been able to measure performance on a real-time basis, and how our employees were able to continue interacting and collaborating in this remote work scenario.

What do you see as being the biggest benefit or value-add of digitisation?

Given the current situation, no-one will question the importance of digitalisation. Companies which don’t adapt themselves will suffer or possibly may not survive, depending on which industry is considered. Always keeping in mind digital transformation as a journey, not a set of projects with a defined end date, the biggest benefit I see in digital initiatives apart from bringing new technologies as levers for change, is to prepare the company to be flexible and adapt quickly to future changes. Some of these changes will be driven by new technologies and others not, so progressing in other aspects like adaptation of organisational and business models, people and cultures is key to a successful transformation.

Tell us about the company’s new website – what’s new?

This was a really exciting project for us. Regardless of the multiple existing communication channels, a company website remains a key interaction element with the external world.

It’s the same if you’re a customer or supplier interested in a service or product, a student looking for professional opportunities or someone interested in industrial gases – all of them will likely end up at our website.

In that sense, apart from all the modern technology, reshaped content and advanced features to provide the best user experience, one of the goals we established at the beginning of the project was to create a site that represents who we are, our talent and expertise, and what we do, in a simplified, concise, and consistent way. I think we accomplished it!

As CIO, where do you see the biggest opportunity in the next five years?

There’re a lot of technologies that are bringing opportunities in almost every area of a company. Indeed one of the challenges in the transformation process is making the right choice at the right time. Without entering into the details of our strategy, there’re some areas where I see potential in the upcoming years. First, data analytics, including advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. Secondly, automation (IoT, RPA) and finally, connectivity and user experience. All of these, together with a fundamental cross element like cybersecurity, will play an even more important role in the future in the digital transformation from a compliance and risk perspective.