Philips Executive Wants Enterprises to Move Down Digital Path

NEWS ANALYSIS: Liat Ben Zur is showing enterprises how to move from just making and marketing products into becoming fully-realized digital businesses.

Digital Transformation Path

LISBON—Liat Ben-Zur sat across from me in the Executive Lounge located in the Marriott hotel in this historic city and my attention was immediately drawn to the collection of wearable devices on her arms.

On one arm was an Apple Watch, and on the other was a device I couldn’t identify. We launched immediately into a discussion of how successful companies need to change their business processes so that they include digital processes in addition to simply selling products.

Ben-Zur is the Senior Vice President and Head of Connected Digital Propositions and Platforms at Royal Philips in the Netherlands. She describes her role at Philips as delivering meaningful digital innovation by connecting processes and services across the company.

She is also instrumental in helping other companies achieve the same ends. We were both attending the IFA Global Press Conference in which a few companies are invited to preview their plans for the l IFA 2017 trade show in Sept. 1-6.

IFA, held each year in Berlin, is the world’s largest trade show for consumer electronics and appliances. Lately, the products and services at the IFA show have started to include products for small and medium businesses.

The first area that Ben-Zur has decided to tackle is healthcare and companies that sell products and services in that area. “We do health for businesses and focus on what it means to add connectivity to the previously unconnected" companies and system, she explained. She said that she is working with companies to provide connected digital systems and applications.

“At the heart is a different way of thinking,” she explained. She said that she’s working to align Philips “new vision and strategy into a broader system.”

Ben-Zur said that the more data that is connected and available, the more meaningful and useful the information is. “We want to have data from a wider array of sources to turn it into more meaningful information.”

She pointed out that with enough data and with appropriate data analysis, it’s possible to learn about risks to health in the workplace, to determine risks that might not be obvious and to help employees stay as healthy as possible.

This change at Philips has resulted in a new range of products from the company that are connected to the Philips HIPPA Compliant cloud. These products smart toothbrushes and personal activity monitors as wells as lab test results.

She noted that the smart toothbrush is part of the equation because research has revealed that the same bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease is also responsible for the plaque hat builds up in arteries and can lead to hard attacks.

But the real issue, according to Ben-Zur, is that companies need to move beyond just building and marketing their products and consider how they can add a digital component. 

“Philips is going through that shift, now,” she said. She said that she believes that companies need to realize that by going through this digital transformation, they will fundamentally change the life of the company and the people it reaches.

Of course, what Ben-Zur is doing is to fundamentally change Philips and the companies it does business with. In addition, because of her plans to fundamentally change the health care divisions of her company, she could have a profound effect on that industry where Philips is a major player. Her aims are high. “Health care is about to be fundamentally shifted,” she said.

It's worth knowing that Ben-Zur is focusing on healthcare because it’s basically a low-hanging fruit. In the U.S., the government is already mandating electronic health records and those records need to be in a form where a person’s health records can be accessed by a health care provider or insurer, regardless of who or where they may be.

By bringing about the changes in healthcare she wants to see, Ben-Zur is also fundamentally changing how those businesses work and how they interact with other business and with their customers. While it’s still too early to know whether Ben-Zur’s vision will be the catalyst that brings the digital transformation to industry that she wants or even to the health care business, she has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve.

But it’s important to look at Ben-Zur’s vision for what it really is. While she’s working with health care right now, the vision goes far beyond that. Ben-Zur wants to fundamentally change the way companies do business. In her view, companies will no longer be cranking out products, but instead will be more than that. Along with those products, companies will have a digital existence and will produce digital work products that they can sell along with those products.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...