Invensys Updated Bhattacharya Interview

April 4, 2011
It has been two years since Invensys plm decided to reorganize its industrial products portfolio into Invensys Operations Management and appointed Sudipta Bhattacharya to head the unit. So we set up an interview to review the progress of the turnaround.

Corporate management didn't do him any favors when he started. Wonderware, Bhattacharya's entry point into the company, was not doing badly as it was working on re-creating its software foundation. But the Invensys Process Systems business, an amalgamation of Avantis, Foxboro, SimSci-Esscor and Triconex, was reeling. The suddenly dismissed CEO left a weak management team, lack of focus, neglect of the core control and safety businesses and morale that couldn't possibly get lower.

Another Corporate Change

Just before the interview, Invensys corporate pulled another switch by summarily dismissing CEO Ulf Hendrickson and promoting CFO Wayne Edmund to the top spot. It's too early to determine what that change means, but it's not too early for speculation to return. Jim Pinto stirred the pot on Thursday in his newsletter where he once again predicted the company would sell. Those writings always garner lots of Website hits, but I'm not sure about the value.

Invensys plc's stock dropped a little on the announcement, but it has since bounced back and is trading at the high side of its trend over the past five years. Investors don't seem unduly concerned, I guess.

Main Concern With Process

Meanwhile Bhattacharya discussed the past two years with me last Tuesday. A full interview will appear soon at Automation World.

He has put in place a new team and a complete product portfolio. The top two levels (at least, that's as far down the ladder as I've had personal discussions) are energized and focused on success.

"We originally talked about going on a journey when you interviewed me at the start of this process," he told me. "Then we started seeing a big, big recession. We always were feeling perilous. Can we manage the integration in the midst of this big downturn? I have been fortunate the team in place stepped up really well. Unlike many other companies, we actually came out of the recession stronger than going into it. We feel good that we’ve continued to grow customers and with our reach into new business. We’ve also grown financially and with new products. That put us in a good place and boosts our confidence."

The feeling in the automation community was that his predecessor was bailing out of control in favor of IT services. But, Bhattacharya told me, "Some of the things we said we'd do was to continue to make sure safety and control would stay in focus, stay as the core of the company. When we started the journey, the question was always could a software guy do it. Well, we are winning some big safety and control projects. In the Middle East we won the largest refinery project with Saudi Aramco and Total. We had a significant win with Petrobras in Brazil. And also with nuclear plants. We’ve won all eight bids we had out. This is a good validation and proof that we are accomplishing what we set out to do."

Going into the recession, Invensys had 32 percent of orders booked in emerging economies, now it's over 60 percent while not losing share in North America.

As for Wonderware, he said that there has been an uptick in licenses of System Platform. Vice President Peter Martin's Business Values Solutions team is positioned for several strategic deals. While those have little to do with products initially, they have the prospect of leading to product sales down the road.

The most important technologies positioning Invensys Operations Management for the future are cloud computing (with emphasis on services in the cloud) and workflow. These are especially significant when coupled with technologies such as simulation.

Gary's Take

I think that there has been much progress. I've seen it evolve. I've seen it while talking with customers over the past four or five user conferences. But I have some of the same questions:

Changes of this magnitude take time. Is there enough time to complete the change?

Will Invensys plc remain stable and financially strong enough to support growth? Will the other Invensys businesses affect the Operations Management turnaround?

Can the new team continue to turn around morale which is still low in some pockets of the company?

I've watched the transformations at Emerson Process Management and Rockwell Automation that have taken years. They both took a leader with drive and vision. But they both were built on solid foundations. Bhattacharya has drive and vision. Will he get the time to complete the Invensys transformation since the foundation was shaky to begin with? I think they'll make it--that's one of the few areas where my friend Jim Pinto and I diverge. Anyway, we'll be watching.

"We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



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