What my superbike experience tells me about software in digital transformation

True digital transformation requires software working in harmony with the hardware — whether it’s your laptop, business or superbike

As a software guy in hardware companies, why do I love what I do?

Because quite some time ago, device-centric businesses realized that to resolve customers’ challenges, and meet customers’ needs, devices on their own are no longer a solution. A solution actually involves bringing together hardware, software and services, to create something that addresses real customer problems, something I wholeheartedly believe in.

The value that software brings is about making our lives easier, making us more productive, or taking on the manual aspects of our personal lives so we can focus on other things. This might be in the home, where smart devices might turn on lights and heating as I approach my house. In business, it could be where software helps me build a new product more efficiently for my customers, or that helps me reduce my time-to-delivery by improving my supply chain.

What made this possible? Back in 2011, Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of the first web-browser, claimed that software was eating the world. I think there was some truth to this, but I also think it’s much more complex than “simply software.” There were many other factors as well, one being the cloud, which made every device portable, flexible and smart.

To see how software is part of digital transformation, but not the whole story, here’s a personal example.

I’m a superbike enthusiast. I used to race superbikes in my late-teens, and started with a two-stroke machine and some screwdrivers in my back pocket!

Photos of Igor Bergman of Lenovo working on motorbikes in his late teens.

I still love racing motorcycles, being able to use them on the highways but also being able to race them on tracks. And a machine fit for use on the public highways is in many ways a tamed beast, and you should not in fact ride a superbike that’s been tuned for racing on the road!

So, I like to ride around Austin on the weekends, and I like to race at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack as well, but not many of us can afford to own two bikes — one for the road, and one for the racetrack.

Neither can I, but today I don’t need to — because all I need is a software upgrade, made by simply flashing the ECU (Engine Control Unit) in my bike, to transform it from street-legal to full-blown racing machine. No torque wrench, no impact drivers are involved, there are no short pistons or bore modifications or carbon fiber needed (well, OK, perhaps just a little!). The bike is parked on a swing arm stand, a cable or USB key is connected, and mapping file, security DLL, hex container, and flash routine description files are uploaded. Then I reboot the ECU and I’m ready to go!

In other words, the state-of-the-art hardware is transformed by the state-of-the-art software, to enable me to do things that I could only otherwise imagine. Sure, the software makes this possible — but only in harmony with the (mind-blowing) hardware.

A quote from Igor Bergman of Lenovo that says, “We’ve moved beyond cool gratification to meaningful business needs.”
A quote from Igor Bergman of Lenovo that says, “We’ve moved beyond cool gratification to meaningful business needs.”

And the same concept applies to the factory, the home, the hospital, the office, and many other applications. Software enables the hardware to deliver up to and beyond your expectations.

Igor Bergman of Lenovo sit atop his motorbike in Austin Texas while holding a Lenovo laptop.
Igor Bergman of Lenovo sit atop his motorbike in Austin Texas while holding a Lenovo laptop.
Igor Bergman with his Lenovo Yoga S940 and superbike in Austin, Texas.

Take a Lenovo Yoga S940, for example (the laptop I’m holding above). What unlocks its potential and capabilities is not simply that features such as facial recognition, AI, smart power, smart screen, and smart energy management, are built into the device — it’s that they are at your fingertips. Being a cloud client lets users unlock them all via (in this case) our Lenovo Vantage application.

Digital transformation is therefore all about coexisting ecosystems that understand what users want, and then makes the changes to the ecosystems to meet those needs.

We’ve moved beyond cool gratification to meaningful business needs.

It sounds weird for someone like me who is head of software at a global corporation to say something like this, but I don’t think software on its own is the key to digital transformation. In the same way that a software update for superbikes has replaced tweaking a carburetor with a screwdriver, using software in partnership with devices, supported by services, to solve the customer’s needs, is the key to digital transformation.

About the Author

Igor Bergman is Lenovo’s Vice President of Cloud & Software. He has a crazy focus on resolving real customer problems and his passion for AI, ML, IoT, SCRUM, and Kanban is set by a strategic, customer-focused context. Start a conversation with Igor here, on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

Vice President of Cloud & Software at Lenovo