Boyden Executive Search

This new series from Boyden examines how M2M technologies are changing companies across a range of sectors, with a focus on the challenges and opportunities they present for hiring executive talent. In this first edition, Ian Collyer, a member of Boyden’s global Industrial and Technology Practice Groups, explores the Industrial Internet of Things.
By Boyden

The Internet of Things is a new series from Boyden on how M2M technologies are changing industrial, consumer and healthcare companies and financial institutions.

In this first edition, on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), we explain what is different about hiring in the M2M environment; and how to attract software and sales experts to industrial companies not on their radar. We also provide advice on how to integrate people with different skills, work styles and expectations to achieve success in a new-style industrial company.

Not your father’s industrial company: a revolutionary career move for disruptive talent

James is a talented software executive planning a career move to one of the leading global brands. He has exceptional skills, drive and the personal network to target Facebook, Google or Salesforce. But it won’t cross his mind to target an industrial company. Why not?

Widespread discussion and analysis of the Internet of Things reveals the astonishing opportunities for businesses, consumers and executives in a digitally-integrated world. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a major segment of the Internet of Things that includes advanced manufacturing, digital oilfields and smart-grid automation.

”The Industrial IoT is connecting the physical world of sensors, devices and machines with the Internet and, by applying deep analytics through software, is turning massive data into powerful new insight and intelligence.”

- McRock Capital

GE estimates the IIoT could generate as much as $15 trillion in global economic growth over the next 20 years. This will significantly impact every industry. In response, new innovative start-up organizations are emerging while dominant market players are transforming – all with the objective to take advantage of this tremendous market opportunity. 

As Simon Segars, CEO at ARM Holdings says, “The promise is great, but it does need a lot of skills from different disciplines to actually come together to make it a reality“.

In his next career move, at an industrial company James could play a major role in areas such as energy efficiency, water consumption, smart buildings or smart manufacturing. He would be part of a new future.

At Boyden, our job is to understand the new future for industrial companies and to bring career opportunities to people who are game changers. Opportunities that in 20th Century industry, James’ father would find unimaginable.

Here Boyden explores the emergence of the Industrial Internet in the context of disruptive talent.

“The Industrial Internet (of Things), this latest wave of technological change, will bring unprecedented opportunities, along with new risks, to business and society. It will combine the global reach of the Internet with a new ability to directly control the physical world, including the machines, factories and infrastructure that define the modern landscape. However, like the Internet was in the late 1990s, the Industrial Internet is currently in its early stages.”

-Accenture, ‘Winning the Industrial Internet of Things’ released at the World Economic Forum, Davos 2015

The Industrial Internet - Software Talent

In the past, software was merely an ‘add-on’ for many industrial technology organizations such as Siemens and GE. Today, software is core to their next generation solutions and products

This has created specific talent challenges within the Sales and Technology/ Product Development organizations of these businesses: challenges that are common to established players such as GE and to smaller start-ups.

“Industrial Internet of Things is everything that has been promised to be. It has the clear ability to impact the fundamental needs of the industry and has the potential to rejuvenate certain industry segments and economies. It can connect and evolve the silo views of assets to a system of assets and eventually to a system of systems, leading to the fundamental redefinition of businesses.”

-Anant Gupta, President and Chief Executive Officer, HCL Technologies, in Accenture’s ‘Winning the Industrial Internet of Things’

Talent strategy – challenges and solutions


Top software engineers have not typically aspired to working on industrial applications or working for an ‘industrial’ company. Paul Maritz, Chief Strategy Officer at EMC relates, “The first generation of the information technology sector was primarily focused on enterprise IT needs, with the second generation focused on the consumer internet. As a result, many are probably unaware of the most basic elements of the industrial end markets”.

As one Software leader at a major global industrial company says, “Organizations need to get the message out to the software community – that ground-breaking opportunities are gathering pace in organizations leading industrial innovation”.

Companies should not expect software candidates to have a basic knowledge of their industry. They should expect to spend a considerable amount of time helping potential recruits to understand how their capabilities fit in an evolving, commercially-exciting environment.


Here, members of Boyden’s global industrial and technology practices share specific approaches to hiring for the industrial internet.

(i) Communicate a compelling vision to potential candidates

“We worked with an emerging smart-grid technology organization – comprising mostly utility executives – that was seeking to hire a game-changing software development leader.

We spent a lot of effort upfront, carefully presenting the business plan and market opportunity to candidates in order to generate interest amongst a candidate pool that otherwise would not have considered the utility sector.

In this case, the CEO was also instrumental in positioning and selling the opportunity – having ongoing formal and informal conversations with candidates. A key difference was his willingness to engage with high potential candidates before they ‘officially’ declared their candidacy. This really generated excitement.

Through this effort, we were able to work with our client to land a terrific VP of Software Development from one of the top global consumer software organizations. At the start of our approach, this candidate would never have imagined being in the utility sector – we had to present the case very thoughtfully as to ‘why’ this was a fantastic opportunity through all stages of the recruitment.”

(ii) Focus on the Candidate and their Network

“Two of our clients have done this beautifully.  One is a blue chip global industrial organization that was developing a more advanced solution, requiring a significant software component, for which the company needed to enhance their software development capability.

We were able to recruit a software development leader from a leading smartphone provider, who in turn leveraged her network to build out a new software organization.

The second was a venture-backed energy technology business that worked with us to recruit a software executive from a leading internet company.

In each instance, these hires realised significant and immediate dividends, by leveraging their networks of software talent, luring a new level of software developer to the organization. In these situations, the new executive brought immediate credibility within the IT talent pool.

As the CEO of one of these organizations commented, ‘We had never been able to see and recruit this level of software talent before.”

“The Industrial Internet of Things is here today, helping to improve productivity and reduce costs. But its full economic potential will only be achieved if companies move beyond using digital technology to make efficiency gains alone and unlock the value of data to create new markets and revenue streams. That means radically changing how they do business: working with competitors, forming partnerships with other industries, redesigning organizational structures and investing in new skills and talent.”

-Paul Daugherty, chief technology officer, Accenture

(iii) Shift the organizational mindset from an industrial to a software company

“In some instances we have seen clients recruit a COO-type executive – with deep experience leading software organizations – as a means to successfully to bridge the gap and integrate the business and software organizations.

In this instance, culture alignment really needs to be thought through. Software engineers have typically grown up in more casual technology environments vs. formal, and sometimes more hierarchical, industrial environments. 

It’s not uncommon to find long tenured employees and executives within major industrial organizations such as GE, Siemens or Schneider Electric. This type of tenure is not typical within the technology sector.

Successful organizations address this by reviewing HR practices, the organization’s structure and its culture to ensure they are aligned with recruiting and retaining IT talent.”

The Industrial Internet - Sales Talent

‘What our clients are telling us is that this has really elevated the complexity of the sales process, where they need their sales leaders and staff to now be able to sell more complex, higher-priced solutions, with typically longer sales cycles. Inevitably, some of their current sales force will not be able to make this leap so they need to look outside the organization for the right skill sets”.

Talent strategy – challenges and solutions


In looking outside the organization the question becomes: do you hire someone from your existing sector (such as the lighting sector) or someone from the high tech sector, more used to selling complex solutions?


Often the talent strategy means looking in both areas: seeking out sales leaders within the organization’s traditional competitor base who have the ability to learn and grow in this dynamic environment; while expanding the talent pool to include sales executives from the technology sector, focusing on technology organizations whose products and solutions share some commonalities.

As an example, in the instance of Intelligent Buildings or LED networked solutions, sales leaders from networking technology companies, such as Cisco, could have skills and competencies that match these new solution offerings. 

“In time, the Industrial Internet will drive the world towards a blended workforce, where it is no longer humans versus machines but humans with machines, working together to deliver outcomes that neither could produce alone.”

-Accenture, ‘Winning the Industrial Internet of Things,’ released at the World Economic Forum, Davos 2015

Conclusion – how we help multinationals and start ups

Communicating the vision

We help shape and communicate a compelling vision and value proposition for the organization throughout the recruiting process, to attract the attention of new talent pools, shift aspirations among software experts and win high-level software talent.

Making a marquee hire

We have a long track record in making marquee hires across all industries in all geographies. We know how to assess a senior candidate’s ability to bring in the right executives to enable them to co-lead the organization into a new future.

Transforming the company into a technology organization

We help bring in COOs and other appropriate leaders who can help blend industrial know-how with software expertise to shift the collective mindset towards that a software organization, away from that of a traditional industrial company.

Reshaping the sales team

We help rebalance teams so they are able to sell new products and services to different customer segments.

About the Author and Boyden

This article was co-authored by Partners of Boyden’s Global Technology and Industrial Practices. Leadership was provided by Ian Collyer, Partner at Boyden in Toronto. 

Your challenges are in our comfort zone.

We are always open to conversation on industry trends, evolving talent pools, remuneration, internal benchmarking and all search-related concerns.

Please contact your local Boyden expert in our industrial or technology team, to discuss how they support clients in this evolving sector. For a full contact list, please click here.

Boyden’s global Industrial practice

Boyden’s global industrial practice works with CEOs, other c-suite leaders and functional leaders in both multinational and early stage organizations. Specialist areas include:

Agriculture | Automotive | Aviation | Construction | Chemicals | Defence | Energy | Manufacturing Mining & Metals | Packaging & Forest Products | Transportation & Logistics | Utilities

Boyden’s global Technology practice

Boyden’s global technology practice works with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, private equity houses, CEOs, other c-suite leaders and functional leaders in digital organizations and start ups. Specialist areas include:

Consumer electronics | Digital media | Gaming | Hardware | IT Services & Outsourcing | Software (business intelligence, big data, security, mobile applications, cloud) | Telecoms | Office of the CIO | Office of the CDO


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