A few months ago Airbus started a digital transformation program, which it calls Quantum. Airbus is charting a course to software and services, focusing on creating new data-driven models to complement its hardware platforms.

Dirk Hoke, the CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, was recently interviewed by McKinsey about how he’s approaching the task of leading this transformation.

There are two sides. One is the digital transformation inside the backbone of our company. The second is going into the traditional business to try to see where digitization can improve either the processes or the business model or where it can create completely new business models.

Asking new questions

“In the past, we developed hardware,” Hoke says. “Then we developed a better, more modern, higher-performing version of it. And only then we started looking for customers.”

What is important for our people to understand is, we are starting with a different question.

“In the future, we will start by asking the question, ‘What problem do we solve?,’ looking for a software perspective, going into the hardware perspective, and adapting other products in the way that our customers need. There will be a shift in thinking toward our R&D. But it also creates a new, more agile thinking inside our teams.”

Competing on data

Hoke explains: “We’re looking at the fast-developing machine-learning and AI [artificial-intelligence] technologies. We’re also looking at the development plans of many companies going into cognitive analytics, which combined with quantum computing, will enable us to do analytics that we have not been able to do in the past.”

Read the full transcript on the McKinsey website.