GE is a great example of a traditional company that has recognized the need to transform into a digital organization, but by all measures 2017 has been a tough year for the industrial giant financially.

The company stock price has tumbled, and last week it announced that it was laying off 12,000 employees in its power business worldwide. While you can’t attribute all of the company’s woes strictly to its digital transformation efforts — it probably would have happened anyway — it still has to be discouraging to other companies undergoing a similar journey.

Yet for all its difficulties in 2017, GE remains a case study of an enormous company moving a worldwide operation with over 300,000 employees into the digital future. Regardless of this year’s financial results, you can’t take that away from them.

Big digital vision

GE was one of the first big enterprise companies to fully embrace the cloud, announcing its intent to close most of its on-premises data centers in 2014 when many companies were still coming to grips with the cloud conceptually. It’s a big AWS public cloud customer, and it has embraced SaaS with a huge contract with Box back in 2014 and Vera this year, just as a couple of examples of how it has been moving the entire company to the cloud.

It also recognized the shift from simply selling large industrial machines like wind turbines, airplane engines and MRI machines to the industrial Internet of Things. By equipping these machines with sensors, they can follow a digital trail of data to understand the health of those machines. The company has built…

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