Digital Business Transformation: How to Accelerate to the IoT Edge
By Manish Watwani
September 21, 2018
By Manish Watwani
September 21, 2018
Remember that car journey to take the kids to visit the grandparents? It always seemed you had barely left the driveway when a voice from the back seat asked – “Are we there yet?”
Right now, across the world, there’s a veritable army of C-level executives in countless organizations – all of whom understand that their business needs to undergo a digital transformation with an IoT deployment at its heart – and yet still find themselves staring at their CIO or an under-pressure project manager and asking that question:
Are we there yet?
But here’s the thing… not only are they not there yet, but half the time they are not even in agreement about where ‘there’ is – or indeed, how long it should take for the transformation to occur. Open-ended projects are the opposite of tight, focused management; CEOs hate them. However, unless the executives are united at the start of a transformation project and know exactly what they want to achieve within each area of their business, then the project is likely to get off to a slow start and an even slower finish.
The thing is, even the people within the business charged with managing and overseeing the process don’t really appreciate how complex an IoT deployment and business transformation project really is to implement. Please don’t misunderstand me, these people are not ignorant, nor lacking in technical knowledge or business expertise. They believe they have a good understanding of the task ahead. However, until you have actually lived through a big transformation project, you are almost always planning in the dark.
There are many companies that can implement simple projects – let’s call them one-to-one connections – either by themselves or with partners. But it takes real-world IoT experience of all the aspects, all the connections and all the moving parts working together, before you can deliver an end-to-end solution on time and within budget.
That expertise is needed at the outset – assessing the business needs and agreeing to the exact journey being undertaken and with what benefits in mind – and then throughout the planning, deployment and commissioning of the entire system. I’ve collaboratively worked with Fortune 500 C-Suites and small company executives, and I’ve learned that having a clear understanding of the IoT business outcomes is a small part of digital transformation. Often, businesses deploy IoT because they want to gather more information about their business – how it is performing, where the stress points are occurring, and whether maintenance cycles can be extended if they can have with better projections of machine fatigue, for example.
The devices they deploy are superb at gathering the data. But does the business have the skill set and the systems to not only gather the data, but to also manage it, analyze it and transform it into actionable intelligence quickly and effectively? Can they avoid the creation of data silos where each part of the business gets a restricted operational perspective but the knowledge sharing lacks automation and the 360 view of the overall business benefits that can be driven by the project is just not available? Again, this is only a small part of the complexity related to IoT enablement.
The fact is that digital transformation is a natural evolution of the smart enterprise, and I expect we will never quite be there. The innovation maturity and opportunity to gain insight from all things within the enterprise is accelerating. The difficult use cases that only the privileged few enterprises at the very top were able to solve with IoT have now cascaded down to the small businesses around the globe. The technical capability is within reach for nearly all now, and cost is at an all-time low. So, the big question is not when but how will we get there and who will help.
The most recent challenge for enterprise today, is understanding the depth of capability at the “edge.” The application and analytics narrative that the large ERP and software vendors have promoted as the basis for IoT is falling short. The real issue for enterprise is knowing how to bring the edge to life. The last mile is the hardest, and the operational technology expertise and innovation is perhaps the most important part.
To digitally transform your business, leveraging IoT requires enterprise to expand the definition of the IT and OT partner ecosystem. It’s critical to include partners with in-depth knowledge of the edge, that know how to navigate the complexities of connecting “things.”
Getting back to the question asked at the beginning of this blog, “Are we there yet?” The answer is – not yet.
But with the right partners, those that understand OT and how to provision to bring the edge to life, you will certainly get to your destination much faster and have fewer stops along the way.