Preparing your enterprise for IoT and automation in the workplace: Part 2

Part 2 in a two-part series on preparing your business or organization for automating and leveraging IoT to connect operations and your workplace.

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Make sure to check out my earlier post, “Preparing Your Enterprise for IoT and Automation in the Workplace: Part 1,” before reading this column.

In Part 1, we discussed top key happenings, findings and wisdom that might help your business engage in better discussions as you plan for 2017. This is specific to automation of operations and the workforce, connecting your workplace, and implementing internet of things (IoT) applications. We have already explored the first three bullets below, so now let’s explore the last four.

Areas to explore and discover as you continue or begin your IoT journey:

  • Data analytics at the edge
  • Leveraging real use cases and implementations
  • What is actionable data?
  • Complexity brings fear in business decisions
  • IoT investments, fear of high expenses
  • Legacy challenges
  • Securing IoT and where cloud plays a role

Complexity brings fear in business decisions

Technology today can be very complex, and now it involves many other groups, stakeholders and decision-makers across the business organization. IT is no longer just about the internet, the network and phone services. We are approaching a time where our most valued operational tools, machines and workplace applications are becoming automated, connected and intelligent. This brings additional integration, increased security concerns and threat levels, more collaboration and unknowns.

This complexity is a deterrent for many decision-makers for a number of reasons, including lack of skills, time constraints, changing market models, increased competition and other factors. However the time is now: Retailers are closing stores, automation and online transactions and experiences are the norm, and automation will drive your business to compete today.

IoT investments, fear of high expenses and legacy challenges

When we discuss IoT implementation and challenges with business, one of the most common topics of discussion is the cost, including unpredictable expenses associated with optimization, data costs, security implementation, prioritization of information and much more. Vendors have to do a better job at simplifying cost structures for the IoT ecosystem. Hardware is probably the most predictable cost, but data usage, security and software costs are less predictable and therefore create budget concerns. However, we are making progress in the industry around predictable data plans for M2M and connected solutions, so we believe that issue is becoming less of a concern.

The other factor is legacy IT environments. CIOs generally find legacy equipment and infrastructure as a barrier to moving forward and ramping up for IoT projects. The foundation has to be prepared, upgraded and built with flexibility as needs change and as more things are connected to the network. Working closely with your vendor partners to budget, plan and optimize legacy networks should be part of your planning in 2017.

Securing IoT and where cloud plays a role

As excited as the industry is about the internet of things, the second half of 2016 saw a flurry of discussion about IoT-related security concerns. Many of the vulnerabilities lie around endpoint device protection, denial-of-service threats, gateways/servers, and anything IP-enabled.  

In a Compass Intelligence 2015 research survey conducted for the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), more than half of the respondents said that they believed that there was an increase in risk due to the increase in the number of devices being connected to their organizations' networks.

Another concern is the amount of critical and proprietary data being stored in the cloud. At recent enterprise conferences I have attended, a common theme from CIOs and IT leaders revolved around security concerns and the protection of data in the cloud. We are storing more data and performing more analytics in the cloud, and all the while these data an analytics are becoming more intelligent and critical to business operations.

A critical point and take-away is that everything IP-enabled is a security risk and threat. Full audits and assessments need to be performed with both your IT and OT networks, and your offsite cloud and managed vendors need to be a part of those activities.

 

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