The Internet of Everything: 8.4 billion and $2 trillion! Those are the estimated number of connected ‘things’ on the internet and the amount spent on these devices and services by the end of 2017, according to a Gartner study. The number of connected things is expected to more than double in the next three years, and it’s not just things. We have smart devices not only in things like cars, trucks, refrigerators, production lines, but also on people in the form of watches, helmets, sneakers and a host of other wearables. We even have smart cities with smart devices in various locations. People, places, things and data are all connected to the internet, gathering, processing and acting on all of these inputs. No wonder then that the term Internet of Things ( IOT ) is giving way to the moniker, Internet of Everything ( IOE ).
Even with this prevalence of devices and analytics engines, an Industry Week Special Analysis notes that only a third of manufacturers report having a specific IOT technology strategy and two thirds still rely more on management experience in making key business decisions. This very abundance of technology choices may be hampering its adoption. Vendors are continuously introducing smarter and cheaper devices and analytics to the market. How is a company to determine the best IOE strategy to leverage this abundance? In this first in a series of blogs, Group50’s IOE methodology offers a four-step business-centric approach.
- Define the problem statement and goal. The first thing to remember is you are trying to achieve a business goal or solve a business challenge using technology, not the other way around. Start with the following questions:
- Is there a workflow or business process that you are trying to improve or automate? Use a value stream map to highlight efficiency opportunities and a customer journey map to understand and improve the customer experience.
- What is the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that measures the efficacy of that workflow or process?
- How do you calculate it? What variables is it dependent on?
- Is the KPI a leading or lagging indicator i.e. does the KPI tell you what happened or predict what will happen?
- What is the current value of the KPI and what target would you like to set for it?
- What actions can be taken to achieve the target?
- Is this an IOE candidate? Can the IOE be used to calculate and improve your KPI’s? Essentially, an IOE architecture consists of smart devices that gather relevant data and send it over the internet to be processed by analytics engines or human beings. These then determine what action needs to be taken based on the analysis and sends corresponding directions to actuators (human or machine). To see how, or if the IOE paradigm applies to your objective ask yourself:
- Do industry best practices include these categories of people, places, things and data?
- Could your KPI’s dependent variables (e.g. temperature, pressure, location, etc.) be gathered by sensors or are they available from data systems internal or external to your organization?
- What do you need to do with this data to make it actionable? Do you need it to determine what happened (diagnostic analytics)? Do you want to use the data to gauge what will happen (predictive analytics)? Perhaps you want to use the data in near real time to take actions that will change what will happen (prescriptive analytics)?
- Design a sustainable solution. If your problem lends itself to an IOE solution, you want to ensure it is a sustainable design. Always consider the following aspects:
- Better and cheaper components are constantly becoming available, and you want the flexibility to interchange and upgrade parts of your solution as needed. Organizations like ISO, IEEE and IEC are developing IOT interoperability standards you can reference. Make sure components using proprietary protocols and technology don’t stifle your growth and cost you more in the long run.
- IOE can serve any kind of business, so you also want to consider your design’s compliance with your industry’s regulations and guidelines such as HIPAA and HL7 and Sarbanes-Oxley, safeguarding PII (Personally Identifiable Information) or CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information).
- Devices connected to the internet can be especially vulnerable to hackers. Cyber-security has to be a prime consideration in your designs.
- Engage the right partner. Remember this is the Internet of Everything and your design should account for all people, process and technology angles. Look for these qualifications in any company you engage:
- Business domain expertise. This is after all a business problem you are trying to solve.
- Strong credentials in process engineering and mapping.
- Customer or user experience skills. Most IOE implementations have a human interface, and the design must account for the people impact.
- Technology expertise. With a bewildering array of choices, a technology Sherpa is an indispensable part of your arsenal. Unfortunately, too many IOE projects start and end with just the technologist.
Staying competitive in today’s rapidly changing market, requires a robust Digital Transformation playbook. Your Internet of Everything strategy is an essential chapter of that playbook. When formulating that strategy think outside the device box. Think business value in terms of people, process, and technology. Group50 can help with its’ libraries of IOE assessments founded on deep domain expertise in Manufacturing and Healthcare. We help clients evolve these assessments into customized roadmaps to design and implement an effective IOE strategy that is scalable and sustainable. To learn more please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact the head of our Digital Technology Practice, Shirish Néné at email@example.com or call him at 703-201-3936.
About the Author: Shirish Néné is the head of Group50’s Digital Technology Practice. Shirish and the Group50 team are a cadre of veteran executives with a track record of melding people, process and technology into game changing strategies and tactical advances across a wide range of industries, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. Our experience is reflected in a field-tested methodology and framework for establishing Digital Technology in its natural role of a strategic corporate asset. Our perspective from the trenches to the boardroom has instilled in us a respect for, and the ability to fit into a variety of corporate cultures.
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