The cost of the ignorance for the 4th Industrial Revolution will befall inevitably, organisations that passively regard the evolution of technology. With rapid advancements in technology as evidenced by the Internet of Things (IoT), Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud computing and Systems integrations the world is presented with a new way of perceiving the environment hence behaviours are changing ultimately affecting how enterprises conduct business.
Imagine it’s time to knock off from work and your smartwatch, though the internet, sends a signal to your car to start up and set the air-conditioning to your preferred temperature. As you drive home, your car sends a signal to your house and the air-conditioning turns on as you are a kilometre away. While you approach the gate it receives a signal and opens automatically and the alarm is disarmed. How incredible is that? That is IoT! IoT is defined as the interconnection of physical devices embedded with electronics, software and sensors through the internet as a platform to facilitate data collection and exchange. It does not only provide a common platform for devices to place data but a common language for the devices to communicate with each other. Data is emitted from various sensors to an IoT platform where it is integrated and remains available for further analytics and extraction of valuable information as required.
IoT defines our lifestyles, how we interact with technologies and will inevitably affect every company, job and individual. It is estimated that more than 24 billion IoT devices will be installed around the world by 2020, this translating to over $357 Billion revenue generated (Business Insider, 2018). Businesses will realise numerous benefits. First, operating efficiencies will be improved due to access to information allowing instant decision making, provision of insights that guide pricing decision and optimized logistics just to mention a few. Moreover, costly mistakes or threats to businesses will be avoided as IoT enhances the visibility of inefficiencies of business processes. Additionally, enterprises will be able to seize opportunities for profit and growth as they are able to reimagine the business and set new operational models informed by available data. Last but not least, IoT allows customer experiences to be supercharged as businesses are able to extrapolate data that can inform improvements or innovations that impact the customer experience.
IoT adoption is picking up steam and connected technology is beginning to blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. But the question remains: which elements should be included in a business strategy to ensure an organization does not capitulate into irrelevance in this era? A number of strategies can be used to keep up with the IoT revolution. Some include: Using what an organisation already knows; agreeing on a unique selling proposition combining research and development with user insights; and putting in place strategies for privacy and security.
In crafting IoT strategies business leaders need to take into cognizance what they already know. Companies can apply the knowledge they already possess and use IoT to work out answers quickly and accurately to questions like: “What do I need to find out at a given point of activity?” That question could refer to something that happens on your property, at a vendor facility or elsewhere in the supply chain. For instance, in the manufacturing industry, instead of hoping materials will arrive in time, or waiting for a stock out to indicate replenishments, a manager with a solid IoT strategy and visibility can leverage what they know from IoT insights and prepare or adjust proactively before small problems become magnified.
The decision regarding what is right for an organization should be guided by the presence of a prospective specific problem that inhibits growth. In order to come up with a relevant IoT solution to address the issue, there needs to be a thorough definition of the underlying needs of one’s organization. From the onset, fundamental questions need to be considered through problem statements. These include: why it matters to adopt IoT? and how it will benefit customers in the long run? A good case in point in the manufacturing industry is the need for more industrial sensors to improve manufacturing. There is the knowledge that a new solution is required to churn out a much broader range of data and it must also be able to communicate information back to streamline processes. The next step would be the definition of the functional requirements of the prospective solution as well as competencies needed to support the chosen IoT strategy. It is crucial that there is an understanding of any possible limitations, bringing together the things that the company does best with the needs of a solution modified to the market.
Every time a device is connected to a business network there is a risk created as devices capture everything ranging from locations, conversations to the ability to track and access company financials and customer data. This makes businesses prime targets of cybercriminals as this data is valuable. It is therefore important that when advancing and implementing IoT applications to advance processes and product requirements, clear communication regarding the need to build security testing into development be done thoroughly. While business leaders want to be quick to market and at the same time-saving costs they need not overlook the importance of security.
In improving the nature of products and services, IoT unavoidably guides their design. If organizations aspire to lead the digital disruption, organizational leaders should focus on getting ready to leverage IoT-enabled processes. Emphasis should be heavily placed on building a pool of talent capable of handling the wave of technologies that enable IoT, big data analytics, artificial intelligence etc. Additionally, cross-functional collaborations should be an integral part of the way things are done in organisations as this will ensure expertise are shared among various personnel allowing for solving of problems. Not only knowing the possibilities is crucial but also where help is needed will be vital for the success of businesses in the future.
Theophylus Mothowabarwa is a Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and email@example.com