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Looking to deliver IoT value? Don’t go it alone

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By: John Gonsalves

According to Gartner, more than $440 billion will be spent on Internet of Things initiatives by 2020. Yet networking company Cisco recently found that only 26% of organizations so far have completed an IoT initiative they consider a success. That percentage isn’t pretty. And companies don’t have much time to climb a steep learning curve and thus avoid costly failures.

So what is preventing companies from getting IoT right? Much of the challenge derives from focusing on implementing technologies without a comprehensive, holistic plan. Sensors? Smart devices? Data analytics? Cloud-based processing? All necessary and helpful. But how will they operate together? How will they collectively transform data into usable information – delivered in time to act in real time? That takes thought. And the thinking must be in the C-suite.

Related:  How manufacturers can unlock value with IOT analytics

Today’s IoT industry is maturing from stand-alone point applications to integrated systems that capture and process data to derive business insights and even quality of life outcomes. Smart parking solutions, for example, now leverage IoT to analyze parking inventory and guide drivers to available spaces, an outcome with great potential value projected to save hours, miles and even gallons of gas.

A more complex IoT “system of systems,” however, might integrate that parking platform with other IoT-enabled systems, exchanging data that leads to actionable insights. An owner/operator of parking structures could then optimize lighting use in different spaces, control climate for peak and off-peak times and temperatures, assess risks and security needs, respond to staffing shortfalls quickly, and even adjust prices for a particular facility based on volume, previous usage patterns, scheduled local events and consumers’ real-time needs.

An optimal pace to value

Companies have been slow to take their IoT solutions to this next level because they face genuine challenges. How to quantify the potential value to justify the investment? How to stay ahead of security risks? How to understand and leverage multiple complex technologies? Or identify physical installation and support services? Or aggregate, synthesize, store, analyze, act on and monetize their data?

To many, the feasibility of bringing partners and service providers together to create an end-to-end ecosystem is not yet clear. There is the pressure to anticipate integration points and ensure components and people work together. as well as understand and plan for the potential disruptive impact on the organization, customers and business models.

[Download]:  How manufacturers can unlock value with IOT analytics

Nevertheless, developing an integrated IoT constellation of devices, sensors, actuators, gateways and network and cloud service providers, a new breed of IoT platform providers, along with analytics, specialty visualization and integration with enterprise applications – all designed to work together – is the best way to optimize results.

The IoT Value Chain

Components of the IoT value chain should include:

  • Data capture. Data originates from sensors, actuators, controllers, devices and hardware in the field, but companies quickly learn that implementing a transformational IoT solution involves far more than adding sensors to their packaging, products and the machines that manufacture, deliver and service them. Sensors must collect data spatially (i.e., throughout a space) and temporally (i.e., across time), and be instrumented in such a way that vital signs can be signaled, collected and analyzed for downstream action. Such massive amounts of data must be cloud- and network-agnostic to ensure compatibility with various platforms.
  • Data communication and storage. To maximize their value, cloud and network services platforms need to deliver operational insights by working with devices at the edge – that is, where the data is gathered. They must be multilingual (able to talk to any sensors using any communications protocol) and hardware agnostic, so that data can be integrated, synthesized and stored, making it available for future context-aware analysis.
  • Data analysis and insights. Making sense of vast amounts of data and taking action is key to unleashing the power of IoT. Predictive analytics providers identify patterns, network effects or anomalies so undesirable outcomes can be anticipated and prevented. Such analytics prompt prescriptive action: Companies can course-correct on the fly – replacing a part or stopping an engine from overheating, for example – to optimize operational efficiency through improved asset performance and employee productivity. World-class algorithms must be domain-sensitive and industry-aware so they can be meaningfully applied to unique use cases; advanced visualization of data may be required in certain situations.
  • Infrastructure & security. Beyond cloud and network service providers, IoT solutions at scale need end-to-end security from device to edge to the cloud (and the apps), distributed device management and distributed data management.
  • Coordination between IoT components and systems of engagement. Systems of engagement may vary from mobile devices to advanced augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), mixed-reality or other user interfaces. The focus of IoT solutions is now migrating beyond operations optimization to enable new business models (e.g., pay per use), imagine new products and services (e.g., software-based services), monetize data, etc. Indeed, the opportunities are massive as we develop and benefit from “system of systems.”
  • Partners. The variety and range of technologies for the IoT is enormous, yet still immature. Each participant would do well to understand its role in the IoT ecosystem and get to know adjacent players to partner with to deliver smart, connected IoT solutions at scale. Scale implementations need physical deployment of sensors (and device instrumentation), the operations technology and the digital value chain. And they require a skilled system integrator that also knows the associated IT and heritage systems, to develop and orchestrate the combined ecosystem and, thereby, realize business value.

How to get started

A good systems integrator will start by asking the question, “What business problem do you want to solve?” From there, the company can help to create the business case for an IoT solution by articulating its value, be it cost reduction, revenue enhancement, asset optimization, customer experience transformation or increased safety.

Then it’s on to the heart of the engagement: defining new operational processes, recommending IoT-enabling information and operational technologies, identifying and classifying the right ecosystem players in the IoT value chain, and assembling and integrating them based on who plays best where.

[Download]:  How manufacturers can unlock value with IOT analytics

Challenges certainly remain, but the opportunities for new revenue streams, increased operational efficiency and improved customer engagement have never been greater for companies that leverage end-to-end IoT solutions in consumer, commercial or industrial settings.

This article originally appeared on the Digitally Cognizant Blog

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Five key trends shaping the application landscape

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According to application services/application delivery company F5 Networks, 98% of organizations depend on applications to run or support their business — hardly surprising considering that most organizations have some version of a digital transformation plan.

In their new 2020 State of Application Services Report, F5 has found that most organizations have entered the second phase of DX, defined as the integration of automated tasks, “and taking advantage of cloud-native infrastructures to scale the process with orchestration.”

As Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist, Office of the CTO at F5 Networks explains in a blog post about the rise of cloud-native architectures, the average enterprise app portfolio is now at 15% modern, microservices-based applications. 

“That’s now more than the stalwart 11% of monolithic / mainframe-hosted applications,” she adds. “Considering reports of extreme backlogs for new applications in every industry, that modern apps have consumed such a significant percentage of the corporate portfolio is nothing short of impressive.”

Based on a global survey of nearly 2,600 senior leaders from various industries, company sizes, and roles, F5’s report outlines five key findings on the trends shaping the application landscape, “and how organizations around the world are transforming to meet the ever-changing demands of the digital economy.”

1. 80% of organizations are executing on digital transformation—with increasing emphasis on accelerating speed to market. 

As organizations work to scale their DX efforts via a digital footprint with cloud, automation, and containers, “it is time to manage the application portfolio like the business asset it is.” 

“Organizations able to harness the application (and API) data and insights generated will be rewarded with significant business value.” 

2. 87% of organizations are multi-cloud and most still struggle with security.

27% of respondents reported that they will have more than half of their applications in the cloud by the end of 2020. 

But despite the crucial importance of applications to business strategy, “organizations are much less confident in their ability to withstand an application-layer attack in the public cloud versus in an on-premises data center.”

When F5 asked how organizations decided which cloud is best for their applications, 41% responded that it was on a “case-by-case, per application” basis — an important strategy, given the uniqueness of each application and the purpose it serves for the business. 

“It is imperative to have application services that span multiple architectures and multiple infrastructures,” outlines the report, “to ensure consistent (and cost-effective) performance, security, and operability across the application portfolio.”

3. 73% of organizations are automating network operations to boost efficiency.

Process optimization is a key motivation for DX efforts, which makes it unsurprising that most organizations are automating their network operations. The goal? Consistent automation across key pipeline components: app infrastructure, app services, network, and security.

“Despite the fact that network automation continues to rise, we are still a long way from the continuous deployment model necessary for business to really take advantage of digital transformation and expand beyond optimization of processes to competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Respondents report that the most frequent obstacles to continuous deployment are “a lack of necessary skill sets, challenges integrating toolsets across vendors and devices, and budget for new tools.” 

4. 69% of organizations are using 10 or more application services.

With the maturation and scaling of cloud-and container-native application architectures, “more organizations are deploying related app services, such as Ingress control and service discovery, both on premises and in the public cloud.”

One of the most widely deployed application services are those largely dealing with corporate and per-application security. “For the third year running, respondents told us by a wide margin (over 30 percentage points) that the worst thing they could do is deploy an app without security services,” details the report. 

5. 63% of organizations still place primary responsibility for app services with IT operations, with more than half moving to DevOps-inspired teams. 

It’s also no surprise to find that as organizations transform from single-function to modern ops-oriented team structures,” adds the report, “responsibility begins to shift from IT operations and NetOps to SecOps and DevOps.”

One reason why? The shift of application services into modern architectures. “DevOps teams are intimately involved with the CI/CD pipeline, which, for cloud- and container-native apps, includes a growing portfolio of application services such as ingress control, service mesh, service discovery, and good old-fashioned load balancing.” 

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Leadership

Digitized and digital: Two sides of the digital transformation coin

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According to a research brief out of MIT, thriving in the digital age means undergoing two distinct transformations: Digitization, i.e. the incorporation of digital technology into core operations like accounting and invoicing, and becoming digital — “developing a digital platform for the company’s digital offerings.”

While both of these require companies to embrace emerging technologies, these present two distinct challenges, each with a differing set of rules and strategies. As explained by Sara Brown from the MIT Sloan School of Management, “Becoming digitized relies on traditional business methods. Becoming digital requires breaking old rules and embracing new thinking.” 

Digitization relies on the company’s operational backbone, which supports core operations — i.e. how a company delivers goods and services, maintains its books of record, and completes essential back office processes, explains the research brief. Traditionally, base technologies for these were ERPs, CRMs, and core banking engines. Today, though, it’s likely software-as-a-service (SaaS).

At the same time, becoming digital means creating a digital platform — “a foundation for a company’s digital offerings and their rapid innovation.” Creating speed and innovation, “this platform, a combination of different software components that can link with partners and connect with customers, enables a company to quickly develop and add new digital offerings, and targets revenue growth,” explains Brown.

When it comes to managing both sides of this digital coin, decision-makers must manage leadership, operational, and cultural differences, Brown says:

Leadership: For digitization, leadership is firmly in place, making clear decisions, outlining processes and standards, and ensuring adoption success. 

For a digital platform, however, top-down decision making stands in the way of success. Trusted teams are in the driver’s seat, innovating and implementing new ideas. It’s up to management to define an overall digital vision.

Operational: “Changes to the operational backbone can be planned and evaluated using traditional methods like metrics and customer satisfaction,” writes Brown. On the digital platform side, these methods only result in frustration.

Cultural: Digitization isn’t changing the fundamental place of the operational backbone, MIT’s research found. A digital platform, however, “means radical changes in how decisions are made and work gets done. This can be uncomfortable for people at every level.”

Image via the MIT Center for Information Systems Research

When it comes to actually managing these two different teams, MIT researchers suggest these three actions:

Keep ‘em separated: Simultaneous management of digitization and digital means clearly distinguishing their separate responsibilities, says the research brief. Examples of companies that have taken this approach include Schneider Electric, Royal Philips, and Toyota. In another example, one organization’s operational backbone was managed by the CIO, with a Chief Digital Officer taking the lead on the digital platform.

Funding should also be separate. As the researchers outline, “People responsible for digitization can better pursue operational excellence when the operational backbone receives consistent investment, year after year, at the enterprise level.” Meanwhile, funding for short-term digital innovation “experiments” can be easily upped or decreased, depending on outcomes.

It’s important, however, to keep the overall shared vision in mind, explains tech specialist and Tech Wire Asia editor Soumik Roy, for TechHQ. Leaders might feel that separate teams are a waste of resources, he writes, “because ultimately, the business needs its digital initiatives to converge — like its data, analytics, and platforms.” But in reality, separate teams can optimize DX efforts, but only if a shared vision of the organization’s future is kept top of mind: “Each team, working on their own side of improvements, can make contributions that help move closer to the end state. In practice, this is often more productive as well.”

Rule breaking: Inherent in digital innovation is breaking old rules and making new ones, the researchers found — from subverting budgets processes to guarantee resources to bypass CRM approaches, among other challenges. 

Rule breaking ends up being manageable because it’s relatively contained to a small team that’s experimenting, though it’s crucial digital teams have sign-off and ongoing support from senior leadership. 

New leadership: “Not all people who have successfully led traditional businesses are well-suited to digital business leadership,” says the brief. “The idea of breaking rules to identify what works may feel terribly unnerving for some— even when they have been encouraged to experiment.”  

If someone in a leadership position isn’t comfortable with creating new rules, they explain, coaching could be implemented to help guide them in the right direction. Alternatively, there is likely plenty of new talent that is ready to implement a shift.

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Talent

58% of enterprises struggle to find talent with the right DevOps skills

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One of the most common digital transformation topics is upskilling, and its importance to a successful DX journey.

Broadly speaking, a lack of internal expertise is hindering the journey for many organizations. According to a new report from the Cloud Industry Forum, four in ten respondents said their business does not have access to the necessary skill-sets in-house, rising to 51% among respondents from IT departments.

“There’s no digital transformation without a staff transformation,” explains information security and business technology writer George V. Hulme in DevOps.com. “The people skills that helped bring successful enterprises to where they are today won’t be the skills that will make them successful tomorrow.”

Fortunately, he says, organizational leadership is largely well aware of how important it is to close the gap between skills employees have now, and those they’ll need to help guide the enterprise into the future.

The DevOps Institute has released its Upskilling 2020: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report, based on 1,300 respondents. A major takeaway? “More than 50% of enterprises find challenges with all aspects associated with managing the people, processes and technologies that make DevOps possible,” Hulme explains.

The report also found that 58% of enterprises have difficulties actually finding those with the right DevOps skills, and 48% said it’s difficult to retain skilled DevOps professionals. As a result, salaries are on the rise, with salaries for experienced DevOps engineers reaching beyond $179,250 USD, according to the Robert Half Technology 2020 Salary Guide.

Additional top takeaways from the research include:

  • The top three must-have skill categories in 2020 are process skills and knowledge (69% of respondents), automation skills (67% of respondents), and human skills (61% of respondents)
  • Upskilling requires the attention of business leaders now. Over 38% of respondents’ organizations have no upskilling program, 21% are currently working on one, and 7% don’t even know if their organization has an upskilling program. 
  • Agile adoption (81%), DevOps adoption (75%) and ITIL adoption (25%) have grown since the 2019 benchmark report, while SRE has risen from 10% adoption in 2019 to 15% in 2020.

“Human transformation is the single most critical success factor to enable DevOps practices and patterns for enterprise IT organizations,” said Jayne Groll, CEO of DevOps Institute in the accompanying press release

“Traditional upskilling and talent development approaches won’t be enough for enterprises to remain competitive because the increasing demand for IT professionals with core human skills is escalating to a point that business leaders have not yet seen in their lifetime. We must update our humans through new skill sets as often, and with the same focus, as our technology.”

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