The idea of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has gained a lot of attention over the past year, but it’s impact on the IT function has not been fully recognized. Although every technology shift of the past has reshaped the IT function, none has fundamentally redefined the role of IT like the IoT will do over the coming years.
Most industry analysts and other market observers have simply predicted that IT organizations will have to monitor and manage a rapidly growing number of mobile devices as a result of IoT. In fact, that’s just a small part of the management challenge looming over IT organizations as the variety of ‘things’ that can now be wired with commodity-priced sensors and connected economically via the Cloud becomes almost infinite.
As the prospect of embedding sensors everywhere so companies can capture data to better serve customers and sell them new things gains momentum, doing so successfully will take a lot of IT knowhow. Unfortunately, very few IT folks fully understand how to do this effectively.
Throughout the history of IT, the function has been narrowly focused on installing and managing computing systems and software programs for primarily internal purposes.
The initial IT era was dominated by highly centralized mainframe systems and software utilized by a relatively small team of specialized staff.
Distributed computing spread the IT function out to various departments, but still focused on internal business processes.
Personal computers forced IT to become more end-user oriented, and laptops demanded methods to permit external access to internal hardware and software resources. But, again the IT function was primarily internally focused.
Although the recent explosion of mobile devices created a myriad of new IT challenges regarding BYOD and security, it still entailed deploying and monitoring devices and applications that support internal business processes.
So, through the four stages of IT evolution the fundamental role of IT never really changed.
What sets IoT apart from the IT function of the past is that hardware and software is now being embedded into a company’s products and services to give the lines of business (LoBs) unprecedented insight into how their products and services are being used by customers so they can better serve current customers and develop new products/services to win new customers.
While this is all very exciting, it is also well beyond the LoBs’ skillset. Enter IT.
In an ideal world, the IT organization will provide the technical expertise to help their LoBs achieve their IoT objectives. However, as most companies are painfully aware – few IT organizations have their traditional systems and software management responsibilities fully under control, and even fewer have been able to properly align themselves to support their LoB’s traditional business objectives.
Compounding these ongoing issues, IT must now work even more closely with their LoBs and become an active member of the product and service development, delivery and support processes to create a new generation of IoT solutions.
This brings a whole new meaning to the idea of IT becoming aligned with the business and ‘customer-driven’. Now IT is becoming a part of the products and services being delivered to customers.
Time to start redefining your IT function, restructuring your IT organization, and retraining your IT staff.
About the Author
Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the Cloud. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace (www.cloudshowplace.com), and the host of the Cloud Innovators Summit series (www.cloudsummits.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.
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