The external business context today demands innovative ways to harness the power of digital. Be it for competitive move, customer experience or employee engagement, digital can be deployed towards solving many problems. E.g. IOT can be used to adjust plant equipment to continually measure product specifications (like weight) and readjust automatically in case of deviance. Another example is the speed at which the field sales guys need to decide and act, demands that they have information not only readily available but allows for actions.
Any kind of manual interventions, as was the practice in the past, can mean inefficiency and serious competitive disadvantage. There are myriad of such examples of automation that enterprises are thinking of and implementing on the ground. Automation is slowly evolving with analytics and AI into an autonomous system that requires no or minimum human intervention.
Two perspectives that I would like to highlight here. One is the strategic impact of such initiatives and other is the evolution that enterprise would be required to go through to make them tenable. Both are long term phenomenon but IT leaders must remain aware to derive positive outcomes.
The long-term result of such initiatives can be strategic, if business and IT leadership treads consciously. Though such initiatives are largely isolated, localized and tactical in nature today, over time they may have the power to provide a collective capability that can be strategically harnessed by the business leadership. Be it for competitive advantage of differentiation or cost leadership or for providing unique experience to the customers and employees, strategic leverage can mean ability to charge higher premium or provide at lower cost or both. The result will be successfully safeguarding both revenues and profits.
To support the strategic dimension, the IT must evolve towards a holistic framework that can provide agility, efficiency, and security, all together. A strong focus on data is what will drive the business outcomes. The biggest problems with data are fragmentation, multiplicity and underutilization. The fragmented data must be unified together, de-duplicated and standardized. It’s a humungous task given the legacy that large enterprises carry but must be done.
It may also require integration of various digital initiatives with their respective domain specific systems and between different systems. E.g. IoT may require integrating with the Plant Management System or the mobile for sales may require integrating with the sales management system. Again, the sales management, ERP, plant management and other systems will require to be connected. Without the holistic integration, the full potential of the digital initiative may simply remain sub optimal. While today the footprint of digital applications is low and a patchy approach may work, over time without a centrally driven platform with the right software, it may be quite untenable.
Enterprises will increasingly require a steady and continuous flow of data, from and to the enterprise systems, it must also be secured. The IT framework must also gear up for broad-based automation, analytics to take proactive actions and continuous evolution of applications.