As the data-driven revolution in business and industry continues, companies now have more data than ever before and an incredible range of opportunities to transform multiple operations across the enterprise.
But too many businesses remain locked into “old-school” processes and patterns in terms of how they use their data assets. The traditional shared services model for activating data usually leads to siloed and complex architectures that may cut off the free flow of valuable data across functions and makes it difficult to integrate different types of data.
Yes, we’re talking about Big Data here, but also more common varieties of data, including transactional data. With new categories of useful data seeming to pop up every day, companies need a different and more flexible approach if they are to mix and match unique data sets to gain big-picture views of their customers, products or other operations.
One major new category is data from the emerging Internet of Things, or Iot, the vast global web network of connected devices – all of which generate data. Capturing, analyzing and leveraging this IoT data will begin to offer companies all kinds of business benefits – from competitive advantage to customer insights. Using this new data also requires a new data environment, however – one based in the cloud.
The cloud, Internet of Things and agile infrastructure – all three of these elements are interlinked as the cloud fundamentally transforms how business is done in today’s digital world.
The Rise of the Internet of Things: How the Cloud Enables New Data Uses
From the perspective of data, the cloud also offers the ability to integrate new sources significantly faster than before without the need to worry about storage implications and scalability of systems. That is especially important given the emergence of IoT, which promises to exponentially increase the volume, velocity, and variety of data available to most companies. The Internet of Things means the biggest, baddest and potentially best data is still to come.
To understand why that is, it’s crucial to understand exactly what the Internet of Things actually means. Here’s a great, concise definition from Forbes:
Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.
So what’s the big business idea about IoT? From the perspective of business stakeholders, it’s all about how the Internet of Things can increase speed to market and enable better, faster decision making across a broad range of business functions – from sales and marketing to the supply chain to customer service.
Consider how sensor feeds (which represent a significant portion of IoT data) can tell companies where raw materials and finished goods are located across complex supply chains – and when shipments might reach suppliers or end customers. The IoT also gives retailers the ability to track customer movements around or even within stores such that they can make hyper-targeted and timely offers.
And those offers aren’t necessarily restricted by proximity to stores, as Diageo’s recent experiment with web-connected bottles of Johnnie Walker shows. These are the sorts of capabilities on which the business case for cloud-based modernization programs, Big Data initiatives or other transformation projects can be built.
But without an agile infrastructure to support the influx of new data from a large variety of areas, enterprises will fail to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing needs of customers. With the cloud, businesses can go to market a great deal faster than in the past, given that it’s not necessary to acquire or provision hardware and software, and install and integrate it into existing data centers or on-premises servers. Generally speaking, it only takes a few clicks to set up the agile infrastructure companies need to support a high level of agility in various applications supporting business operations.
Moving to the Cloud: Think Infrastructure as Utility
As part of the technological revolutions occurring throughout every industry, more and more companies are pivoting to become technology-driven. As part of that transformation, enterprises have recognized that cloud-based infrastructure enables a more agile and flexible approach, which allow them to quickly adapt to their customer’s’ changing needs.
Data is so vital to business success in today’s technology driven world, that companies should think of infrastructure like a utility. Water, electricity, networking – infrastructure is more like those than it is the “big iron.” Enterprises who fail to successfully adopt cloud computing in such a way, will find it increasingly difficult to keep up with competitors who are quickly able to adapt to the needs of the consumer.
Achieving Rapid Transformation through Agile Infrastructure
In moving to agile, cloud-based infrastructure, companies must master a few basic steps – data capture, integration and analytics, and a modern day dev-ops approach. This last step is critical because it helps to make sure that resources and tools are available to engineers in an agile way so they may rapidly deploy small- and large-scale applications to the market.
They are likely to take advantage of new, open-source platforms such as Hadoop, incorporate concepts such as data lakes, and engineer architectures that are oriented to micro-services. This will effectively enable software engineers and data scientists to quickly standup applications that can quickly be adapted to feedback in an agile way via rapid iterations.
Further, cloud-based IT environments allow for ongoing enhancements that do not disrupt the business like the hugely expensive “big dig” and “rip and replace” implementation projects of the past. Instead, companies can scale their applications on the fly, with capacity and costs expanding or contracting based on usage and demand.
This can also enable enterprises to move to a “zero-downtime” environment; cloud infrastructure can be engineered in a way to allow for continuous availability throughout the entire engineering lifecycle of an application. There are obvious and potentially significant cost savings when companies no longer have to worry about downtime that can affect their consumers, nor have to pay for excess capacity in anticipation of increased workloads.
In this sense, business leaders should recognize that the cloud and IOT are not solely about optimizing technology environments and reducing overall IT costs. They also represent a significant paradigm shift in the way IT and business fundamentally operate and collaborate with each other. In other words, when looking at the cloud and IoT, companies should adopt holistic views, incorporating strategic, tactical and technology perspectives. That’s the best way to see past the silos of IT and business organizations and reach a truly enterprise-level view.
About the Author: Ronak Patel
Ronak is a principal with Infinitive’s Customer Intelligence practice.
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