Technologies and Strategies to Enable Digital Transformation
Services and solutions can help organizations find their way as they explore innovative IT initiatives.
- by Calvin Hennick
- Business and technology journalist | October 22, 2018
Digital transformation is on the mind of IT leaders across nearly every industry. Organizations are looking to advanced technologies and the Internet of Things to help them improve their efficiency and innovate more effectively so they can stay ahead of the competition.
But achieving digital transformation isn’t easy. It’s one thing to brainstorm some goals for an organization’s cutting-edge initiatives; it’s another to put a detailed plan into action.
Typically, digital transformation requires organizations to invest in multiple new technologies. And unlike infrastructure refreshes or device rollouts, digital transformation efforts are likely to require the implementation and integration of solutions with which internal IT staff may be unfamiliar. Because of this, it is often beneficial for organizations to work with a trusted partner that can help design solutions, implement new systems and integrate disparate technologies. A partner can also provide advice and assistance around an emerging set of IoT platforms than can help organizations achieve digital transformation liftoff.
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In addition to working with external partners, IT teams must link up with internal line-of-business stakeholders to ensure digital transformation success. First of all, the goals of a digital transformation initiative are inherently business-based, and an initiative will fall flat if business executives and IT leaders aren’t in alignment on expected outcomes. If business units feel that the IT department isn’t addressing their concerns, they may search for their own solutions, bringing shadow IT, along with vulnerabilities and inefficiencies, into the organization. But, the IoT systems that enable digital transformation require the convergence of IT and OT — operational technology.
Some observers compared IoT to the human body, with analytics and data center computing representing the brain (where the processing takes place) and IoT sensors representing the senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. While the brain is powerful, the body can’t function effectively without its senses — or, in the case of an IoT solution, without sensors.
Historically, IT and OT lived in different parts of an organization’s structure, with little interaction between the units responsible for managing them. In manufacturing, for example, floor equipment is often connected to an industrial network over which IT lacks control and visibility. Breaking down these silos is hugely important for digital transformation. In order to support a successful initiative, IT shops will need access to the data generated by operational technology they don’t own. And to get that access, they need to partner effectively with business units.
The specific components of a digital transformation initiative will depend on goals, project scope and existing infrastructure. However, the list of technologies that power digital transformation includes:
- IoT sensors
- IoT gateways
- Wired and wireless networking
- Real-time location systems
- Enhanced video surveillance
- Building automation systems
- Data analytics
- Cybersecurity and physical security
Organizations may have already made investments in some of these areas. According to CDW (PDF), 33 percent of organizations have already made process, operational or technology changes on an enterprise scale to support digital transformation. Another 33 percent made these changes or investments within one or more business units, and 20 percent are currently piloting digital technologies. The top technologies already in production among respondents who made enterprise digital changes include:
- Mobile (52%)
- Software-defined storage (51%)
- Infrastructure as a Service (50%)
- Software-defined networking (49%)
- Artificial intelligence (45%)
Emerging solutions such as machine learning and edge computing also hold promise for IoT solutions. Additionally, the cloud has become an essential resource for digital transformation and IoT implementations, as it provides the scalability and manageability that eases some of the obstacles to IoT success.
Simply buying new technologies doesn’t take any great talent. But the effective integration of unfamiliar solutions into a cohesive system can be what makes or breaks a digital transformation effort. Several vendors have created IoT platforms to help streamline this process.
- Cisco Kinetic IoT Platform: This platform is designed to handle data from, and integrate with, a wide variety of applications. For example, Kinetic can be integrated with a building automation system to enforce energy use policies and enable more complex use cases.
- Azure IoT Hub: This open and flexible platform is delivered as a cloud service that supports open-source software developer’s kits and multiple protocols. Organizations utilize cloud-to-device messages to reliably send commands and notifications to connected devices and track message delivery with acknowledgement receipts.
- Intel IoT Platform: This platform works with third-party solutions to provide a foundation for seamlessly and securely connecting devices, delivering data to the cloud and delivering value through analytics.
- Splunk Industrial Asset Intelligence: Built on Splunk Enterprise, IAI delivers real-time analytics that help industrial organizations identify and diagnose problems, helping to improve availability and performance.
By taking small steps to make digital transformation more manageable, organizations can create new value immediately, obtain buy-in from executives and other stakeholders and accelerate movement toward their long-term business goals.
To learn how your organization can take small steps toward the big goal of digital transformation, read the CDW white paper “How to Accelerate Digital Transformation.”