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Digital Transformation Needs to Be a Group Effort

When every department and line of business has a say, digital transformation projects deliver more bang for the buck.


The average office building is about 15,000 square feet and uses more than $30,000 annually in electricity and gas. Even with all of the computers, servers and other IT infrastructure inside, lighting still consumes the most energy: 39 percent. HVAC is another 28 percent.

Those figures highlight why businesses, school districts and other organizations are increasingly making energy management a key part of their digital transformation strategies. Most organizations can save two percent to 10 percent annually through better energy management, and some have cut consumption by 60 percent, says the Environmental Protection Agency, which manages Energy Star programs.

Just as important, there are two ways that energy management can lay the foundation for other digital transformation initiatives: The savings can fund those projects, while the underlying technologies — particularly the Internet of Things — can enable them.

Take the Long View

Digital transformation is a journey rather than a destination, and it’s critical to include all lines of business and the IT department in your discussions. Experience shows that digital transformation initiatives produce the most benefits when the entire organization has a say.

Suppose a business wants to add sensors to its building systems to monitor and ultimately reduce energy use. A good choice is Cisco’s Kinetic platform, which CDW recently deployed at one of the largest school districts in the U.S. to monitor data on the energy use of building systems from a central console.

Kinetic is designed to handle data from, and integrate with, a wide variety of applications. Thoughtful planning can identify future use cases that could benefit the business, but only if participants from across the organization are in on the conversation.

For example, Kinetic can be integrated with a building automation system to help enforce energy use policies and enable more complex use cases. It can also enable the organization’s security staff to manage building systems such as elevators, digital signage and lighting under certain conditions. When there’s an emergency that requires evacuation, security can immediately lock down elevators so people don’t get trapped, shut down air handlers, push exit maps to digital signage and configure lighting to highlight safe routes.

My colleague, Chris Black, recently blogged about how some municipalities are using IoT to maximize public safety while minimizing electric consumption by 30 percent. Surveillance cameras with embedded analytics track foot traffic, and when it increases in a particular area, nearby streetlights automatically boost their illumination. When the cameras no longer detect people, the illumination goes back down.

Businesses and colleges can use a similar approach indoors, outdoors or both, but again, only if the digital transformation strategy is based on input from the entire organization. Otherwise, it’s easy to overlook possibilities such as how the mesh network deployed for one application could be leveraged by others.

Avoid the Security Risks of Shadow Digital Transformation Projects

Some digital transformation projects don’t include IT because they involve systems that traditionally have been outside its domain, such as lighting and HVAC. That’s a mistake because once they’re IP-enabled, they become potential back doors for hackers.

IT can work with a partner such as CDW to help the building or facilities department understand the threat scenarios and identify the IoT products that mitigate those risks while achieving goals such as energy efficiency. That way, everybody wins — except for hackers.

Learn more about CDW’s Digital Transformation solutions and services.

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