IOT - Can it be Controlled before it Controls you?

Laura S Marble, VP, IT, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
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“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law can be applied to more than just physics. If we focus all of our energy on one item, remaining items receive little to no attention.

As technology continues to change at unprecedented rates, it’s tempting to focus on what’s bright, shiny and new. The Internet of Things (IoT) is evolving our world faster than was thought possible, but it comes with a price tag.

IT leaders experience immense pressure to make technology the solution for wide-ranging business needs, a challenge we love to take on. Whether it be increasing e-commerce sales, effectively harnessing the power of big data or improving market share, technology is now seen as a corporate solution instead of a byproduct.

This shift in mindset is a good thing: IT is seen as a strategic advisor to the business. But increased responsibility comes with increased pressure. How do you innovate and get ahead of the curve without sacrificing critical, foundational needs?

  ‚ÄčNot all new technologies will stick. Some will have a short shelf life, and others will inspire new ideas that we haven’t even considered. 

If this pressure sounds familiar, here are some thoughts:

• Lean-out the basics. Unless you are fortunate enough to work for a company with an unlimited IT budget, you probably have been pressed to “do more for less,” or at least “do more with a little bit more, but not the full amount of what it will really cost.” As you and your team look at ways to control costs, start by leaning-out the maintenance and “lights on” activities. Efficiencies in foundational elements, like production and maintenance, can open funding for new and future investments.

• Track and monitor the new and old. Each company has its own tolerance for spend and risk. Investments in new technologies will need to be reviewed based on that tolerance, and monitored for scope creep. As you track and manage the performance of new investments, don’t forget to do the same for your existing technologies. Taking your eye off of this ball can cause disastrous results, especially in the area of cybersecurity. Ensure your team has solid processes in place to effectively manage current investments before adding a focus on emerging technology.

• Be a good partner to the business. If you have a good IT team, they make things look easy. Other areas of the business may be completely unaware of the vast amount of work that goes into keeping applications and services running smoothly. When business partners approach you with new requests, it is the job of IT to serve as a strategic consultant. Help the business area make an informed decision by educating them on an investment, including the benefits, application lifecycle management value, financial realities and associated risks. Listen and focus on understanding the business needs, instead of just the technology. Through adopting a consulting mindset, IT becomes a true partner to the business, rather than a service request.

• Be flexible. Not all new technologies will stick. Some will have a short shelf life, and others will inspire new ideas that haven’t even considered. In an age of rapid change in technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. Make decisions based on facts, not trends. Technology decisions are not black and white, nor are they always easy. It is sometimes better to cut your losses than to continue an implementation that is too costly and provides too little value.

• Explore new relationships and leverage agreements. You are not alone. There are many startups and experienced companies who are looking for opportunities and may have more experience than your company. Using a SWAT analysis to know your strengths and weaknesses can help you make better informed decisions of who are you and where you want to be in the future.

Star Trek’s Spock says it best, “For everything there is a first time.” In our new world of IoT, that is truly the case and it is happening at a rapid pace. Listen to your partners and make decisions that are blended with logic, experience and a pinch of art. Enjoy the ride!

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