Pursuing an Internet of Things strategy for the right reasons

Pursuing an Internet of Things strategy for the right reasons

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How do you determine whether you’re pursing an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy for the right reasons?

First, it’s essential to focus on areas that are likely to deliver customer value. If you look at what Starbucks is exploring in terms of anticipating customer needs – sensing a phone-order customer arriving in the parking lot and having that drink ready when the customer walks in – you’ll see that they are thinking the right way. Walt Disney is at the head of the pack here as well, creating “serendipitous moments” of joy and surprise in areas of the park where they track and monitor that people’s spirits need to be lifted.

In a store or retail club setting, there is a great deal of potential to offer recommendations based on where the customer is or what she’s trying to accomplish. Part of it is also making things more frictionless in a checkout line so that lines move faster. It’s very much like a three-dimensional view of what ecommerce already does – look into what a customer is doing and react to it in real-time.

Small experiments and careful choices are both necessary in IoT, because the technology implications of any business decision can be huge. You are capturing a vast amount of data and trying to react to it immediately. As such, you might want to consider some new systems that try to build responses where you wouldn’t necessarily have to adapt every legacy or internal system to be able to deliver on it. That being said there are always ties into current systems and systems of record, as well as data and master data, so bringing all of these pieces together to give you something that will solve a real customer problem is a new kind of challenge.

Technology to the rescue

While technology is not the only piece of the puzzle, I believe there are a few places where technology can help to making an IoT strategy real:

  • Containers and microservices can help you break complex application flows into segmented chunks from which you can then push and pull the data. They also breed faster release cycles for development with fewer application dependencies.
  • New cloud-based systems that can help you manage large data streams, process data, and store and analyze vast amounts of data in-memory.
  • Technology for the right level of privacy and security, which includes how data is stored as well as which data is anonymized and which is used to target specific customers, is key. In either case, you have to make the right technology and process choices in terms of how the data is used, where it’s kept, and how it’s secured. When you think about it, the times you typically turn your Wi-Fi learning thermostat on and off are parts of your identity as much as your income level.

When it comes to IoT, we need to remember that it should be an end user’s decision about how much they want to be released and what the implications of that are. Looking out now into future aggregations of all this data, five or ten years from now, I don’t think people realize what the implications could be.

There’s no question, though, that IoT is here to stay and still coming on strong. Some companies that are more traditional will try to do IoT all on-premise, but it’s not going to make sense for most. In the same vein that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory realized that the IT costs of a project to land on Mars were going to be monumental and moved to cloud, every company will face a similar “Journey to Mars” moment when they grapple with the amount of data for a true IoT strategy to succeed. It’s going to be staggering, and it’s going to make just about any internal infrastructure pale.

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Peter Buonora is a change agent driving alignment of business IT functions while evolving IT organizations from operational cost centers to a catalyst for competitive advantage. Peter’s extensive experience includes global technology strategy, architecture, cloud computing, and information security.  Peter currently works as Enterprise Architect at BJ’s Wholesale Club, was formerly Senior Global Enterprise Architect at Ahold Corporation, and has held positions at Supervalu, John Hancock and other companies.

Peter is a change agent driving alignment of business IT functions while evolving IT organizations from operational cost centers to a catalyst for competitive advantage.

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