A few years ago, many lines of business (LOBs) started bypassing their IT departments to buy cloud services directly. That’s because IT couldn’t provide the resources they needed fast enough to build and test new products — projects that would enable the company to make more money and stay competitive.
History may be poised to repeat itself, this time with the Internet of Things (IoT). As with the cloud, these IoT work-arounds can create a variety of challenges, including security risks, redundant spending and marginalization of the IT department.
But IoT doesn’t have to become another big shadow IT nightmare. Instead, there are ample opportunities for IT to collaborate with the LOBs to ensure they have all the tools they need — including ones of which they’re unaware.
In the process, IT’s status in the organization rises. Instead of being perceived as just a back office and cost center, the other departments will view IT as a key partner, one capable of enabling new revenue, savings and market differentiators.
Work With, Not Around
Start by building a relationship with each key LOB stakeholder to understand their unique objectives, challenges and systems. It’s impossible to recommend the right IoT hardware, software and connectivity if you don’t know what right is.
Suppose the transportation department for a food distributor needs to monitor refrigerated shipping containers full of expensive seafood. The IoT solution may need multiple cellular carriers or even satellite fallback to maintain connectivity when containers travel out of cellular coverage — a factor the LOB stakeholder might not realize until IT staff spotlight it. Another example is the need for IT to learn more about supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and Modbus to help manufacturing integrate IoT with operational technology in order to enable IoT on the factory floor.
Relationships also make it easier to collaborate on a future-state vision and a roadmap to get there. That includes agreeing on who does what, which avoids finger-pointing, delays and cost overruns.
As an outsider coming in, IT staff also can provide the fresh eyes that spot big-picture opportunities that LOBs overlook simply because they’re focused on day-to-day operations. For example, IT staff could suggest adding IoT sensors to manufacturing equipment and integrating those with control systems running SCADA. That enables real-time monitoring of voltage, temperature, vibration and other metrics.
It also provides historical data for predictive analysis. Suppose a water utilities technician takes a pump offline every month for preventive maintenance. The IoT data might show that it actually takes 90 days for the oil viscosity to approach the threshold that warrants change. This kind of IoT analytics can minimize maintenance costs and maximize productivity, all without risking equipment failure.
But this scenario — and all the benefits — aren’t possible unless IT staff first build a rapport with line of business staff. Otherwise, the business insights and trust won’t be there to convince the LOB to make changes that otherwise could undermine productivity and increase costs by damaging equipment.
That’s just one example of how and why IT staff should engage their LOB cohorts. It’s also an example of how IoT is an opportunity for the IT department to get worked with rather than around.
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