Connected Common Sense

By: | Shishir Choudhary

Publish Date: July 9, 2019

The hype of ‘connected’ is increasingly pervading many boardroom discussions and has been a recurring discussion point with my customers. I often encounter questions if the gleaming projections of the connected world is as absolute as being propagated.  While it is true that connected devices are increasingly being integrated into our entire ecosystem in a nuanced way, yet a deeper analysis prompts me to question the optimistic predictions and inflated expectations.
With more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry and successfully sailing through several tidal waves of technology trends; I deduce that though ‘connected devices’ holds huge potential for the future, but the adoption so far has been relatively weak. My hypothesis was corroborated by a World Economic Forum report indicating that 41% of organizations are still at a piloting phase while 30% are yet to start deploying IoT solutions.
I have observed that companies, in their quest to join the technology bandwagon, often enthusiastically launch ‘connected’ projects, only to get perennially stuck at the proof of concept (PoC) stage, or at best scale to minimum viable product (MVP) stage. How many scalable, operational connected projects have you seen today?   While many factors could be attributed to the slower adoption or rather the failures in realizing the true value of connected deployments, one underlying reason behind all factors, I presume is the lack of sheer common sense. At YASH we call it ‘connected common sense’.
So, what do I really mean by ‘connected common sense’?  I simply call it a lack of reflection on the core fundamentals of digitization that is imperative to rewire an organization’s transformational journey.
It is a well-known fact that any digital technology adoption requires a holistic rather than a discrete approach. Yet, in my experience, leaders often fail to apply this basic common sense. They view too narrowly of the concept of ‘connected’ as a plug-and-play approach aimed to address isolated business problems rather than broad organizational priorities. Also, they often get swayed in the digital wave without identifying an enterprise wide use case for connected applications. In order to build an enterprise-wide connected ecosystem, an organization requires a clear preconceived strategy addressing their ‘why’ factor for deployment, have a long-term objective determining the digital destination of the organization and technical acumen to thoroughly understand and apply the concept. Only then will they be able to successfully realize the transition from a piloting phase to a comprehensive business application.
To further elucidate the concept of ‘connected common sense’, I have summarized the top three mistakes below. However, given the recurrence of these mistakes and gravity of its impact on business, I felt the need to create three subsequent blogs in a series helping leaders delve deeper into each of the problem and offer solutions.
1. Lack of integration of IoT solution into existing enterprise work flows
Let’ face it! The IT infrastructure of most organizations, even today, operate in two parallel universe – the legacy ERP system and digital infrastructure. These two universes are mostly designed to co-exist by either
a) operating in silos, with a pursuit to not disrupt what is functional for decades while simultaneously embarking into the digital wave;
b) by marrying some aspects of the two worlds leading to fractional integration of the two infrastructures.
Mckinsey research substantiates that 70 percent of companies do not fully integrate IoT solutions into their existing business workflows—in other words, they are not effectively using enterprise IoT to optimize day-to-day tasks. Result!! — fragmentation in protocols like integration and interoperability issues impeding IoT adoption on a large commercial scale. Organizations fail to realize that either of above forms only compounds the complexities of the IT framework leading to frequent system breakdowns, impacting data quality and marring information flow between systems. This approach may help churn out pilots eking out small gains, but it is only short-term. You will struggle to scale it at an organization-wide level, ending up believing that the magic of ‘connected’ has not worked in your favour. Perceiving connected infrastructure as a plug-and-play technology that will reap immediate returns or considering it as a quick fix to age-old or sometimes even flawed operational process is lack of sheer common sense that needs immediate rectification!!
By now your mind must be racing to comprehend answers to the following questions:

  • How can you implement a universal framework that allows flawless integration between legacy and digital systems?
  • How can you ensure a uniform protocol for different IoT device that will support enterprise-wide seamless information flow?
  • Will your connected infrastructure ever be able to generate ROI for your organization?
  • How can you build an end-to-end prototyping of connected products?
  • What is the best way to identify your connected use cases that will easily pass through the scrutiny of your board of directors?

My next blog on ‘COBOL to connected’ will help you demystify the questions and navigate through a thorough integration process between your heterogenous IT framework.
2. Failure to derive value from data and make it meaningful:
Today, we can all unanimously acknowledge the myriad wonders of data in steering valuable business decision like predictive maintenance, self-order/trigger purchase order, analysing customer demographic or shopping pattern. However, for unleashing the wonders of data, the caveat is that it needs to be unlocked and extracted from arcane applications, optimally managed, filtered, analysed and provided specific business context to make it is useful. This simple rule conforms not just to the modern-day buzzwords like big data, IoT, machine learning and others, but to the master data of any machine. Though this may seem as a no brainer for any enterprise, but as per a  McKinsey research it is confirmed that 50% of companies use only 10% of information gathered from IoT data.
This missing link between data captured and its actual business application for problem solving is something we inadvertently encounter with customer care professionals. In the manufacturing context, I have seen most OEMs fail to establish the link between parts to model relationship. Data remains buried in disparate systems and sometimes within different departments, thereby breaking the information chain and eventually impacting the serviceability of the product. Today, with the data deluge, this has emerged as a serious capability gap jarring enterprise IoT’s potential and making the transition from MVP to real-business application a sheer fantasy. No matter how many ‘boutique agencies’ you outsource or how much dollars you invest, the solution lies in applying common sense and work backwards towards building a solid groundwork.
In my third blog in this series, I have taken a specific example of aftermarket service and did some detailed analysis on how ‘Parts to Model Relation Information’ is the basic building block for ‘Connected Aftermarket’.
3. Technology First or Business First?
Most conferences or industry forums on digitization today, portray artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) or Data Science (DS) as a panacea for all business problems. I sometimes wonder if our leaders have conveniently forgotten the basic thumb rule of ‘a tool being as good as its user’.
Remember that most businesses or their employees aren’t born digital. Traditional ways of working and closed mindset could run counter to the needs for a successful connected eco-system. In contrast, imagine a situation where automation brought by connected solutions is on the verge of collapsing a business-workflows, while an AI programmer is still debating what comes first – an invoice or a PO!! Hence, a right balance of traditional domain experts as well as new age digital natives are crucial for a stable, scalable connected environment.
My subsequent blog in the series will focus on a methodical yet faster shift in business environment that empowers individual employees to reimagine their business and operating model.

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