Here at the intersection of business and IT, we’re always preparing for the next big thing. Whether it’s a disruptive new technology that reshapes the marketplace, or an industry wide mega-trend that fundamentally changes the way organizations operate, company leaders invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to ensure their businesses are ready when the next big thing finally arrives.
There’s a big difference, however, between thoughtfully preparing for change and impulsively overreacting to the latest wave of hype. The former leaves you positioned for success. The latter leaves you with lots of expensive new technology and no clear path forward.
This is especially true in the world of IT. Whenever an IT trend or technology achieves “next big thing” status, it’s generally powerful enough to alter the way your company operates. But more often than not, the next big thing winds up being more evolutionary than revolutionary, and the changes wrought rarely if ever require the complete replacement of everything you’ve ever purchased and the complete re-architecting of everything you’ve ever built.
Such is the case today with the Internet of Things (IoT), the latest and greatest mega-trend to sweep over the IT and business landscape. Without question, IoT can and will fundamentally change many things for many businesses, from the way we collect and manage data to the way we learn about and interact with our customers. But like so many of its predecessors, IoT is an evolutionary trend, the fundamentals of which have been around long before anyone starting using the term.
The IoT/Big Data Parallel
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it closely mirrors the story of big data, which held the title of “next big thing” for many years before relinquishing it to IoT. The creation of large and diverse volumes of information that defines big data is by no means a new occurrence. What’s new and exciting is our ability to connect to, integrate and analyze that data more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
The same can be said of IoT. The backbone of IoT — the use of interconnected sensors and devices to collect data — is not new. Companies in the transportation, energy and manufacturing industries have being using sensors and edge devices to gather data for decades. What’s new — and has companies salivating at the possibilities — is our ever-improving ability to connect to, integrate and ultimately, analyze all of the data these devices collect, and do so in real time.
In other words, as is the case with big data, the promise of IoT rests with analytics. And as with any analytics initiative, the blueprint for success needs to be neither complex nor expensive. In fact, IoT or otherwise, when it comes to data analytics, companies that smartly reuse, repurpose and reinvest usually achieve far greater return on their work than those that take the draconian steps of ripping, replacing and re-architecting. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at how reusing, repurposing and reinvesting can play key roles in driving IoT analytics forward.
Reuse Existing Technology
A new trend — or in this case, an old one with new life injected into it — doesn’t always require outright change, and it doesn’t always require completely new technology. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reusing existing technology if it can still effectively help you achieve your desired outcome. And that’s usually the case with IoT.
Most companies in the aforementioned industries of transportation, energy and manufacturing — industries that are typically late adopters — have already made significant investments in technologies such as RFID systems and barcode scanning systems. If those technologies are still working effectively, there’s no need to replace them. The resources saved by reusing your existing infrastructure for as long as possible can be used to invest in areas of greater overall need.
Repurpose Assets for Analytic Initiatives
It’s not always as simple as just reusing what you already have in place to serve the exact purpose you originally intended, but even those assets that can’t be reused in a completely linear fashion still don’t necessarily have to be replaced. Sometimes it’s just a matter of repurposing. For example, many organizations have existing big data clusters that they could potentially be putting to better use. By taking data that’s being gathered from existing sensor and device systems and moving it from complex relational systems into much more streamlined NoSQL systems, organizations can get more creative with the ways they consume, cleanse and analyze data.
By repurposing and re-strategizing, organizations can turn data that was once of little value to organizations — either on account of lack of access or lack of reliability — and use it to unlock critical insights about their business and its customers. Once again, no significant investment of additional financial resources is required.
Reinvest … In More Than Just Technology
With the money saved by smartly reusing and repurposing existing technology, organization can use the resources they do have — however scarce those might be — to reinvest in the right places. Certainly, in some instances, those will be technology investments. For example, most companies still lack the necessary data integration and advanced analytics tooling needed to truly drive value from IoT analytics initiatives. New and improved gateway technology represents another means for organizations to get more out of their existing IoT infrastructure.
But to be successful with IoT analytics — or with analytics of any kind, for that matter — organizations often need to focus on investments that are cultural rather than technological. Companies that wish to succeed with IoT need more than the right tools. They need the right people, and more often than not, those people are developed rather than found.
If you’re reusing, repurposing and reinvesting wisely on the technology side, go the extra mile to invest in the training your teams need to not just to be better analysts, but better in general with data. Whether it’s a business analyst looking to become more data savvy, or a DBA looking to become more business savvy, invest in the growth of your employees, and they in turn will pay the company back — and then some — by being better prepared to understand and act on IoT data.
Evolve for Success
Remember, when it comes to IoT, we’re in the midst of an evolution, not a revolution. And this is a great thing for your business, because it means that chances are you’re much more prepared than you think. Successful organizations will cast the hype aside, resist the urge to make knee-jerk investments, and take a strategic and measured approach to reusing, repurposing and reinvesting. That’s more than just smart IoT. It’s smart business.