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Wearable project success hinges on cross-functional team input

Looking to kick-start a wearable project at your organization? Start by taking stock of your available resources and gathering the troops, said Brian Laughlin, technical fellow, strategic technical planning and IT architecture at Boeing. SearchCIO sat down with Laughlin at the recent Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit in Boston to ask him about where to get started during development of a wearable technology initiative in an organization.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

How do IT execs assess whether their organizations are ready for a wearable project?

Brian Laughlin: There are a lot of things to consider. One is understanding what you're really trying to accomplish. You also have to see if you are ready to make the investments that are required in order to get the infrastructure ready, to have the programmers available, to do the model decimation, etc. There are a lot of different features and aspects involved in building a good solution. It's really important that you have those all accounted for. Buying the headset or the device is the easiest part of it. You just write a check and the thing shows up. The magic really occurs in understanding what you're going to do with that and then having the resources to support and maintain the creation of the solution.

Who within an organization should be in charge of implementing a wearable project?

Everybody who has skin in the game needs to have some form of representation in that process.
Brian Laughlintechnical fellow, strategic technical planning and IT architecture, Boeing

Laughlin: I think it's really critical that you have a cross-functional team. It needs to consist of not only the management, because you need the upper support in the funding, but also, and probably most importantly, the people who are going to be actually using the technology and the processes that you co-develop. Everybody who has skin in the game needs to have some form of representation in that process.

At the end of the day, if I have the perfect technology but I don't have the information to deliver through that technology, then I just wasted time. If the end user doesn't own the solution when we get done and won't use it, then I just wasted time. It's really critical that we have a cross-functional team and that we build this collective understanding of what the true nature of the problem is and move together as a unified team.

What role does an IT architect play in a wearable project?

Laughlin: An IT architect, ideally, will be somebody who has enough experience and understanding in the particular area of the problem that they're having. That will help them to ferret out what the real requirements are and co-discover those, and then figure out how to re-engineer those business processes -- or create them if they don't exist. Sometimes, re-engineering a process is not the right answer, by the way. You have to be very careful because if you don't understand the core 'why,' you can end up creating, essentially, a golden Band-Aid and that's no good. I think they need to be able to deconstruct the problem to really understand what the technologies are, how they function and what's available. And then figure out how to leverage those to their best effect while mitigating cost and effort.

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