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IoT business plan: Keep your eye on the bottom line

In her keynote at the recent SIM Boston Technology Leadership Summit, Bhavani Amirthalingam, VP of information technology and business transformation at energy management company Schneider Electric, explained how IoT is driving new business models and converging IT and operational technology. At the summit, Amirthalingam talks about developing an IoT business plan in which a CIO thinks big, starts small and scales -- all while keeping the business outcome in mind.

How does IoT exemplify the convergence IT and OT?

Amirthalingam: I think we're at a unique time with the emergence of IoT [internet of things] and the acceleration of mobility. You see a tremendous increase in the role of IT compared to the traditional operational technology and the engagement of IT in the deployment of operational technology.

So, the convergence of IT and OT [operational technology], for an IT leader, is in three key aspects. One is in the space of analytics and insight. In the world of IoT, you have a lot of connected devices, you're getting a lot of data, but it's really driving insight and business positions from the data. It's building the analytics solutions and infrastructure on top of IoT that can truly drive business impact, and that's very much the role of technology and the CIO.

I think the second piece is around cybersecurity and the proliferation of devices and endpoints. Cybersecurity needs to be part of the thought process from the beginning of the IoT [business plan], not an afterthought, so engagement there is very critical. I think the CIO is in a very unique role as it relates to IoT specifically, to be in the driver seat -- to actually go and help drive the deployment of the technology.

How can CIOs work with the business to make these changes around IoT happen?

Amirthalingam: I think the number one thing, and the most important thing, is to start with the business outcome in mind. Technology should never be technology for the sake of technology. Think big, start small and scale. Start with a proof of concept that is to solve a real business problem. Once you build that, validate it and have a business case, then you look at how you go in and scale. I think, just in terms of an overall approach, that no matter if you're a $30 billion company or you're a $150 million manufacturing company, you can still take the same approach.

What's one example of how IoT is being leveraged to transform the business?

Amirthalingam: Think about expensive assets that you may have in your supply chain, and maybe as it relates to a mining company and mining equipment that's extremely expensive and already has hundreds of sensors on them. Downtime on this equipment means impact to the bottom line, impact to production. Being able to actually track those assets and correlate it to data from their maintenance, correlate it to other sources and to be able to actually go in and do predictive maintenance on this equipment to prevent failure truly impacts the end of the day business outcome. You prevent downtime and you actually improve productivity.

That's just one example of how people could actually leverage IoT. You can leverage it in many other ways in your supply chain. There's also what you call third-box thinking [in which] you don't just think from [the perspective of] your IT role. [You don't] just stop at thinking about what your business areas think, but [also] think about what is it that their customers are looking for. Then look at opportunities to engage in a business element IoT initiative.

For more on the development of an IoT business plan, read how analytics is the key to IoT's business value and what one CTO says is hindering the business case for IoT in the healthcare industry.

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