While adoption of wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) has been relatively slow in field service (manufacturing being one exception), these technologies are set to fundamentally reshape the entire service landscape in the long term. The size of the global wearables market is forecasted to grow to $5.8 billion by 2017. As consumers' lives become more connected every year, so do their homes, cars, washing machines and all the other devices we, as an industry, must support.
So is your organization prepared? Or are you sitting on the sidelines, thinking that field service wearables and IoT predictions are bogus?
Truthfully, few are talking about the most important ways wearables and IoT will impact service organizations. While the general business news cycle tends to focus heavily on consumer devices, nearly all publications miss the most important change on the horizon for service organizations:
Wearables and IoT will crush your data center if you’re not prepared.
According to BetaNews, 24 billion IoT devices will exist worldwide by 2020. In addition, they report that the amount of data generated is projected to grow from a measly 171 Exabytes back in 2015 to 915 Exabytes by 2020—a huge increase. This upshot in the number of Internet-connected devices means exponentially larger quantities of data that need to be processed and managed in real time.
Field service data centers must begin planning today, if they wish to maintain an even workload in their data centers tomorrow.
But let’s back up. Because embarking on an IT transformation is no cake walk. In reality, it’s more like walking through a minefield. As early as 2013, Gartner reported that 25% of companies would lose competitive ranking due to digital incompetence. Were they correct? Most certainly. IBM recently reported that a full 84% of companies fail in their digital transformation efforts.
Take one wrong step in your IT transformation and BOOM! You’re toast.
We can’t claim to understand every nuance of your service business and model, because frankly, every organization is unique. But to give you the best odds at meeting the challenges posed to your data center by wearables and IoT, here’s an IT transformation checklist.
1. Motivate Your Team & Keep Tabs On Morale
An IT transformation will change more than just the data center. You’ll be expanding storage capabilities substantially, which means business leaders from across the organization will need to come together and agree on a budget, timeline, and objectives. That’s why you’ll need to start by motivating your team, and keeping tabs on morale.
Dreaming up a vision of the future is just the first step. Next, you’ll need to sell it to every business leader around the table. Your IT team should be committed to working together, but at the same time communicating freely outside the IT department to ensure you gain buy-in across the organization.
2. Develop User Personas and Use Cases
After motivating your team to action, you’ll need to develop specific user personas and use cases. Start with small business needs. What single in-home device will you serve, or begin to service as an organization? Who is the customer that uses it? How will you know if they’ve bought the device? Do you need to introduce the IoT device to that customer before any of the above?
It’s certainly ironic that the secret to success for every technology initiative is to start with the humans on the other side. If you’re not sure how IoT will impact your customers, consider sending out a survey. Or, pay for market research. Get a pulse on your customers. How many will have IoT devices in their homes within the next 1, 3, or 5 years? Is it their cars? Furnaces? Entertainment devices? If you don’t account for end user behavior, you might as well not even bother. It’s just that simple.
3. Map New Devices, Services & Technician Behaviors You’ll Accommodate
Once you have a solid handle on your customer behaviors, it’s time to take a deeper look within your own organization. You’ll need to train field engineers on how to potentially service IoT-based equipment, build a roadmap for incorporating new devices, and identify which technician or dispatch behaviors will change based on this new technology.
Will customer issues be identified at a server level when equipment fails? What does this do to the dispatch workflow? Are you incorporating wearables at an employee level to improve communication or field-based efficiency? What softwares will you need to ensure these devices operate smoothly within your current frameworks and softwares?
Create a roadmap that accounts for the short, and long-term implications of devices, services, and technician needs.
4. Build out a Comprehensive Roadmap of Your Future IT Stack
With your customer wearables and IoT patterns in one hand, and your internal behaviors and device needs in the other, it’s time to build a comprehensive roadmap to an IT stack that supports this new world of technology.
Building a coherent IT vision that maps to storage needs, performance of devices, and customer changes are all integral. But the more important factor is aligning your IT stack to a broader business strategy, including specific value that will be achieved through this technical transformation. Senior management needs to know exactly how this will drive improvements across the bottom line, customer engagement, and future viability of your service business. IT transformations can come with costs. All these costs must be justified, if you wish for your IT transformation to make it off the chopping block.
5. Develop a Vendor and Partnership Strategy
No matter the size of your business, you can’t keep everything in-house these days. And whether your IT footprint is completely on-premise, or if you’re planning a hybrid or cloud-based storage solution, you’ll need to develop a strategy for vendors and partnerships.
Ask yourself some tough questions. What are your IT and technical core competencies? What skills and transformation items can’t get achieved in-house? Which items are “at risk” if you don’t partner with the right vendor to achieve swift and secure resolution? Are there benefits to stitching together a best-of-breed solution with vendor software? Or would you prefer a single integrated solution that can solve multiple problems, at a higher price?
Either way, you’ll need to be prepared. You’ll need professionals who can evaluate and analyze the performance of partners and vendors, and whether their offerings can solve your IoT, database, and wearables needs.
6. Create a Tactical IT Transformation Plan
Your tactical IT transformation plan is the nitty gritty details that will make your vision reality. It’s like the directions included with a Lego set, or the blueprint for a new house. Either way, it should provide everything your employees need to implement change.
Frankly, this is the one part that most IT teams get right. But without performing the steps above, you risk not gaining buy-in from leadership, and not appropriately accounting for internal and external technical needs.
This plan should include all the technologies you’ll adopt, the timeline at which they’ll be adopted, the dependencies, risks, business impacts, costs, and personnel responsible for implementation and overseeing the performance of theses technologies in the short, and long-term.
Your IT transformation plan should also include your implementation methodology. How will your enterprise architecture, data governance procedures, and application development change in the future, and what processes will you use to ensure that change continues at pace? You’ll need means of rapid testing for new technologies, and proof-of-concept models to demonstrate and replicate wins.
7. Prioritize Integration at the Outset
The vast majority of organizations have dozens of existing technologies, nearly all of which likely weren’t designed with IoT, wearables, and the current technology landscape in mind. But throwing everything out the window and starting from scratch is certainly not a good idea. That’s why you should prioritize technical integration out of the gate, above all else. With your implementation plan, seek to uncover overlapping services, technologies, and systems that can “play nice” with each other.
The last thing you need as you embark upon an IT transformation to ready yourself for IoT and wearables are dozens of disparate technologies that can’t connect, integrate, or make your organization more strategic. Seek integrations and interoperability first. Otherwise your transformation may be doomed to fail, and cost you a fortune.
8. Design IoT Solutions with Security in Mind
Every year there are increasing amounts of threats, hacking, botnets, and security breaches. IoT opens up a whole new world of possibilities for both your organization, and for hackers to access customer information. As you embark on your IT transformation, you absolutely must prioritize security at every layer. Your database, devices, user authentication and enterprise culture all must support a high level of security.
When it comes to security, remember that your biggest asset is your behaviors. Your users, on both the enterprise and customer ends of technology, must adopt secure behaviors.
Stepping up to the challenges posed by IoT and wearables is a major IT challenge. While you likely have what it takes to meet this challenge head-on, you don’t want to lose your mind in the process. With any IT transformation, the best possible course of action is to simplify by starting with small changes. Select a small behavior, or wearable device that your customers are using, and optimize around that. Then, scale what you have learned across more devices, customer behaviors, and internal processes.
When it comes to technology, you simply can’t boil the ocean.
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