System integrators in the driver’s seat for IoT and analytics

IoT requires specialized knowledge and diverse experience, which are exactly the qualities integrators bring to the table

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The Internet of Things is no longer a pipe dream. Millions of sensors and Internet-connected devices constantly collecting data for analysis—this is now everyday reality in fields like telecom, utilities and manufacturing.

But collecting data is one thing. Understanding it is another. The complexity, velocity, and scale of IoT data dwarfs anything most IT organizations have encountered, even those with robust big data programs.

If internal teams can’t make sense of the data, who can? In a word, integrators.

If that sounds surprising, it shouldn’t. Systems integrators have the discipline, the specialized knowledge, and the understanding of operational and legacy systems that few in-house teams can match. IoT requires specialized knowledge and diverse experience, which are exactly the qualities integrators bring to the table.

Let’s consider these strengths in turn.

The experience curve

The internet of things is a land without a map. No one has charted the shortest paths between points. The models and practices still need to mature. No one knows how to do it right. Success requires a methodology for continuous improvement. And while some enterprises have one in place, most don’t.

But for systems integrators, continuous improvement is second nature. Service delivery is their core business. Continuous improvement is how they generate profits. Many of them have worked their way along the IoT experience curve and improved their practices and methodologies far beyond what any single enterprise could have achieved. This gives them a natural advantage over internal teams with less experience and more ad hoc practices.

Iterative methodology

Compared to vendors selling specific products, integrators tend to start at modest scale. First, they prove an ROI model. Then they scale up as needed. IoT projects tend to be both large and complicated, and long experience has taught system integrators that the hardest piece of large projects is often learning and finalizing business requirements. Accordingly, they’re trained to document business requirements and value early in a project. They also understand the business benefits of working across operating units in a larger enterprise to distill the requirements, and they often work across organizational boundaries more easily than an internal team.

Operational technology (OT) knowledge

One of the fundamental challenges of IoT analytics is integrating with traditional operational technology (OT), particularly in industrial and manufacturing environments. OT management is a complex discipline that requires considerable expertise and specific knowledge of the IT in a particular industry. This, too, plays to the strengths of system integrators, who often specialize and acquire deep understanding of the OT in their chosen field. This provides an excellent seedbed for wider IoT projects that involve marrying OT and IoT, and is particularly relevant when combined with the experience curve factor.

Legacy system knowledge

IoT analytics is most valuable when it combines new data streams from sensors and devices with data from the legacy systems at the heart of the enterprise. Systems such as CRM, ERP, supply chain management, financial, and many others all contain valuable information that can be combined with IoT data for innovative new applications. System integrators almost always have deep knowledge of these legacy systems and their data. They know how to ingest data from these systems for analytics and how to trigger automated actions to capture business value. IoT analytics may draw on device data, business process data, physical data, such as weather, and enterprise data from IT management systems. Here again, the integrators’ breadth of experience gives it the advantage, as only a handful of enterprises will have worked with such a wide variety of data, much less have any idea to marry it with the data they know well.

Summary

IoT analytics presents unprecedented challenges, both in terms of technology and the business. It tests organizational boundaries. It overturns ROI models. It renders much industry knowledge inadequate and makes ecosystem partnerships essential. Under these conditions, system integrators are the unsung and too often overlooked heroes that IT organizations need. We can expect to see them play a much more important—and visible—role in analytics as the IoT takes shape.

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