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Enterprise IoT Depends Upon Enterprise Architecture

Posted by Jason Bloomberg on September 27, 2017


As the sensor, device, and infrastructure technologies that underpin the Internet of Things (IoT) mature, enterprises are increasingly incorporating IoT strategies into their digital transformation roadmaps.

For traditional enterprises, as opposed to companies with IoT-centric business models, these IoT strategies are particularly transformative. In essence, the IoT is not a bolt-on. It changes many different aspects of the business, well beyond the technology change that we’ve come to expect from tech-heavy trends like the IoT.

As a result, many such organizations find themselves ill-prepared to deal with the depth and breadth of such change. Fortunately, these companies already have expertise in-house that can facilitate such multi-level transformation: their enterprise architects.

Product Digitization Scenario

Let’s take for example an apparel manufacturer we’ll call Britewear (the story is fictitious but based upon true stories). Britewear is an established company, leveraging traditional supply chains to place its products into multiple retailers worldwide.

As part of its digital transformation, Britewear has decided to ‘digitize’ its products by including RFID tags in each item. These tags uniquely identify the item. Furthermore, supply chain participants, retailers, as well as consumers can interact with the tags.

Britewear’s consumer app, in fact, is the most exciting part of the plan. Simply by tapping the tag, consumers can learn more about an item (for example, washing instructions), and can automatically reorder it.

Behind the scenes, Britewear collects data from every such interaction (consumers consent when they install the app). As a result, Britewear is now able to glean previously impossible insights about how consumers actually use and interact with its products.

Transformational Concerns for Britewear

Manufacturing the RFID tags and incorporating them into the apparel manufacturing process was relatively straightforward for Britewear. It soon became clear, however, that far deeper change was necessary.

The adoption of IoT brought new business interactions and business relationships to Britewear. It worked with its overseas manufacturers to streamline and improve manufacturing and packaging processes that leveraged data from the tags.

Retailers also took advantage of the tags with their existing merchandising software. Britewear worked with a mobile app development firm to support the consumer app – another new partner relationship for them.

All of these new and expanded relationships impacted the data that Britewear and its partners were able to collect. As a result, Britewear had to expand its entire data infrastructure, from collection to processing to analysis.

Many different departments within Britewear were involved in the rollout of the IoT capabilities, from finance to fulfillment to marketing. Britewear soon found that its existing technology silos within such departments were too limiting, requiring a rethink of its technology architecture end-to-end.

And last on the list, but certainly not the least important, were the expanded cybersecurity considerations that the initiative brought to the table. Each RFID tag in essence expanded Britewear’s threat surface, and the consumer app presented new security challenges that were unfamiliar to Britewear.

Enterprise Architecture’s Role in the Transformation

Britewear’s enterprise architects (EAs) brought expertise in six core areas to the IoT initiative.

EAs applied Application Portfolio Management, incorporating the new IoT-specific apps into the existing application portfolio. This capability helped Britewear manage applications across departments, and also provided critical information to the cybersecurity team.

Integration Architecture Management also played an important role. EAs worked with integration specialists, application experts, and vendors to plan the IoT integration architecture in the context of Britewear’s existing infrastructure, which consisted of both on-premises and cloud-based components.

EAs also applied Technology & Risk Management to the initiative, breaking down and categorizing areas of risk for Britewear, from the cybersecurity risks inherent in the consumer app to the patch management so critical for any enterprise’s security.

Information Management also played an important role, as the data from the tags promised to swamp Britewear’s existing information management infrastructure.

Provider and Sourcing Management helped Britewear coordinate both old and new suppliers and technology partners, while IT Financial Management pulled together cost breakdowns across all aspects of the new initiative.

The Intellyx Take

The need for organizations to break down organizational silos to provide value to customers end-to-end across the enterprise is a hallmark of digital transformation.

This IoT example, in fact, shows that such reorganization is an integral part of how any company rises to the challenges that opportunities like product digitization offer, both to its customers and to the bottom line.

By leveraging the expertise of its EAs, Britewear was able to gain the upper hand on this necessary reorganization. After all, each of the six areas of expertise the EAs brought to the table crossed departmental boundaries – and furthermore, incorporated the IoT initiative across the organization, rather than assigning it to a new organizational silo.

EAs, of course, have their own tools for managing these various areas of concern. In Britewear’s case, EAs used LeanIX, because it provided a way for EAs to collaborate with technology managers, line of business specialists, as well as suppliers and third-party providers across all six areas.

The end result: Britewear successfully rolled out its product digitization initiative as an integral part of its overall digital transformation from a traditional apparel manufacturer to a provider of digital solutions to the apparel industry.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. LeanIX is an Intellyx client. At the time of writing, none of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx clients. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper. Image credit: Checkpoint Systems.

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