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How Digital Transformation Intersects with Internet of Things

Alena Davis, Appian
March 29, 2018

Application development platforms are serving as the avenue businesses take to digital transformation. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to accelerate the digital transformation process, app platforms are naturally emerging as a critical need in the IoT sector. Businesses that leverage cloud application platforms effectively can position themselves to navigate the complex circumstances surrounding the digital transformation and IoT movements.

How IoT and Digital Transformation Align

Digital's Evolution

In some ways, the idea of digital transformation really began with the rise of the enterprise social trend.

As businesses began using dedicated social media solutions to support everyday operations, employees often found themselves collaborating in more intuitive, natural ways.

Application development platforms are serving as the avenue businesses take to digital transformation.

From there, it became clear that people needed a support system around social tools to build collaboration into a wider range of processes. Why should an employee working in a research database app need to jump into a separate system to talk to a colleague about it?

If the collaboration tool was built right into the research data app, people could work together more naturally, without needing to log into multiple applications to access the data they needed.

Over time, this trend started to seep into almost every component of the enterprise technology stack. It wasn't enough to simply create isolated digital services that worked well in their silos. Instead, companies needed to align, coordinate and integrate these solutions so employees could work seamlessly across digital channels. Just as organizations went from using social media to becoming social businesses, they also have started to transition from leveraging digital technologies to being digital at their very core.

The IoT Enters the Fray

Now, the IoT is entering the fray and disrupting the status quo. Companies that thought they may have had time to transition to this digital reality may find themselves realizing that they'll soon drown in IoT data soon if they don't figure out how to make that information actionable in everyday workflows.

In a ZDNet special feature, the media outlet's editor-in-chief Larry Dignan explained that the IoT has the potential to be applied to just about everything. With storage space being extremely inexpensive, this will leave some companies storing whatever information they don't have an immediate use for and, before long, run into a situation where they don't really know what to do with the data. Finding ways to manage that information and prioritize it is vital.

Digital transformation and IoT strategies are interdependent on one another.

While the IoT is making effective data management essential, TechTarget reported that a business' ability to achieve their digital strategies is dependent on its capacity to understand the full journey their data takes as it is used across operations.

Within this broad technology climate, the IoT and digital transformation intersect. The IoT is pushing companies to transform around digital by making them deal with huge quantities of data. At the same time, failing to adequately adjust processes, workflows and data management functionality around the IoT could stifle an organization's ability to take full advantage of the technology.

Digital transformation and IoT strategies are interdependent on one another, and app platforms could prove to enable them to co-exist effectively.

App Platforms Could Be the Missing Link

The IoT App Problem

While the IoT continues to garner headlines for its increased use and move toward the mainstream, the reality is that many of the underlying support systems needed to back such a disruptive technology aren't in place.

    • Standards bodies haven't agreed on technologies frameworks for IoT systems.

    • Solution providers often release IoT devices that can't talk with solutions made by competitors. It's a problem if one machine can't talk to another in your production environment because they aren't the same brand.

    • Protocols around patches and updates aren't clear for the numerous cheap sensors that often get minimal support from managers.

    • Apps and services that coordinate data between IoT devices are often either siloed in specific brand platforms or reliant on complex custom programming.

The IoT continues to rise, despite these problems, largely because companies are acutely aware of how useful it is to have large amounts of data at their fingertips. What businesses need now is technology that helps them gather that data, sort through it and get it to users in line with the processes they are completing. In other words, they need to transform around the digital capabilities created by the IoT. App platforms can be the key link in this situation.

Using App Platforms to Drive IoT-enabled Digital Transformation

Application development platforms are a natural fit for the IoT. Here are a few reasons why:

    • They house apps within a central configuration, meaning IoT devices need only integrate with the platform, not each app.

    • They use low-code tools so users can quickly roll out new apps or customize solutions, making it easier to align apps with operational demands, even when the IoT disrupts processes.

    • They encrypt data and provide built-in security controls, easing the data protection challenges IT has to deal with.

    • They create a standard foundation for apps to work natively across devices and operating systems, letting users access IoT information how and when they need it.

    • They provide customizable dashboards so companies can make key data immediately actionable to different user groups.

    • They allow legacy tools to share data in a central location, making IoT information going to those sources accessible in one place.

Of course, businesses need to be careful not to look at every app platform as a potential cure-all. Some solutions are designed to support the creation of basic mobile apps, a useful, but ultimately limited function. Some are built explicitly for customer-facing solutions, meaning they may not provide the kind of backend data and process management functionality organizations need when using digital transformation to support the IoT.

Enterprise-class app platforms that incorporate business process management functionality, on the other hand, are created to bring together the people, processes and data that are increasingly reliant on one another in today's business world. The digital transformation and IoT movements are beginning to intersect, and companies that want to keep up need powerful platforms to avoid the potential challenges presented in this shifting situation.