Between calculated risk and reckless decision-making lies the dividing line between profit and loss – Charles Duhigg
Everything we do, whether it’s socializing with friends, shopping at the mall, or working in our office, we are generating and consuming vast amounts of data. The great news is, we experience the most optimal outcomes when our decisions are informed by data i.e. data-driven decision making.
Yet, when it comes to managing our enterprise infrastructure we tend to fly blind. Most enterprises do not even know how many connected devices are deployed in their infrastructure. As we mentioned in the previous blog post, IT does not seem to believe that it is their problem, whether it is called (non-IT) connected devices or the more modern term, which is IoT. So, the question that we are left with is this: why are we handicapping ourselves by making important business decisions with incomplete, speculative information or worse yet, consciously ignoring the problem, hoping the problem goes away?
Unfortunately, the problem only gets worse as more and more of these devices get deployed, which by conservative measures will triple by 2020 according to Juniper Research.
IoT’s Visibility Problem
Lack of visibility causes enterprises to perpetually remain in an unpredictable state because they have to react to situations as opposed to proactively preventing potential issues before they become a problem. You have probably heard by now that Gartner predicts 50 Billion connected devices to be in use by 2020.
What does that mean for your enterprise specifically? Research conducted by analyst firm Quocirca found that in 2016 the average business was in charge of 7,000 IoT devices. That is a lot of devices to keep track of, meaning many companies do not even know how many devices are within their enterprise, let alone have management and control over their IoT devices.
Why should you care?
Lack of visibility into the connected devices in your enterprise exposes your enterprise to a variety of risks, compliance issues, and security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, you run your operations in a much more manual and sub-optimal way, thereby affecting both your top and bottom line. Every little task associated with these connected devices takes longer, is more expensive and is error prone – for example, generating reports, audits, inventory management, identifying health of the devices, reducing the time to fix broken devices, and so on.
Given this state, you are definitely not going to be able to predict issues, prevent outages, or optimize operations of these devices using Automation, Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence. If you don’t know how many, what type, and the location of the connected devices that you have within your company, you certainly can’t manage or maintain all of them in an optimal manner, and if you can’t manage all of your devices, then you cannot adequately protect your systems from hacks and other vulnerabilities.
This is akin to locking all the doors and leaving the windows open hoping that that is sufficient.
Why is this still a problem?
In this day and age, with all the innovation and advancements in IT, you may ask “Is it not as simple as getting visibility to these connected devices using my existing IT tools and technologies?”.
Great question but unfortunately, it is not that easy.
The reason for this is that IT took a few decades to standardize and converge on how best to deal with the variety of devices, how to connect and “talk” to them.
IoT on the other hand is simply not there yet for severals reasons, starting with the variety of protocols, the lack of standardization, the fragmentation, and most importantly the lack of safeguards & technology maturity that goes into designing, implementing proper security measures in such devices.
Additionally, most of the existing IT tools and technologies are not designed to deal with the sheer scale of IoT, the variety and the fragmentation. This is why we have a plethora of IoT specific products and solutions, and also why the VC investment in this space tripled between 2015 and 2016, and with investments continuing to grow.
Where do I start?
Start with first acknowledging that you really do not have visibility into the how many connected devices exist in your enterprise, and that it is important and essential to run your operations.
Then, reflect on the business opportunities that you missed or the business opportunities that you could miss out on in the future because you did not take the time to build out an accurate picture of your enterprise’s connected devices.
Remember the timeless adage: prevention is better than the cure and a data driven response is better than a gut-based opinion.
Now that you have acknowledged these fundamental aspects to a successful IoT program, the next step is to take actions towards visibility – not a one-time inventory of such connected devices, but a solution that provides continuous updates on the status, health, risks, compliance issues and security vulnerabilities.