It has long been known that the Internet of Things and edge computing require more than just information technology (IT) involvement. After all, the data that is collected, analyzed and driving decisions as part of an edge architecture is linked to an organization’s physical assets – whether the machine is on the factory floor or the components of an electrical utility connection system. As a result, it has become popular to talk about the Internet of Things as a partnership between IT and its operational technology (OT) counterparts.
However, just talking about IT/OT oversimplifies how to approach, evaluate, and select evolving solutions within an organization. In practice, there are many stakeholders. To explore this topic at a more detailed level, Red Hat commissioned a Frost & Sullivan survey of more than 1,000 decision makers in discrete manufacturing, operations, and automobiles—as well as oil/natural gas and utilities—to better understand their role or character involvement in edge computing. . Respondents were selected from North America, Germany, China, India, and Japan.
Here’s what we learned about who makes the decision and what to buy.
IT Decision Maker (ITDM)
Although edge computing brings a variety of other roles, ITDMs, such as CIO, are still highly involved throughout the acquisition process, starting with internal education, then external exploration, and finally through recommendation and selection. However, ITDMs are the most important decision makers at the end of the process.
[ Also read Edge computing: Latency matters. ]
This seems logical. The CIO, in particular, is increasingly being asked to partner with other decision makers trying to use technology to help the business. However, it is understood that the CIO takes the lead when the time comes to make and implement specific technical choices.
ITDMs are looking to edge computing in response to digital transformation initiatives and dealing with data security issues. (Advance computing can bring its own security challenges but can also help address data sovereignty and other issues associated with data transmission.) They also find edge computing interesting when implementing new capabilities such as machine learning and computer vision. Improving efficiency is also important; Part of this may come from reducing cloud costs.
Research and Development Department
Like other people, R&D is involved during the whole process. However, in this case, research and development is more involved up front as part of the internship. This group is also concerned with improving efficiency but has highlighted improving customer experience/satisfaction in particular. During this qualitative research and related qualitative research, we found that decision makers were less likely to explicitly invoke customer experience benefits compared to internally focused initiatives. However, the benefits to customers are likely to be seen by many as corollaries of digital transformation and other such projects.
As for the challenges, research and development share a common predicament: the loss of in-house expertise. Research and development also identified systems integration and requirements for a distributed architecture that relies on back-end cloud resources.
supply chain management
Supply chain optimization – some would say over-optimization in light of the current turmoil – has always been important in some sectors, such as automobiles. However, supply chains and associated logistics have come to the fore over the past couple of years. As a result, supply chain managers are beginning to play a leading role in strategically determining the use of technology.
Our survey shows that senior supply chain managers (although not often C-level managers) are among the most involved decision makers throughout the process of enabling edge computing.
This person measures the success of a developing application – and technology applications in general – by influencing a company’s digital transformation goals and enabling new revenue streams. However, they also focus explicitly on customer-centric initiatives, which improves customer satisfaction and experience.
Supply chain managers are among the most involved decision makers throughout the process of enabling edge computing.
On the other hand, they are less focused on cost saving initiatives such as reducing cloud usage. They also point to challenges with data security and integration, and lost internal expertise.
Senior Operations Management has a somewhat different set of sophisticated computing players than some of the others we surveyed. Enabling mobile apps and the Internet of Things is at the top of their list, followed by data security and centralization issues. They see data security/security and allowing data analysis to be done locally as definite edge computing benefits – although they also call for customer experience and satisfaction. Their main customer-focused initiatives include supply chain optimization and management, customer services in general, and customer management such as a CRM system.
This role also largely measures success by influencing the company’s digital and business transformation, enabling new revenue streams, and reducing technology and project implementation errors. The most important challenges for this role boil down to cost and resources: an overburdened IT department, budget constraints, and heavy reliance on the cloud.
Like the other characters, Processes are involved in edge computing throughout the entire process. But their greatest involvement was in the middle stage, when the external exploration of solutions began.
You might guess that production management would share many characteristics of operations management more broadly. You’d be pretty much right, though, as production also has specific playback buttons.
For example, production managers highlight quality management and quality assurance as specific customer-centric initiatives as well as supply chain optimization and customer data management. Production also has a much clearer focus on cost and efficiency than some of the others. For example, one measure of their success is project delivery within budget as well as digital transformation success and new revenue streams often highlighted by others.
Overall, production is in the middle of the pack in terms of participation in decision-making throughout the process – although they maintain this level of involvement from start to finish.
Top management is less directly involved in evolving decision-making than other personalities. However, assuming that they play a secondary role would be wrong. Our research found that this level of management is still strongly involved in the application of new technologies. In the case of the edge specifically, they are recognizing the need to implement new computing capabilities such as computer vision.
They also have a strong interest in customer-centric initiatives such as digitizing services, managing the supply chain, and maintaining strong quality control. Not surprisingly, they also have a strong focus on cost reduction and operational efficiency although their metrics of success also include enabling new revenue streams; They aren’t just cost cutters.
If I had to leave you with only one ready meal, this is it: Edge is not an IT purchase or an IT decision. Sure, IT is very involved – especially in the later stages of a developing project – but many target groups in the business are (or should be).
[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]
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