By: Morten Illum, VP EMEA, HPE Aruba
Organisations across every industry sector are currently experiencing change on an unprecedented scale as they look to digitally transform operations, through the implementation of digital devices, smart technologies, and an ever-expanding network, in the search for a competitive advantage. However, in order to leverage and evolve how we use data collected though digital transformation, it’s increasingly clear every business should be looking to the edge of their network. Where data and processing power were once concentrated in the back-office, now they live at the Edge, near the people who are using it – as both employees and customers.
A book, ‘Opportunity at the Edge’ from Fast Future, in collaboration with Aruba, demonstrates that Edge technologies have the potential to overhaul business models, transform user experiences, and even create entirely new industries.
Edge computing is defined as products that facilitate data processing at or near the source of data generation, delivers far speedier results than traditional architectures. At the Edge, enterprises can deploy technology, from the mobiles that customers use to connect to service, to the sensors that can track activity, and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can analyse the data collected in real time, to create user experiences that are faster, more dynamic and personalised to individual needs. Edge computing technologies –– This makes it possible for every organisation to provide a radically improved level of service.
According to Gartner, edge computing will be a necessary requirement for all digital businesses by 2022. But with business and technical hurdles to overcome, how can CIOs manage the business strategy of implementing their network at the edge? With potentially trillions of dollars being invested in the hope of generating huge economic returns, the argument for paying attention to the Edge opportunity is clear and the window for learning and action is narrowing.
In order to truly embrace the Edge, you have to start at the top. Senior-level management must develop a deep understanding of the shifts taking place in the marketplace, and the opportunities and challenges posed by adopting the edge as a cornerstone of business strategy. What’s more, leaders need to understand how the technologies will enable their business to create these new opportunities and recognising that it transcends the realm of IT, opening up new avenues of business. For instance, in the hospitality sector, Edge solutions can help create more personalised experiences for guests. Interaction between the guest’s intelligent assistant and the hotel can ensure that the mini-bar is stocked only with what is in their approved diet, and digital restaurant menus can automatically update using the same information, such as removing any high sugar content dishes. But with change comes challenge – the c-suite needs to have a full understanding of the challenges when making the transition and learn from other companies who have embarked on both successful and failed digital transformation efforts.
In order to succeed, managers need to prioritise objectives, ensuring that both IT and wider business resources are not spread too thinly across multiple projects. Senior leadership’s key role will be to provide the resources and direction to ensure projects stay focused on their goals and can deliver meaningful results. Stakeholder engagement is critical here – the scale of the opportunity, the size of the transformation, and the commercial risks of inaction need to be communicated clearly to critical stakeholders from employees and managers to shareholders and the board.
Develop and Evolve the Business Case
From the outset, it is important to understand that the business case for deploying edge technologies is likely to evolve over time. While assumptions will need to be made at the start of the process, in order to give the project direction, this will likely change and evolve once businesses gain more practical experience implementing edge-based solutions and are in a better place to understand the true benefits for customers and the organisation.
The key factor in evolving business cases will be responding to feedback from the end user or employees. While enterprises may have to adjust the solution as they hit technological barriers or come up against an unwillingness to invest from senior stakeholders, the biggest success factor in delivering on the business case will be understanding and responding to any adverse consumer and employee reactions over how these technologies might be used and how they might impact personal privacy. Trust and transparency are going to be key to implementation.
Security and Risk Management
As with any large-scale transformation, adopting edge-based strategies has inherent security challenges and risks, and many have raised concerns about the potential invasion of privacy and misuse of customer data. Operationally, the critical risk here is not investing enough in mind-set change, digital literacy across the business, and the capability of IT to lead and deliver edge strategies.
According to Fast Future’s book, the most voted for security fear is that Edge solutions could potentially create thousands of points of risk exposure across the network for hackers to take advantage of (82%). Every enterprise that moves towards the Edge must act to pre-empt the security threats inherent to a network newly flooded with connected devices. Fundamental to these opportunities is the need for robust, centrally-managed network infrastructure – one that provides visibility and control in an increasingly complex, and potentially vulnerable, enterprise environment. Enterprises must also work on the basis of an open technology ecosystem that leaves them with the room to adapt and evolve over time, as priorities change. Businesses will have to show stakeholders that the benefits of edge technologies far outweigh any privacy fears, and that any data captured will only be used to evolve and improve their experiences.
It’s clear that, if implemented correctly, Edge is going to be key to evolving businesses and getting a digital advantage over competitors. fast becoming the single most important trend for enterprises in the coming years, which will be able to contend with the quickly evolving expectations of consumers for more seamless, customised and on-demand services. But in order to implement these solutions effectively, enterprises must take heed of both the benefits and challenges such an extensive implementation may cause and pre-empt them ahead of time. Companies need to focus not just on installing technology, but upgrading the institutional mindset towards a more experimental approach, and improving digital literacy across the board
Those that lay the foundation now from a technical and structural standpoint, will be best placed to take advantage of the Edge potential.