Today, Digital Transformation is an imperative requirement for businesses. At the core of this is the IOT Platform – a type of Internet enabled platform that is used for building and managing IoT solutions. This article talks about a possible blueprint for Digitization and Digitalization to commence on the Digital Transformation Journey.
STEP 1: Cost and Return on Investment Planning
Digital Transformation involves a cost and begets savings. The issues to plan for are costs and savings.
Costs may be in terms of digital infrastructure, subscriptions, annual fees and licensing cost, customisation and developmental efforts and system administration cost. Technology takes time to implement and is constantly changing. A common error in cost sizing is not factoring in scaling sufficiently or over factoring of scaling.
Savings may be in terms of reduction of errors, transparency of processes, clearer ownerships, roles and responsibilities, speed and throughput of actions data and visualisation support, access from anywhere and access at anytime benefits, notifications and alerts, real-time status, scaling, etc.
Identification of the business case involves sizing the above along with the scalability opportunities and assessing Return on Investment.
STEP 2: Identification of the Workflow Components
Directly transforming offline processes into an online mirror reflection will not provide savings and in all probability will lead to new and hard to resolve bottlenecks. Assessing Workflow Components and identifying stakeholder roles and dependencies is a key design input. With these as the key access points, assessing operation sequences, documenting and identifying the Digital process may involve the following Components in the Workflow:
i) Key stakeholders, their roles, information and accesses that each role will require. Access normally would be broken down into View/Modify/Add/Delete controls. Roles normally would manifest as logins with landing Dashboard views that summarise the alerts, notifications, actionables for critical business parameter states for the specific role. For e.g, a Field Engineer installing a smart meter may require the IP address for a specific meter.
ii) Approval and notification hierarchies, timelines and tracking mechanisms for all critical parameters in the workflow.
iii) Assessment of Online and Offline components and proper dependency planning and alignment of processes. A key risk with mixed processes is bottle-necks and assumptions that can change the behaviour of the system. Offline components typically involve physical processes, vendor coordination points, Equipment availability, etc.
iv) Identification of Alerts and follow up action sequences including online checklists and schedules.
v) Dynamic and real time updated Dashboard views for each role that enabled quick assessment, action taking, impact tracking and link to follow up actions and schedules.
vi) Phased approach to Digitization where parts of the business workflow are converted, tested and validated in a controlled manner allowing different organisation functions to be stabilised as they transform. One simple phased approach may involve conversion of all offline forms and checklists into online login based forms and checklists. Once the team is comfortable with using these forms, they can be stitched together into the Workflow embedding the approvals and alerts and collecting the same into the Dashboard views.
STEP 3: Prototyping Architecture
Application architectures for IoT platforms have evolved from monolithic to modular, leveraging modern technologies like containers and server less computing. Security and Sensitivity of operations would govern decisions such as internet connectedness and choice between On-premise versus Public Cloud infrastructure. First time transformation of offline processes also implies the need to validate choice of technology decisions, scale and cost factors in addition to the test and validation of the new Digitized Workflows with the possibility of tweaks, customisation and modification.
STEP 4: Disaster Management, Security Requirement Planning and Troubleshooting
Identifying up-front key security hazards, disaster recovery processes, risks and mitigation mechanisms is critical to ensuring that while planning the implementation prototype, necessary safeguards for these are built into the design to mitigate downtime issues and security problems. Appropriate logging, troubleshooting tools, Backup and Restore mechanisms need to be planned for recovery of operations and for restoration of functions.