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Dissecting enterprise intelligence

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

The internet has made us smart. To be precise, it has given us a universally-accessible platform by which we can store and share unlimited knowledge. And that has allowed us to find, process and apply data in greater quantities and at far greater speeds than we could two or three decades ago.

Though we like to believe that our individual intelligence quotients have increased over time because of the internet, the only thing we know for sure is that the internet has most definitely increased the intelligence quotients of enterprises. Zebra’s Intelligent Enterprise Index is proof.

For the last three years, Zebra has been surveying companies around the world to gauge their level of intelligence based on a set of 11 criteria defined by a diverse set of industry, government and academia thought leaders who convened at the 2016 Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise at the Harvard University Technology and Entrepreneurship Center. They are scored categorically on their Internet of Things (IoT) Vision, Business Engagement, Technology Solution Partner, Adoption Plan, Change Management Plan, Point of use Application, Security & Standards, Lifetime Plan, Architecture/Infrastructure, Data Plan and Intelligent Analysis. This score is then combined to determine the total “intelligence score.”

We found a direct correlation between an enterprise’s intelligence score and the extent to which it has connected the physical and digital worlds. Specifically, the extent to which it has deployed IoT solutions across its organisation to ensure that institutional knowledge can be extended all the way to workers at the edge – the “front-line force.”

Pushing the limits of “unlimited information” to the edge

We have no doubt become a society dependent on technology in the last 10 years. Even workers whose manual skills are most valuable to a company find that they become even more valuable when they have access to an internet-connected device that can provide real-time situational awareness and guidance.

Everyone from laborers on a production line to heavy machinery maintainers, retail store stockers and public safety professionals find it easier to do their jobs better, faster and with fewer errors when they have technology tools at their disposal. Specifically, mobile computing tools that are plugged into an IoT platform.

That is because “intelligence” systems that have an IoT platform at the core are proving to be more effective in delivering the precise information that a worker needs to make the right decision and take the right action at the right time – at the precise time they need that information.

As information systems converge, we’re seeing a symbiotic and more conversational relationship form between humans and machines – and that’s a good thing. No single person or entity holds all the answers to a problem. However, a single IoT platform can be used to aggregate all the data needed to sense, analyse and act on situations that either pose a risk to your business or present a revenue-generating opportunity. And that seems to be the main reason why there has been such a tremendous uptick in the global Intelligent Enterprise Index score year-over-year.

Record number of enterprises now on the path to becoming “intelligent”

According to the 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index, 61 per cent of enterprises worldwide are well on their way to becoming “intelligent,” compared to only 49 per cent in 2018. In fact, efforts to become intelligent are intensifying on both a financial and operational scale.

Right now, enterprises are spending an average of $6.4 million on IoT solutions that increase their intelligence, and 86 per cent of enterprises expect this number to grow in the next 1-2 years – with over half expecting to increase their investments by 21-50+ per cent. Mind you, some of these survey respondents have as few as 250 employees and would be classified as a small-to-medium sized business (SMB).

Clearly, businesses of all sizes are deriving great value from emerging IoT strategies if they are committing such extensive resources to expanding their solutions to reach more workers and improve the outcomes of more workflows.

Though IoT solutions can help to fuel critical operations and drive efficiency in many different ways, companies that participated in the 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index report the biggest IoT impact and, thus, the biggest return on investment (ROI) in these three operational focus areas right now:

  • Improved customer experience
  • Improved safety
  • Collaboration between employees, customers, partners and suppliers

Considering the intense levels of competition and customer scrutiny that modern businesses face, it makes sense that they would focus technology utilisation on the areas most posed to elicit positive reviews and headlines. Customer service, whether in a B2B or B2C sector, is mostly rated on quality and speed of service. And what we’re finding is that IoT technologies can help both back-office leaders and front-line workers see things in real time with near perfection, especially if harnessed with other technologies that gather and deliver “intelligence” all the way to the edge of the enterprise.

Therefore, giving workers at the edge of every enterprise a way to better sense and analyse what’s happening around them can elicit a strong return on investment (ROI). The payoff is even greater when those technologies empower workers to immediately act on those insights to either avert an issue or take advantage of an opportunity.

Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight can be too (in time)

Though a record number of enterprises are on the path to becoming “intelligent,” there is still a long way to go to achieve the outputs possible given the volume and quality of data inputs collected by people and machines every millisecond of the day. Fortunately, the investment commitments being made by businesses of all sizes indicate an appreciation for IoT’s capacity to increase enterprise intelligence to the scale needed over the next decade and beyond. With IoT at the core of edge workers’ “information and conversational systems,” it will be easier to respond to the rising economic, customer and competitive pressures materialising as the “on-demand” economy matures.

Drew Ehlers, Global Futurist, Zebra Technologies