The Internet of Things (IoT) is the IT industry’s latest buzzword. The confluence of the physical and digital worlds enabled through smart, connected devices may still be a far cry from the all-connected, intelligent network IoT ultimately promises, but the closing gap between these worlds is bringing an IoT reality ever closer.
Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, says the smart devices and networks that will enable IoT are only a part of the picture, and that smart workflows will become increasingly important in supporting the benefits offered by IoT. “Traditional workflows are not capable of optimising and applying the advantages offered by automation. The flexibility required to truly make use of IoT functionality will become the key differentiator for those companies that will gain the full value of IoT.”
Currently, he says, it is almost impossible to automate 100% of any company’s processes, so workflow will therefore be essential to managing the human automation in responding back to machines or devices. “Workflow essentially automates the people side of an organisation because the the only way we can manage the service level between a device, the IOT and a human is through workflow.
He points out that while having devices communicate with each other is indisputably useful, how the organisation communicates back to the users of those devices is essential. According to Firth, the whole back-end environment must therefore be integrated in order for IOT functionality to offer any benefits.
“Smart automation is the foundation of IoT, and unless workflows are equally smart and have the same levels of automation, the IoT will have very little true relevance in a company. However, if the whole application environment is integrated with the workflow and the smart devices, organisations can ultimately change the way they do business.”
An IoT-enabled workflow can not only save time and costs, but can improve processes both internally and with regards to customer touch points. In addition, workflow automation can create an environment that will free up humans to exploit their creativity while machines perform the day-to-day processes that keep companies running.
“For companies that are looking to do new things enabled by IoT, if they don’t have the right back end, IoT becomes superfluous. It is only through an automated workflow that they will be able to begin to use the technology for real,” says Firth. “Devices, apps and workflow performing in unison become a strategic enabler.”
He adds that IoT is not only an advantage on the process side of business, but that it has immense relevance in an organisation at the service level. “IoT is still being seen from the perspective of event-based, context-sensitive processes by smart devices. Companies can take this one step further by changing their approach in how they utilise it internally, and by including gamification in the automated workflow, can alter how the organisation executes its business.”
Gamification, when included in the workflow, can incentivise staff, improve customer service, and enhance and simplify management, Firth explains. “IoT, workflow, and gamification coming together can help manage service levels, and incentivise workers to respond within allocated time frames. This can create a culture of excellence that will breed improved processes on every level. At the moment, automation equates to standardisation, and companies don’t have the means to commend a worker for going over and above. By combining an automated workflow with the intelligence of IoT and the benefits of gamification, businesses can react to challenges faster, improve service levels, and gain competitive advantage.”