Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins kicked off the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) World Forum at Tobacco Dock in London today with the warning that business is now more complex than ever and it’s only going to get worse.
As more and more devices are connected to corporate networks, complexity is going to increase further still, thanks to issues such as a growing threat landscape and floods of new data being created.
Add into this customers who are now more demanding than ever and it’s clear that businesses have a real challenge on their hands.
“Everything about what we do is more complex than it ever has been in our business,” Robbins said. “Whether it’s just the fundamental business issues we all face every day, the competition, the fear of unknown disruption, the pressure.”
“We have economic shifts that occur rapidly, geo-political dynamics. Your customers are more demanding than ever, both externally and internally. The complexity of doing IT has shifted significantly over the last 5 or 6 years, so your external customers expect more of you and, if you’re in technology, your internal customers are definitely expecting more of you.”
The main implications of this shift are that organisations have to be able to move faster and be more agile, reacting to market changes in real-time without slowing down.
Robbins also emphasised the importance of putting technology at the heart of every business strategy, rather than thinking of it simply as an enabler: “Technology no longer enables a strategy, technology defines a strategy and we have to think about how our strategy as organisations fundamentally changes because of what technology makes possible.”
So, things are already more complex than they ever have been, but, in the immortal words of 70’s band Bachman Turner Overdrive, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Robbins continued: “The reality is, this next wave of connectivity, this next wave of bringing billions of devices online, is going to change everything about what we do. We don’t even know what’s possible yet.
“When we built the first wave of the internet, nobody envisioned Uber, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Of course, complications will predominantly stem from the sheer number of IoT devices that will become connected. In Q3 2016, the number of new machine-to-machine connections exceeded the new number of new phones and tablets for the first time.
There are currently around 9.4 billion connected ‘things’ worldwide, approximately 3.1 billion of which are being used by businesses.
And these numbers are only going to skyrocket in the coming years. IDC predicts that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, while IHS forecasts 30 billion by 2020 and 75 billion by 2025. The numbers associated with the IoT are all slightly different but the message is the same: exponential growth is on the way.
“It’s happening now, it’s happening fast and it’s happening everywhere,” said Robbins. “We’re going to connect everything, even things we can’t imagine yet. We see it happening today and we’re in the middle of it.”
This will of course make things infinitely more complicated for organisations, predominantly in areas such as cyber security and network management.
It also has the potential to revolutionise multiple industries, with the likes of retail, manufacturing, healthcare and transport being some of the early adopters.
And a lot of the issues will centre around data, as was highlighted by Tom Lantzsch, general manager of Intel’s IoT group. When it comes to data, “we haven’t seen anything yet”, he said. “The tsunami of data is approaching”.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Internet of Things will bring with it unparalleled opportunities, businesses just have to be ready to jump on the IoT train before it leaves the station.
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