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Professional services industry and IoT: The tech problems this industry faces

Today, more than half — 59% — of the professional services sector doesn’t have a single digital business strategy. For most professional services organizations, that means IoT initiatives that are still stuck in the earliest stages of adoption in best-case scenarios.

And, since many of these companies feature small employee headcounts, a large portion of the professional services industry is still struggling to implement the internet of things. Unfortunately for these enterprises, a lack of technical expertise and/or limited IT resources makes it difficult to understand the business value of an IoT system — much less successfully deploy one.

For now, professional services organizations perform most data management tasks from within company-owned data centers and public cloud storage networks. However, as the desire for real-time trends and insights continues to grow, this industry will become more and more motivated to make IoT work because of the technology’s ability to perform these activities at the edge of enterprise networks instead. In fact, almost half of the industry uses these flexible technologies to perform IoT data analysis, aggregation and filtering tasks closer to each original data collection source.

As IoT penetrates professional services, expect this sector’s tech-savvy leaders to use endpoints for more than just an expanded variety of network edge tasks — many organizations will look to create competitive advantages with these endpoints, too. If this industry’s enterprises can overcome the significant investment IoT requires, don’t be surprised to see automated facilities maintenance and supply chain workflows within the next year or two — not to mention other business benefits like brand-new market insights, more efficient processes, additional sales opportunities and more data feedback than ever regarding client habits and product/service quality.

Before any professional services business can capitalize on the value IoT creates, however, it must overcome five significant challenges:

Outdated strategy

Like any other major mobile technology deployment, IoT gives professional services organizations a variety of new endpoint devices to use every day at work. While this creates obvious benefits for the business implementing these innovations, it also opens new avenues for cyberattackers to invade corporate networks, too. If a company invests in IoT, it’s important it also reexamines all existing digital security strategies to make sure they’re updated and include systems to deal with IoT’s most serious threats.

Separate systems

For professional services IT leaders, IoT isn’t as scary as one might think. In fact, many organizations already use most — if not all — the data collection systems IoT needs. The hurdle for these enterprises is centralizing these systems, which have almost exclusively been maintained on separate networks to this point. So, the industry doesn’t need to start from scratch to assemble its IoT infrastructure — it just needs to find an efficient way to unify existing systems and streamline data communications across a single network.

Lack of resources

Some of the sector’s largest, resource-right companies can construct their own customized and centralized IoT management platform. For everybody else, IoT isn’t quite that straightforward. Fortunately, affordable cloud-based SaaS offerings can help. Professional services enterprises are already using these technologies to integrate disparate systems, enhance IoT security and perform data analytics in a cost-efficient manner.

Data communication

While implementing an IoT program is impressive, it’s only the first step of these advanced projects. The more difficult challenge is collecting and communicating the vast amount of raw data in a way that satisfies organizational stakeholders and benefits the overall business. After all, even something that appears to be the most inconsequential data point possible could unlock and fuel future innovation if it’s combined with another data set or handed off to the right employee.

Scalable security

After IoT has been implemented and integrated into existing enterprise workflows, program security and endpoint safety become paramount. These advanced mobile technologies require not only multiple layers of protection, but also need to be flexible enough to grow and evolve as the needs of professional services companies change. To protect sensitive data from hackers and cybercriminals, ensure your IoT initiative uses these four tools:

  1. Firewall — Firewalls have been used in enterprise technology for years and are considered an essential part of today’s digital security efforts. By blocking unauthorized network access in a way that still allows external communication, these advanced products are designed to work seamlessly with the millions of unique IoT device types out there.
  2. Encryption — Data is too valuable in today’s digital business environment to leave unprotected — whether it’s at rest on a mobile device or being transported across a global network. Encryption algorithms make sure this happens by scrambling IoT endpoint feedback, rendering it useless to any recipient that isn’t authorized to have a decryption key.
  3. Authorization — Before the first IoT device is ever deployed, organizations need to have a policy in place to control user behavior and the inevitable surge of mobile network traffic. Professional services workplace policies should clearly define user permissions and company-wide systems access permissions. Some of today’s most advanced authorization projects even include outlined task management automations for future implementation initiatives.
  4. Network segmentation — Because IoT requires multiple networks and interconnected enterprise systems, a single external breach carries the potential to create problems for a wider-than-ever range of connected business endpoints. Companies should review how their IoT infrastructure is connected and supported to intentionally separate systems wherever critical technologies, systems and devices are housed. That way, these mission-critical mobile endpoints are left unaffected even in the most widespread intrusion attempts.

As the professional services sector begins to increase its IoT investments, enterprises need to prepare for the myriad of strategy and security risks this technology can create. A managed mobility software partner not only eliminates this burden from any company considering an advanced IoT deployment, but also increases the likelihood of impactful and successful initiatives going forward.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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