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Enterprise IoT Facing Skills Shortage, Security Challenges, Says Microsoft

Microsoft

While IoT adoption is on the rise and opening the door to business transformation, companies are being held back by skills shortages, project complexity and security challenges, says a recent Microsoft report.

An IDC study done in May 2019 predicts that by 2025 there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or “things,” generating more than 79 zettabytes (ZB) of data. These billions of devices are creating unprecedented visibility into a business, leading to transformation of operations, energy, products and workplace safety, to name just a few areas.

“We’re living amid an invisible revolution driven by the Internet of Things (IoT). This revolution goes far beyond the smart speakers and thermostats in homes and includes billions of connected devices and sensors that are transforming every industry on the planet, from manufacturing to energy distribution, from smart cities to smart agriculture, from smart buildings to smart medical equipment – and so much more,” Sam George – Head of Azure IoT at Microsoft wrote in his blog.

“IoT is also starting to have a profound and beneficial impact on the planet, reducing use of energy and natural resources as well as improving sustainability,” he added.

The research report was based on a survey of more than 3,000 IoT decision-makers in enterprise organizations to give the industry a holistic, market-level view of the IoT ecosystem, including adoption rates, related technology trends, challenges and benefits of IoT.

The key findings of the study include:

  1. IoT is seen as profitable and critical to business success and is creating opportunities to leverage more advanced cloud and networking technologies.Nearly nine in 10 (85%) surveyed are in IoT adoption and 88% see IoT as critical to business success. We heard from businesses adopting IoT that they believe they will see a 30% ROI on their IoT projects going forward. As they look ahead, respondents believe critical technology drivers for IoT success in the next two years are AI, edge computing and 5G, followed by digital twins and blockchain.
  2. Nearly all respondents (97%) have security concerns when implementing IoT, but this is not hindering adoption. Internet connectivity is a two-way street. With these devices becoming a gateway to our homes, workplaces, and industries, they also become targets for attacks. The cost of a data breach averages between $4M and $8M dollars, and the costs only compound as you think about additional damage to your brand and to the operational technology driving your business’s revenue. The top three security concerns we found among IoT adopters are: creating strong user authentications (43%), tracking and managing each IoT device (38%) and securing endpoints for each IoT device (38%).
  3. There is a skills gap for IoT solutions which is compounded by solution complexity. Almost half (47%) say there are not enough available skilled workers and one in four (38%) IoT adopters cite complexity/technical challenges to using IoT as a barrier to further their IoT adoption. Existing IoT complexities and lack of resources prevent IoT decision makers from more IoT adoption, and 20% cite complexity/technical challenges as a top challenge.

 Looking Ahead: Recommendations for a Successful IoT Strategy

With security concerns mounting and IoT becoming more complex with the rise of AI, 5G and edge capabilities, how can companies create a digital strategy to transform their business with IoT successfully? Microsoft partnered with the BCG Group to narrow down the seven key ingredients for success:

  • Business strategy and rationale – Successful IoT projects start with a clear understanding of the business problems to be addressed, the investment needed and the return on investment that is expected.
  • Leadership and organization – Successful IoT projects have executive sponsors in the business unit the IoT project will impact to help bridge organizational boundaries, communicate the strategic vision for IoT and achieve broad alignment across all participating teams.
  • Technology roadmap planning – The companies that think about technology roadmaps and plan for the infrastructure needed to scale IoT solutions are better positioned for long-term success. Involve leadership early as proof of concepts are being developed and start to have those conversations around future-state technology needs.
  • Talent – The Microsoft study states that designing, deploying and operating IoT requires multi-disciplinary skills, and experience in IoT architecture, data science, security and AI/ML can be rare and challenging to attract for more traditional enterprises. Companies must craft their unique talent strategy to acquire or build capabilities in their workforce based on their starting point and the gaps they need to fill.
  • Operations and core business processes – IoT requires a mindset shift from thinking of IoT as a “one and done” effort to thinking of it as a fundamental change in the way the business is run. Enterprises should begin by ensuring that the core business processes affected by IoT are primed to capture value. In addition, they must be sure to involve frontline staff, such as manufacturing- or store-operations managers, in IoT initiatives from the start, says the Microsoft study.
  • Partnerships and ecosystem – Business partnerships are critical to successful IoT deployments. Our IoT and intelligent edge ecosystem includes more than 10k partners and is growing. Partners can deliver critical industry expertise, making it easier to integrate solutions, share data, meet industry compliance needs and more. Companies with successful IoT implementations recognize the importance of establishing partnerships early and fostering these relationships over the course of their IoT journey.
  • Security as foundational – IoT security needs to be addressed at every layer – from the silicon layer to the cloud. It cannot be a bolt-on or an afterthought.

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