As we move from the data center and transition into the cloud, what comes next? That’s the question on many CIOs’ minds as they contemplate how to increase customer experience and deliver an environment of true digital enablement where users are capable of conducting their jobs in an always-on, anywhere, anytime world. What they run into at the edge of the cloud is a hazy area — The Fog — where the Internet of Things (IoT) exists. This fog is going to become increasingly critical to both endusers and CIOs alike as smart and connected devices, meant to bring data from every point imaginable, become part of the enterprise.

We are defining the digitally enabled enterprise as an organization that embraces technology and services to improve the customer experience (CX) it delivers to both internal and external customers and, in doing so, often changes the nature of the organization itself. The alignment of and investment in technology and business models is critical to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the CX lifecycle. It doesn’t matter the type of business, where it’s located, or in many cases, how large the organization is; the focus on customer experience is pervasive and all consuming.

Achieving an improved level of customer experience — including a superior level of customer engagement and satisfaction — requires continually testing and deploying new service models and technologies. These include four key technologies and solution areas that comprise the next generation platform of IT: cloud, analytics, mobile, and social.

When we look across a broad spectrum of industries, what we’re seeing is the myriad of ways that CXOs of every stripe are fully embracing the digital world and digital technologies to build the digitally enabled enterprise. And IoT is shaping up to become a part of that ecosystem and customer experience.

Let’s take a step back and look at what the IoT is shaping up to be. Some of the hype surrounding the IoT makes the hype around the cloud look small in comparison. It is often talked about as the next step on an internet evolutionary ladder. IoT is comprised of those devices in the world that we use and take for granted every day — from building systems to cars and trucks to vending machines — all using sensors and internet connectivity to capture and exchange information.

This has a tremendous impact on customers and the CX as smart processes are able to predict needs right at the point of contact. The IoT also has great impact on IT organizations and the data center as digitally enabled enterprises exchange a constant stream of data that leverage next-generation technology platforms including mobile, social, cloud, and analytics.

To provide true digital enablement and make the IoT a reality for their organizations, enterprises must focus on three key areas: business agility, seamless CX, and data privacy and security.

  • Business agility: Think of the enterprise — including the data center, the cloud, the internet, the IoT, and connected devices — as parts in a single, giant machine that can be tailored to each customer. To have true business agility, organizations must be able to operate and interpret data in real time. Is your organization ready to work that way?

  • Seamless CX: This level of connectivity and data intimacy can provide a strong foundation for improving CX by blurring the differences between products and services. The digitally enabled organization can leverage the IoT to make certain decisions locally, behind the scenes, effectively digitizing the physical world to affect the customer experience.

  • Data privacy and security: Of course, with such intimacy comes the need for more policy-based processes. There will be a blurring of the lines between both individual or customer data privacy and overall infrastructure security. This requires strategies and governance ahead of activities.

I expect that IT organizations will see challenges as Shadow IT passes into The Fog. As your internal and external customers embrace cloud-based tools today to help them accelerate their transformation to deliver better capabilities, products and services through digitization, they will soon do the same with IoT. In both cases, today’s IT organization must be prepared to provide guidance, if not control. In the service-defined, digitally enabled enterprise, IT resources will need to be provisioned with speed, and systems will need to be proactively monitored to maintain user experience. It will be the job of IT to shine the flashlight into the fog at the edge of the cloud and guide users as they move forward.