Making the Right Connections Opens New Doors to Digital Business Success

The digital transformation of business isn’t just about the connection of things, though those connections are certainly important.  Industrial or IT automation can take many forms, whether it’s connections between people, the connections between people and things or, perhaps most importantly, the processes that that enable connections of all kinds to happen quickly and intelligently. Without order, digital business transformation runs the risk of becoming digital chaos.   What’s most essential in every case is creating the desired business outcome.

Hyper-Distribution: Billions of Connections Shouldn’t Mean Billions of Headaches

But connecting all these things isn’t easy.  50 billion things are projected to be connected to the Internet by 2020. Along with this hyper-distribution of things also comes the hyper-distribution of data.  No longer is data only found in large centralized warehouses – it is being dynamically captured and acted upon at the edge of the network to respond to events in real time.

Organizations are struggling with the management of business processes in this expanding, hyperconnected world. Value chains are increasingly global, yet the decisions that need to be made are becoming increasingly local — and they need to be made in real-time.  Hyper-distribution is fragmenting traditional business processes. Dealing with this growing complexity was identified as the number one IoT management challenge in a 2014 business study.

Not surprisingly, companies are being forced to re-imagine their processes and many are turning to software to turn what is being imagined into business reality.  And they are calling upon new forms of automation and analytics to do it. Real business transformation will only occur when things connect with both people and process to turn information into actionable intelligence.  Automation facilitates the new connections.  Analysis gives the connections new meaning. Da Vinci instructs us, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Finding ways to make the increasingly complex world of hyperconnectivity both simple to understand and simple to implement is the ultimate challenge for the networking industry.

What do I mean by hyper-distributed business process? Let’s take a look at automobile manufacturing, for example. A typical global manufacturer has hundreds of factories, thousands of dealers, tens of thousands of partners, and millions of vehicles on the road. It is imperative to share systems and data across all of these participants in its value chain.

MalaAnandDigitalBusinessBLogPicThe Auto Industry Chooses a New Road into the Future

Cisco is privileged to work with many of the world’s leading auto companies as our customers. One of them has a supply chain with 45,000 partners that relies upon 500 different applications accessed by 500,000 users. Despite the magnitude of the customer’s supply chain, sharing information was heavily dependent on email and spreadsheets.  As a result, processes were slow, information was inaccurate and data was vulnerable to security risks — all of which ultimately impacted manufacturing delivery times and product quality. Simple things such as sharing CAD documents with their OEM partners to ensure correct, up-to-date specifications were laborious. And when necessary to share data with partners concerning inventory and warranty information, spreadsheets and large files were the norm. Put simply, the manufacturer needed to find a way forward to the future – and fast.

This is where the Cisco Connected Processes Platforms entered the scene.  The Platform is the technology cornerstone for connecting business and IT processes and automating them. For example, the Cisco Service Exchange Platform (SXP) focuses on connecting business and IT processes.

With the spike in the volume of distributed intelligent endpoints such as applications, machines, or people, each endpoint becomes an enabler for a next generation process that connects to existing enterprise systems and applications. Cisco SXP enables secure interactions between end-points that generate data that can then be quickly analysed and acted upon.  SXP virtually consolidates different end-points into a single, unified environment. It connects people to people, people to machines, machines to machines, and machines to business process. This provides information access for end users across multiple platforms and ties everything together. It doesn’t matter where the data came from, in what format it originated, the communication protocols used to transmit it, or what system was used to create it. And when the connections are automated in the right way, the data that flows between the connections can be analyzed faster and more insightfully, while the end-user experience is changed for the better. Analytics help fuel the automation, allowing better and better business decisions over time for continuous process improvements.

To meet the new demands of digitization, SXP uses a cloud-based platform for exposing any asset as a business service, combining those services, and ensuring right governance of those assets.  These assets or services can range from shared or co-created applications to multi-party business processes or to IT centric business processes – any of them within an enterprise boundary or even spanning enterprise boundaries.

Making the Right Connections in the Right Way

The Cisco Connected Processes platforms facilitate hyper-distributed operations throughout an enterprise and partner ecosystem via the cloud. In turn, information architects, application developers and integration professionals can then deliver business processes and automation as a service from single or multi-sourced application, data or device environments, while also managing workflows and data more efficiently and effectively. For example, IT professionals can:

  • Quickly compose, test, and make code changes to services and systems
  • Compose new services and invite partners and/or suppliers in ecosystem to do the same
  • Align back office support with new processes, including billing, ordering, and inventory
  • Support internal business services such as Finance, energy controls and people
  • Provide integrated analytic insights to both IT and business units for faster, intelligent decision-making on the fly

Automated Processes Accelerate Auto Maker Agility

The advantages of this approach quickly became clear to the auto manufacturer in this example. Hyperconnectivity doesn’t have to cause hyperventilation. By connecting its suppliers through a cloud-based SaaS platform that provides secure, identity-based management access and data exchange, it is able to automate its business processes and provide a single, portal view with integrated analytics readily accessible across its entire supply chain by making all the right connections.  The boost in business agility provided by improved visibility for inventory, order and manufacturing status has solved the needs of 90% of the stakeholders in the chain, which includes OEMs, suppliers and partners.

Just as importantly, the Cisco Connected Processes platform can scale for the manufacturer’s future growth when fifteen data centers become fifteen hundred or when one thousand suppliers become tens of thousands. It’s imperative that the platform serve as the foundation for both today’s — and tomorrow’s — digital process requirements. Cisco Connected Processes make it possible by allowing enterprises to:

  • Manage access to applications and information for customers, partners, and suppliers
  • Dynamically connect identity systems in and outside of the enterprise
  • Provision applications faster and resolve problems quickly if they occur
  • Easily integrate with all ecosystem members

Put simply, our customers look to us to help them both make money and to save money by serving their own customers and markets better. We term this “delivering business outcomes.”  For many, like the auto maker profiled here, we’re helping lead their digital business transformation starting with connecting their processes.  Connecting their data for rich insights via Cisco Connected Analytics software and delivering digital experiences to their customers via Cisco Connected Experiences are close behind. What are the changes you foresee in your business process requirements when making the move toward becoming a true digital enterprise?


Mala Anand

No Longer with Cisco