How do we manage and analyze all of this product data?
Because of the growing volume, complexity, and strategic importance of data, it is no longer desirable or even feasible for each function to manage data by itself, build its own data analytics capability, or handle its own data security. To get the most out of the new data resources, many companies are creating dedicated data groups that consolidate data collection, aggregation, and analytics, and are responsible for making data and insights available across functions and business units.
How do we collaborate with product development?
With the development of smart, connected products, IT must assume a more central role. Yet the two functions have little history of collaboration on product development—and in some organizations have a history of animosity. Various organizational models for this new relationship are emerging. Some companies are embedding IT teams within R&D departments. Others are establishing cross-functional product-design teams that include IT representation while maintaining separate reporting lines.
Do we have the right skills in house?
Traditionally, R&D created products, while IT was primarily concerned with companywide computing infrastructure and managing the software tools the functional groups used, such as computer-aided design, enterprise resource planning, and customer relationship management. With the development of smart, connected products, however, IT must assume a more central role to support the software-based technologies, communications infrastructure, and data analytics capabilities that smart, connected products require.
What about security?
Until recently, IT departments in manufacturing companies have been largely responsible for safeguarding firms' data centers, business systems, computers, and networks. With the advent of smart, connected devices, the game changes dramatically. The job of ensuring IT security now cuts across all functions. However, the IT function will continue to play a central role in identifying and implementing best practices for data and network security.
How have others made the transition successfully?
At Thermo Fisher Scientific, a scientific instrument leader, members of the IT department work directly inside R&D, with a dotted-line reporting structure and shared goals. This has improved Thermo Fisher's effectiveness at defining and building the product cloud; securely capturing, analyzing, and storing product data; and distributing data both internally and to customers.