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The original SMART system was designed in the 1990s to help computer users avoid unexpected hard drive crashes. In the subsequent decades, this idea of “Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology” has flourished and expanded far beyond the 1s and 0s on magnetic platters. The concept — and lowercase version of the name — is now applied to everything from coffeemakers to buildings to sustainability efforts.

Smart devices have assimilated easily into consumers’ lives, but enterprises often labor to integrate this approach into organizational processes and practices. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and machine learning, make smart devices and systems even more powerful and effective. The complexity hampers organizational efforts to become the smart enterprises needed to compete and succeed long-term. However, best practices have been developed to help tame the complexity. 

1. Establish guiding principles

Enterprises risk wandering aimlessly if they don’t create a map to guide them in the right direction. This step is particularly critical to smart technologies since they rely heavily on interconnectedness. One wrong turn can throw you completely off course.

An organization’s guiding principles must include:

Construction —Incorporate sustainability in every step of the process; prioritize efficiency in all areas; secure the users’ needs; adapt to changing preferences; and engage with the user and community in a meaningful way.

Technology — Secure and protect all entry points through advanced cybersecurity; learn from data to anticipate the needs of users and facilities, and ensure accessibility and interoperability throughout the organization.

Experience — Create inclusive persona experiences for all affected stakeholders, from employees to customers to executives to communities; personalize user experiences; remove user friction and barriers; and develop an environment conducive to productivity.

2. Take a systems design approach

A new model is needed to solve complex problems like sustainability, which considers the multiple systems where a problem exists. Systems design allows you to solve actual problems rather than temporarily relieve symptoms. Enterprises can deconstruct problems into their constituent elements. Large, seemingly unmanageable problems are converted into a series of more manageable ones. Frameworks then help sort through the tangle of interactions that influence how the entire system operates.

In this case, organizations look holistically at the systems, processes, and personas that need to be addressed — rather than focusing on individual systems or use cases. Applied systems design takes into account interfaces, architecture, and data points based on problem type and context.

Ultimately, this approach will result in practical solutions that will be accepted by the users and society as a whole.

3. Prioritize privacy

The principles of privacy by design allow organizations to move beyond existing policies and regulations. In this approach, privacy is a core consideration during the design and architecture stages for all business processes, applications, products, and technologies. This is particularly critical in increasingly interconnected systems.

Privacy by design embraces a variety of concepts, including:

  • Privacy — Make this the default mode.
  • Functionality and data privacy — Value both equally.
  • End-to-end security — Incorporate across the information life cycle.
  • Transparency and visibility —Provide to all stakeholders.

4. Define and enforce clear security guidelines

Much like privacy, security must be considered at all stages to ensure there is user trust. Security by design offers a way to develop clear guidelines. 

Identity services are needed to authenticate users in a centralized or federated model. These foundational services must cover key stakeholders — employees, customers, partners — and offer anytime, anywhere flexibility.

Zero trust architecture is needed to fill gaps in traditional perimeter-based security, which was not designed with today’s hybrid cloud and edge systems in mind. This approach allows an enterprise to apply security controls and checks across all architectural layers and interactions.

Multi-cloud and data security require different tools and strategies. Enterprises can benefit from autonomous techniques that will maximize security as code, policy as code, and monitoring as code.

5. Adopt a micro-change strategy 

Enterprises often struggle with change because the barriers are too high — or at least they appear that way. However, more Agile approaches make greater progress than if you tried to climb a mountain in a single leap. A series of small, irreversible changes can generate compound effects and deliver exponential results.

Long-term goals are divided into achievable waypoints, with employees incentivized by nudges rather than shoves. Each success builds on the other. Barriers to change management start to fall.

This philosophy is critical for smart technology and sustainability efforts. The rapidly evolving nature of the technology, such as AI, IoT, and cloud, lend themselves to smaller and more frequent advances. In addition, sustainability goals tend to be long-term, with many intermediate steps in-between.

This strategy can also counteract common change management problems, in which employee angst and resistance undercut potentially effective plans.

Corey Glickman is Infosys’ head of Global Sustainability and Design Consulting Services.

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