Closer IT and engineering collaboration: beyond the message from CES 2014

Although many of the countless, specific applications announced at CES 2014 won’t take off, there was a dominant theme to this year’s show, and that was that Internet-connected devices from home automation to the connected car and wearable sensors and cameras have arrived and are gaining traction.

Some implications for IT are clear, as big data will evolve to gargantuan data, and more intelligent networks will be required to handle the complexity and volume of traffic. The consumer applications are vast, as are the commercial and industrial ones. Cisco CEO John Chambers spoke at CES to the demands that he hopes will spur a new generation of growth for the dominant networking firm.

The implications for corporate IT

Corporate IT networks and processing need to be hardened, expanded, and advanced in capability to handle the new demands. Many corporate products, services and processes will be affected at some level within the next five years—which means that much product development and engineering will involve IT planning and design..

This trend will hasten and intensify the need for corporate IT and engineering to be more closely coupled  from planning through production and product support. The use of IT outsourcing will likely encompass more, integrated outsourcing of engineering design teams. Engineering will rely more upon IT network integration, and IT networks will require more engineering into the physical and logical aspects of products and production systems.

A role for integrated engineering and IT outsourcing

Outsourcers such as India-based HCL Technologies have been investing for a number of years in integrated IT and engineering services; and they have built teams of engineers and IT specialists in lower-cost, offshore locations in India and APAC that are specialized within specific industries.

Among the implications are the following:

  • All firms will need to more closely coordinate their product planning and engineering functions with their corporate IT.
  • More IT outsourcers will add or integrate with engineering expertise in order to provide seamless systems development and, ultimately, maintenance services.
  • U.S.-based firms will face more competitors that rely on offshore engineering, thus putting pressure on the cost and agility with which they are able to integrate IT and engineering for an increasing number of products and processes.
  • The flexibility of emerging software-defined network (SDN) technology, which enables easier updating of network resources, will in some cases provide an advantage in adapting to support new devices and services.
  • Firms that keep both engineering and integrated engineering and IT processes in-house, will need to leverage the other advantages to be gained from the close interdepartmental cooperation (e.g., with manufacturing, sales and services) that is possible with an onshore approach.

The CES spotlight may not have shone on enterprise engineering departments directly, but attention should be paid to the new IT, engineering, and organizational challenges to support a dramatic increasr in the number of Internet-connected devices for consumer, commercial, and industrial functions.