#ThrowbackThursday: The Birth of the "Intelligent Enterprise"

A Look Back at Zebra's First Innovation Symposium with Government, Industry and Academia

A snapshot of the 2018 Intelligent Enterprise Index results
by Therese Van Ryne
March 21, 2019

The fall of 2016 was a pivotal time for global industries. The term “digital transformation” was itself transforming from a buzzword to a business mandate worldwide, “smart” technologies were being added to roadmaps across public and private sectors, and the word “data” was becoming central to nearly every business decision and every technology investment.

Yet many companies were struggling to move the needle forward. They had a wealth of data at their disposal, but no singular way to access, analyze and then apply it in a simple manner. Despite the plethora of advanced technologies now on the market, the recommendations on which platforms were best suited for certain industries or applications were often conflicting. And no organization could afford to take a trial-and-error approach; that would be disruptive, distracting and expensive. Suddenly, competitors needed to collaborate and seemingly dissimilar industries needed to cross-innovate in a way that would drive mutually-beneficial progress toward proving the value and viability of everything from artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality (AR) for different business applications and environments. First and foremost, though, they needed to understand how the convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility and cloud computing would impact a new operational paradigm referred to as “The Intelligent Enterprise.”

After all, “the concept of ‘The Intelligent Enterprise’ is about making businesses as smart and connected as the world around us,” as Zebra CTO Tom Bianculli explains. Investing in more advanced and complex technology systems without first laying the appropriate groundwork (IoT, mobility, cloud computing) to facilitate innovation would likely be wasteful and frustrating.

Huddling Together at Harvard

In September 2016, a diverse set of leaders from government, academia and industry convened at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University (TECH) for a Strategic Innovation Symposium. The theme: The Intelligent Enterprise. The goal: to develop a list of criteria that define today’s Intelligent Enterprise. The result: the birth of the Intelligent Enterprise Index.

A list of the criteria used to define an Intelligent Enterprise

Tracking the Maturation of “The Intelligent Enterprise”

For two days, representatives from GE, Target, Whirlpool, Zebra Technologies, Google, IBM, Accenture, NFL, City of Boston, MIT and Harvard, as well as many other leading companies participated in a series of intensive sessions to explore the many different ways that the concept of “The Intelligent Enterprise” could be harnessed to drive business success and benefit society. But we needed a way to monitor and measure the outcomes of those discussions.

In 2017, Zebra conducted a baseline survey of companies spanning healthcare, manufacturing, retail and transportation and logistics to conceptionally understand where companies are on the path to becoming an Intelligent Enterprise. In total, 908 IT decision makers from nine countries were interviewed, including the U.S., U.K./Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, and Australia/New Zealand. The inaugural “Intelligent Enterprise Index” released in November 2017 revealed that forty-eight percent were on the path to becoming intelligent enterprises:

- IoT vision was strong and investment was set to increase.

- Customer experience was driving IoT.

- Business engagement was top of mind, but culture needed to be given more consideration.

- Many companies were lacking an adoption plan to combat resistance to their IoT solutions.

- Companies were keeping employees informed of their innovation, but there was room for more communication.

Fast forward a year, and the number of companies defined as an “intelligent enterprise” had doubled to 10 percent. The 2018 Intelligent Enterprise Index also showed strong momentum among other global companies striving to achieve that top status:

- IoT investment was now up, and resistance to adoption was down.

- Enterprises were increasingly driving a performance edge with real-time guidance.

- Security had become a top priority across the enterprise.

- Companies started to demonstrate a greater reliance on a solution ecosystem.

Though we’ll have to wait a few more months to re-assess the impact of continued IoT-based innovation, it is clear that those two days at Harvard in 2016 were vital to jump-starting the impressive progress we’re making today toward the creation of a new global “Intelligent Enterprise” standard. 

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Therese Van Ryne
Therese Van Ryne is Global Director of PR, Thought Leadership and Advocacy for Zebra Technologies. One of PR News’ 2019 Top Women in PR, Therese also has experience as a journalist, editor and producer, reporting nightly from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
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