How IoT is Shaping ITSM Strategies

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In many ways, the Internet of Things (IoT) and IT Service Management (ITSM) are natural allies. IoT devices provide data-backed insights that provide more efficient IT service delivery, and ITSM helps address issues at the device level quickly and effectively. However, ITSM strategies must adjust to accommodate new risks and challenges associated with IoT. For organizations that are considering IoT or have already started leveraging this technology, it’s important to understand how doing so will impact ITSM strategies.

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IoT Collects More Data for ITSM Strategies

The volume of data that IoT devices collect is simultaneously one of the biggest benefits and risks for businesses. The more interconnected IoT devices a business uses, the more data the business has to contend with. In most cases, this is a good thing. More data, as long as it’s high quality, means businesses have more opportunities to automate processes, make data-driven decisions, and operate more efficiently. These are all critical elements of a successful ITSM strategy.

As Haroon Sethi, CEO & Founder at Proqura, puts it, “IoT allows numerous devices and appliances to connect with each other through technology. This leads to companies being better able to design, plan, and implement IT services.” 

However, more data isn’t always better. An increase in data often leads to a higher volume of detected security incidents because each IoT device’s configuration is susceptible to small bugs that can impact their ability to function properly. The more devices involved in an organization’s ITSM strategy, the harder it can be to manage false alarms and identify a credible threat. 

To make matters worse, hackers can use this vulnerability to their advantage. If they can identify the weaker devices that might have a configuration error, they can flood that device with false data to manipulate the information they subsequently send to other devices. After very little time, this could spell disaster for the organization’s entire infrastructure.

For this reason, an organization’s ITSM strategy should prioritize data quality over quantity. Effective monitoring tools will be able to keep a laser focus on patterns in the IoT devices’ log metrics data and sound an alarm before any anomaly escalates to a larger threat. This will help keep ITSM systems running with minimal disruptions while also collecting valuable data that moves the business forward.

IoT Adds Complexity to Change Management

In the age of digital transformation, there’s no question that organizations are evolving at a breakneck pace. Each new device and application that a business adopts adds a layer of complexity to an already intricate web of configuration items. Additionally, businesses often need to make configuration changes that will adjust the systems in place to align with new business initiatives or changing requirements.

Ryan Fyfe, COO of Workpuls, explains this further: “While traditional hardware platforms were typically dedicated to specific applications, IoT devices are often shared across many different needs. A diverse mix of operating systems, protocols, and standards produces high degrees of variation in these heterogeneous environments that IT organizations must now manage as part of the same cluster.”

If a system-wide change causes even a small configuration issue, it could have major implications for the business as a whole. An ITSM strategy must maintain enough agility to make necessary configuration changes while still preserving the system’s security posture.

One challenge businesses often face with this requirement is visibility. If an organization can’t see how various configuration items depend on each other, there’s no way to accurately prepare for the impact a proposed change will have. Even if the visibility is there, though, there’s often not enough manpower to adjust configurations quickly, which can lead to downtime and delays. 

A thorough IT change management strategy with supporting tools can help alleviate some of the burden that comes with managing IoT from an ITSM perspective. Whether the changes a business wants to make are big or small, a change management database (CMDB) can make it easy to identify the impact it will have and make adjustments where necessary.

Related: A Three-Step Plan for Successful Change Management

ITSM is No Longer Centralized

Perhaps the biggest impact that IoT has on ITSM is that it decentralizes operations. Instead of managing IT services through a few core channels, IoT makes it possible to perform monitoring, diagnostic, and performance optimization functions at the device level. This helps prevent service bottlenecks, slow emergency response times, and in extreme cases, costly downtimes. This approach to ITSM also makes it easier to prevent service issues from happening in the first place.

Furthermore, IoT enables a business to deliver continuous and automated IT services by addressing IT service issues exactly where they’re happening. With the appropriate controls in place, an organization can create workflows and processes that eliminate manual, repetitive tasks. Then, IT staff can shift priorities to bigger-picture challenges instead of spending a large portion of their time on routine maintenance.

Of course, IoT doesn’t remove all centralized components of ITSM — quite the opposite, in fact. “Through IoT,” Sethi explains, “firms can combine data from multiple sources and devices such as smartphones, laptops, and cloud computing, and move it to a centralized, safe location. In case of disasters, companies can rest assured in the knowledge that all their vital information is kept in a safe location.” 

A decentralized ITSM strategy can blur the lines between IT and other departments, but in many ways, that’s the point. IoT devices can span a range of various business functions, and ITSM should adapt to meet new needs and challenges accordingly. Otherwise, adopting IoT can create gaps in IT service that can have drastic consequences. In effect, IoT makes ITSM more efficient by simplifying service delivery and ensuring there are no service gaps.

IoT Creates a Broader Cybersecurity Landscape

As a byproduct of a decentralized ITSM strategy, IoT also forces IT departments to confront a broader security landscape than organizations have ever had to deal with directly before. IoT devices can help enhance security,but they also require a great deal of special attention from a cybersecurity perspective as well. This give-and-take relationship is a critical consideration organizations must include in an ITSM strategy when adopting IoT.

For example, IoT devices can help businesses with proactive endpoint detection and response (EDR), as long as the data is reliable. ITSM strategies can use IoT data to detect anomalies early and eliminate potential threats rather than waiting for a report after an incident has already occured. However, reliability is the operative word. IoT devices are only useful if the information they provide can be trusted. 

For this reason, a business must adopt advanced edge security tools as part of the ITSM strategy to extend necessary protections to IoT devices. The more devices a business uses, the easier it is for a hacker to use those devices to manipulate the business’s data. Traditional security tools like firewalls and antivirus software aren’t enough to combat sophisticated attacks. Instead, a business that is starting to adopt IoT devices must employ zero trust and privileged access management (PAM) tools to secure the business’s perimeter.

Additionally, a broader cybersecurity landscape means businesses cannot afford to treat cybersecurity as an afterthought. By the time an IoT device has been compromised, it’s often too late to do anything but damage control unless cybersecurity is woven into the business’s ITSM strategy. Organizations shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking of all the benefits IoT devices can bring without also considering — and addressing — the risks they can create.

Related: Edge Computing Emerges as Next Big Cybersecurity Challenge

ITSM and IoT: A Match Made in Data-driven Heaven

For data-driven enterprises, IoT seems like the next natural evolution of ITSM. These kinds of devices can collect data in unprecedented ways, which makes delivering IT services more efficient and impactful. However, there are many risks organizations should bear in mind before adopting a slew of IoT devices. With the right measures in place, IoT can revolutionize a business’s ITSM strategy.

Read next: Top ITSM Tools & Software for 2021

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