The relative immaturity of IoT drives a conversation focused more on enabling parts of the ecosystem rather than commercial benefits. In a lot of ways, it’s like the PC business of years past; selling on “speeds and feeds” rather than focusing on solving business challenges that can be solved by IoT technology.
Based on lessons learned from hundreds of IoT projects, from Fortune 100 companies to startups, there are seven essential IoT actions that determine success. This is by no means a comprehensive list, rather a guide for businesses leaders in which they can learn from the experiences of others.
1. Define the business problem. It is rare for everyone to completely align on a business objective. This one, but challenging task, can dictate the focus and outcome of a project. Whether it is cost reduction, revenue generation, or regulatory compliance, ensuring that everyone has agreed on goals and what the project focus is important. This will provide a valuable starting point for determining goals, objectives and approach.
2. Make data a priority. New data from IoT devices is critical, but data from business operations and partners is equally valuable. IBM states 90% of all data has been created in the last two years. However, most IoT data is not used. For example, on an oil rig with 30,000 sensors, only 1 percent of data is analyzed. The data is likely used to detect and control variances and not for optimization and prediction, which could provide greater value.
3. Design the minimum viable product (MVP). It is great to think big, but businesses need to start with the smallest IoT project possible. IoT projects can be complicated, they have quite a few pieces. It’s crucial that business leaders become familiar with the various pieces and processes that IoT has to offer before a project is fully rolled out.
Eric Ries’ definitive book, The Lean Startup, explains the concept and execution of a minimum viable product (MVP) well. The larger the company, the more tempting it is to start with a large IoT project. By focusing on MVP, leaders can receive fast feedback, laying the groundwork to move quickly and with validation.
4. Treat technology as an enabler. Who do business leaders call first when starting an IoT project? Is it a semiconductor company, module maker, device maker, operator, systems integrator? Whomever they start with, I can guarantee they have a strong point of view on the technology that should be used. Instead, it’s more productive to begin an IoT project by selecting technologies based on the specific use case and business problem. Companies should be wary of building an IoT solution around one part of the technology ecosystem.
5. Exercise “urgent patience”. Urgency and frustration can be a recipe for a disaster; patience is critical in an IoT project. IoT solutions require a lot of problem solving to reach a deployable state. Radical project changes made as the result of frustration often delay deployments. Managing expectations with all concerned parties is vital to delivering a completed and timely project.
6. Bring your friends and make new ones. No man is an island, and the same logic applies to companies deploying IoT solutions. Most businesses do not have the expertise to quickly evaluate and execute on all the different components of the IoT solution stack. Stick to what you’re good at, and for the rest, hire the experts. You will actually save money and move much faster.
7. Be vigilant. After companies dive into an IoT proof of concept and move to the trial phase, they typically become much more careful about the results. Why? Because the business value is so strong that they now have a distinct competitive advantage. The message here is move fast with confidence, but be aware that your competitors are constantly looking to sharpen their competitive edge against you.
IoT deployments are at the cross section of entrepreneurship and innovation, inevitably leading to business opportunity. Gartner, recently found that businesses will represent 57% of overall IoT spending in 2017, up from $847 billion in 2016 to $964 billion in 2017. Business that successfully deploy IoT solutions will experience incredible cost savings, additional revenue streams and, a much deeper level of customer intimacy.
The wave of data enabled by IoT deployments will wash away those who ignore it, and it will strengthen the companies that embrace it.
Allen Proithis is President, Sigfox, North America