Break out of IoT proof-of-concept purgatory

Businesses are spending $745 billion worldwide on IoT hardware and software in 2019 alone. Yet, three out of every four IoT implementations are failing. Why?

One big reason: Leaders are failing to go all in.

To make IoT successful, you need to transform not just some hardware and software, but the way your business works. These dynamic deployments require an entirely new approach, far beyond the traditional push to get new business applications off the page and into production.

If the right steps aren’t taken in the beginning, say you don’t think far enough beyond the IT infrastructure, you end up in limbo: caught between the dream of what IoT could do for your business and the reality of today’s ROI. That spot is called proof-of-concept (POC) purgatory.

Sound familiar? Here are five signs you might be in IoT POC purgatory — and tips on how to escape it.

1. You have a lot of data … and not much else

There’s no surer sign of POC purgatory than an IoT technology that produces only dashboards. Making data visible is an effort in futility if you aren’t applying AI to make it smart — to truly drive insights in your organization. To do this, though, you need a clear and well-communicated business objective from the earliest stages of your IoT project.

That objective — whether it’s operational efficiency, better customer service or bottom-line revenue generation — allows you to use the right technology to develop actionable insights from your data. That’s when a mixture of cloud, customer, employee, public and real-time data sitting in a repository meets the analytics that point to actions that can change your business.

Without a clear business objective, the lights of IoT might be on, but no one is truly home.

2. You keep getting pushback from unexpected places

All the new technologies within IoT mean one thing: people — and lots of them.

It’s surprising how many stakeholders come out of the woodwork along the path to implementation. These stakeholders can include project managers, system integrators, operations specialists, installers and business stakeholders from HR, marketing, sales or customer service — all of whom will have questions, comments and critiques.

Of course, looping in all areas of the business is crucial to get a proof of concept going. To keep that momentum up and avoid proof-of-concept purgatory, however, you need solid change management plans that push IoT into your business. Customizing communications to each stakeholder group will ensure they understand exactly what’s in it for them when your implementation succeeds.

3. Your teams aren’t speaking the same language

Once you have the right people in the game, you have to make sure everyone is working off the same playbook.

For example, IT and operational technology (OT) teams have long had their separate realms to play in. This siloed approach stands in the way of not only a smooth deployment, but also a scalable one as additional features get added and the system matures. IoT requires the skills of both teams to succeed. Not only do these teams need to work together, they also need to trust each other. IT professionals need to trust OT devices to connect to their carefully constructed networks, while OT leaders need to feel comfortable with a new security stack interacting with their hardware.

This collaboration is just the start of the people challenge: It can take up to 10 partners to get an IoT system to market, not including your internal stakeholders, so it’s crucial that everyone’s moving in lockstep.

4. You can’t get the CEO on board

Big initiatives take big support. Frequently, we see businesses get stuck when line of business managers love the idea, but can’t get the C-suite to sign on the dotted line and put it into production. Here’s where pilots drag on and leaders become disillusioned with the project.

To avoid spinning your wheels here, it’s crucial to ensure that all the appropriate C-suite stakeholders, up to and including the CEO, understand what your IoT deployment will give to the business.

Construct a simple product roadmap that takes busy business leaders from robotic arms and sensors to factory floor insights to what really matters: dollars-and-cents impact on the bottom line.

5. You want to be in IoT, but you don’t know why

A good use case is like a lighthouse. With it, it’s easy to keep the boat steered in the right direction. Without it, it’s easy to get lost. Often, business leaders read articles about the opportunity and know only that they need to jump into a boat. But everything above — the alignment of teams, the insights driven from data and operationalizing of the system — is driven by one major thing: the use case.

Lack of an apparent use case is by far the most common reason why people are in POC purgatory. Considering IoT implementations can take a year or more to get off the ground, it is mission-critical to have clarity on what the deployment is trying to achieve from the very start.

If this sounds like you, there’s a way out. Go all in. Align around your use case first. Align your in-house capabilities and external collaboration around the technologies best suited for your objective. Align your data intelligence to ensure it is delivering insights that transform your business. Align your employees around the business transformation you are trying to complete — and retrain and reskill them continuously as the system evolves.

When you align internal stakeholders to the business objective and ensure that any external partner is functioning as an extension of your team, you can truly go from stuck in purgatory to full production and tangible payoff for your business.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

Data Center
Data Management