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Best practices for strong IoT design SLAs

Companies that hire designers to develop their IoT systems should shop around first and ensure that they have strong and comprehensive SLAs.

IoT design carries complicated security, regulatory and technical considerations. Many companies hire other firms on a contract basis to help them design the best systems for their needs, which can lend overworked or underexperienced firms the talent and knowledge of IoT experts.

As beneficial as working with an IoT design firm can be, it's not always the best option for everyone. Here are a few situations where it's best to work with professionals instead of designing IoT systems in-house.

Reasons to consult an IoT designer

Lack of expertise. One of the most common reasons to turn to an IoT designer is if a company doesn't have the necessary expertise. IoT systems are complicated, and even businesses that understand their potential may not know how to design them effectively.

System downtime can cost millions of dollars per year, and IoT systems have unique security and network needs that companies may not be used to dealing with. They're taking a risk if they're not confident they can design a reliable IoT network on their own. It's best to turn to outside design firms in these situations.

Time and budget constraints. Some businesses may have the proper expertise but not the time or money. Getting the necessary resources together and putting in the work to design an IoT system can be expensive, even if it saves money in the long run. It may be less expensive to turn to an IoT design partner who already has the tools required.

Similarly, outsourcing design is likely the better option if a company doesn't have much time on its hands. It's easy for tech projects to run over budget and behind schedule, and turning to professionals helps avoid that.

Compliance concerns. Another reason to use an IoT design firm over designing in-house is if companies face strict regulations. Some industries carry specific and often complex technology and data laws that could affect their IoT systems. Failing to meet these regulations could result in hefty fines.

Third-party firms can help comply with unique requirements for government contractors or other companies that face strict regulations. If navigating these laws is a concern, businesses should work with the designer to ensure that compliance is part of their service-level agreement (SLA).

How to secure the best IoT design SLA

Outsourcing IoT design to another firm is only as effective as the SLA between the two parties. Here's how businesses can ensure strong SLAs for their IoT projects.

Be upfront and specific about needs. Companies must review and write out their needs. That includes their budget, regulatory considerations, time frame, goals, security needs and devices they want to implement. It's important to be as specific and detailed as possible. Posting these specifications upfront can help designers offer optimal designs with minimal negotiating. Remember that most IoT projects go over budget and take longer than companies expect. Consequently, it's best to allot more time and money than initially planned. Reviewing similar projects from other companies can help organizations estimate these needs accurately.

Review design firms before reaching out. Companies with a detailed, specific list of needs and goals can begin searching for IoT design firms. It helps to review the options and narrow the list down to a few potential partners before reaching out to them. IoT is growing quickly and many IoT design contractors have different levels of experience in various industries. Businesses should look for partners with expertise in their sector with many positive reviews. Deep portfolios, security certifications and transparency about standards are other factors to look for.

Get and compare multiple proposals. Next, businesses should contact IoT design firms on their shortlist. It's best to get quotes or proposals from multiple designers instead of choosing one immediately. That way, companies can compare potential SLAs to find the best option. Ideally, companies should meet with five to 10 firms before deciding. Design businesses will likely develop various approaches, and unexpected or overlooked options can sometimes be the most effective. Getting multiple proposals to compare helps find these ideal paths forward.

Review before signing. The ideal partner will hopefully emerge after comparing proposals and quotes. However, that doesn't mean businesses should necessarily accept the first offer from the firm they decide to partner with. Companies must review their SLAs before signing, as with any legal agreement. Involve all stakeholders, including legal counsel, in these decisions. The SLA's first draft may miss important needs or run over budget; it's better to spend more time reviewing these contracts than implementing them to subpar results. Thankfully, these negotiations shouldn't take long if companies follow the previous three steps.

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