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Four ways to ensure IoT success

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Three out of four IoT projects are considered a failure, according to Cisco. This is troubling but even more so when Cisco also found 61 per cent of companies say they believe they’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of IoT can do for their business? Businesses believe in the long-term value offered by integrating IoT into their business plan, however, they lack the knowledge of what is required to ensure the success of such a complex project.

By studying past failed projects, technology leaders can gain a better understanding of why they failed and what they can do differently when evaluating and undertaking new IoT initiatives.

  • They are too time-consuming: Traditional IT projects run long because there is a poorly defined scope, immature technology, scope creep, or poor project management. IoT projects often suffer the same fate but have the added complexity of device firmware thrown into the mix.
  • Questionable data quality: Low-quality or irrelevant data can create false alerts or incorrect product levels being reported. This is important because faulty or non-sensical business insights can cause distrust in these innovate integrations from key stakeholders.
  • IoT integrations are underestimated: Companies make the decision to add IoT because their customers (or the market in general) calls for an IoT solution. These types of pilot programs often wind up misaligned to the overall corporate strategy and struggle to validate organisation’s investment in them.
  • Costs go beyond the budget: IoT projects have so many outliers and there are so many new technologies being brought to bear, costs often exceed initial estimates significantly.

Costs go beyond the budget: IoT projects have so many outliers and there are so many new technologies being brought to bear, costs often exceed initial estimates significantly.

Focus on outcomes

It seems obvious but all successful IoT projects have a clearly defined outcome. The simple question of, “Why are we doing IoT?,” is the most important question technology leaders must ask themselves before beginning an implementation. It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of technology and jump on the IoT bandwagon without truly considering whether IoT is the proper solution for a business problem.

Companies need to prioritise setting goals that align with their overall business objectives to establish a clear finish line that supports those objectives. There is no success in disrupting workflow for the sake of an IoT project that does not aid in moving the business forward. IoT should be solving issues employees care about, such as using data automation to reduce administrative tasks or productivity assessments that efficiently identify valuable workers. Whatever your IoT project is centred around, you need to know what you are working toward and, more importantly, who will benefit from the implementation. Taking the initiative to clearly set measurable goals will assist in ensuring success.

Less is more…at first

Even a basic IoT system involves a lot of moving parts. Doing one or two things really well that add value is worth tenfold of what 50 features, that cannot compute properly, can provide. Keep it simple. Many businesses find it hard to resist suggestions that “boost” the innovation of an IoT project, but end up overcomplicating things. Tech leaders’ initial goal should always be implementing successful infrastructure that aids the organisation’s business goals. In these scenarios, quality surpasses quantity every time.

However, this does not mean that pragmatism must rule organisations’ IoT strategy. Identifying new ways to improve business processes or uncover meaningful business insights is easier to do on an existing system than starting from scratch every time. Starting small enables businesses to gain familiarity with IoT and its quirks before trying to execute a more ambitious initiative.

Create internal buy-in

Change is a constant in our lives, yet it is often met with resistance in the workplace. The majority of workers are hesitant to change established workflows because they worry it will make them less productive. IoT projects, in particular, encounter this type of resistance because it often forces businesses to make significant changes in their policies, business models, target customers, partners, product development, how you deliver products, or even how employees are managed. Getting workers to understand the long-term significance of inviting the momentary disruption of IoT is critical to success.

Buy-in isn’t as difficult to achieve as many tech leaders believe. More often than not, it’s all about creating effective two-way communications around the project. Businesses that solicit feedback on major productivity inhibitors, educate workers on why IoT is the right choice to solve it, and then train their staff on how to use the technology set themselves up for success. IT and innovation departments that aren’t aligned with their workforce’s needs will have a difficult time identifying IoT projects that will deliver lasting value.

Be adaptable

IoT is about continual improvement and constantly challenging the status quo. At the root of adaptability lies the ability to admit failures and mistakes. Failure is not the be-all-end-all. It is impossible to avoid letdowns at the micro level but embracing these small failures can spark creativity and deliver a better solution. IoT will require you to accept something you tried didn’t work, to learn from this failure, iterate and try again. Small failures and quick iterations, help prevent major failures from plaguing organisations’ projects as they near the finish line. Businesses shouldn’t try to convince themselves that mistakes will correct themselves and not make any course corrections. The sooner issues are accepted and dealt with, the sooner the IoT project can contribute value to the business.

There is no doubt that IoT is transforming our world but the data shows that technology leaders are having difficulty seeing exactly how it effects their business. With the majority of current IoT projects considered failures, it’s critical for IT teams to turn the tide by going back to basics. Clearly define the IoT project’s goals, take a pragmatic approach, get your team engaged, and prepare for roadblocks.

Michael Sack, CEO/founder, TeraCode

Michael Sack, CEO/founder of TeraCode, has 20+ years of IoT Architecture and Applications design experience. Michael works with clients solving complex problems, finding innovative ways to apply technology within enterprises.