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Six attributes an IoT consultant needs

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

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to have a huge impact on global technology usage throughout the coming years.

According to the Ericsson IoT forecast report, it’s predicted there will be around 29 billion connected devices by 2022 – 18 billion of which will be IoT-related.

And, although technology and adoption are still in the relative early stages, organisations are becoming more acutely aware of the opportunity that comes with harnessing vast amounts of data on such a scale.

Additionally, statistics from Vodafone’s sixth IoT Barometer document reveal that, in 2019, 34 per cent of businesses surveyed are now using IoT services – and 84 per cent of these adopters have increased confidence in the systems, compared to 12 months ago.

As 74 per cent of organisations believe companies who haven’t become IoT-agile will fall behind their competitors within five years’ time, can firms truly ignore its potential to dominate the tech sector? And what does that mean for specialist consultants who have the skillsets that these enterprises are now requiring, in order to keep up with the pace?

For the modern-day IoT-focused employee, they are not only expected to join enterprises boasting a myriad of sought-after attributes, to meet the ever-evolving needs of tech, they must also focus on the softer traits that aren’t always digitally focused. But what’s the perfect combination?

1.            Being swift with analytics

Having the ability to utilise machine learning enables leaders to interpret data quickly, in order to understand behavioural patterns of customers who are using their organisation’s products or services. With such insight at a leader’s fingertips, savvy consultants must be inquisitive and eager to delve deeper into this detail and become the key problem-solvers within their businesses. This activity will pave the way to create a new era of embedded intelligence – driving a firm’s competitive advantage forward.

A proactive, analytical mindset can help organisations be proactive to change within the tech sector because otherwise they risk being left behind, as competitors steal a march and deliver the solutions to a customer’s need.

2.            Utilising the strength of soft skills

As end-to-end IoT implementation inevitably involves many stakeholders, a savvy consultant must possess the ability to wear multiple hats and communicate with colleagues in a variety of ways. Whether taking the lead in small teams or briefing a colleague in detail on a one-to-one basis, having such strong interpersonal, agile skills can truly help power a collaborative ethos to run throughout the spine of a firm.

Additionally, someone who is empathetic towards a team member’s needs or those able to galvanise employees when the pressure is truly on, are traits which are becoming even more vital for tech leaders, in order to manage the intensive process that’s required – from developer phase all the way to the end user.

3.            Ability to think creatively

Understanding an individual’s user experience (UX) and user interface design (UI) skills are now incredibly in demand for tech-savvy individuals as a modern-day way of highlighting an innovative skillset that allows them to remain ahead of the curve – in line with the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Of course, many leaders might not think of design as an attribute in IoT straightaway when they’re highlighting key traits, however, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Having someone within the firm who can paint a picture differently, challenge briefs and think more like a designer who wants to disrupt the market creatively, can prove to be incredibly valuable within the tech sector.

Why? Because they’re able to execute projects effectively and efficiently, as well as bring a different viewpoint to the marketplace. Being an IoT ‘visionary’ means they can start to transform the ways in which a firm utilises its data to enhance the customer experience and deploys digital transformation seamlessly.

4.            Remaining agile throughout unpredictability

If the tech sector has taught businesses something, it’s that anything can happen from one day to the next, and IoT consultants must be ready.

Being able to adapt on the flip of a coin – as the industry regularly demands – is no mean feat and not everyone has the capability to do so. It takes a strong character, who is a swift decision-maker and effective communicator, to be able to embrace the immense changes within this arena.

For example, when completing a project, it’s unlikely to go according to plan at every step of the way. A modern-day employee should be able to tweak their strategy, continue to build the perfect IoT infrastructure and have a strong understanding of electrical engineering and development, alongside knowledge of hardware, frameworks and programming.

5.            Technical nous

Having covered more of the softer skills and collaborative elements required for a modern-day IoT consultant, it’s vitally important they continue to understand the emerging trends and vast range of tools and techniques also required to successful develop this role.

From being aware of connectivity through IPv4 and IPv6 to obtaining detailed knowledge of network design and management, technical attributes are critical in success. Some of the specialist skills areas that are in demand – and can be extremely desirable during the UK-wide tech talent shortage – include Python programming and C++ development, alongside expertise in JavaScript, HTML, Hadoop technology, SPARK and NoSQL.

There’s also the requirement for knowing how, when and where an enterprise’s data should be processed – and whether this is best at the Edge or migrated to the cloud.  Coupled with a niche understanding of the organisation’s overall ambitions, such as business integration, artificial intelligence provision and machine learning data analytics.

Providing expertise in these specialist areas can not only place a business above its competitors, but IoT consultants will be in a greater position to offer enterprises something different from their peers.

6.            Remaining security savvy

Finally, it’s vital to know who owns a company’s data and how it’s controlled to avoid the risk of the loss of critical data. Therefore, network protection skills are essential when providing safety, governance and security for all stakeholders within the infrastructure – and beyond.

Without an IoT professional having this intelligence to hand, online threats from the high-level hacking of an IoT device can also have far-reaching, catastrophic effects towards a business’s future. No enterprise or supplier would wish to have that kind of publicity for their product or work either – something which an agile consultant should be expected to understand, and protect, from the outset.

Those with a strong handle on data control will most likely be asking questions concerning the ethics of data such as, ‘Does it respect privacy?’, ‘Is there a potential legal liability?’ and ‘Are the findings and processing free of inherent bias?’

IoT consultants – like many tech-based employees – must now have so much more to their CVs than technically advanced skillsets. Individuals able to utilise softer skills, in order to remain at the same changing pace as digital dictates, can prove to be valuable members of the team.

It’s an exciting time to be part of an industry that’s unpredictable, innovative and doesn’t shy away from challenging ‘the norm’. What a leader should now do is grasp relevant opportunities with both hands and embrace all the good that IoT has to offer.

Alex Wilkinson, COO, Solutionize Global