DIY Visual Guide to IoT
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IoT is a disruptive, new wave technology that includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, advanced automation, connectivity, and more. It’s being hailed as the next horizon for leading companies wanting continued performance and productivity improvements in the face of global challenges. Many have started to experiment with IoT pilots to drive productivity and efficiency; gain competitive advantage; and unlock new revenue opportunities that arise from increased speed to market, customization, and new services.
As with most new technologies, the first movers are the big winners. However, they are also the ones who – without a map — hit the most roadblocks. And these can be devastating. At best, they can stall your project and hinder your time to IoT value. At worst, they can put you in pilot purgatory — never realizing the benefits and wasting precious time, effort, and resources.
Don’t become a cautionary tale on the road to IoT success! To help, we’ve noted some of the most common pitfalls companies face when starting on their IoT journey and provided advice on how to best avoid them:
1. Lack of Clear Business Impact of IoT
IoT technology is cool, and something your IT department is going to want to implement. There are so many things that can be measured with IoT sensors and learned from the analyzed data. But, does what you are doing have an impact on your business? Does it provide the actionable insights needed to improve processes; increase efficiency, productivity, or revenue; or enhance customer service? Or, at the end of the day, are you just conducting an expensive science project?
If you want to extract the most value out of an IoT implementation, you need to first define a clear business impact. That is, identify a real business need within your organization. Then, design an IoT solution that addresses that need. That way, you can set real-world benchmarks against which your IoT solution can be measured. Only then will you see the power of IoT and the true value that can be extended across the organization.
2. Lack of C-Suite Sponsorship
Because IoT is so new to most companies, the resources it takes to implement a meaningful project are often underestimated. Sure you can fly under the radar and conduct one-off projects here and there easily enough, but for a meaningful and valuable project there are a lot of components that can make it complex and expensive fast, especially if you don’t have the experience or proper guidance. Not having a corporate owner or C-suite support can lead to a lack of funding – which can be a death knell for an IoT pilot.
To avoid your project dying on the vine, be aggressive in securing C-level support and determine who is going to pay up front. Involve the right people — business and IT — from the beginning and make sure you establish and communicate a clear vision to secure corporate sponsors with deep pockets – preferably your CFO.
3. Lack of Solid Foundation
IoT is an architecture – a backbone — that you need in place to be able to capture and measure meaningful data and insights. So before you can even begin, there’s a lot of technical work that needs to be done to establish a solid foundation that includes integration, connectivity, networking, business information and analysis, data integration, security, machine learning, and more. This might include managing relationships with many different vendors. However, many companies don’t have the in-house resources – people, know-how, and time – who understand and can connect these complex concepts or manage these vendor relationships. A solid technical foundation is critical to the success of your IoT projects.
In this case, you need expertise. So if you don’t have it in-house, I recommend going outside and finding someone who specializes in pulling all the pieces together. Make sure they are a full-service systems integrator who will be able to add value to your project by understanding your business, helping develop the use cases and solution, managing vendors, as well as having expertise with IoT software and hardware, operational technology, and IT services. It would be ideal if the company also had deep experience with data science and analytics to speed time to value.
4. Lack of Platform Standardization
Because it’s a pioneering technology, there is a lot of confusion around IoT standards. Slowly, though, they are starting to emerge and evolve. For speed, efficiency, and scalability, it is important have a standards platform when implementing an IoT pilot. It can be done without, but it is much faster, easier, and cheaper if you pick a platform up front.
We tend to recommend Microsoft and our IoT Service Hub as a standardized platform. But whatever you choose, you must have an elemental architecture that adheres to a type of standard that is easy to understand, and easy to talk to. Once your platform is established, use that as your infrastructure and framework for your pilot. Using a standardized platform allow you to quickly and easily leverage the pilot and apply IoT to the business for real world use cases, insights, and value.
5. Lack of Data Science
The beauty of IoT is the data. Collecting and analyzing it is what gives you insights and helps you discover opportunities for improving your processes, services, and business. It’s here that you are going to want to focus most of your IoT investment. But to be most valuable, the data needs to be put into context, and that takes data science expertise. Most IT departments don’t have this kind of experience in analyzing data. They can capture the data and look at it in isolation, but if it’s not part of the big picture, the data ends up being trivial and useless. This can stop your IoT initiatives cold.
Unless you have in-house data science expertise, your best option is to partner with someone who does. The right partner should possess domain and data science expertise so that they can connect measured data to the business, make sense out of it, and draw out the trends and insights that provide true value.
6. Lack of Top-Down Implementation
Most IoT projects stall or don’t realize their full potential because companies tend to implement IoT from the bottom up — focusing on the technology first, not the use case. This is a waste of resources because it most often leads to solving problems that never existed.
The fastest way to avoid this is reverse engineering. Instead of starting from scratch and developing new processes or services around IoT, first look at an existing product or service and see how IoT can help. It’s much more efficient to introduce IoT to an existing problem that you are already solving. IoT can then optimize the solution – such as reducing costs, improving efficiency, or increasing revenue.
7. Lack of Flexibility
IoT is a new frontier that in a way is law-less. Its opportunities are limitless, bound only by your creativity and ability. There are no rules yet. Unfortunately, most IT departments are all about rules. They are underfunded and overworked, and don’t have the bandwidth to be think outside the box. They rigidly focus all their resources on the here and now to keep the company up and running and secure. Because of this, they are stuck in the same old way of thinking and doing and not very flexible. But IoT is an adaptive technology and needs creativity and vision to be successful.
With IoT, you should be prepared to change the way you think about doing things. You have to be willing to change processes to accommodate IoT enhancements. For most companies, the best way to do this is to bring in a third-party with IoT expertise. They aren’t tied to the past and have the ability to break the mold when thinking about your business. The right company will come in and peel back all the processes until they find out where the data is coming from, discover where IoT will enhance it, create the vision, and help you execute on it. This often involves changing the original process – something in-house resources don’t always see.
8. Lack of Technological Expertise
There are a lot of complex and moving parts that go into a successful IoT solution. There’s software that monitors, manages, and analyzes data as well as IoT devices that connect to equipment to collect the data – and much more. Most companies don’t have the in-house resources or skills to deal with figuring out how everything works or how to manage the data. A lot of time, effort, and investment dollars are wasted trying to do this.
For the fastest value from IoT, you need to stay focused on the data and not waste your time and money figuring out the technology pieces. I would suggest saving your resources and look to a packaged solution – there are a few out there — that provides the end-to-end platform for managing the data right out of the box. This allows you to implement an IoT solution faster and put most of your investment dollars and time to working with the data itself.
9. Lack of Restraint
Once companies understand the value of IoT, they often try to do too much too soon. It’s such a cool and useful technology they want to start connecting everything, everywhere. This, however, makes it difficult to measure success and show true value to the organization.
When it comes to IoT, it’s much better to start small with a single business need. We call this the crawl, walk, run method. By focusing on a minimal viable solution around one initial use case, you’re able to more easily prove the value of implementing IoT on a larger scale. Once you do this, you can add use cases on the platform as quickly as you can identify them to maximize value and ROI.
If you take away one thing from this article, I hope it would be that the companies who are most successful at adopting and deploying IoT pilots and solutions don’t do it alone. They leverage the experts – who have done it all before — to avoid pilot purgatory, help speed time to benefit from months to weeks, and ultimately scale the technology across the organization to get the most value. For more information on how your company can get the most value out of an IoT implementation, contact Hitachi Solutions today.