How to ensure your IoT project succeeds – Preparation Challenges


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This blog post is the first of a seven chapter series intended to be used as a working guide to ensuring an Internet of Things (IoT) journey is successful. This guide reflects many years of working on IoT and Smart Projects and seeing where, how and why they succeed …. or fail. The introduction to this series can be found here along with a list of the other chapter headings you will need to assess on your journey.  

In this post, I focus on three key preparations you should ensure you have covered as you get ready to begin your journey.

If you already have a digital strategy, it means you have identified the opportunities and challenges in your business. This also means that you should be clear about what the unmet needs and goals of your business and of your customers. On the back of this, you should have or be in the process of developing a vision around the digital assets that could fulfil such needs. This should also include goals as well as opportunities and challenges to allow the creation of a prioritised set of digital initiatives which can deliver on that vision.

1.1      Use Case

In accordance with your digital strategy, your list of prioritised initiatives will include investigating an IoT solution. At this stage, it’s vital to remember that even though you are in the process of acquiring a technology solution, don’t get confused and forget the fact it is not about the technology itself, it’s about the use of the technology to solve your use case. This IoT solution is simply a tool to achieve this and one of many steps you must take to succeed.

So, the key question is what problem is your IoT solution solving?

You need to have that answer very clear and ensure the buy-in of all stakeholders to adopt the IoT solution. On its own this won’t be enough, you will also need to adjust some of your operational processes to make it work. Always remember that the technology no matter how critical it is, at best represents 30% of your success. The remaining 70% is about the people and processes that will make the best use of this cutting-edge technology.

Many IoT solutions out there are attractive! However, as they move to real world and scale, sadly they fade away and die; as they do not deliver sufficient value to the problem in hand or towards the customers’ goals. Such solutions are ultimately an unnecessary expense as they do not add sufficient value to the use case in question. Be clear on the use case you need to solve and look for solutions that can deliver the value you seek. Don’t fall victim to those that fail to deliver towards your digital strategy.

Be flexible and ready to make changes required on your side to enable the success of your IoT solution and deliver the value expected from the use case.

Be clear about your goals and don’t be swayed into a direction that you did not carefully think through or analyse. Don’t let the IoT obsession and mania bug hit you! It is vital to stick to the use case to maximise your chances of success.

As such, a use case starts and ends by understanding the problem in depth, and uncovering the underlying causes of this problem be they cultural, technical capability, domain expertise, processes etc… Look carefully at the users involved, the processes, the systems, and all interactions in between.

In conclusion, make sure before you start the solution selection process that you have your use case clearly defined and commonly agreed across your business to avoid nasty & expensive surprises.

1.2       Complexity

I am sure by now you can see clearly that the IoT Journey can be a complex endeavour. Equally, I hope you can also see the huge benefits it can offer to your business. It is important to note that some IoT solutions are more complex than others. My aim is that after reading this blog (and the others in this series) you will be able to identify the less complex solutions to help you towards a simpler but effective path. In any case, here are a few pointers:

Whilst there is nothing wrong in thinking big, remember to start small, build smart skills and scale fast – Don’t eat the elephant in one go. I strongly recommend that you start with one small pilot, to learn and understand, to create core skills, to uncover the challenges you will face, and to train your team, etc.

Once you have your digital strategy in place, you will have clearly identified the value of the IoT solution and the reasons for embracing it. Now you must take that high-level view and delve into the details in order to clearly define the value for each of the stakeholders and each area of your business. This enables you to measure progress and success but more importantly, is it the way to get the buy-in from the business.

If you treat the gradual rollout of your IoT solution as a series of steps towards delivering your digital strategy, you will manage the change. Bring the Organisation behind you one person at a time, set priorities carefully, measure the value, showcase the success, and identify the areas of improvement as you progress.

1.3       Time to Value

Time to value is defined as “the period of time required (days, months, years) from the implementation of an action (our IoT Solution in this case) to the value return on that action”. The value return is meant to be a desired future state, which should be defined in your Digital Strategy.

It is a fact that IoT solutions are complex and can take a very long time from the moment a decision is made to adopt one until it becomes business as usual. Everything starts with developing a Digital Strategy that defines the destination and strategic objectives including stakeholder management, as IoT typically crosses multiple departments.

The next step will be a business case or a series of business cases and the discussion about build vs buy vs do nothing. Once a path is selected, proof of concepts is arranged followed by a small pilot and sometimes renewal or addition of pilots until all metrics are met and a conclusion to proceed to scale is reached.

Finally, you reach the full-scale roll out or the commercial deployment. As discussed in my previous blog, this is a journey of change. Along with the solution deployment, you will need to up-skill staff and ensure their buy-in and an open mindset that is required to embrace change. Remember the IoT solution you are assessing will most likely transform your business and put you ahead of your competition.

This series of blogs will help you understand the challenges and complexity in order to reduce your time to market and time to value.

Most of the suppliers will show you the top of the iceberg but you need to be ready to uncover the hidden dangers of the iceberg to ensure you’re not caught out. Getting it wrong will be unpleasant with a range of impacts from losing momentum to losing customers and a few in between. It will also cost you money and potentially competitive advantage. None of which is good news!

Take your IoT journey extremely seriously and put in place the management structure at the right level to support this journey all along.

A well-developed Digital strategy and detailed use case are key foundations towards solving the challenge and will result in faster time to value. Other pointers to help you reduce the time to value would be: having the right people involved all along, being proactive in monitoring the performance and risk management, cross-department review and buy-in, alignment between IoT solution and your resources involvement. Get the processes needed so the right people are involved at the right time, making optimal decisions. Adopt automation where possible and eliminate interruptions, bottlenecks or middlemen. Look carefully at how your IoT solution integrates across the processes in each department or part of the business it touches.

N.B.: The next step on the journey is to consider the hardware challenges specific to your project and this is covered in the next post published shortly. Further reading can be found at https://cjaoun.com/

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