How to ensure your IoT project succeeds – Operational Challenges


Welcome to the sixth post in my series of seven chapters intended to help individuals and organizations on their journey to deploying a successful Internet of Things (IoT) transformation. In my last blog, I covered the implementation and this post covers the operational challenges. If it’s helpful to go back to the beginning and read in sequence, you can start with an introduction to this series here, along with a list of the other topic areas you will need to assess on your journey.

6.1      Service Support & Maintenance

Some say the future of customer experience in the IoT will be primarily based on how easy it is to support “things”. I strongly agree!

Remember your customers expect instant gratification when they reach out for assistance.  Reality is your front-line resources cannot keep with the increased complexity of the IoT when at scale. Often, they lack the tools or subject matter expertise to meet expectations. This is true in the case of basic wearables, as well as sensors deployed in remote areas in different and complex environments providing you reading in real time.

Connecting and activating devices is a nightmare job on its own. Imagine how more complicated it is to solve the problems that would emerge once those devices are deployed in a wide geographical area. One of the most daunting tasks is to manage and maintain remotely a vast number of devices and sensors in an unknown and unconditioned environment.

As I mentioned before, Sensors could generate 100s of alerts per day. How does a solution handle such alerts is very important! Hence the ability to service devices and solve problems in an automated manner, a self-learning system, a self-healing system, and remote access and maintenance capabilities are terms you should be very familiar with and carefully inquire about as you understand the solution. You are seeking IoT because it is meant to bring efficiency, reduce redundant human interactions and create value.

As you inquire about various solutions, pay great attention to how a solution performs when something goes wrong. Inquire how the devices/sensors would be maintained? How bugs and other regular upgrades would be managed? how fixes would be applied? How often these devices would need an intervention? how does that impact the sensor battery life? what would be the cost of the support and maintenance? What is the impact on your business?

6.2      Multidisciplinary skillsets

IoT sits at the intersection of different technology with multiple domain expertise. This automatically means that developers and technical people involved in creating IoT solution must have knowledge beyond their traditional area of expertise. This is a true requirement for any enterprise adopting IoT.

Software engineers will find themselves requiring hardware skills, and Hardware engineers requiring software skills, to further complicate things, they need to have certain knowledge of the domain they are servicing, some integration skills, some data skills and so on. The reality today such multidisciplinary skills rarely exist in the same individuals. Hence the need to bring various skills to work together as one. So IoT requires multidisciplinary skillsets and combination of domain knowledge which is not the traditional stock of talent today on both the vendor supply side and the enterprise demand side.

IoT workforce talent is critical to your business digital transformation. Hire or nurture such skills and ensure your human capital strategy is updated in the process to reflect this direction. As you adopt IoT solutions, you are changing your workforce job environment, so consider seriously how you will help them adapt and update their skills.

IoT requires interoperability across various systems, but equally requires interoperability of people and processes. Seek the few talents in your organization that are receptive to hybrid skills and are more interoperable than others and invest in upskilling them. Give them more analytical skills, people skills, move them to multidisciplinary teams or environment, empower them and support them as they hold the key to your success.

You must find people with soft and hard technical skills but equally, you need to find plenty of people with knowledge of the industry and its intricacies and processes. If the IoT solution is to work, you want to make sure it was developed in a way that reflects the reality of the business (today and tomorrow) and not just reflecting some isolated technical view.

6.3      Interoperability & Standards

The technology related to IoT, as I mentioned few times, is changing so fast and not only evolving but completely being revamped in some cases (Protocols, data formats and semantics, multiple devices types, etc.…).  Pay close attention to what you are buying. Move away from black box solutions and seek common standards and open architecture.

Again, stay away from black box solutions. Ask yourself what if you want to change solution provider. What would you be able to reuse or transfer to alternative solutions if you must? If the answer is very little or none, you want to carefully understand the impact on your business moving forward. It is prudent to consider such risk, especially some IoT providers are very new companies that may not make it.

Today one of the biggest challenges for IoT adoption is the lack of interoperability. Mckinsey estimated that 40% to 60% of the IoT total economic value per year won’t be realized due to interoperability issues.

Lack of standards, uncommon protocols, proprietary systems and architectures need to be carefully observed and investigated during your selection process.

Don’t forget when devices are involved, you will need two-way interactions at a relatively consistent rate. Data will be travelling in multiple directions (device to device, device to server, etc.….).

A myriad of devices using various kind of connectivity with an expectation by businesses and users to get hold of data at a relative speed and always in a reliable way. If you add to this the long list of variables and external factors that could impact each point of this operation being devices, connectivity, server etc.., and add to that the fact that millions of devices are sharing the same network including other companies, the possibility of problems and interruption grows exponentially. To control this risk and minimize its impact on your business, you should bet on agreed protocols, developing standards being the path to safety.

Coming soon – download all of this blog series as an ebook

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