6 Key Questions You Should Ask Before Starting Any IoT Project
While adopting IoT in your business doesn’t match quantum physics in terms of complexity, there are still some tricky and vital questions that need to be asked before launching your first IoT project. Let's take a look at the most important ones.
Getting your first IoT project right
It goes without saying that the adoption of the Internet of Things technology brings a full range of benefits to enterprise owners and customers alike. The staggering estimates of two-digit market growth in Industrial IoT are proof enough that the IoT revolution is on the right track and that it’s there to stay. As applicability of IoT is growing, it is no wonder that businesses and industries start to seek their share of the revenue pie and squeeze as much as they can from the ample possibilities that the Industrial Internet of Things brings.
However, it is a fact of life that, in every enterprise, whenever there is change, there’s also risk. Getting the Internet of Things tech to work for your business is no different; therefore, rushing headlong into an IoT transformation without thorough research and preparation may not be the best idea. Thus, answering the simple but tricky questions below should help you pave a safe way through the process of establishing your first IoT project.
What is your main motivation behind the adoption of IoT in your business?
At first sight, the answer to this may seem obvious: it is money and fast ROI expectations which are the main driving forces behind the decision to implement the Internet of Things. While such motivation is nothing wrong in itself, far too many promising IoT projects have failed simply because they only were fuelled by short-sighted (and, eventually, short-lived) illusions of quick, riskless and effortless profit. Without supporting your IoT project with a clear vision and backing it up with in-depth research, the excitement and the accompanying flash-in-the-pan attitude may overshadow and stifle the potential that the smart technology brings when applied effectively.
Also, introducing IoT simply for the sake of adding another streamlined solution to your product, without a solid plan of how it will benefit your company and the customers, may pose risks to the project’s viability. Therefore, be sure not to get carried away by the hype. Rather than making smart tech an attractive but pointless gimmick, focus on your goals, which in this case should be to gain the right information at the right time and place to enhance business insights and make better informed decisions and, as a result, get more value for the end customers.
What do you expect the Internet of Things to do for your business?
In other words: what’s in the smart technology for you? There is simply no end to a list of all the possible ways that it can be helpful in business as each use case is different; still, there are some recurring patterns and proven methods of application of the Internet of Things that provide tangible and continuous value for the companies that have decided to go ahead and launch their first IoT project. Indeed, among the rewarding opportunities emphasised by these early adopters are: optimization of production performance and cost effectiveness, development of new revenue streams, improvement of client satisfaction, and quick investment payoff.
What’s more, the Internet of Things is evolving lightning-fast not only in terms of hardware and software, but also communication infrastructure and connectivity. Therefore, a great deal of innovative IoT projects that only recently have been impossible to deploy, now may be perfectly feasible and viable, with less effort and capital spent along the way. As the popularity of smart tech is expanding, the number of available deployment options grows likewise.
Also, when balancing your expectations against the reality, it should be taken into notice that the Internet of Things is becoming safer year by year as the industry’s focus is turning towards the security challenges. While this isn’t to say that the aspects related to your project’s security protection can be neglected, it’s definitely less of a concern than it used to be only a few years ago.
Do you have a smart project roadmap?
As a recent study reveals, a well-thought-out, comprehensive and future-proof business strategy is the basis for any successful IoT project. In case you don’t have it, the simplest piece of advice is: make sure to get one. Not only will it help you succeed at the early implementation stage, but also provide a great possibility for scrutinizing the state of play on the market and checking if your competitors are behind or ahead of you in terms of Internet of Things adoption.
Besides, by defining a clear and far-reaching roadmap for your first IoT project, you won’t let your decisions be guided by short-sighted visions of quick payoff. Planning ahead will make it easier to accommodate any ancillary or long-term costs (e.g., generated by the fact that smart devices usually require management throughout their entire lifecycle). According to surveys conducted among IoT adopters, the majority of IoT projects look good on paper, only to turn out to be more complex than expected around halfway through the development phase, which obviously spells problems for the whole deployment. While this statistic may sound like an obscure instance of Murphy’s Law, one serious explanation for it may be the lack of anticipation of additional or unexpected expenses as well as an underestimation of the complexities that IoT adoption may involve.
Also, developing a proof of concept for your project might be a good idea, no matter if it involves a multi-million device management ecosystem or is a small-scale deployment. A well-planned PoC will grant you the necessary insights into the future capabilities of your deployment in terms of scalability, robustness and overall functionality.
Do you have the right personnel and expertise?
The Internet of Things is not only about technology, but also about the people that envision and implement it. Basing solely on IT expertise often proves to be insufficient when it comes to the integration of software with the hardware stack within IoT ecosystems. Therefore, the ideal personnel tasked with carrying out the process of designing and executing the first IoT project should possess a combination of Information and Operation Technology skills.
Moreover, amidst the fray of IoT implementation, it is easy to overlook the importance of collaboration between different teams within the company that are involved in the IoT project. In a perfect world, employees should be not only aware of the whys and hows of the ongoing project and of the benefits that it will bring along, but also willing to share their knowledge and provide useful insights to assist the relevant team. If this isn’t the case, you may think of introducing project-related trainings or outsourcing a tiger team of specialists to guide you safely through the process.
How do you imagine your technology stack?
In a workable and streamlined solution, each and every layer of the IoT technology stack (device hardware and software, communications and protocols, cloud platforms and applications) needs to be integrated with the others to ensure seamless interoperability, at the same time allowing for extended flexibility and on-demand scalability. These features will enable your system to stand up to any current IoT-related challenges and will make your deployment future-proof. But what are the steps to achieve this?
The first important point is the choice between either developing a proprietary IoT ecosystem or basing on ready-made plug-and-play solutions of third party service providers. In the case of the latter, you’ll certainly have to be ready to relinquish full control over some of the aspects of your enterprise, in turn gaining a tailored solution with enhanced time to market and an open-source architecture that uses standard-based protocols to achieve great flexibility and interoperability. On the other hand, by sticking to an in-house developed solution you’ll get much more independence and customization options, but you may find yourself locked into a particular vendor or tied by limited functionality.
As data is at the core of every IoT-driven business, it is essential to determine what kind of data exactly is most valuable for the company and how it can be collected in the most efficient manner. Moreover, your data should always be easily accessible and presentable for all the persons concerned, be they employees or end customers. If you plan to entrust the development of your IoT project to an external contractor, be sure to communicate your data collection needs and concerns clearly and effectively.
Another factor to greatly impact the overall performance of your deployment lies in security. Simply asking yourself if your assets are protected is definitely not enough. In a world of cyber threats, it takes a comprehensive vision of what you want to protect and how security is to be ensured to create a reliable and safe environment. Paying special importance to this somewhat neglected aspect of Internet of Things will pay off with enhanced business stability and increased customer satisfaction.
Ready for an IoT journey?
As the Internet of Things grows, experts increasingly claim that it steadily becomes the market differentiator in practically each and every industry today. Yet, in the race for this ultimate competitive edge, companies are prone to make somewhat too hot-headed decisions about the adoption of smart technology into their businesses, which exposes their first IoT projects to risks of early failure. In the face of some unfavourable adoption figures, it must be clearly stated that it isn’t the technology itself that is to blame, but rather the hype that blurs its real image. Therefore, identifying your needs, creating a future-proof business strategy, developing a clear vision of your IoT project, and finding the right people to implement will help you stall cool amid the wild IoT excitement and find the key to a successful IoT adoption.