All around us, the Internet of Things is slowly but surely being built . Day after day, thousands of new objects are added to the growing network of things that – in one or more ways – can sense the world around them and are able to share this knowledge among themselves. By 2020, the IoT will comprise of as many as 100 billion devices according to some analysts, and its impact on companies who are smart enough to leverage it is expected to be momentous. So how does a company go about entering this new and exciting playing field as well as ensure they play the game well? I’m glad you asked.
If you decide to make the Internet of Things a part of your company’s roadmap, before you do anything at all you must acknowledge the fact that the IoT is not some fad that’s going to disappear in a year’s time. As such, you should afford it the respect it deserves, which means dedicating the right amount of people, time and energy required to make a success of this initiative. This is not some isolated, one-off project but a business-wide endeavor that will define leading businesses in the future. Once you understand that, you may begin.
The first thing on your list ought to be creating an IoT solution deployment strategy. The reasoning behind this is IoT solutions should be planned and deployed within a repeatable framework to ensure they are executed consistently, in a way that leverages the work and knowledge of past deployments. So the deployment strategy will ideally contain a detailed plan that lays out a progressive approach to developing the necessary technology and skills that will enhance the delivery capabilities and overall agility with time.
It’s at this stage that you should carry out sessions with the stakeholders who will play an active role in building an IoT capability or be impacted by it. These meetings will get everybody up to date and also help to clarify the initiative’s requirements, as well as its technical and operational restrictions. Remember, the Internet of Things is meant to enhance your product and service offering – disruptions to critical services and infrastructure are unacceptable outcomes throughout this entire process. There are a few major dimensions around which it will make sense to base the strategy. You will probably want to bear these in mind when you focus on delivering the strategy.
Extent is one of them. This is unsurprising, since it is crucial to have a clear idea of the organizational coverage and duration of any strategy if it is to be effective. Demand is another. This refers to the envisioned objectives (for the business and technology sides) and the ways in which success or failure will be judged. Next up is supply, which deals with the actual technologies, processes etc. that the IT department will have to provide to implement the strategy. It’s here that you will also have a first glimpse into the capability gaps. Governance is also an important dimension of the emerging strategy. You will need to set in place a transparent hierarchy of responsibility, design a process map detailing how the show will be run, as well as make note of any necessary enterprise structures that might not yet exist. And of course there’s security to keep track of. For obvious reasons your strategy must include references to the risks involved, which means keeping an eye on regulatory compliance, data subjects’ privacy and so on.
When you are done articulating your strategy, you can move on to building a comprehensive target architecture that will have to account for all of the company’s needs. Having this architecture will elucidate which components you'll want to develop and in what order so as to assist the company's IoT program. The architecture will benefit you significantly – for instance, it will help to minimize the number of redundancy or interoperability issues by avoiding the creation of a long series of one-off solutions. The most commonly encountered architectural elements – so what you will be working with, too – are the things themselves, gateways (often in the form of smartphones), the cloud, and the enterprise. Your Internet of Things architecture has major consequences on the performance and cost of an IoT solution. Therefore, even when outsourcing its designing to a third party, any organization should make certain they are still the ultimate decision maker.
Tying these elements together into a valuable and functional system is a set of computing resources that we either have come to take for granted or never even realized they were there working for us in the first place. These resources, which you’ll need to pay attention to as you get busy constructing the architecture, are the data that is created by the objects, the application logic (i.e. the intelligence that is actually responsible for the object’s functionality), the user interface, and the analytical capability that will make sense of the data generated. Settling on the best architecture for your business is closely dependent on where the application logic, data and analytics reside.
With your target architecture completed, you can focus on creating a knowledge-building program for the professionals that will be a part of the IoT program. Technologies associated with this burgeoning area – such as the cloud-based technologies, or short-range communication technologies, to name a couple – are of interest to a great many organizations and they are constantly changing. Not surprisingly, people with the right skills are hard to find and even they need to keep themselves up to da te with the latest developments. This is precisely why establishing a program whereby key personnel are able to further their competencies in order to master fresh integration challenges or security standards is so important. Investing in people just as much as involving people will increase the likelihood of successful IoT solution deployments.
To sum up, it is vital that IoT planning is done strategically from the beginning, before individual business units start their own initiative and set out on vastly different courses, with no management or guidance. Indeed, developing a solid and successful Internet of Things capability requires a technical strategy to enable businesses to implement a portfolio of IoT solutions. This strategy will help them develop long-term, sustainable adoption plans; a useful target architecture; and execute profitably on a range of IoT opportunities. Organizations that fail to adhere to an carefully thought out, centralized program will invariably falter as they either become bogged down by technical complexity, experience security issues or simply disturb their operations to such a large extent that it actually cancels out any benefits.
Join me again next week when we explore how to drive sales via the IoT!