The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to transform businesses, but almost three-quarters of all projects fail to deliver the promised benefits. As 2018 ramps up, we ask some industry experts about the common reasons why IoT projects fail, and how you can avoid them.
Connected devices like Alexa are bringing the IoT into the home, where we seem more than happy for some extra help doing the weekly shop or ordering a present for a partner. Consumers are embracing the IoT, but businesses are still struggling to uncover its benefits, with a Cisco survey finding that almost 75 per cent of all IoT projects fail.
The survey discovered that a massive 60 per cent of IoT projects never get off the drawing board, stalling at the proof-of-concept stage. Of the projects that are implemented, only a quarter (26 per cent) are considered a success, delivering the expected benefits.
Cisco, Gartner, Forbes and a whole host of industry insiders have done a great deal of work in helping us understand why IoT projects fail. Here’s how you can buck the trend, join the intelligence revolution and make the IoT work for you in 2018.
Nobody said it was easy…
We’re set for an IoT explosion this year, with connected technology having the potential to transform how we work and live – but only if the systems do what they're supposed to do. Many businesses embrace the possibilities of the IoT but underestimate the complexities in making it work for them, according to Gartner Research VP Mark Hung. “Most enterprises do not know what to do with the technology," he says.
This is a trend led from the top, with a recent Forbes survey of over 500 CIOs finding IT leaders are pushing hard for the IoT. They may be ready, but their organisations, it seems, are not.
“It’s like watching golf on TV – it looks easy until you try to do it yourself in real life,” says Ken Hosac, VP IoT Strategy and Business Development at Cradlepoint, describing the challenges of making the IoT a success.
“Many CIOs make the mistake of assuming that they have the in-house tools and expertise to successfully deploy IoT projects,” Hosac says. IoT projects can fundamentally change how a business operates, and so it’s important that everyone understands and buys into this new vision.
In its research, Cisco found ‘human factors’ were the biggest issue influencing whether a project would work. CIOs should be encouraged to develop an open and collaborative culture across the business that can make IoT projects a success. The survey found that 54 per cent of CIOs believe that collaboration between IT and the wider business was the key to success.
The rush for businesses to realise the potential benefits of the IoT has seen many embark on poorly planned and unfocused deployments. Gartner describes this phenomenon within the IoT as a “solution seeking a problem”. For anyone with a history in the industry, it’s not the first time they will have seen businesses attempt to gain a competitive advantage by rapidly deploying new technology.
Jason Kay, Chief Commercial Officer at IMS Evolve, agrees: “Too often the purpose of an IoT project is defined by the capabilities of the technology.”
Kay believes that before businesses embark on an IoT project, they should be clear and realistic about its focus, the resources it will need to succeed and the potential benefits it can bring. Sometimes, they may be surprised by what they find. “Just because a business can achieve something with the solution, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should,” Kay adds.
The simple way to approach the IoT for Raph Crouan, founder and CEO at Startupbootcamp IoT, is by first identifying the problem and working back from there. “Assumptions have to be tested, both in terms of whether the customer actually wants your solution and whether you can deliver on your technology,” he says.
Whether a result of hubris or ignorance, many businesses believe they can manage IoT projects alone, potentially storing up problems for the future. Crouan believes it’s a huge problem. “This is crippling them financially and preventing them from delivering real value and a standout product,” he adds.
The Cisco survey found that the most successful organisations were open to working with and learning from experts, buying in the essential skills necessary to help deliver their projects. Identifying the right partners can be time-consuming, but it’s the key to building a secure and sustainable platform that can grow.
Hosac believes that before embarking on an IoT project, CIOs should take some time to understand the skills within their team, and what may need to be brought in from outside. “Working-level IT staff often understand their own limitations, but the executive staff do not," he says.
This may bring with it some unexpected and unwanted consequences. “The cultural shift that can occur in a more connected ‘data rich’ company environment may produce consequences that employees find challenging,” says Nick Sacke, Head of IoT and Products at Comms365. His solution is to work with existing employees, identifying where they add value to the team and the organisation.
Learn from failure
The Cisco report demonstrates that failure is a large part of trying something new, and while the majority failed, more than a quarter did deliver successful results. According to Damien D’Souza, Commercial Director at IoT specialists xelba, CIOs need to accept that not every IoT project is going to be a success, but that failure isn’t a good enough reason to stop trying.
He believes that many CIOs are risk averse. “They want to see proof before they make the decision, and wait to reap the benefits down the line,” he says. This fear of failure could result in you being left behind.
The IoT has the power to change the world, but technology revolutions can take years to deliver results. If you’ve developed an organisational culture and partnerships to deliver results, and you are focused on technology as a vehicle not a destination, you’re doing the right things.
Experts all seem to agree that successful IoT projects begin with the problem, then work backwards. “Start small and evaluate how IoT can make a difference in one area first,” says D’Souza. After that, it’s up to you.