Journey into IoT
Once upon a time, technology drove business processes. This was necessary and good because technology was limited and in order to take advantage of all that was new, businesses needed to adapt to the available technology. And so they did, gaining reports and metrics and trends.
Today, reports and metrics and trends are no longer our destination, but rather waypoints on our journey toward a better treasure: business value. Internet of Things doesn’t have to be limited to providing the same sort of details we have always had. Instead, we can gain insight and predictability. More than this, we can provoke action, automating processes, and accelerating solutions. IoT can now become a platform of insight, connecting assets and their data to people and processes. The result? Business outcomes that yield value and organizations that are no longer siloed. What were once separate, competing departments and systems, have now transformed into a handsome, healthy, big-picture thinking ecosystem.
To get from silos to an ecosystem, it’s going to be a journey. Before setting forth, you need to check your mindset. Stop thinking about the information you can gather from your assets as your destination. This is an “output” mindset. Instead, develop an “outcome” mindset. Start with business goals, and then pursue the technology, processes, and people, who can contribute to achieve those goals. In this mindset, data graduates into insight which in turn stirs cross-departmental action.
Once you have adopted the outcome mindset, you will need to develop the map by selecting and prioritizing use cases. Key players from all relevant departments should consider both the value and degree of difficulty of the array of possible use cases and then agree on the first steps and overall route. Including people from multiple disciplines and departments will help break down silos and build up the ecosystem mentality.
As your organization plans, conversations will begin to address barriers to success. Some of these barriers will be perceived, others will be real. Data and data science are at the center of strong IoT solutions, so while there are many barriers, we’ll look at several examples dealing with data.
A common perceived barrier is, “We don’t have embedded technology in our assets.” This is a perceived, but not real barrier because you don’t need to start with embedded technology, you need to start with data which is available from other sources. Engineering specs, maintenance records, and warranty information are just a few examples of existing sources that you can put into play before moving toward embedded technology. Also, you may be able to add external sensors for additional data like temperature, humidity, and vibration.
Often, a real barrier to implementation is data itself. If it doesn’t exist, that’s a barrier. If it exists, but it is unusable, that’s a barrier too. You may need to spend time considering your data management strategy, including data cleanliness, as one of your initial steps.
A second common, and real, barrier is too much data. Data costs time and money to process. Only process the data relevant to your use case. A good data scientist can help you find the small, essential data within the mountains of potentially useless data. This can make the difference between a high cost, low value solution and a low cost, high value solution.
One final note on barriers: you may be tempted to view this as a project. It’s easy to fall back into old habits investing long periods of time and lots of money to roll out something grand with a delayed ROI. A well-thought out IoT strategy should be executed in short sprints, taking proof of concept to production in very short periods of time. This allows you to take appropriate and wise risks, quickly introducing new capabilities, all the while reevaluating the path by asking new and better questions. This will encourage reinvestment in additional IoT sprints.
Once upon a time, technology drove business, but today it is necessary and also better to embrace business goals that drive technology. IoT can provide insight, graduating into predictive and prescriptive action.