Break out of proof-of-concept purgatory

Lou Lutostanski, vice president, Internet of Things

Avnet’s vice president, Internet of Things, Lou Lutostanski, offers a five-point guide to successful IoT implementation

Businesses spent $745 billion worldwide on IoT hardware and software in 2019 alone. Yet three out of four IoT implementations are failing. Why? One big reason: leaders are failing to go all in.

To make IoT successful companies need to transform not just hardware and software but the way their business works. These dynamic deployments require an entirely new approach, far beyond the traditional push to get new business applications off the page and into production.

If the right steps aren’t taken in the beginning, you end up in limbo: caught between the dream of what IoT could do and the reality of today’s ROI. That spot is called proof-of-concept (PoC) purgatory. Here are five signs you might be in PoC purgatory—and tips on how to escape.

1) Lots of data, and not much else
There’s no surer sign of PoC purgatory than an IoT solution that produces only dashboards. Making data visible is futile unless AI makes it smart enough to drive organisational insights. This requires a clear, well-communicated business objective.

Objectives such as operational efficiency, customer service or revenue generation let users leverage the right technology to develop actionable insights. That’s when cloud, customer, employee, public and real-time data meet the analytics that point to actions.

2) Pushback from unexpected places
It’s surprising how many stakeholders come out of the woodwork including project managers, system integrators, operations specialists, installers, HR, marketing, sales and customer service: all have questions, comments and critiques.

Looping in all areas of business is crucial to get a proof-of-concept going. To maintain that momentum and avoid PoC purgatory you need solid change management plans. Customising communications to each stakeholder group will ensure they understand exactly what’s in it for them.

3) Teams aren’t speaking the same language
Make sure everyone is working off the same playbook. For example, informational technology and operational technology teams have long had their separate realms to play in. IoT requires the skills of both teams to succeed. They also need to trust each other. IT professionals need to trust OT devices to connect to their carefully constructed networks, while OT leaders need to feel comfortable with a new security stack interacting with their hardware.

It can take up to 10 partners to get an IoT solution to market, not including internal stakeholders. It’s crucial everyone’s moving
in lockstep.

4) Can’t get the CEO on board
Big initiatives take big support. Businesses get stuck when business managers love the idea, but the C-suite won’t sign on. Pilots drag on and leaders become disillusioned. To avoid spinning your wheels, it’s crucial to ensure all C-suite stakeholders, including the CEO, understand what your IoT deployment will give to the business.

Construct a simple roadmap from robotic arms and sensors, to factory insights, to dollars-and-cents impact on the bottom line.

5) Want to be in IoT, but you don’t know why
Lack of an apparent use case is the most common reason people are in PoC purgatory. Considering IoT implementations can take a year or more, it is mission critical to have clarity on what the solution is trying to achieve.

Align around your use case first. Align your in-house capabilities and external collaboration around the technologies best suited for your objective. Align your data intelligence to ensure it’s delivering insights that transform the business. Align employees around the business transformation—and retrain and reskill them continuously as the solution evolves.

When you align internal stakeholders to the business objective and ensure external partners are functioning as extensions of your team, a business goes from stuck in purgatory to full production and tangible payoff.