In the early 1980s, the Apple II computer combined with the first spreadsheet program (called Visicalc) revolutionized how financial analysis was done. Suddenly through the use of these new tools, complex models could be created by anyone that could type numbers and formulas into a grid. Almost overnight, financial decision making was transformed through the ability to use more data to accurately predict business outcomes versus simply guessing.
But this transformation did not happen from a corporate edict. Back in those days, Apple II computers were brought in the back door of businesses by employees that understood the power of the tool and the value it could provide. It was not part of the IT infrastructure and was not part of any corporate computing initiative. Businesses did not offer to buy Apple II computers and did not offer training or support and, frequently, if an employee was “caught” using unauthorized equipment, they would be in hot water.
Yet this grass roots movement changed the face of technology and evolved into computing as it is known today. And the companies that lagged in the new technology deployment were left in the dust by their competition.
What does this have to do with the Internet of Things (IoT)? Plenty. We believe that history is about to repeat itself.
As designers and developers of IoT systems, from our vantage point virtually all industries can benefit from the IoT. If you are involved in providing a product or service, you can always gain from having a deeper understanding of how satisfied your customer is, how they use your product or service, and how you can make your product or service even more compelling to that customer. The IoT allows for the collection of near real time data about your product or service — and this data obtained can revolutionize your business and can leapfrog you ahead of your competition.
So why aren’t more companies deploying IoT solutions today? Yes the technology is new. But we believe that many people are waiting for someone to tell them how to “do” the IoT.
As a case in point — some Internet of Things providers have taken the approach of doing things from “the top down” and recommend that their clients study the IoT from a corporate perspective. They talk their client companies into developing a corporate vision of how IoT technology can be used across the entire organization, followed by the development of a 3-5 year plan to successfully implement the strategy successfully. They engage with their clients initially with an expensive study that produces a vision and plan before any real IoT benefits are deployed and realized.
We believe there are several problems with this approach. First, IoT technology is changing so rapidly that any type of long term plan defined today will most certainly need to be redone as things evolve. Technology changes, costs are plummeting, and new solutions will be developed that are not even on the horizon yet. Second, it has been our experience that it is very difficult to envision all of the ways that a single IoT deployment can benefit an entire organization. Many times a project is developed with a specific goal in mind, but once the deployment is completed, there are typically many other benefits that are realized once the data obtained is fully digested. And third (and probably most importantly) this approach delays the benefits to the organization by deferring any IoT deployments until the entire vision is defined and agreed to.
Our preference is to promote a “bottom-up” approach to IoT. In a similar vein to Agile software development, we believe that a strategy in which projects are formed based on today’s real, identifiable needs within the organization and developed/deployed iteratively while realizing new value from the project as new information is learned, is a more successful way to realize the benefits of the IoT . Each project stands on its own merits and has specific and tangible goals that can be achieved in short deployment cycles that build on the previous cycles.
The benefits to this approach are many — smaller efforts with specific ROI can allow the organization to gain the benefit of IoT technology quickly to improve their products and services and reduce their operating costs. Using an iterative deployment approach, organizations can learn about the value of data acquired and rapidly build on the success of their smaller projects as they apply this learning on new deployments.
So the choice is yours. You can wait for someone to study your situation and deliver a high level analysis of your corporate IoT situation that will be obsolete in 6 -12 months or you can start deploying IoT technology today on a smaller scale, delivering near term results that can be expanded as you learn and as the technology evolves.
Truly innovative organizations find the right tools and put these tools to work to gain the advantage on the competition, learning as they go. Does this describe your business? Or does it describe your competitor?