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28th of May 2017

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IoT recipe for success part 4: prepare for a journey

The Internet of Things (IoT) means many things to many people. Depending on your perspective, you may think automation, self-driving cars, or even smart tooth brushes. But one thing that it’s not is a one-time event. 

IoT is a multi-year journey that leads organisations through a maze of changing technologies, processes, organisational structures, and workforce requirements.  It may—and should—start with just one small project, but it’s never just “one and done.” That is why, before you implement the smallest bit of IoT technology, you need to step back and take a comprehensive approach: 

Begin by building your vision. Talk about IoT in your organisation and help people think about what might be possible when things can communicate with other things. Then identify some strategic goals; identify a specific problem to solve or an opportunity to grab. Pick the “low-hanging fruit” first. Have a big vision, but start with a small project to generate early success. Build a coalition of the willing. Bringing together your IT and operational technology (OT) teams is a great place to start. But also bring in line-of-business leaders who can see the potential of IoT in helping them achieve their business goals. Identify key barriers to success. IoT often faces significant obstacles in four broad areas: 1) technical, especially in the areas of standards and interoperability; 2) security, which can be a show-stopper if not built in to the core of your operation; 3) government, which has a role to play in agenda-setting and regulating IoT; and 4) organisational challenges, which may be the biggest obstacle of all because IoT often demands cultural change. Understand who will resist the change and make a plan to address their concerns and win them over. Make sure you have support from the C-suite. To drive cultural change and ensure long-term success, you’ll need support and commitment at the highest levels of your organisation.

When you begin this IoT journey, you don’t know exactly where it may take you. As I have said, start with a small project, preferably in one of the four fast paths to payback I have identified—connected operations, remote operations, predictive analytics, and predictive maintenance. These areas of IoT have been tried and proven by thousands of your peers over the past several years. With the success of one project you can then more easily obtain investment in more complex—and impactful—initiatives.

Let’s look at the experience of iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson. (And what better example of a journey, as you roar down the road with the wind in your face?) A few years ago, the company was facing intense global competition, while its core market was aging and younger buyers wanted a different kind of motorcycle. They also faced internal problems familiar to many large and market-leading companies: expensive labour, a disconnect between operations and IT, islands of incompatible data scattered throughout the organisation. 

Harley looked to IoT to help them gain the agility, efficiency, and productivity they needed to compete. They brought together a cross-functional team, converged their multiple networks, and began consolidating their data islands. They fully implemented IoT in their factory to improve all aspects of operations. The results were impressive:

Eighty per cent faster decision making due to workforce enablement Dramatic reductions in costs and set-up time Continuous asset management, enabling even better decision making 6.8 per cent increase in production throughput due to asset tagging Ten to 25 times improvement in build-to-order (BTO) cycle time (18 months reduced to two weeks) Seven to 12 per cent increase in IoT automation-driven equipment utilisation 3 to 4 per cent profitability improvement

This kind of success can only happen if you take your entire company with you on this journey. Make sure you have buy-in from stakeholders and support from the top. Break down silos, over-communicate, and check in often to make sure that everyone is along for the ride.

Next time, we’ll look at the fifth ingredient in my recipe for IoT success: integrating technology solutions with business problems.

What do you think? Join our discussion at the new Building the Internet of Things network.

To receive my new Building the Internet of Things newsletter, subscribe here.

Maciej Kranz, Vice President, Corporate Technology Group at CiscoImage source: Shutterstock/a-image

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