Strong leadership is driving IoT adoption

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The year ahead is set to be an exciting year for the Internet of Things (IoT), writes Joanne Phoenix, interim executive director of Sensor City. It continues to proliferate across multiple sectors and applications, with many top technology businesses and leading research companies anticipating expansion across the board.

It’s obvious that it’s no longer a matter of if, but when we’ll come to realise a fully connected future via the IoT for business operations. However, technology is only one part of the necessary ingredients needed for IoT success – strong leadership is perhaps the most essential element for businesses looking to adopt IoT.

The challenge for businesses is that evidence points to a potential shortage of strong IoT leadership ability – a 2019 Microsoft study cited a lack of leadership support and attention as a primary cause of IoT project failure. It would suggest that there is still some way to go when it comes to equipping leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to implement IoT successfully.

Having said this, IoT success cannot be achieved by a single person alone – business leaders must bring the whole company along on the adoption journey to create success.

Why? Creating buy-in from both internal and external teams is crucial to optimising implementation and long-term effectiveness across all parts of the business. To do this, leaders must provide a strong strategy and direction, underpinned by clear communication.

The challenge for leaders is to ensure they have a strong understanding of what IoT is and how it will benefit their business in order to provide this direction to their teams.

What leaders need to do to unlock IoT’s full potential

The understanding of the benefits and implementation of IoT varies hugely from company to company. This means that there’s no one coherent journey or experience from which business leaders can take their lead in creating their own strategy, and without a clear digital strategy, organisations will struggle to realise the full potential of IoT.

Businesses will likely not only spend significant money upfront on IoT, but also significant time going through a process of trial and error to find the right solution. However, with the potential of IoT comes huge opportunity – the 2019 Microsoft IoT Signals report says that IoT adopters are predicting a 30% increase in return on investment (ROI) in two years.

Understanding how IoT will benefit your business is essential to creating a coherent strategy and guiding your organisation and teams to IoT success. Consider where your business is currently, where it needs to be, and what will have the biggest impact on operations.

You may need to invest in skills or set targets for your IoT investment. To develop this understanding and confidently communicate the need for IoT, we suggest working through the following checklist. This way, you will be equipped with the tools to successfully develop an IoT strategy and lead your team to success.

The leader’s checklist for IoT success 

Assess your current position: Have you already begun investing in IoT, or are you working from scratch? What’s working so far? What’s not working? What data are you collecting already? What data do you need to collect in the future, and why?

Set your objects: Be clear on what it is you want to get out of IoT implementation, from a business perspective. Make sure IoT aligns with your business plan. Consider what benefits will be brought to the business, your staff, or your customers.

Make an informed investment: You need to calculate your possible ROI. Identify your direct and indirect costs and savings, cashflow and upfront costs, and the minimum income, or ‘hurdle rate’, necessary for your company to be profitable.

Look at all elements of your digital strategy: Business leaders will need to consider their current technology infrastructure, assessing where there will be a skills gaps, and where you will need to accommodate for IoT technologies.

Create a technology roadmap: You will need to address implementation areas and where IoT will have the greatest impact. Look to create a plan for what technology will be implemented, when, and how it will integrate with existing technology.

Have a communication strategy: The implementation of IoT is not just about technological change – success relies heavily on cultural change, too. Communication is key – you will likely be asked whether any team members will need to be reskilled, whether skills need to be replaced or recruited for, and/or why the change is needed in the first place.

The author is Joanne Phoenix, interim executive director of Sensor City, a global hub for the development of sensor and IoT technologies.

For more guidance on IoT adoption, download Sensor City’s free 2020 Guide to IoT Adoption.

COMING SOON: The latest IoT Now Quickfire Video.We interview Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, on why IoT has been slower to take off than many predicted!

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