How to Beat the Odds and Make Your First IoT Project a Success

A recent survey of 1,845 business and IT decision-makers in mid-market and enterprise companies, conducted by Cisco, found that nearly three-quarters of Internet of Things (IoT) projects aren’t successful. The top five reasons include:

  • Long completion times
  • Poor quality of the data collected
  • Lack of internal expertise
  • IoT integration
  • Budget overruns

These results aren’t surprising given the immaturity of the IoT solutions, evolving technology standards, and limited expertise among the IoT community.

In light of these survey results, how do you ensure that your first IoT project implementation is successful? In this post, I’ll share ten best practices for managers planning their first IoT project.

Making Your First IoT Project a Success

1. Solve a problem that someone cares about.

Whether it’s a pilot project or a mini IoT project added to a larger non-IoT project, make the project relevant by addressing a real need.

This ensures visibility and support from the organization, whether it’s something as simple as time to answer your questions, commitment from management, or contribution of resources. Equally important, it gives you a foundation from which to build follow-up projects.

2. Plan realistically.

As an early IoT adopter, your organization’s capabilities will be limited and the learning curve will be steep. Managers must plan for this in several ways.

Don’t try to “change the world,” but instead focus on doing one or two things well. Define the requirements well and resist scope creep. Build in a larger-than-usual contingency for schedule, resources, and cost.

3. Fix outdated processes and policies.

IoT solutions can disrupt existing organizational processes and policies. If you fix the technology but not the processes and policies, you run into the problem of getting the “bad news faster.”

Implementing the technology side of IoT is only half the solution. Realize its full potential by updating affected process and policies or, in some cases, creating entirely new ones.

4. Partner for success.

IoT solutions affect multiple teams within the organization. Partner with these affected teams early in the planning process to get their requirements, gain their support (knowledge, resources, and budget), and leverage their influence to remove barriers during the execution stages. Partner with your organization’s digital transformation or innovation office, if one exists.

Equally important, partner with IoT solution vendors throughout the process. At this stage of the market, their solutions are still evolving. Work with your IoT vendor at a deeper level than you would with other vendors. Stay in close contact and leverage their product management and technical support teams throughout the project. Co-design the solution and project with them – tell them what features you like to see, report bugs, and test updated versions of the product.

5. Augment your capabilities with outside resources.

Address gaps in your internal capabilities by leveraging outside resources. Build your IoT knowledge through information shared on industry blogs, publications and analyst reports. Augment your project planning and execution capabilities by contracting with subject matter experts, IoT consultants, and innovation labs.

6. Address resistance to change.

The more disruptive the IoT solution is, the more likely it is that you’ll face adoption resistance both internally and externally. Whether the changes are small or large, ensure IoT project success with a change adoption plan early on in the project.

Identify who is affected and how they are affected, then understand their objections. Craft a plan to address these objections, be transparent and communicate regularly, and implement well before the solution goes live. Be responsive and act with a sense of urgency to any concerns raised during the project.

7. Define extended project success and goals.

During the project planning stage, identify the key success outcomes of the project. Beyond the goals directly enabled by the IoT solution, consider goals around internal capabilities development, gaps identification (processes, policies, technologies, resources, etc.), organization readiness, and channel/customer acceptance.

Treat your early IoT projects as learning experiences, and use these projects to learn, experiment, uncover challenges, develop the organization and go faster on future projects.

8. Drive shared ownership and accountability.

IoT solutions affect multiple teams across the organization. As such, you must establish a structure of shared ownership and accountability to drive project success.

Identify and secure the commitment of the critical executive sponsors and business unit owners. Align the value and relevance of the IoT solution to their team’s goals and needs to drive their ownership.

9. Establish a learning culture.

To ensure that your subsequent IoT projects are successful, you must establish a rapid learning culture right from the start.

During the project, establish a process for experimenting, prototyping, and problem-solving. At the end of the project, document the knowledge and expertise gained, and then develop a system to retain and transfer that knowledge.

Identify who the “experts” are, the lessons learned, and project debriefs. Develop a system to share that knowledge across the organization, with solutions vendors, consultants, and other resources.

10. Be flexible and adapt.

Despite careful planning and risk management, your first IoT projects will still be significant learning experiences. You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

Your planning and risk management is based on what you know. Unforeseen things happen because of the things you, your consultants, or the vendors don’t know.

In this type of environment, the project teams should be nimble and agile to respond to the unplanned. Your project plans should allow for larger contingencies. Your sponsors and owners should expect change. Your project team members should be selected for their ability to quickly adapt and learn, as well as for their knowledge and execution ability.

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