Hosted by Cisco in late May 2017, the fourth installment of the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) brought together some of the world’s most innovative IoT thought leaders from business, government, and academia for three days of discussion and debate in London, one of Europe’s fastest-growing technology capitals.
One of the highlights of this year’s IoTWF was the release of a new study conducted by Cisco on the current state of the IoT landscape. To compile the study, Cisco surveyed more than 1,800 business and IT leaders across a range of industries in the US, the UK, and India, focusing exclusively on respondents from organizations that had completed or were in the process of implementing at least one IoT initiative.
Despite widespread excitement about the enormous potential of the Internet of Things, the results of the study highlighted the fact that getting successful IoT initiatives off the ground is not always an easy task. According to survey respondents, the majority of IoT initiatives (60 percent) grind to a halt at the Proof of Concept stage. As for companies with completed IoT initiatives, only 26 percent consider their initiative to be a complete success, while on the other hand, a full one-third of completed projects were deemed unsuccessful.
Other important takeaways from the study include:
The human factor still matters.
Technology may be at the heart of the Internet of Things, but it’s vital not to overlook the critical role that human factors like culture, leadership, and organization play in the ultimate success of an IoT project. In fact, of the four factors that survey respondents identified as the most important for successful IoT initiatives, three are all about people and relationships. The top factor, cited by 54 percent of respondents, was strong collaboration between IT and business units; this was followed closely by an organizational culture that focuses on and values technology (cited by 49 percent of respondents), and IoT expertise and knowledge both internally and through external partnerships (48 percent). In addition, survey respondents whose organizations had completed successful IoT projects described the use of close partnerships at every project stage – from strategic planning through to post-rollout – as a fundamental part of their overall success.
And speaking of the human factor, it’s also interesting to note here that the success of an IoT project seems to be very much a matter of perception. IT executives, who prioritize things like technologies, expertise, and vendors, are more likely to consider projects successful than are business executives, who place greater importance on strategy, business cases, processes, and milestones. Thirty-five percent of IT executives who responded to the Cisco survey considered their IoT initiative to be completely successful, while only 15 percent of business executives said the same.
Support is critical.
With 60 percent of survey respondents emphasizing that IoT initiatives are much more difficult to implement in reality than anyone at their organization expected, it’s clear that a successful IoT project needs all the help it can get. Some of the main challenges that need to be overcome across all stages of implementation include time to completion, insufficient internal expertise, data quality, integration across teams, and cost overruns. Organizations that have been the most successful in implementing IoT initiatives have turned these challenges into opportunities by seeking out and engaging in strong partnerships throughout the process, as described above, in order to reduce the learning curve and bridge critical knowledge and skills gaps. Many survey respondents described the potential of these partnerships with other vendors as an important way to create connected solutions, share data, and consequently bring significant new value to industries.
Failure is a teaching tool.
One of the biggest shifts in mindset that has happened as a result of the digital revolution is embracing failure—not avoiding it. To succeed in the fast-paced world of digital transformation, businesses must become less risk-averse and use stalled or failed initiatives as a learning experience to feed and improve future efforts. Happily, the majority of businesses working in the IoT realm seem to be on board with this idea: 64 percent of survey respondents agreed that unsuccessful IoT initiatives actually had the unexpected benefit of accelerating, rather than slowing down, their organization’s level of IoT investment.
The benefits are significant.
If IoT initiatives are so hard to implement successfully, are they really worth pursuing? The answer to that is a resounding yes, as indicated by the benefits that survey respondents described as resulting from successful IoT projects. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all respondents said that they had been able to use data from completed IoT projects to improve their business in some way; globally, the top three benefits named by respondents were improved customer satisfaction (70 percent), better operational efficiencies (67 percent), and improved quality of products and services (66 percent). Perhaps not surprisingly, these benefits can also help businesses boost their revenues: 39 percent of survey respondents cited improved profitability as the top unexpected benefit that IoT projects brought to their organization.