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5 essential dos and don'ts of IoT implementations

Shi Jin Lee put together a guide on what to consider for IoT, including promoting collaboration within and across your company and not forgetting security or your end users.

There seem to be two somewhat contradictory narratives surrounding IoT today. On the one hand, global investment in IoT continues to surge, with IDC reporting in 2019 that it would grow from $646 billion in 2018 to $745 billion last year and the net financial outlay on IoT now tracking to overtake the $1 trillion mark by 2022. On the other hand, IoT is languishing at the bottom of the Trough of Disillusionment in Gartner's 2020 Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Strategy, and early adopters like Cisco and Microsoft continue to report failure rates for IoT projects that range from 30% to 70%.

So, how do we square the apparent enthusiasm for IoT with the underwhelming results many companies are reporting so far? One thing is sure: For companies that already have skin in the game, how they answer that question will mark the difference between high ROI and a foundering investment.

At Randstad, we have some concrete ideas about how to approach IoT implementations, as well as where the gaps are. Below, we've distilled all of that into three simple dos, followed by two equally critical don'ts, that should help you successfully navigate the journey.

Dos

1. Do promote collaboration within and across your organization.

Collaboration is crucial and needs to happen at all levels -- not just within your technical teams. Creating a true partnership with the business side of the organization helps ensure that IoT is looked at as more than "just tech." From a high level, that means your overall focus should be on maturing a product or solution in order to develop something that fundamentally differentiates you from competitors.

2. Do leverage your established platforms and products.

Many organizations considering IoT investments feel like they are trapped between where their businesses actually are today and where they would like them to go tomorrow. The question is: How do you live in the new world, while maintaining the best, most valuable parts of the old? The answer is to include some of your existing platforms in your IoT strategy and complement them with well-established products. Just make sure you are leveraging the right platforms and products -- ones that are designed to play well with the rest of the ecosystem and have the foundation to evolve as your architecture and business needs change.

3. Do revisit your architecture on a regular basis.

One of our clients, a global food manufacturer, wanted to deploy smart tools and production machinery in order to create "the plant of the future." But, to do that, updating its disparate and outdated network equipment proved to be a critical prerequisite. Improving connectivity network performance across its facilities turned out to be a foundational step in its IoT journey.

The point is that technologies and platforms change constantly, as do the needs of your business and customers. Revisiting your architecture will help you understand your company's readiness to adopt IoT solutions. At the end of the day, your solutions need to be constantly evolving, along with everything else in your business.

Don'ts

1. Don't forget about end-user support.

This is something we see in both IoT and non-IoT scenarios. When things inevitably go wrong, where are your internal or external users going to go for support? In some cases, it's probably a good idea to create a dedicated and knowledgeable service desk or help desk for this very reason.

2. Don't treat security as an afterthought.

This is where specific frameworks, like DevSecOps, can help you out. DevSecOps is designed to ensure that security is part of the discussion -- and your approach to IoT -- from day one. It'll allow you to act quickly and resolve issues as they occur. Note, too, that the global pandemic has clearly raised the stakes when it comes to cyber-risks and vulnerabilities. This changing threat should be top of mind as you embark on your IoT journey as well.

When you're dealing with IoT, you're dealing with a lot -- a complex ecosystem spanning sensors, applications, reporting platforms, dashboards and more. All of it is real-time data. All of it needs to be part of a feedback loop in order to drive continuous improvements. To be successful, you'll need to work with tightly aligned, multidisciplinary teams that enable collaboration among technology, delivery and the business. Before moving on to a proof of concept, platform or product, make sure the focus is on building that alignment.

About the author

Shi Jin Lee brings over 20 years of industry experience to her role as principal of the strategy and architecture practice at Randstad Technologies. She oversees strategic and management initiatives and engagements for both internal and external clients at Randstad. Lee's areas of expertise include software application architecture, product development, digital marketing, user experience, and IT solutions and strategy. Previously, Lee served as technology director for leading companies in the digital advertising space, such as Hawkeye/Publicis and Commerce House, as well as senior development manager for GameStop.

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