Nick Sacke, head of IoT and products at Comms365, explores the elements that businesses must consider in order to create a successful PoC.
Proof of concept (PoC) is a vital component of any IoT initiative, but without key factors such as business-wide collaboration in place from the start, this could cause a project to prematurely stall.
According to research from Growth Enabler, the global IoT market is set to increase to $457.29 billion by 2020, fuelled in part by the rise of acceptance, adoption and business applicability of IoT.
This research is compounded by statistics from Vodafone, which states that the number of IoT adopters across all industries has already more than doubled since 2013, with 29% of businesses across the world showing how strong the business case for IoT really is.
However, research from Cisco shows that 60% of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage, with only 26% of businesses considering their IoT initiative to be a complete success.
A PoC is a vital component of any IoT initiative as it provides a basis for businesses to validate the design and implementation of a project, before it is rolled out across the entire business.
So what are the primary factors that are aiding and impeding progress for IoT initiatives and what are the elements that businesses should consider in order to create a successful PoC?
There is much written around the subject of IoT, especially highlighting the promises and expectations of IoT as an operational cost savings and revenue generation ‘miracle technology’ that will impact every part of industry and home lives.
Whilst IoT offers numerous business opportunities, it is not a simple one-step technology, and positioning it as a project that will provide immediate business benefit without considering the wider challenges and implications could leave companies frustrated, and potentially set them up for costly mistakes.
As businesses look to develop their own IoT PoC, they must start with an objective that is sensible, achievable and one which can be resourced effectively.
Whilst it may be tempting to dive head first into the multitude of opportunities that IoT can potentially deliver for a company, this could quickly become overwhelming when taking into account the volume of resources, both financial and physical, that are required to execute a PoC, let alone an entire project.
Furthermore, starting a project with the premise that ‘it must succeed’ can create a heightened sense of expectation, as well as internal stakeholder competition, envy, distrust and other negative cultural elements.
In order to combat this, businesses must gain consensus for the project – from initial PoC to wider corporate objectives – across all departments, from planning all the way through to analysing the data outcomes.
A PoC that is appropriately planned and executed from the start will quickly maximise confidence in the project across the company. And, with buy in from key stakeholders to support a business-wide cultural shift, companies can move away from the potential negative ‘silo’ effect of any initial PoC.
The human influence
As well as culture and collaboration, the human impact is also an important consideration when it comes to expertise within the business.
It is critical that businesses assess their levels of expertise and consider whether internal personnel are up to the job, or whether experienced external partners are required.
According to the research from Cisco, companies with the most successful IoT deployments used ecosystem partnerships most widely, however this approach only works if the consortium of providers can be coordinated and work together effectively.
A more streamlined approach would be to plan and implement the IoT project with a strategic partner contractor that can coordinate the many disparate technological and operational elements of the project, in order to maximise the outcome.
IoT at scale
A common mistake that often occurs within businesses looking to implement an IoT initiative is that many projects focus on the PoC alone, and not what happens thereafter, particularly when the subject turns to funding.
However, if IoT is to be the mechanism of positive change, all key stakeholders must buy in from the beginning and also be prepared to fund the expansion phase, or else the project will never move beyond PoC.
In an ideal scenario, strategic projects that are driven by IoT should be signed off at C-Level, bought into by the senior management team and delivered by a dedicated project group that works across all departments within the business.
In order to achieve the highest value from the project and generate tangible data results, businesses must also identify the business challenges and define the goals that they want to achieve from the project.
Perhaps the aim of the project is to uncover inefficiencies within the business operations, to identify new revenue streams, or to understand more about how customers are using the business’ products.
As long as each objective has defined metrics that can be measured accordingly, this can drive the business case as the goals can be measured against meaningful data gathered from the IoT solution deployed.
These objectives should also be communicated to key stakeholders in each department to ensure business-wide collaboration and focus towards common goals.
As with any new business undertaking, it’s natural that adjustments may need to be made to the IoT project along the way in terms of fine tuning the technology and processes.
By learning from mistakes and issues during the PoC, business can optimise the project outcomes and mitigate against potential disruption.
A key element in the POC is tenacity, i.e. a business should be prepared to adapt and face any issues that emerge from the POC head on, which will increase the likelihood that the project will succeed.
With such strong potential in IoT technology, businesses could be forgiven for underestimating the full extent of what is required for a successful PoC.
However, whilst there may be some resistance to change, with full business-wide collaboration and partnership with experts, the key elements are in place to work towards making the IoT initiative a success.