People often talk about deploying the Internet of Things (IoT) as if it’s a discrete project—something you do once, and then you move on to the next thing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
IoT is a multi-year journey, not a one-time event.
IoT is not just about implementing IoT technology, it’s about changing your culture, processes, and skills. It may start with just one small project—and, in fact, that is exactly what I recommend in my new book, Building the Internet of Things—but it’s never just “one and done.” That is why, before you implement the smallest bit of IoT technology, you need to step back and take a comprehensive approach:
- Begin by building your vision. Talk about IoT in your organization and help people think about what might be possible when things can communicate with other things. Then identify some strategic goals; identify a specific problem to solve or an opportunity to grab.
- Pick the “low-hanging fruit” first. Have a big vision, but start with a small project to generate early success.
- Build a coalition of the willing. Bringing together your IT and operational technology (OT) teams is a great place to start. But also bring in line-of-business leaders who can see the potential of IoT in helping them achieve their business goals.
- Identify key barriers to success. IoT often faces significant obstacles in four broad areas: 1) technical, especially in the areas of standards and interoperability; 2) security, which can be a show-stopper if not built in to the core of your operation; 3) government, which has a role to play in agenda-setting and regulating IoT; and 4) organizational challenges, which may be the biggest obstacle of all because IoT often demands cultural change. Understand who will resist the change and make a plan to address their concerns and win them over.
- Make sure you have support from the C-suite. To drive cultural change and ensure long-term success, you’ll need support and commitment at the highest levels of your organization.
When you begin this IoT journey, you don’t know exactly where it may take you. As I have said, start with a small project, preferably in one of the four fast paths to payback I have identified—connected operations, remote operations, predictive analytics, and predictive maintenance. These areas of IoT have been tried and proven by thousands of your peers over the past several years. With the success of one project you can then more easily obtain investment in more complex—and impactful—initiatives.
Let’s look at the experience of Rockwell Automation, Cisco’s long-standing IoT partner. They decided to “eat their own dogfood” and implement the Internet of Things as part of their connected enterprise. They began by placing all elements of the assembly lines and operations in one plant on a single Ethernet/IP network, then expanded to more plants, and linked those plants to each other and the enterprise network. The results were impressive:
- Reduced inventory cycle from 120 days to 82 days
- Reduced rejected parts by 50 percent
- Increased on-time delivery to 98 percent
- Avoided 30 percent in capital expenses
This kind of success can only happen if you take your entire company with you on this journey. Make sure you have buy-in from stakeholders and support from the top. Break down silos, over-communicate, and check in often to make sure that everyone is along for the ride.