Mastering IoT Success: Key Strategies to Avoid Failure

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Recently, Witekio CEO Samir Bounab sat down with Tom White at The IoT Podcast to discuss what it means to fail, and succeed, when developing IoT products. 

If you’ve not had a chance to listen/watch the episode, you can here:  

However, if you don’t have time to digest it all, but want to know the top 5 takeaways – we’ve got you covered below 👇

After all, with so much to gain from embracing connectivity, learning to avoid the pitfalls and perils along the way is vital. And who better to talk about those perils than the leader of a company HIRED to develop connected projects?!  

Avoid IoT for IoT’s Sake

Embracing connectivity can be transformative for your products. Take Nest Labs, who went from launching their first IoT product in 2011 to being bought for $3.2 billion by Google in 2014. Success stories like this have rightly caught the eye of many a CEO across the world.  

The allure of such figures has rightly increased interest in the potential of IoT products, both consumer and industrial. But is connectivity a magic wand that you can simply wave at your R&D department while you wait for the money to pour in? Of course not. 

Like all innovation projects, IoT must be done with a set goal. The industry has progressed beyond the need to search for use cases. It may sound obvious, but your IoT project needs to meet a specific pain point, otherwise, it risks becoming one.   

IoT is not an R&D project, it’s a company project

As strange as it sounds, one of the most common mistakes companies make when embracing IoT is not embracing IoT! Connectivity is not just adding another tool to your toolkit, it’s building a brand-new workshop. 

Many IoT projects fail because they are handed off to R&D (who to be fair are probably the most enthusiastic) and left in their capable hands. But connectivity affects the entire business, if not the entire business model.

Previously, you might have sold to a dozen or so major customers through a trusted distributor. Now, you sell directly to thousands of end customers, often using a subscription model. If your finance department isn’t prepared and on board then you will certainly know about it soon enough! 

Each department or aspect of your business will have to change to accommodate this new approach. The sales department, for example, will have to develop entirely new approaches and new contact lists. Marketing will need to target new customer personas, as well as understand the new functions to communicate.

And won’t someone think of IT?! They will have fortified internal systems perhaps over many years, only to find potentially thousands of new threat surfaces being introduced with varying degrees of access. 

Without company-wide involvement, your project may be short-lived. Even if you outsource your development and have the best-connected project in the world, without full-company buy-in, it’s likely to fail. 

Conversely, a company that treats connectivity as a holistic change rather than a new fix-all toy is far more likely to succeed while its competitors lose pace. 

Need help with your IoT Project?

Find your IoT champion

Holistic change does not happen by itself. Somebody needs to lead the charge. In many cases, this is the CEO, but it can be someone else up the C-suite. But what does it mean to champion IoT? Firstly, you need to start with the “why?”. Why do you need connectivity? What will it mean for your business case and your customers? What problem are you solving?  

This drive then needs to be communicated clearly across the business to ensure buy-in. 

Your IoT champion doesn’t just sign off on the budgets, they help provide the mission statement and structure that will carry your project over the hurdles and unify your team under one banner. By bringing together each facet of your business that will contribute to your IoT project, you create a much more solid foundation for success. 

This way, when things don’t go to plan immediately, your team is more likely to rally for a solution together, rather than pass responsibility to others.  

Change is coming, so take it seriously

Samir helped Witekio find success using Kotter’s model for change. Applying these eight steps to your IoT project can help ease the pain of transition.  

Step 1: Create a Sense of urgency –  You need to clearly communicate to your team why adopting IoT technology is crucial for your success. Back this up with concrete market/customer demands.  

Step 2: Form a Guiding Coalition – Establish a cross-functional team that can provide leadership and advocate for the IoT initiative across the organization. 

Step 3: Build a strategic vision – This vision should guide your development process and also provide a framework for future reviews.

Step 4: Communicate that vision – Regular updates, town hall meetings, and workshops can be used to educate employees about the benefits of IoT and how it aligns with the company’s goals.  

Step 5: Remove barriers to change – Identify any barriers to IoT adoption, such as lack of technical expertise or outdated processes. This would be a great point at which to bring in external support! 

Step 6: Generate short-term wins – A prototype or pilot project can be invaluable in gathering feedback and refining the product before you commit to a final design. 

Step 7: Sustain change as a continuous process – Use the feedback from your pilot to refine and enhance the IoT product’s features and functionality. Continuously iterate and improve based on real-world usage. 

Step 8: Incorporate change into the organizational culture  – This step is vital. Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes. A 100% perfect launch the first time around is unlikely, so learn what you can and remember, the second attempt is always easier! 

Learn from others

Looking at other IoT projects can be a good way to signpost both good and bad paths. One case that Samir highlighted was a home appliance company’s struggle to develop their IoT project. In the end, they settled on outsourcing the project entirely to external parties, including project management.

While outsourcing is an excellent way to ensure you get the best skills and industry experience (nudge nudge), spreading the project management and, most importantly, responsibility, amongst multiple providers resulted in confusion, hidden information, and a lack of accountability, leading the project astray. This is where that internal champion is key.

Conversely, a more successful example emerged from a company specializing in professional appliances for water damage restoration. In this case, the CEO took a proactive role, engaging cross-functional teams and extending responsibility to other members of management. Workshops involving marketing, sales, and more were conducted to align visions, resulting in a successful product line that genuinely met customer needs.  

Another intriguing instance featured a crane manufacturer venturing into “Crane as a Service.” Instead of attempting a massive project straight off the bat, the company started with a small proof of concept, connecting machines and showing the potential to customers before fully launching. This helped them iron out any wrinkles before committing fully to a potentially wayward path.  

Our Conclusion 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of IoT, success requires more than just technological prowess. It demands a comprehensive, company-wide approach that aligns with the company’s goals, challenges, and vision.  

As the IoT realm continues to grow and mature, businesses that embrace holistic change and understand the intricacies of IoT implementation will be the ones poised for enduring success.  

If you would like help with your IoT project, from development to connectivity and IoT platform integration – we’re here to help.

Patrick HADDAD - Copywriter
23 August 2023