IoT: We All Believe the Hype -- Now What?

You've all heard the hype, that the IoT opportunity is gigantic. You've heard about billions of this and trillions of that and zeta bytes of the other. Like many of you, I do believe that much of the hype will actually become a reality. IoT is having a transformational impact similar in fashion to the impact of eBusiness in the late 1990s.

Clearly, eBusiness completely transformed every function in a company, from product development to production to supply chain to sales/customer service and so on. eBusiness brought together traditional IT systems with emerging web-based technologies to completely redefine legacy business processes, resulting in unprecedented gains in speed, scale, and efficiency. There are numerous examples of industries that were transformed by eBusiness industry pioneers, such as UPS, Cisco and Amazon.

IoT will change companies and industries just as eBusiness did in the late 1990s. In fact, many believe that IoT will have a larger effect. One could argue that IoT encompasses eBusiness and therefore has wider boundaries.

But, rather than further contributing to the hype, the question for many is quite simply: now what? Well, now, it's about "doing" IoT rather than just preaching about help make IoT more of a reality.

Now What?
As I've met with customers, partners, thought leaders, analysts, etc., I've had many fascinating discussions about the "now what?" question. The emphasis on the "what", as in "what should we be doing in IoT?" There needs to be just as much focus on the "why, how and who." The most successful eBusiness leaders focused more energy on cultural change, process, metrics and leadership than they did on specific projects. The same guiding principal needs to be applied to IoT.

In the spirit of thinking prescriptively about "doing" IoT, I'll offer four foundational ideas to help make IoT a reality, by borrowing some best practices from past successful business/IT transformations.

Hire a Chief IoT Officer!
IoT is a complex, cross-functional project that needs an orchestrator with enterprise-wide visibility and influence. Without a senior-level corporate IoT champion to drive a holistic approach, companies may end up building islands of IoT within multiple functions and in the process, spend more on, and receive less from their IoT initiatives. Remember the VP of eBusiness or the Chief Security Officer, etc.? Same principal. However, in this case, the most successful Chief IoT Officers will put themselves out of a job in a few years because IoT will be embedded in the company culture, process and systems.

Become More Passionate About IoT Data.
CEOs from the leading companies around the world often state that they view data as a competitive advantage. A data-driven culture needs to start at the CxO level. Many companies have stated that it can be difficult to even know what questions to ask in this new world of IoT use-cases. Therefore, analyze more and ask more questions. Treat analytics as a learning experience to broaden and deepen the data science capabilities in the organization. What you learn from your data may surprise you. The CEO's new best friend needs to be a really smart data scientist.

Where to begin? Follow the money!
Companies can get lost in the possibilities and promise of IoT, but nothing speaks volumes quite like ROI. It's great to experiment and conduct projects to learn, but the realization of business benefits is the best proof point to help make IoT a reality. The question that has to be answered: "Where and how can my IoT data monetized?" Start with the projects that have clear quantifiable benefits. Even small wins can help create momentum and serve as an excellent poster-child of what is possible with IoT. Use project success as a way to drive cultural change and build organizational momentum and as an illustration of what is possible.

Let Use-cases Drive Technology Decisions.
IoT is not an IT project. It is a project that brings together OT (operational technology) with IT (information technology). Therefore, let operational use-cases drive technology decisions rather than allow technology religion to shape use-cases. It is about generating actionable insights from information and data, not the flavor of technology that IT happens to like. Which is why information is more important than information technology. Too many IoT use cases are constrained by legacy infrastructure and tools (and legacy thinking) not built for an IoT world. Spend more time on improving process, increasing speed, solving business challenge, not trying to fit existing technologies where they don't belong. OT leads, IT enables.

Clearly, companies need to focus on doing IoT, and generate business benefits. However, many start to focus immediately on the "what", with not enough emphasis on the "why, how, and who", and each should be prioritized the same. The four ideas above will help organizations answer these foundational questions and therefore set the proper groundwork for success, improving execution and increasing the speed to ROI!

About the Author
Syed Hoda is the CMO of ParStream, the leading IoT analytics company, where he leads the global marketing function. Prior to joining ParStream, Syed was the General Manager and CMO for Cisco's Emerging Solutions Group as well as one of the Chief Storytellers for Cisco's Internet of Things and Globalization initiatives.