Top reasons why IoT projects fail

We blog often about IoT success stories. From exciting use cases in different industries, to narratives of how start-ups can go from intangible idea to concrete reality, we’ve covered a range of different examples of how connected operations can – and do – power impressive accomplishments.

But that isn’t to say that IoT projects are easy to pull off. In fact, a significant proportion of them fail – indeed, according to a survey by Cisco in May 2017, as many as 60% of corporate IoT projects stall at the proof of concept phase, while only a quarter of survey respondents said they considered their IoT deployment an overall success.

What, then, were the problems?

The key point to take from the Cisco survey is that the problem was rarely, if ever, a technological one. The top reasons for IoT project failure were as follows:

  • Time – the project took too long, which in turn meant that budgets were liable to spill over. Managers underestimated the time that an IoT project would take to complete, and weren’t agile enough when it became clear that the time estimates were inaccurate. Appropriate contingencies weren’t in place.
  • Expertise – the organisation didn’t have the appropriate skills in-house, and didn’t outsource. The IoT is an ecosystem rather than a single product or technology, and this means that a wide range of skills and experiences are necessary for project success.
  • Integration – different teams within the organisation operated different policies and communication channels, and had differing ideas of the importance and application of the IoT project.
  • Data – the data collected was of poor quality. Since IoT success is all about harnessing data for tangible decision-making, if the data is poor, then subsequent decisions will be poor. Indeed, good quality data sits at the heart of all IoT success stories.

The Cisco survey tells us, then, that culture and personnel are far more critical to the success or failure of an IoT project than the technology deployed. When you think about it, this isn’t particularly surprising. The sheer complexity, variety and range of IoT systems in the market already mean that any organisation should be able to select and apply a platform that works for them. But people are the driving force behind where technology is deployed within an organisation and the cultural shifts that need to take place for its benefits to be maximised.

How, then, can your organisation avoid the above pitfalls?

  • Time – managers of IoT projects need to be flexible and adaptable, familiar with project management methodologies that can cope with moving goalposts. Because IoT projects should capture previously untapped data, and generate brand-new insights into how your organisation operates, it is very difficult to accurately predict project length and scope from the outset. Far better, then, to plan with a ‘stretchy’ timeline in mind.
  • Expertise – it is unlikely that your organisation will start off with all of the in-house expertise you need to fully harness the benefits of the IoT. Tackle this by thinking about IoT training and upskilling from the very outset of your project, and don’t be afraid to bring in temporary or contract staff to cover certain aspects if needed. Draw on all of the available training and support provided by technology vendors, manufacturers and solution providers, and plan training and development programmes as part of your project.
  • Integration – this is a task for both the IoT project manager, and senior management within the organisation. It is vital that they understand that the IoT marks a major cultural shift in terms of how your business operates – and that they communicate that shift to all departments within your organisation.
  • Data – finally, we arrive back at that hallmark of IoT projects, the core from which everything else hangs. How can you be sure of collecting good quality data? There are two elements to bear in mind – first, understanding from the outset the knowledge gaps you want the IoT to fill – that is, knowing what data you need to capture. And second – deploying sensors and analytics engines that are able to capture and analyse precisely that data.

Project failure may still be too common in the IoT world – but some simple steps can massively mitigate the risk.

Planning for a successful IoT project

IoT projects can be daunting prospects. The IoT is by nature complex and dynamic. Once your organisation has committed to developing an IoT strategy, it has to accept the reality of a vastly increased number of devices on its network, ever-changing user bases and ever-moving endpoints, and, crucially, a much, much larger volume of data to process than ever before.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the problems start long before the project has got off the ground. IoT strategies are complex to implement, and a high proportion of them fail before completion. This is costly, can impact on operational efficiency and drag down morale. How, then, can you plan for a successful IoT project? Here are 7 key areas to consider, which we will cover in more detail:

  • Ensuring accountability
  • Evaluating vendors
  • Understanding failure
  • Network capability
  • Handling data
  • Security
  • Looking to the future

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