Overcoming the most common obstacles to IoT implementation
Organizations are making massive investments in the Internet of Things and implementing IoT solutions across the enterprise. Connected devices can optimize the supply chain, energy consumption, and production.
In many cases, the businesses deploying more robust IoT processes are aware that IT must bear a heavy burden to integrate corporate, operations, and even factories. In some other cases, they may not understand what they are undertaking.
Businesses now realize that implementing interconnected, cross-platform IoT solutions can create data and, thus knowledge, that drives down costs. It is much faster and cost-effective within the enterprise to innovate within than by introducing a new product to market. It just needs to be done correctly.
Take for instance a global supplier for the automotive industry who recently built in some IoT solutions into a production project. By implementing a discrete alarm and condition monitoring setup they were able to better support their global installed base. Leveraging IoT, any modifications and other support processes necessary can be done remotely. This reduced engineering support costs by over 30 percent, not to mention eased the strain on IT and freed up teams for more innovative projects.
And the IoT solutions are making analyzing data more useful. Piloting some AI capabilities into the setup, the automotive industry supplier is now capable of doing predictive maintenance for their project. In this instance, the IoT solution is not only driving down costs, but it is also helping eliminate breakdowns that could IT time and resources.
Implementing IoT on the small-scale first
When IoT implementation does not work, it is likely due to businesses either pushing IoT solutions at a scale that stretches engineering capabilities or moving too fast to integrate IoT technologies into a current system.
Best practices for implementing new IoT solutions is to do so in a small, self-contained project. Once it is successful, then to scale it across the enterprise. In the example of the auto industry supplier mentioned above, they originally implemented the new technologies within a self-contained project and got a terrific results. The project saw an immediate ROI, which helped the team secure top level internal support leading to the deployment of the beneficial IoT solution on more complicated projects.
Find a self-contained project. Implement an IoT solution and then show value. Then you will be able to scale and be more ambitious.
IoT project management and implementation for existing systems
A common mistake that causes deployment projects to fail is the absence of a strategy to support the teams tasked with integrating a new technology into an existing system. For new IoT initiatives to be successful, teams across the entire enterprise need buy in. This undertaking, done right, can transform a business.
One good way to do this with the IT team is to mirror current software development methodologies — such as SCRUM — while incorporating new IoT processes. This is a great alternative to trying to retrain and re-educate. Using a framework familiar to engineering teams will have immense benefits for developers implementing IoT projects into existing structures.
Leveraging the SCRUM framework, for example, the developers will be hands on with the project and will have daily contact with how IoT is making life better for the end user and other enterprise applications. And, most importantly, they will be working with the IoT processes as a team.
This learning-by-doing at the initial stage of deployment allows software developers to be able to understand the business issues and translate that into the software. Basically, getting buy in and working with the new IoT solutions right away will reveal the business reasons — and the importance — behind the undertaking of new projects.
We recently worked with an air conditioning supplier for data centers to connect their system through IoT. They work with large data centers and needed a way to prevent overcooling of the data systems. Over time, they realized that overcooling was not cost-effective — it used more electricity — and could result in system failures that required attention from support teams.
The AC system worked best running at 18 degrees, which they were able to manage remotely once they implemented an IoT solution. The system also had a feature that was able to identify a failure on the hardware side. On occasion, an issue that looked like a temperature problem for a data center might actually have been a fault of the server hardware. With the IoT system in place, the IT team could analyze data daily showing what was a temperature-related problem and what was a system failure. Eventually, this allowed them to predict and identify hardware units that had the potential to fail. Those working on the project were able to see, firsthand, the benefits of the IoT project in terms of time-saved and overall project efficiency.
How best to implement IoT across the enterprise
Failure often comes when businesses try to implement IoT too broadly or too quickly.
Just like any process, if the proper steps are taken, enterprises can integrate IoT quite successfully. Here are the three phases to IoT implementation we’ve found work best.
The first phase is to learn how to manage the new IoT environment. Whether you are connecting a few or a whole fleet of machines, you need to understand how the technology works. To do this, it is best to connect data in discrete application servers, condition monitoring, and alarm management. You need the new technology implemented to manage the lifecycle. First manage the separate discrete project and discrete application. While doing this, be learning the whole time.
The second phase is finding where the potential for failure lies within that new environment. Once you know how it works on your platform and where the problems could arise, you can then integrate the solution into existing IT systems and ERP systems.
The third phase is when the project become more efficient. The IoT solution is improving the supply chain processes and increasing cross-enterprise coordination. At this point, you can innovate around the new technology and implement predictive maintenance and AI initiatives. This is the innovation phase.
When I think about what enterprises do wrong, I see they often go into the third phase — seeking the most innovative benefits of an IoT solution — before they have implemented phase one and phase two. They underestimate the challenges in running a IoT project, in particular, the strain on the existing system and the teams charged with deployment.
Successful IoT implementations benefit everyone across the enterprise. They create opportunities for innovation, allow data to be leveraged in ways that predict and prevent time-consuming system failures, and, most importantly, increase integration between operations, IT, and the technology. Successful IoT integrations use proven strategies and avoid the missteps mentioned above. The best way to do that is by leveraging existing technologies developed to support the integration process.
New IoT technologies have the potential transform businesses. If done by a coordinated effort, that transformation can be a success. If no strategy or ready-made solution supports the integration of a new technology, the project is likely to fail.