Tips to help businesses avoid IoT failures

A majority of IoT projects fail to get off the ground

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest trends in IT and business – and for good reason.

The promise of connecting all kinds of products, assets, vehicles, and facilities, and then gathering and analyzing data from these “things,” can lead to improved processes, enhanced products, better customer experiences, and other benefits.

For manufacturers, IoT can be a major game changer – one of the key components for creating the ultra-efficient “smart factories” that companies dream about. If done right, IoT can help IT and operations teams at manufacturing companies optimize operations, reduce costs, and take better advantage of the convergence that’s under way among these two groups.

IoT can help enable two key transformations for manufacturers: the shift to digital factories and the creation of connected fleets.

The digital factory brings connectivity inside plants, allowing manufacturers to capture and integrate data from IoT devices and machines to the cloud, enhancing efficiencies through technologies such as predictive maintenance.

These modern factories can enable benefits such as significant decreases in time to market, operating expenses, and maintenance costs, as well as increased labor productivity, throughput, quality, safety and compliance. The manufacturing sector is ideal for digitalization, given that the industry generates much more data than others.

With a connected fleet, manufacturers can capture data from connected trucks, drivers, and cargo to enable cost-saving optimization and predictive maintenance. This delivers a complete ecosystem of open platform-based products and services that enable manufacturers to leverage insights from IoT data to improve asset utilization and follow compliance regulations.

Each of these areas promises significant returns for companies. It should be no surprise that manufacturing operations is the IoT use case expected to attract the largest investments in 2017, according to a June 2017 report by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The problem is, a majority of IoT projects fail to get off the ground – for a variety of reasons. A study by Cisco early in 2017 showed that 60% of IoT initiatives stall out at the proof-of-concept (PoC) stage, and only 26% of companies have had an IoT initiative that was considered a complete success. A third of all completed IoT projects were not thought to be successful.

To gather the data, the company surveyed 1,845 IT and business decision-makers in the U.S., U.K. and India across a range of industries including manufacturing. All of the respondents worked for organizations that are implementing or have completed IoT initiatives, and all were involved in the overall strategy or direction of at least one of their organization’s IoT initiatives.

In most cases, IoT project failures are not caused by technology issues, according to the research. Problems arise from areas such as company culture, organization and structure. The top five most common reasons IoT projects fail are that:   

  1. They take too long to progress   
  2. The enterprise has limited expertise in IoT   
  3. The quality of data is subpar   
  4. There is a lack of integration across teams   
  5. Companies are plagued by budget overruns

Steps for IoT success

IT and operations leaders at manufacturing companies can take steps to address or avoid these problems and help ensure the success of IoT projects.

For one thing, they have to make sure these projects progress at a brisk pace. This requires several key factors. One is that the project has the support of senior business leaders and the appropriate funding. The project itself needs to have strong leadership, ideally with senior IT and operations executives working closely to ensure that different aspects of IoT – such as networking, sensor deployment, data gathering, analytics and other areas — are well coordinated.

Also, key to moving projects along is making sure the organization is ready for IoT, both from a factory and fleet standpoint. Leaders and their teams must put together a strong business case, so that the various parts of the company to be affected by IoT will be able to visualize the benefits.To address the challenge of limited expertise in IoT, manufacturers should assess whether they can train existing employees to learn the new skills that are needed, or hire people who already possess these skills.

They also should consider bringing in outside expertise through trusted partnerships with vendors that are well versed in IoT technologies such as networks, sensors, data analytics and cybersecurity tools.

Ensuring success with IoT also requires high-quality data. Manufacturers should aim to deploy technologies that accelerate their ability to procure actionable insights from data; the way to achieve that is by analyzing accurate and timely data. If the data isn’t accurate, the decisions that result are not likely to be sound.

To help maintain the high quality of IoT data, companies can:   

  • Leverage standards that ensure data coming from different sources is in sync  
  • Deploy secure devices and networks to prevent tampering with data 
  • Make sure devices in the field are operating as they should when gathering and sending data

Another step companies can take to succeed at IoT is to overcome any lack of integration across teams. IT and operations teams, like their respective leaders, must work closely together and coordinate their efforts as much as possible.

That includes collaborating on technology planning and purchasing. Operations are becoming more dependent on data and analytics, so it’s increasingly important that IT and operations be on the same page as part of IoT initiatives. This is another area in which emerging IoT standards can help.

Finally, to enjoy success with IoT projects, manufacturers must do what is necessary to avoid budget overruns. That means getting maximum value and returns from all IoT investments and avoiding unnecessary expenses. Companies need to make smart buying decisions on both the IT and operations sides of IoT.

These practices can help manufacturers avoid failing at IoT and also become leaders of this new, connected environment. Then, they will be able to transform the way they design, produce, distribute and maintain products, and create the smart, digital factories and connected fleets that will characterize the modern manufacturing enterprise.

Visit our manufacturing page to learn more about industry-specific solutions and trends.