According to global management consulting firm Bain & Company, long-term prospects for the industrial Internet of Things remain ambitious. However, many executives are resetting timeline expectations for reaching scale due to early adoption struggles. Notably, certain “darlings of IoT” like predictive maintenance have not lived up to the hype. And while Bain’s survey of 600 industrial customers shows increasing traction with ‘workhorse’ scenarios like remote monitoring and asset tracking, it exposes areas where many teams and vendors are struggling to deliver the goods. In the end, an iterative strategy focused on specific business outcomes remains critical.
Notably, Bain’s survey finds increasing concerns around integration with existing enterprise systems and data portability. Executives worry their visions for digital transformation will be restricted by internal skill gaps and proprietary vendor services. Understandably, they fear losing control of any data not managed by their own enterprise IT departments. Despite this, confidence remains high that an estimated 20 billion devices will be successfully connected by 2020.
Many executives feel the value proposition for industrial IoT is still emerging. For them, the ability to capitalize on this value and achieve better business results remains elusive. To address these challenges, Bain calls for organizations to build a new operating model and position themselves for long-term success in a connected world.
Recommendations for accelerating IoT adoption in the enterprise
First, Bain recommends industrial organizations choose specific, high-value use cases to tackle upfront. Prove out your ability to address security and other valid IT concerns. Then, adopt an iterative approach for demonstrating ROI and ease of enterprise integration.
Second, use experienced partners to address your gaps. Don’t try building everything yourself. Differentiation comes from the combination of acquired data with your industry-specific domain knowledge. We’ve seen manufacturing digital transformation initiatives stall out when internal engineering teams try to build their own IoT infrastructure. Software for collecting data (and system integration services) can be bought. Build your value, not your tools.
Third, don’t expect overnight success. You’re building up organizational capabilities and working with a new set of specialized partners. Commit to a realistic investment timeline and prepare for change. You’ll likely need to bring in new, more entrepreneurial talent to drive your connected business model. At a minimum, empower your existing teams to think differently. Remember, you’re not rolling out a new CRM application. You’re transforming your enterprise. Act accordingly.
Fourth, industrial IoT revenue starts at the top. Executives must ensure the entire organization is aligned for transition to the new operating model. This requires both vision and clear communication. Unsurprisingly, those responsible for existing products and revenue streams fear cannibalization. Furthermore, IoT initiatives take time to meet traditional P&L requirements. If executives don’t create an environment where the new operating model can take root, prevailing forces will prevent its maturation while competitors move ahead.
Prepare to scale the business
Eventually companies reach the point on their digital transformation journey where they’ve proven out their connected product technology and business concepts. Now what? Bain concludes with a method for assessing readiness to scale up your industrial IoT efforts.
To begin, how well do you understand the full potential of industrial IoT to your enterprise? IoT can dramatically impact the quality of manufactured products, service offerings, maintenance procedures, and other areas of your enterprise. But what will this cost, and what will revenue look like once the system is deployed to production and fully commercialized?
Never forget, your competitors aren’t standing still. You can be sure they’re working on their own industrial IoT initiatives. What is your plan to win in this new arena?
Additionally, scaling IoT requires incentives alignment and coordinated execution across the enterprise. Engineering, IT, service, sales, and business teams must work together for organizations to realize the benefits of digital transformation. Make sure everyone understands their part and is rowing in the same direction.
Bain summarizes their last recommendation with a sentiment that we refer to as “strategy over software.” By strategy, we mean not just a plan, but a comprehensive roadmap, organization structure, and business model across the enterprise to support the success of your industrial IoT initiative.
Digital transformation is a journey
As you start your journey, you’re going to need an industrial IoT platform. Whether it makes sense to build your own or buy one depends on a variety of factors. But digital transformation isn’t just about technology. As Bain notes repeatedly, it’s about so much more. Business models and sales strategies, along with clear user stories, team roles, and responsibilities are equally critical to successful IoT initiatives. Beyond a platform, an experienced digital transformation partner can accelerate planning, implementation, and successful commercialization of your connected systems.