Why the Value of Enterprise IoT Isn’t About Things At All

Enterprise IoT is evolving fast. So fast, in fact, that it’s no longer about the Internet or even the Things at all.

In an earlier post, I touched on the idea that the real promise of Enterprise IoT is to deliver benefits along the entire value chain, from manufacturer to end customer – allowing each business along the way to focus on their core offering without distraction.

At Bright Wolf, we’ve done over 100 connected products projects for Fortune 1000 companies over the past several years, and some clear themes are emerging. “Thing” makers of all kinds who embrace IoT have an opportunity to become embedded in their customers’ value propositions, creating durable relationships based on value delivered.

Working Backward from the End Customer

Having the right strategy is critical. It is entirely possible to embark on an expensive IoT journey only to come up short of the hoped-for transformational outcome.

“What in the world would cause business leaders to allocate another trillion dollars to enterprise IT in the next decade? Quite simply, the prospect of gaining ten trillion dollars by so doing.” – Geoffrey Moore

Enterprise IoT projects are technically complex. However, allowing this technical complexity to distract from the goals of business transformation is an all-too-common challenge. The focus must remain on the end customer, how their business can be improved, and how a 10x value can be created for them. What is it that the end customer is doing today, and what is the vision for how that can be significantly improved?

What do the economics look like at the end customer, at the origination of the value chain? Start there and work backward through the chain to the suppliers, aligning at each step with the end customer’s target business model, and looking at the change in economics for each participant.

The Spectrum of IoT Transformation

One clear pattern that has emerged is there exists a spectrum of approaches to IoT. At one end of the spectrum, the internal motivation for the project centers on “let’s instrument our products so we can differentiate them and defend against commoditization.” This approach is dangerous, because the customers’ needs are merely background considerations. It may provide short term relief and can build the technology muscles for broader IoT efforts, but will not be the long-term path chosen by the industry leaders of the future.

At the other end of the spectrum is “we believe Enterprise IoT will allow us to transform our customers’ businesses and make us invaluable to them.” This latter approach – to begin and end with the customer – takes more time and resources and dedication, but is what Enterprise IoT and real digital transformation is all about.

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

Regardless of where their initial motivations reside on this spectrum, Enterprise IoT projects often begin with technology feasibility, a proof of concept. Once this simplified step is proven out – “we can see data in the cloud from a sensor on our Thing!” – it’s time to switch focus to the business aspects rather than simply adding more code.

“What are the business scenarios to be enabled by the connected system? Will our proposed architecture support these goals at production scale?” IoT projects that roll quietly from tech prototype to full-blown production development effort without re-centering on the customer usually end up dying an ugly and expensive death, leaving a mark on the company and the internal project sponsors as they fall short on delivering a business outcome for the company or its customers.

This is why the value of Enterprise IoT isn’t about the Things – it’s about your customers’ and improving the value chain. It’s about building deep relationships with your customers and embedding yourself within their business process.

GETTING TO PRODUCTION

Whether you are just getting started, already have a prototype, or find yourself stuck mid-way along the IoT journey, it may be wise to seek advice from a partner like Bright Wolf. We’ve helped several Fortune 1000 businesses worldwide and are happy to chat about how we could help you too.

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