While industrial IoT projects have many stakeholders across the enterprise, three key roles are most responsible for decisions impacting the system’s long-term financial potential. Each plays a part in training the dragons blocking their organization’s path to leadership in a connected world. How can these digital project leaders navigate the real-world challenges both inside and outside their enterprise and bring about successful industrial evolution?
First, there’s the engineering manager. Their task is to deliver a functional industrial IoT system. Sometimes their teams include enterprise software developers, though are more commonly made up of talented embedded systems and controls engineers with little cloud experience.
Second, we have a product manager. They define the purpose of the system, with feature requirements and business value metrics. Often, they don’t have strong relationships with sales and service teams, and little direct contact with customers. Therefore, specs and forecasts may contain their best assumptions and aspirations rather than defined user input and shared KPIs.
Third, there are IT managers. Frequently blindsided late in the process with operational duties and costs, they become reluctant gatekeepers struggling to support new technology and business requirements without sufficient time or budget to prepare.
Bringing together these three discipline leaders at the beginning of an industrial IoT project will ensure delivery of industrial IoT value.
Develop an industrial IoT platform
Often engineering managers select a technology stack and approach for delivering their solution without clear user scenarios or business requirements. Under these conditions, the odds of a good match are low. Each enterprise is a special creature, with unique constraints and goals. It takes the right tools and methods to train this dragon. Even the mightiest code warriors face an endless battle when their chosen approach doesn’t match the nature of their particular beast.
Therefore, engineering leaders should insist that product managers provide not just “what” the system must do, but also “why” each feature is needed. This includes the desired business outcomes and relative scenario value. Moreover, engineering leaders must speak with IT managers to understand their enterprise’s requirements for data access, network security, and resource optimization.
Armed with the right details, they can evaluate options and invest appropriately. This will ensure critical traits are dominant in their own designs and vendor components. Special features, new team members, experienced partners, and vendor services may be required to control their dragon. To succeed in the end, they must properly prepare for their quest in the beginning.
Define the digital solution
Product managers find their dragon upon its pile of gold and jewels, the rewards of digital transformation locked under its weight. Removing the beast and realizing this value requires understanding the totality of its wants and needs. The dragon is comprised of an array of enterprise stakeholders and users. Therefore, the product manager must build a coalition across these parties and unify their actions toward a shared goal.
Creating value for aftermarket parts and service divisions also requires understanding what sales and marketing teams need to succeed. Otherwise the dragon will simply circle the pile. Unless new services are compelling to customers, meeting the requirements of data science and operations groups just causes the dragon to flail. Successful product managers bring together the needs of each stakeholder, and train their dragons to fly.
Secure the system
IT managers know there’s a huge difference between snap-and-go data pipelines and a production enterprise IoT system. Quickly showing a machine’s status in a mobile app seems impressive, but most visual toolkits woefully ignore almost all enterprise requirements.
IT managers must keep the network secure and ensure data privacy at all times. Yet to harness the value of industrial IoT, they must simultaneously enable integration between a wide variety of disparate systems and data sources, both inside and outside of their corporate environment. These include equipment and applications inside their customers’ operations and their own CRM, ERP, and other enterprise business systems. Sometimes even external sources like weather data and energy prices are needed. Moreover, they must enforce a complex matrix of data access policies across a complex array of systems and users. Truly, IT managers face a dragon of epic proportions.
Yet most IT managers are indeed a hardy lot, and up to the challenge. With sufficient notice they can begin training their dragon early when it is still small. Costs and configurations can be discussed and planned for. System requirements and capabilities can be reviewed and approved ahead of time. Unsurprisingly, anyone showing up with a solution for deployment by an IT manager who has not been previously consulted is likely to receive a fiery reception, stopping the initiative in its tracks.
How you begin is how you will end
Regardless of which role is assigned as primary champion of the industrial IoT project, one of the most impactful decisions an organization can make is to form a leadership triad of engineering, product, and IT managers early in the digital journey. To learn more about methods for bringing together critical stakeholders and delivering connected solutions that will define industrial leadership in the next century, let’s start a conversation today.