Internet of Everything

Why IoT projects fail and what to avoid

Many large digital transformation projects have failed, will fail or never get off the ground.

Some have stated that two-thirds of IoT projects will end up failing because of the complexity or intricacies of technology and difficulties in implementation due to the variety of sensors and devices. I believe otherwise: in my opinion the technology is here now, and failure is not a technology issue.

The most common reason for failed projects, I believe, is the lack of strategy and vision. I have had the pleasure of working with CEOs who had a clouded understanding of their strategy and how they would transform their enterprise.

Example: During one of these meetings I asked a CEO if he could share what goals and path they would follow to transform their enterprise?

 “My CIO presented the strategy in our last management meeting, let me take a look at the slides.”

Further into the conversation, I understood that they budgeted €250 million to transform their enterprise globally.

My advice was to halt the project and not spend a single Euro until the entire C-suite had a crystal clear understanding of the company’s strategic path.

This is a common problem: IoT digital transformation projects start with a business discussion not technology. IoT is the responsibility of the entire C-level team and the board. Everyone from the top down needs to rally behind common strategic goals. A leading change type exercise must be considered as a parallel track, especially if the change requires a cultural shift and or a re-frame of the organization.

Companies can´t expect that just because they hired an Innovation Officer and they got some good ideas from their CIO that they have a blue print for transformation. They are starting at the wrong end and doomed to fail, and they will wake up from a bad dream a year later with a highly increased IT payroll and spending on big cloud, big dreams, big data analytics, big everything – yet still find themselves at the starting line. The entire executive team needs to work together to come up with a common denominator path to follow, as they are all impacted by digital transformation.

Aim small

Many companies also design a grand vision, and there’s nothing wrong with aiming high. However, the strategy in many cases will change, and thus I advise “aim small, miss small” because many “aim big and miss big”.

Sometimes a project will launch and the project team realizes it is not working or they discover a new service business model, which will actually work better.

Also, “build to play, not to last” whilst still having the vision and strategy in mind – then, if that changes a company can easily pivot and once it works they can scale fast.

Finally, there are no end-to-end projects in IoT – each project is complex and unique. No one company can fix it – an ecosystem approach is essential. Don’t believe the sales pitch from overeager behemoth companies trying to sell a huge dream: the stars and whatever galaxies they promise to load a project with man hours. Small, focused start-ups are required too — there is always going to be a key piece of the puzzle that is missing, and often it is that little company that offers a unique set of competencies or intellectual property.

The most successful projects are a canvas of large, and small players working in sync towards a common goal in true collaborative mode.


About The Author

Principal Chief Evangelist, Tele2

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