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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