The Top Five Challenges In IoT Digital Enterprise Transformation (Part One)
After more than twenty years of development and implementation of IoT and digital technologies, you would think that most enterprises would have achieved digital transformation by now. In fact, a study from Accenture shows that only 22% of large organizations are able to effectively scale their digital innovation proof of concepts (PoCs) to drive growth.
IoT technologies, database systems, and Artificial Intelligence have all progressed exponentially in the last few years-but there remain significant challenges in people’s understanding of how digital technologies function, and how quickly business benefits and ROI can be achieved.
Top five challenges
I spoke with Accenture’s Industry X.0 IoT Lead Brendan Mislin about his experience with large-scale IoT projects and digital transformation efforts. He pinpointed five key challenges that appear “over and over again.” First and most significantly, companies tend to be too focused on technology when undertaking digital transformation-”they hear a really good pitch, and it seems so easy to implement” says Mislin. The hype cycle around new IoT technologies certainly contributes to this, with 5G being a perfect example. “5G is another feather in the cap,” says Mislin, “like a lot of advanced technologies, it’s super powerful in some cases and irrelevant in others.”
The second most prevalent challenge is related to the first: a lack of a solid business case. Mislin states that Accenture now tries to avoid using the term Proof-of-Concept, instead creating PoVs (Proof-of-Value). This is quite simply because “the main point of these projects is not to prove a new IoT service, the main point of these projects is to show whether it can deliver some kind of value,” says Mislin. Keeping in mind the business benefits from the very start is crucial to a successful transformation.
Fragmented sponsorship is another key challenge, where “there’s a great project on the table, everyone agrees on the value that it can bring, but they just cannot align in terms of sponsorship and executive support.” These cases are far more difficult to address, says Mislin, but if the value is clear and the goals are achievable, then the issue most likely lies in the corporate culture-”some companies are really good at pushing this through and some, frankly, are paralyzed by it.”
Tying in strongly to the first two most common challenges is the fourth point, which is a lack of a clear path from pilot to scale.
If there is not a clear case for implementing a project, and people become tied up in the promise of new technology, then it can be easy to forget about the big picture.
“People get a little over-excited about doing the pilot,” says Mislin, “but there needs to be a plan and a clear business justification for where to go after that.”
The fifth (but by no means final) challenge is a lack of funding. Probably the easiest obstacle to predict, it is in fact surprising that financial resources are not higher up on the list-perhaps the difficulty in getting past the PoC (or PoV) stage makes the expense of full-production rollout a less common stumbling block for organizations. As well as Accenture’s statistic on scaling PoCs referenced in the introduction, a recent report by Beecham Research found that 49% of pilot IoT projects were deemed a complete or partial failure by end-users-suggesting that there may indeed be little support past this point in many cases.
Getting past these difficulties is not an impossibility, although some are harder to overcome than others. Mislin points to an example in the mining industry that was particularly successful because of how new technology was introduced to the enterprise, with a strong focus on real-world operating conditions.
Accenture sent two service and experience designers to a mining facility, the largest single site they have worked on, for two weeks to “shadow different target users all day long.” After two weeks, they mapped out the entire value chain of the mine, and added each target user’s day-to-day activities to that map of processes-”slowly they began to understand what kinds of things were restricting people from doing their job more successfully,” Mislin recounts.
After that, they customized the entire connected mine solution around those specific requirements (the user interface needed to be “fat-finger-friendly and easily visible on a tablet when working outside,” for example) and iterated the solution with the very same people that would be using it in the mine. “The added bonus of having the target users in the loop early on is that it really helps with that change management process,” says Mislin, “after a while those users really get hungry for it and start asking when they can use the solution.”
Keep it simple
Building a solution quite literally from the ground up, and thinking precisely about the goals of digital transformation and what real-world value it will bring seems like a simple solution, and quite often these solutions are the most effective.
Understanding what you want from technology is the first thing you should consider, and “of all the things, having a solid business case is the number one most important factor towards a successful deployment.”
Looking into different industries and talking to Brendan Mislin about the biggest challenges in a digital transformation effort, the same key message keeps cropping up-”don’t use technology for the sake of using it, but focus on the actual goals and the value it can bring… things flow pretty easily after that.”
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.