6 July, 2022

IoT and the human element

16 June, 2017

Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT) – these are concepts that are being increasingly discussed and often lauded as ways to offer new methodologies for manufacturers and engineering companies to leverage greater advantages from a number of vantage points. These advantages could, for example, include major operational and maintenance improvements that can lead to cost savings, improved machinery accuracy and greater machinery uptime through better connectivity of people and machines. Indeed, these themes have been given a particularly keen focus at events such as Hannover Messe over the past few years, with the 2017 outing of Hannover Messe championing The Connected Enterprise.

With regard to IoT, IDC predicts that the worldwide installed base of IoT endpoints will grow from 14.9 billion at the end of 2016 to more than 82 billion in 2025. At this rate, it has been said that the Internet of Things may soon be as indispensable as the Internet itself. The technology may be available to make this level of connectivity a reality, but it would appear that despite the forward momentum, the level of practical success is less than inspiring as things currently stand. Indeed, a new study conducted by Cisco suggests that 60% of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage, and only 26% of companies have had an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success. Moreover, a third of all completed projects were not considered a success. “It’s not for lack of trying, but there are plenty of things we can do to get more projects out of pilot and to complete success,” said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager, IoT and applications at Cisco.

The findings were released at the recent IoT World Forum (IoTWF), an event where Cisco convened some of the industry’s best, brightest and most passionate leaders with the goal of accelerating IoT. The company surveyed some 1845 IT and business decision-makers in the UK, the US and India across a range of industries; including manufacturing, energy (utilities/oil & gas/mining), local government, retail/hospitality/sports, transportation and healthcare. All respondents worked for organisations that are implementing and/or have completed IoT initiatives. All were involved in the overall strategy or direction of at least one of their organisation’s IoT initiatives. The goal was to gain insight into both the successes as well as the challenges that are impacting progress.

Key findings included those concerning ‘human factor’ matters. The report makes the point that IoT may sound like it is all about technology, but human factors such as culture, organisation and leadership are critical. Indeed, 3 of the 4 top factors behind successful IoT projects had to do with people and relationships: Collaboration between IT and the business side was the number 1 factor, cited by 54%. A technology-focused culture, stemming from top-down leadership and executive sponsorship, was called key by 49%. IoT expertise, whether internal or through external partnership, was selected by 48%.

In addition, organisations with the most successful IoT initiatives leveraged ecosystem partnerships most widely. They used partners at every phase, from strategic planning to data analytics after rollout. Despite the strong agreement on the importance of collaboration among IT and business decision-makers, some interesting differences emerged: IT decision-makers place more importance on technologies, organisational culture, expertise, and vendors. Business decision makers place greatest emphasis on strategy, business cases, processes and milestones. IT decision-makers are more likely to think of IoT initiatives as successful. While 35% of IT decision-makers called their IoT initiatives a complete success, only 15% of business decision-makers did.

Despite the challenges, many companies that participated in the survey stated that they were optimistic for the future of IoT – a trend that, for all its forward momentum, is still in its nascent stages of evolution. Some 61% believe that we have barely begun to scratch the surface of what IoT technologies can do for their businesses. Within the realms of IoT, we are really just the beginning of a long and eventful journey – but one that will ultimately prove to be highly beneficial and rewarding. Buckle up.

Ed Holden


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