The first myth to smash is that The Internet of Things (IoT) is not new. In fact, the concept has been around since the mid-1980’s. Machine-to-machine (M2M), as it is known in the enterprise, set the foundation for IoT decades ago. The difference is that now all of the smart connected devices are also connected to a network and they can communicate with several back-end IT systems for tracking usage and billing, etc. adding another layer of complexity.
Although some of the technology is old, it is proven to improve efficiency considerably while also improving customer service, but many new applications can be disruptive. So while the impact can be big, the best strategy can often be to start small.
Therefore, this is where I start overturning many traditional IT management concepts that aren’t appropriate for IoT project planning:
- Top-down Approach – Beginning a large strategic IoT project with top level management input may not be the best strategy. Since some technology is still at the experimental stage, small bounded projects will lower the risk and will disrupt operations less than large ambitious complicated projects. In addition, until the benefits of IoT are well understood it might be more prudent to have only a few internal sponsors involved instead of trying to educate, evangelize, and integrate input from several high-level managers.
- Understanding IoT and ROI – In the early stages it’s difficult to know what impact IoT will have on your business. Rapid prototyping can help you find out. It’s important in the experimental stages to quickly pilot ideas, try new things, and learn from failures. Other variables are difficult to estimate, such as how valid or important data will be in the future, so the ROI can be difficult to gauge without a full understanding of the shelf-life of the IoT system.
- Focus on Network Infrastructure – With the Internet of Things, everything is connected. This includes not only the connected devices themselves but also the IT infrastructure that enables businesses to use IoT data and insights. The ability to analyze, collect, store, and share data easily and reliably is essential. Consistent connectivity is critical for the IoT solution to perform effectively, and this requires having the necessary network infrastructure in place. This necessitates that network requirements are done earlier than usual.
- Harness the Channel early - Vendors bring the infrastructure, sensors, and networks; partnering with them can help speed your IoT proof of concept. Since many aspects of IoT cannot be tested or proven in laboratories but only with real enterprise users and outside customers, bringing suppliers in early is important to test theories, discover new opportunities and reduce the risk of unpleasant surprises later.
- Emphasize IT Security upfront – IoT means that more data will be available across a broad network, increasing the risk of data breaches which could pose a significant threat to individuals and enterprises. Inherent limitations of IoT devices prevent the installation of antimalware, antivirus and firewall agents, so security requirements need to be identified and considered up front to keep endpoints and data exchanges secure.
IoT offers the chance for enterprises to deliver new applications that provide real-time insights that help enterprises capture, understand and make more effective use of device data, but it also requires a new mindset when it comes to project management, with a willingness to be flexible, try new things, and build on experience.
Some of the best project management strategies for IoT might not be considered best practices for traditional IT projects, but new innovations like IoT require creative project management strategies to help realize the full opportunity with an acceptable level of risk.