Adopting a business-first approach to make IoT work

As businesses digitise various aspects of their day-to-day processes and decisions, IoT technology has definitely crossed the chasm in terms of adoption. However, in most organisations, IoT is considered a technology play, and hence the business involvement is low in crucial stages of the roll-out.

In most cases, IoT initiatives are triggered either by the availability of modern IoT enabled equipment or by an external innovator with sensors/systems for specific use cases. Yet there are plenty of incomplete initiatives and unfulfilled promises from various IoT initiatives around the world, which cast shadow on the effectiveness of IoT. Real ROI from such initiatives is still in question. This brings us to a fundamental question: Is it time to change the paradigm and adopt a business-first approach for IoT enablement?

Breaking it down, it is important to ascertain if the problem lies with the technology itself or somewhere else. Let’s examine this scenario: in a pre-IoT world, if a machine operator in a factory observed overheating of a machine, he’d inform the engineer of the same. The engineer will in turn gather information before making a call on shutting down the machine based on the following parameters:

 

    • For how long has this been happening

 

    • Does this happen for specific kind of jobs

 

    • Which kind of material is being processed

 

    • What is the temperature and humidity on shop floor

 

    • When was the last planned/unplanned downtime

 

    • Is this happening in this machine alone, or in other similar machines

 

 

As evident from the diversity of information the engineer is seeking, even a fully IoT enabled machine cannot provide all relevant data points for the critical decision. The bottom-line is, just capturing data for ‘Things’ is not sufficient. To derive real value and to make real business decisions it is critical to capture data about the ‘Context’ too. That brings us to the next question.

What is a ‘Context’ and how do we define the Context?

To define Context: Context is pretty much everything that can influence the behavior of the ‘Thing’ –

 

    • About the Thing – Make, model, material, age, location etc.

 

    • What is the Thing doing – State of machine, material being handled, duration of operation, operating parameters etc.

 

    • What is around the Thing – People operating it, activities happening around it, environmental conditions, etc.

 

 

Key to a successful IoT initiative

It is safe to say that an IoT initiative requires lot more than just putting sensors and collating data. Two key factors that can dramatically increase chances of success are:

 

    • A holistic approach towards digital transformation

 

    • Involvement of all relevant stakeholders

 

Adopting a holistic approach towards digital transformation

As evident from the above example of decision about overheated machine, more data is required as what can be supplied by sensors on the machine. This additional data can come from myriads of sources – staff, offline forms and checklists, IT systems life ERP, production planning system, maintenance logs etc. Thus a 360-degree approach to digital transformation is essential to augment insights from IoT and address real business needs. In order to enhance its value, IoT enablement should be accompanied by digitization of associated documents and integration with upstream and downstream IT systems.

Involvement of all relevant stakeholders

There are different people who are involved in creation, installation, operation and maintenance of an equipment. Every stakeholder brings his own insight and his own requirements, most importantly the business stakeholders. Typically IoT enablement is considered a technology initiative, hence the business stakeholders are not involved in initial stages. There is a high risk of an IoT initiative not delivering expected business benefits if IoT data is not augmented with data from other sources

While the role of technology, both Operational & Information, cannot be undermined in IoT initiatives, the business has a critical role to play in the success of program. IoT enablement is as much a business initiative as it is technology one. After all, the context is in the minds of people managing the ‘Thing’.moneycontrol