"IoT is just an experimental technology and it'll go away eventually!"
Well, now that I have your attention let me share my view with you. It doesn't matter whether you call it the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine (M2M), or simply a digital solution. The concept always remains the same, but everybody looks at it from a different angle.
Classical IT Service Providers refer to it as a bunch of sensors collecting data and sending that to a platform for analytics. Enterprise IT refer to it as just another IT solution to maintain with a potential security threat. Enterprise Business / Operations refer to it as science-fiction and they wonder why everybody talks about it. In any case, they don't have time for it as they are focusing on their actual business. Consumers refer to it as talking refrigerators and find it spooky. The 80'kids may even think of Inspector Gadget becoming reality now.
THE IOT BUSINESS IS MEANT TO BE THE NEXT BIG THING
How I look at it? It’s based on my experience after working many years in the "connected things" business and being engaged with companies around the world. The IoT business is meant to be the next big thing. In fact, most analysts predict the global IoT market to grow to up to USD 4 trillion - some say more some say less. Whatever the number will be, we all believe to know it is going to be the next big thing.
So, selling this to your client's must be an easy job to do, right? Everybody needs it, everybody wants it, everybody has the budget, right? Well, not quite! It is not like selling the latest smartphone where people spend their money because of enthusiasm (or because the boss would never accept being a phone-generation behind). It also doesn't sell like a classical IT system, where companies plan yearly budget and spend it to keep their employees served with the IT essentials. So, what is keeping those analysts so optimistic about the willingness to spend money on IoT? Well, that's the million dollar question in my business, but let's try to tackle some of the challenges I am seeing here:
1) MOST COMPANIES SEE IOT AS A TECHNOLOGY. AND THAT IS WRONG! IOT IS NOT A TECHNOLOGY. IT IS A PURE BUSINESS CONCEPT.
"Look, dear customer, this is the coolest sensor in our portfolio. It can measure temperature, humidity, and even the location. And guess what, it has a mobile connectivity and sends the data to our super-secure platform and that only for $5 a month". Hmm... Who cares? You might be lucky pitching this to a technology enthusiast, but when it comes to opening the corporate wallet, all technology enthusiasm will be gone! I've sold smartphones before. I've actually had clients calling me often times, wanting to buy the next generation smartphone even before it was shown to the public, just because they wanted it. That doesn't happen in IoT. And this is where the IoT job becomes interesting...
Be creative! Everything starts with the right use case. Think of something that really helps you to be more cost/time efficient, safer, sexier - whatever you want to achieve. Don't limit yourself - trust me, the technology is there - if you can think it, there will be technology which can get the job done. Calculate the value. How much money/time will it save? How much more revenue can it make because it allows you to run a new business model? Can it save life? Can it improve life or our environment? If you cannot calculate the value (and I mean $$$) or otherwise quantify the value, you are working on the wrong use case. Remember: No corporate money for experimental technology.
Translate the use case into technology: As a very last step, find the technology that is able to do the job. Look for partners rather than suppliers. Look for those partners that have a vital ecosystem and are able to offer you a variety of services that are future proof.
If those easy steps lead to an acceptable ROI (or other quantified benefits), you're all set to invest your money wisely in a very profitable IoT project. If not, don't invest and try looking for something else. You will be amazed how big the impact can be on even small IoT projects. We have seen a conservative estimation of > 400% ROI in the first year! Some clients are hesitant to buy because they say it is too good to be true! "If IoT doesn't pay for itself (at least), you are working on the wrong use case!"
2) TESTING IS IMPORTANT, BUT PLEASE DON'T OVERDO IT!
The IoT industry these days is all about "POC" (proof of concept). Most companies seem to have some money for that. Installing something and checking if it really works months over months.
Here is my view on that: The technology will work - why should it not? - It is just technology. It was made to work.
Testing is quite expensive - for all parties involved - every POC-day costs money without bringing the expected benefit.
Lastly, what actually needs to be proven is the value and that will never unfold in a test environment (but calling it a 6 months POV - proof of value - won't help either)
It is okay to start small, but you either believe in your own business case or you don't. I strongly believe that the companies of brave action will live longer than the companies of cautiousness and just-keep-everything-as-it-is behaviour (there are many examples of well-established companies that went away because they confused "tradition" with standstill). Companies should rather spend time educating their employees to work in this new environment. While the pessimists say IoT can reduce jobs, I'd say IoT can only work with the right people using it.
3) IOT MUST HAVE THE ATTENTION OF THE RIGHT STAKEHOLDERS
Here we are with the different angles again. Ever since I started working in this industry, I hear that IT and business must grow together. If they went separate ways until now, their ways will finally cross with IoT. They must and it will be beneficial for both parties. IT Managers will directly contribute to the company's profit and Business Managers will rely on IT to secure their business goals. In many cases, IoT has board relevance. Congratulations IT, you have just become even more important to your company!
Bottom line: Being in the IoT industry is quite a journey and sometimes even a drama. On the one hand you are seeing the great potential for your clients and on the other hand you need to fight hard to convince them. Sometimes it feels like trying to convince the man with a broken arm to go to a doctor while he says it is not required as long as he can still walk. Although I sometimes wish things would move forward a lot faster, I know I am on a mission! And I am loving it!
And since I don't want to finish this article with a McDonald's slogan:
NO - IoT is NOT just an experimental technology and it'll NOT go away eventually! It is only the beginning... and you will - as well - benefit from it!
Head of International IoT Business
Since 2007 in Deutsche Telekom, Benjamin Bastians has been in various B2B sales positions focusing on selling innovative solutions to large Enterprises around the world. With a team of top IoT experts across 12 countries globally, he puts the clients into the center of his activities. For our blog, he writes about the challenges of selling IoT and more importantly, the business impact that IoT addresses for our clients.