CXO

10 things you should know about running an IoT project function

IoT projects are still uncharted territory for most organizations, IT managers, and business leaders. This list will help keep the challenges in perspective.

Running an Internet of Things (IoT) project function is anything but easy. Here are some critical points that will help you succeed.

1: Hardly anyone has experience with an IoT function

One of the biggest issues companies face today is deciding who in the organization should run IoT. In some cases, they start with an innovative engineer. In other cases, a product manager or a manager from IT or an end-business function is given the role. And sometimes, the company decides it doesn't have anyone who is a good fit to run the IoT function so it decides to hire from the outside. If you're the one chosen to lead IoT, keep this in mind—because you will need build credibility in the function, in yourself as well as in IoT projects.

SEE: Five ways to determine who should lead your IoT initiatives (Tech Pro Research)

2: You need to define your function—not just the work you do

This is a corollary to the preceding point. IoT is new to many organizations, so the IoT project team, its charter, and its staff need to be understood and accepted in the organization as well as the projects and the accountabilities they undertake. "Department building" and project creation will be constant jobs for any new IoT manager, who initially will not have the luxury of focusing on the work alone.

3: IoT is a project, but it can be a product

If the intent of IoT work is to create a salable product, more must go into the project than just designing and building the technology. It must be packaged for the market and a marketing plan must be constructed. The IoT project might have to be sold to the CEO and the board of directors. This requires a product manager set of skills that can go far beyond the initial technical engineering expertise that goes into the product.

SEE: 10 ways to implement IoT for business advantage

4: IoT needs failover

Sensor systems are the bedrock of IoT—and they fail. Whether your project is automating railroad fault detection systems, robots, home security, or drones, there should always be a built-in failover to manual functions as a best practice of design.

5: Environmental factors are important

A driverless tractor in a field of corn needs to know how to compensate for hills, rocks, and other obstacles. Similarly, sensors must be able to adjust to differing environmental conditions like extreme heat or cold. These outside factors need to be carefully assessed and incorporated into your test plan to ensure that the technology performs within the full environmental context it is being designed for.

6: Small projects are best

When you're beginning with IoT, it's best to stick with a small project that can show a demonstrated result. An example is an IoT project where you install sensor-based temperature controls and monitoring in your facilities. Once you have that under control, you can set up for the next project—knowing that you already have a successful project under your belt.

SEE: A secret to IoT success: Start small

7: Don't underestimate integration

Integrating IoT hardware and intelligent software is no small task. Embedded software runs IoT devices, and developing this software is the province of engineers. Nevertheless, it is often IT folks who are chosen to manage IoT projects because of their background in project management—and most IT'ers have limited (or no) exposure to embedded software development. Consequently, integration on the IoT team needs to occur between the engineering and the IT disciplines. Integration also needs to be a major focus in IoT product checkout to ensure that the software and the hardware are well orchestrated with each other.

8: Every project needs a vision

If your first step is to automate thermostats in your company's buildings, and that project succeeds, another project should be waiting in the wings—perhaps a more comprehensive facilities automation project. When possible, it is always good to build on what you've already achieved.

SEE: Executive's guide to securing the Internet of Things (Free ebook)

9: Communicating project progress is critical

Many companies are new to IoT, which makes it especially important to keep everyone informed of IoT status. The more you communicate with them, the more collaborative (and supportive) your IoT project environment becomes.

10: You should work quickly and decisively to regain your momentum when projects don't work

IoT work is no different from other project work. You will experience occasional project failures, and you will find it necessary to pull the plug and regroup. When this happens, perform your project review—but move forward into new work so you keep your team going and don't lose the momentum of your IoT work.

Avoiding risk

The IoT world is rich with opportunities, but it also carries its risks. If IoT managers take a full-bodied approach to IoT technology as well as to the development of their IoT organizations, they can place themselves in the best position to succeed both technologically and in the organization.

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Other thoughts?

Have you been tasked with leading the IoT charge for your organization? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/Rawpixel Ltd

About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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