Is IoT a Buzzword?

Is IoT a buzzword?
Mark Friedman
Mark Friedman
Owner Senior Helpers Boston; Ex-Partner ECSI Consulting

Mark Friedman has spent more than 25 years designing and leading transformational change programs in the US, Europe and South America for several of the top global brands.

Let me describe an all too common scenario: A company’s senior leadership meets under the banner of discussing IoT.  One or more (often the most senior) executive starts with, “I don’t get the IoT thing. My people are constantly talking about it, but no one can give me a clear definition of what it means and why I should care.”

He or she will go on to explain that it’s usually brought up in the context of project approvals – some big and some small.

“Most of the time it comes from our product teams, but they can’t ever seem to explain the technology. And when our technology or innovation teams breach the subject, they can’t adequately explain its impact on our business or the benefit to our customers.”

These teams will use examples of smart refrigerators and coffee makers, but struggle to define where the actual value is – or, equally importantly, where the risk of not acting will come from.

So what is IoT then?

IoT is nothing more than a label. And my advice is simple: Forget it.

Forget about IoT in the same way that most have forgotten about Re-engineering, Solutioneering, and other consulting buzzwords of the past. And much like these other buzzwords, if you introduce IoT into your product roadmap without a clear plan and understanding of its impact, you will fail.

When most people bring IoT into a strategy discussion or leadership meeting, what they’re really bringing to the table is the fear of their industry being disrupted – of their own company’s fate being Uber’d or AirBnB’d by forces within, or outside of, their traditional competitive space.

This is the constant threat of the connected world, and it’s very real. But when you start introducing random acts of IoT in the hopes of outrunning disruption, you’re in danger of wasting a lot of time and money. Random acts won’t save your business; a connected strategy, however, will.

What makes IoT solutions successful?

At Rocket Wagon, we believe that the real guiding questions – the ones that will ultimately save your business from disruption – are not about incorporating specific emerging technologies or buzzwords. They’re about looking holistically at where you are now, and where you could be in the near future.

Start by asking the following:

  1. How exposed are you for any level of disruption, either directly or indirectly at the product level, or in terms of a providing value to the customer?
  2. Do you have access to an existing or potential data stream that can either be valuable on its own, or more valuable than your current offering?

Looking at risk exposure

These questions are all about disruption through connectivity, not about smart products. You don’t need to use the terms ‘technology’, ‘devices’, or ‘sensors’ to define your company’s risk or potential.

Which means that connected strategy is really about old-fashioned risk analysis with a whole new set of variables to look at. It’s also not necessarily about stopping what your business is currently doing, but applying this new set of lenses and figuring out how to leverage them.

You have to look broadly and strategically at your company and the competitive landscape to understand the impact of connectivity on your business. Otherwise you will miss both hidden opportunities in your current offerings, and potential disruptive forces that may be already closing in.

Getting started.

Connected experiences are all about strategy. Admittedly, this is complex work and few know where to start.  The few that do, may not know how to drive a strategy through to implementation.

The only hard-and-fast rule in creating a connected experience is to keep one eye on how you could disrupt your own company or industry with data and connectivity, and the other eye on the outside forces that may already be encroaching. Constant vigilance takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to avoid being disrupted while you either fail to act or try to save a failing act of IoT.

When creating your company’s connected experience, forget about the buzzwords and avoid creating simply ‘smart products’ at all costs. Instead, focus on your exposure to being disrupted by someone else’s connected business model.

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