We're all too familiar with the buzz around the phenomenon of a "smarter and connected world" that is being ushered by the Internet of Things (IoT). We appear to be experiencing it without even being aware of it.
A quick look around can give us practical glimpses of this new emerging world. Take for instance, the car that can park itself into your garage, targeted ads on your browser offering deals on products or services that you searched for a moment ago, the chip-based needle that when inserted in your arm monitors your heart rate and triggers an alarm in case of an anomaly, or even the landing gear in the aircraft you are flying that provides its maintenance schedule to the ground technical crew in-flight.
For me, "IoT: is not just a technical term but a representation of a much larger movement that will soon touch everyone across the globe -- just like the Internet.
And it would appear that the numbers seem to be supporting the global nature of this movement. Studies show that in 2016, 5.5 million new "things" are being connected every day. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20.8 billion devices will be connected and the overall spend on IoT will increase to US $3.1 trillion from US $1.4 trillion in 2016.
The organizations that will emerge as leaders will be the ones that embrace this iterative process, are not afraid of "failing" early...
While pondering the layered architecture is exciting for techies and discussing use-cases makes for engaging conversation-starters in business meetings, adapting to a smarter, connected and IoT-enabled world does require some fundamental change in the individual and collective mindset. In fact, it absolutely essential for organizations to understand and embrace the layers of change necessary to embrace this phenomenon. These layers are the fundamental building blocks that will help create scalable IoT solutions, which in other words means real value to clients. What are these layers and how does one win here?
Technology that already exists
Today, a large part of the discussion about the smarter connected world revolves around technology. Are sensors cost-effective and robust enough to track data? Is the telecom bandwidth big and safe enough to securely transfer this data? Do we have the necessary data-crunching strength to analyze all this big data? The answers to these questions are often -- and quite animatedly -- debated among technology leaders. In my mind, technology will not be the limiting factor to gain value in the connected world. There is significant progress in chip design, telecom bandwidth, data crunching and analytics for us to be confident about that. While some solutions may be better than others, the key takeaway here is that the technology already exists to make this connected world a reality, and this technology is maturing to improve its performance and reduce cost.
The need for leaps of faith
Now, this is where things get interesting. How can one assess value in a new and unknown world? Organizations need to "predict" the future to understand latent demand. For instance, what will appeal to retail consumers as they walk into a store? How will services emerge around products that have existed for decades? Will such value addition have any monetary value at all? To answer these questions, organizations may need to take a leap of faith -- and often, they will get it wrong rather than right in their first iteration.
Leadership teams need to become diverse and aggressively seek global experience to advance their learning.
The organizations that will emerge as leaders will be the ones that embrace this iterative process, are not afraid of "failing" early, encourage a culture of learning from mistakes and then have the persistence to try again after factoring in the feedback.
A culture change
This will be the most difficult layer to imbibe. How does one wrap one's head around fostering a culture of accepting and learning from failures? Because while organizations understand the need to have a new methodology, the questions around "what" and "when" remain.
What should be the KPIs (failing OR failing and learning)? How should KPIs be measured (you should fail at least in 30% of your initiatives in the last appraisal cycle...?)? When should you intervene? Who should intervene because this new smarter world will pay a premium for value in the intersection of experience and flexibility -- and often, the two run counter to each other? This is where the culture of the organization needs to change and in very perceptible ways.
Leadership teams need to become diverse and aggressively seek global experience to advance their learning. For instance, strong leaders should be willing to forgo existing responsibilities and instead take up smaller-sized portfolios that are more dynamic. Large organizations should encourage a culture where their teams work with smaller start-ups and track learning from each engagement. Leadership teams need to by design be diverse and push for global experience to learn from a rich set of experiences.
Typically, an organization's structure evolves as the industry evolves. However, with the smarter connected world on the horizon, the emerging industry landscape will be far more dynamic. Organizations must be ready to make the required technological, value-driven, supply chain, and cultural changes to adapt to this future. Besides adding business value to the organization, such a strategy will amplify the potential of the individuals as well as the organization to succeed in this brave new world of smarter and connected technologies.
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