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​How should a CIO launch an Internet of Things product?

​How should a CIO launch an Internet of Things product?

Role of the channel heightens as organisations begin to better interpret the Internet of Things.

As organisations move past pilot projects and towards scalable deployments, the notion of the Internet of Things continues to take on greater meaning across enterprise.

No longer is this a technology for the future, rather a reality and a viable way for businesses to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Currently, 31.4 per cent of organisations have launched IoT solutions, with an additional 43 per cent looking to deploy in the next 12 months.

Research from IDC also suggests that 55 per cent of organisations see IoT as strategic to business as a means to compete more effectively, yet challenges naturally remain.

While security/privacy and upfront/ongoing costs are top concerns for decision makers, lack of internal skills is a new, top concern for organisations looking to deploy an IoT solution.

On the flip side however, improving productivity, reducing costs, and automating internal processes are seen as top benefits of an IoT solution, highlighting an internal and operational focus by organisations over the short term as opposed to external, customer-facing benefits.

“Setting strategies, finding budgets, and supporting IoT solutions have contributed to an ongoing tussle between line of business executives (LOBs) and CIOs,” IDC senior vice president of Enterprise Systems, Vernon Turner, said.

“However, that race may be over, because in many cases LOBs are now both leading the discussions and either paying in full or sharing the costs of IoT initiatives with the CIOs.”

With 2017 fast approaching, the industry will see confirmation that vendors who lead with an integrated cloud and analytics solution are the ones who will be considered as critical partners in an organisation’s IoT investment.

“Network and traditional IT hardware vendors are slipping down the charts, as software and systems integrators makes strides in customers' minds,” IDC vice president of Mobility and Internet of Things, Carrie MacGillivray, added.

CIO strategy

For those in the channel already exploring the benefits of adopting an IoT approach to business, a strong role remains in helping CIOs and/or line of business executives deliver on the promise of such an emerging technology.

According to Gartner, by 2020, more than 10 per cent of new IoT products from traditional industries will be headed up by the CIO.

As IoT becomes more prevalent, the CIO - often the most “techie” person at the company - will be asked to step up and lead the effort, with almost one-third of organisations expecting the CIO to lead the charge.

As an additional challenge, large companies are now competing with smaller startups in traditional industries when it comes to the IoT.

“CIOs are uniquely positioned to succeed in a product development role, as long as they equip themselves with the right knowledge, surround themselves with the right team, and work with others in the organisation to set the appropriate goals and expectations,” Gartner research VP and lead analyst, Mark Hung, added.

For Hung, CIOs leading the IoT product development charge will need to understand the IoT product development cycle, spanning five stages: Requirements, Design, Development, Test, and Production and Support.

“First, the team has to determine the requirements for what they need and define the architecture of the overall system and the major building blocks,” he explained.

“During the development phase, the team will use the design (architecture) and the requirements phases to realise the IoT product.

“These phases are followed by four stages of testing: Feature testing, unit testing, integration testing and regression testing.

“The final step is production and support, during which the product undergoes a series of trials before shipment, including Alpha, Beta, Pilot and Volume production.”

Development cycle

With partners continuing to enhance consultancy capabilities in a bid to add new value in a new world of digital transformation, CIOs require support through out the entire IoT product development cycle, from resources and technologies to stakeholder buy-in and customer support.

“Just as the end product will offer diverse uses, the team that creates the product must offer up diverse skills,” Hung added.

“Most IoT setups need to include hardware engineers, software engineers, customer support and external partners.”

Spanning both hardware and software engineer skill sets, Hung said IoT product development will require a range of skills, likely including wireless connectivity, which is a skill set generally found in system engineering and RF engineering groups.

Likewise, when it comes to IoT, product designers are responsible for much of the UX/UI, a key component of IoT success.

“Engaging a partner for the design or manufacturing is a common arrangement for IoT products,” he added.

With IoT products still considered as a “risky proposition”, Hung said it’s key to have buy-in from other key stakeholders, including the CEO, CFO and CMO.

“Set the proper expectations with the CEO for the product and the organisation regarding the permanent or temporary status of the IOT product and the role of the CIO as it relates to the VP of engineering or other leaders,” he advised.

“Also, the mindset surrounding IT is important when discussing IoT with the CFO. It’s vital that the CFO looks at IT as a revenue generator, not just a cost centre.

“Finally, engage the CMO early and often for a successful IoT product. The key is to define clear goals and work together to ensure those broader goals are met.”

According to Hung, IoT has the potential to open doors to new markets through new business models yet launching a product in this space still presents major challenges.

“But with the right skill set, team and buy-in, CIOs are well-positioned for success,” he added.

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