Overcoming IIoT Scaling and Implementation Hurdles
While IoT technology promises to help drive the next industrial revolution, we are still in the beginning phases of the transition. Industrial companies at large are progressing with IoT initiatives but few have advanced deployments.
Even as executives begin to see IoT as a crucial part of the business going forward, they must contend with a variety of challenges. Potential stumbling blocks include everything from the often-clashing cultures of their IT and OT (operational technology) departments, lack of budget support, cybersecurity, data integration and the need to integrate green- and brownfield infrastructure.
A growing number of industrial IoT projects, however, to more-mature deployments. A survey from 451 Research of OT professionals found that 44 percent of IoT projects had moved beyond the proof of concept phase. That is heartening news, considering that just last year, a Cisco survey revealed that three-fourths of IoT projects are stalling in their pilot stages. As we move beyond just awareness of the power of IoT, leaders managing IoT deployments have a variety of challenges to address related to scaling and implementing IoT on a large scale, including the growing pains of going global, project management hurdles, and implementation challenges.
The hurdles facing companies are multi-faceted. In a recent study by Internet of Things World, IIoT executives said that the top challenge in scaling IoT projects include dealing with legacy devices and software and the need for highly specialized and custom solutions, with 53.33% of respondents’ votes. Next in line was managing which departments will be responsible for IoT-related sensors, gateways, networking equipment, analytics, hardware and software, etc., (46.7%). Ultimately, we’re really only at the beginning of the IIoT revolution. As the World Economic Forum concluded: “We are at the beginning of the transformation journey, and no country has reached the frontier of readiness, let alone harnessed the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in production.”
Going global growing pains
To begin to harness IIoT’s full potential, industrial firms will need sound business strategies and deep domain expertise as much as they do cutting-edge IT technology. Of the international companies surveyed by IoT World, half currently lack a global IoT strategy. Nearly a quarter of them are developing one, but 16.49% have yet to begin. Having a company-wide, global strategy is especially important because, in the effort to expand globally, more and more devices will come into play. One area where IIoT executives are excelling in comparison to the IoT industry more broadly is in the number of devices they’re prepared to handle. Forty percent of IIoT executives said their company could handle 100,000+ devices, whereas nearly half of IoT executives (46.39%) were only confident that their company could handle up to 1,000 devices.
Project management hurdles
Managing the cross-functional nature of IoT implementation vexes many organizations. Just determining who is responsible for an IoT project — whether operations, IT or the C-suite — can be tricky. Companies are choosing diverse strategies, with the largest group of IIoT executives (46.67%) choosing to build a business strategy team tasked with implementing IoT within the company. Trailing that, 20% are asking the C-Suite to take the helm in leading this implementation, followed by 13.33% choosing OT. To enable cross-functional collaboration, it’s crucial for IT and OT to connect and start working together from the beginning. This type of coordination can align incentives between the industrial company’s staff, so that the organization can, say, leverage IT’s expertise in network administration and cybersecurity while responding to OT’s focus on uptime, safety and quality initiatives.
No matter who takes the helm, clear leadership is important for IIoT projects to transform proof-of-concept projects into initiatives with the power to transform the organization’s business. A company’s CFO or COO is likely to want to see evidence that an IoT project can improve efficiency and product quality, drive new revenue or another benefit such as a safer workplace. Twenty-six percent of IIoT respondents singled out the lack of the support for a production-quality deployment as a key hurdle.
Ultimately, the IIoT ecosystem can be vast and difficult to navigate, but as Aru Bala, President Innovation Business at Stanley Black & Decker and a speaker at this year’s Internet of Things World, puts it: “We have reached an inflection point where IoT is starting to accelerate to commercial mass scaling from the POC experimentation stage, so it’s imperative for organizations to have a coherent IoT deployment strategy and not to be left out in this digital transformation arena.” Companies who start making a plan today to support and develop IIoT initiatives will prime themselves for future success.
This article was written by Gavin Whitechurch, Internet of Things World Founder.