For IoT Success, People Are Just As Important As Technology

Don Gordon

The Internet of Things (IoT) has spurred the attention of many industries, not least consumer products (CP). And with good reason. McKinsey anticipates an uptick of about three billion new consumer devices being added per year. IoT provides connection and accessibility between companies and customers. Behind the scenes, CP companies stand to reap enormous benefits from integrating IoT into their manufacturing, supply chain, and sales and marketing processes.

SAP’s recently released Global Study of IoT Adoption in the CP Industry confirms that CP companies increasingly recognize the value that IoT provides. More than that, the study provides insight into the specific steps that forward-looking CP companies are undertaking as they seek to move forward on their IoT agendas.

Learning from early movers

One of the challenges of an emerging set of technologies like IoT is that there are no established set of models or best practices to follow. Consider that 51% of consumer product companies that are early movers in IoT are focused on learning from the successes or failures of other early movers. But the data is limited. Given the early stage of IoT adoption in the CP industry, many companies are likely to embark on experimental efforts, learning as they go.

Creating processes to manage IoT

Organizations see the importance of implementing processes to manage the IoT adaption. Of the CP companies most bullish on IoT, 59% are focused on processes to manage it. The nature of IoT demands different approaches; consider that IoT data may be drawn from across traditional silos. A different way of thinking, of analyzing information, is required. IoT also delivers data in real time, so there’s a growing need to build flexibility into current processes to ensure real-time adjustments can be made based on the information. Without these changes, organizations may find themselves with massive amounts of rich, usable data, but limited ability to make use of it.

Hiring or retraining existing employees is an absolutely critical element of IoT adaption in the CP industry—as it is in all industries. Companies will need to redefine the roles of employees and provide them with training in the management of IoT. This will play out in a number of ways.

Key skills will define success

It’s estimated that 68% of businesses that aim to implement IoT, or that are already doing so, are struggling to find employees with the skills to address IoT-focused business models, according to a report from Canonical. With machines talking to machines, it will be important for employees to move away from labor-focused work. What skills should they have?

Cutting-edge analytics is at the heart of IoT, so employees will increasingly need training in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep analytical thinking skills. These skills will help individuals to draw insight from the information streaming in through IoT sources – and to make “right time” decisions based on the data.

Those working in IoT must be effective collaborators, since IoT by its nature will take people out of their silos. People will need to work together across multiple departments to make effective decisions across the value chain. There’s significant opportunity in planning across key functions, from R&D to manufacturing to fulfillment, sales, marketing, and beyond. This represents a significant departure from current, siloed ways of thinking and working.

Big-picture people

Finally, key IoT-focused employees must be big-picture thinkers. It’s no longer about today, a single task, or a single piece of information. They need to look cross-functionally across the value chain, including the various ecosystem partners with whom data is shared. This more expansive way of thinking will enable employees to find new opportunities for expansion, sharing, and scaling.

Check out the full study here.

About Don Gordon

Don Gordon leads global Consumer Products industry marketing for SAP. Previously he led global Retail industry marketing for IBM. He lives in Philadelphia, considered by many to be the finest city on earth.