You can’t get to the “What” and the “Why” by focusing on the “How”
In the gold rush to “monetize” IOT, organizations are frantically installing sensors on everything that moves (and some things that should not move), hoping that someone in the business will figure out a way to get financial value out of the resulting data. Yep, saw this approach (and am still seeing this approach) with Big Data…and Business Intelligence…and Data Warehousing. Heck, this approach happens so often that it now has an official name – the “Field of Dreams” approach:
“Build it (or in this case, capture it) and they (meaning business users and the resulting business value) will come.”
Great movie. Unfortunately, it’s not really much of a business strategy.
So while we have an amazing compilation of technologies, sensors, gateways, connected devices and such for capturing data, understanding ahead of time what you are doing to do with that data – and why – is important because it frames what technologies, architectures, data, analytics and applications the organization is going to need in order to “monetize” IOT.
So before you jump into the IOT pond, let’s make sure that there are no logs, boulders or sea monsters waiting for you. Let’s start our IOT journey by first creating an “IOT Business Strategy.” And to create this IOT business strategy, you’ll not only want to identify the business use cases, but you’ll also want to validate and prioritize those use cases because not all use cases are created equally.
By the way, consider this your IOT “CLM” insurance policy (you may have to look that one up).
Start your IOT business strategy by interviewing and conducting facilitation workshops with business leadership to identify the potential IOT use cases. If possible, tie those use cases back to the organization’s key business initiatives if you want your IOT business strategy to provide the desired financial impact.
NOTE: for this example, the business initiative is to “increase same store sales by 7%” which is worth ~$191M annually. The business initiative is comprised of a number of use cases (or clusters of decisions) including:
Capture (document) a succinct description of each use case including business (financial) potential, potential impact on the organization’s key financial drivers, implementation risks and a rough estimate of the financial value of the use case over the next 12 to 18 months (see Figure 2).
Summarize the use case on a single slide (though in reality you’ll likely have backup slides that contain more information including stakeholder quotes and support for the details on the potential financial and business impact).
Use Case Identification Checklist:
Once you have identified the use cases that comprise your IOT business strategy, next you need to corroborate the use case details with the business stakeholders. One way to help validate the use cases is to create a Persona for each business stakeholder who either impacts or is impacted by the use case (see Figure 3).
Personas are a very effective way of making the key stakeholders “come to life” for the development and data science teams; it creates empathy for the stakeholder’s job and the challenges they face in doing their jobs.
This is also an opportunity to apply some “Design Thinking” techniques to further validate that the use case description and business impact. One such tool is the “Opportunity Report” (see Figure 4).
The Opportunity Report can help you more effectively tell your story, get input from the key stakeholders, identify barriers to consumption and hurdles to satisfaction, and refine your use case understanding before moving to the next phase. The Opportunity Report frames the IOT business opportunity from the perspective of the business and doesn’t overburden the process with technology speak that is irrelevant at this point in the IOT business strategy development.
This is also an opportunity to leverage other Design Thinking techniques like storyboards and mockups to further validate the use case and gain a deeper understanding of the use case operational requirements (see Figure 5).
But be careful not to overdo the mockups and storyboards. Go for quick and informal – like sketches and whiteboards. No need to program anything at this stage.
Use Case Validation Checklist:
The final step in developing your IOT business strategy is to prioritize the use cases from a business value versus implementation feasibility perspective. This process is critical because:
Figure 6 shows the Prioritization Matrix that we use in our envisioning engagements
Ideally, the output from this prioritization process is a use case roadmap since some use cases may be pre-requisites for others. For example, before you can start a customer retention campaign, one probably first needs to identify “at risk” customers and then needs to understand the “lifetime value” of each of those customers in order to decide to whom to make retention offers. Figure 7 shows an example use case roadmap created by a Precision Agriculture partner called Aglytix.
The use case roadmap becomes the heart of our IOT business strategy.
Note: you may have to re-prioritize use cases after the completion of your first couple of use cases. Use cases of high value but low feasibility may become more feasible based upon the technology, architecture, data, analytics and applications development done to support the first few use cases. As your IOT capabilities build out, those use cases that low feasibility might start to migrate to a higher feasibility.
Use Case Prioritization Checklist:
There is a bounty of business use cases from which the business can choose in order to monetize their IOT efforts. However this bounty of use cases is both a gift and a curse because the best way to ensure that you don’t successfully complete any use case is to try to do them all.
Organizations don’t fail due to lack of use cases; they fail because they have too many.
The best approach is to build out your IOT Business Strategy is one use case at a time. In this manner, not only do you incrementally build out your IOT analytic, data, technology and architecture capabilities, but this enables the organization to build upon the work of previous use cases – to capture, share and refine the IOT data and analytic assets that are key drivers to IOT monetization.
 Note: there is a downside to all of these sensors from a reliability, serviceability and user experience perspective