October 26, 2018
Whether you know it or not, the Internet of Things is changing your life. It is changing the way you shop, play, learn, and think. In addition to all that, if you want to be in a successful business in the next few years, it should also be changing the way you work. The Internet of Things is for everybody. However, it is not something you want to jump into headfirst with no idea of where or how to come up. The question is no longer about “what” IoT is, the question is how you will use it.
Build a Strategy
You need to have a strategy for incorporating the Internet of Things into your work. If you do not have a solid strategy, you may get lost in the weeds of information that piques your curiosity but does nothing for your business besides adding an extra expense. So where do you start?
Attunix, a company that specializes in helping businesses and industries incorporate the Internet of Things into their work, suggests starting with the view from your customers and clients. What would make your company better for them? Information is easy to come by, but if you are not asking the right questions, you will not be able to interpret the data effectively. What do your customers need more of? What do they need to be eliminated? What is the best possible customer experience they could have with your company and what is holding your company back from giving it to them? If you can identify these questions, you will have access to the essential variables you need information about to turn your company in a new and better direction.
For example, if you are in manufacturing, one of your common complaints may be long wait times in shipping particular parts or units. If you can identify how long it takes to make those parts and compare that to how often, and in what average number, they are ordered, you will have data needed to improve your inventory availability. The data may reveal that you have a problem in the manufacturing process that is slowing things down. It may also show that there is an average supply kept on hand at all times that is sufficient 75% of the time, but there are consistent time periods each year that many more are ordered. Digging into that, you may find a flaw in the item itself that consistently breaks down every so many months.
Regardless of what the data shows, you will have valuable information that will help you give your customers a better experience with your company and your services.
Attunix boils this approach down to four overarching steps:
- Sense and capture
- Monitor and Control
- Integrate and Scale
- Insights and Action
What do these steps look like?
Identify IoT Opportunities
First, you need to get a sense of the possibilities for IoT in your business. How can you find that? Put yourself into your customer’s shoes. What do they need? What are they finding with your competition that you do not yet offer? What professional IoT organizations have you connected with that might provide you with some insight into things to measure in your company? Set your goals and determine what and how to measure them.
As you begin to monitor and control the data surrounding your goals, many patterns will start to emerge. Some of these will be expected patterns, yielding expected results. Others may be surprising connections. In the manufacturing example above, the slow production may, in fact, be connected to a single person, perhaps a maintenance crew member who receives their own shipment of supplies on days that conflict with shipping items in or out to customers. Or it could be that the production machines themselves overheat after so many units made per day and have to be shut down or cleaned before production can commence. Either way, you will begin to see the architecture of your whole work process – with much of its strengths and weaknesses together. The more patterns emerge, the more opportunities you may observe to build further IoT architecture around.
It is important to note that IoT devices and operations are not all limited to physical things. Most will have a connection to some kind of internet-enabled device, but the data and measurements can come from digital elements as well, such as emails, social media responses, or web page hits. These kinds of measures are especially helpful in the Internet of Things Marketing strategies.
Types of Projects
If you have made it this far in the process, you probably already have a type of project in mind. Most of these projects are research projects to help your business do something better. Some examples might be improving operations, optimizing assets, enhancing services, generating revenue, or increasing engagement for your company. Others may be more internally focused, like enhancing well-being among your employees, providing better security, or conserving your resources. The Internet of Things, connected to your companies IoT devices can help with any or all of these types of projects.
Efficiency and Cost Savings
“Work smarter, not harder,” is the name of the game in business today, although most people in business would probably agree that a better way to put it would be “Make your hard work count more.” The majority of projects done with IoT devices center around efficiency of work and saving costs to maximize profit margins.
Another way to look at what the Internet of Things has to offer you is optimizing assets. In many cases, this will take you to a similar place as boosting efficiency and reducing cost. Sometimes it is good to look at your business from another standpoint though.
If your company vision is merely to make money, you will have competition with every other business in the world. On the other hand, if your company exists to help people deal with specific problems and the profit you make is intended to help you serve them better, you will have cut out 99% of the competition in other businesses.
If you are looking at your business as a vehicle of service, you suddenly have many more assets to deal with besides money. Your employees and their well-being are assets. Your relationships with networking businesses are assets. Your connections in your local area are assets. Your physical properties and machinery used are assets. The list can go on and on… If you improve any of these assets, there is a strong chance that your entire company will see some benefit. The Internet of Things can show you how to do this.
Here are some examples of using IoT for different kinds of assets and factors of your business:
IoT for Visibility
Marketing is key — who is aware of your existence? What do they say about you? Who do your customers connect with and how many of those connections could benefit from your services? IoT can work with emails, social networking, and other sources to help you to be more visible to the people most likely to respond to your offer of goods and services, and save you money by not sending ads to those who have no use or ability to utilize your company.
IoT for Business Intelligence
Are you making the best business decisions in your company? Do you expand when the market is growing and pull back before you overextend? Do you have your best workers in the places they can most benefit your company? Do you know when to hire and when to reduce labor based on real need and availability data? IoT can help you analyze these numbers and streamline the decision-making and enhance the leadership of your company.
IoT for Customer Experience
Sometimes customers know what they need. Other times they do not. Do you have a realistic picture of the needs of your customers? IoT can help you determine the best customer experiences you can give at your company, whether it is knowing the number of handicap parking spaces you need, how close to place your customer service employees to the entry doors, what kinds of policies help you to do healthy business while leaving your customers satisfied, or what items to place closer to main walkways.
IoT for Supply Chain
Sometimes the IoT architecture grows beyond your own company and involves your partners in supply, shipping, development, and other areas. When you recognize you are part of a chain of organizations that serve a need, you can discover possibilities of making that chain more efficient. Some of those ways may need to happen in partnership with your networking companies. Others you may be able to leverage on your own. The bottom line is, when you think you have done all you can do with IoT, you can take a step higher and discover an even bigger picture, with even more opportunities to grow.
All of this can be yours for an investment of money, time, though, and energy. Money really is the smallest cost of all. The Internet of Things can show you many paths to growth, but it cannot take you or make you go there. The choice to change, which can often be a difficult decision, is always left up to you. What will your next project for the Internet of Things be?