A thoughtful approach to IoT strategy and design can lead to unique new product and services opportunities, but designing also becomes increasingly complex when designing for the Internet of Things. Many industries are now struggling with a major challenge that electronics manufacturers have been wrestling with over the past decade or more — how to incorporate software and sensors into previously unconnected products.
IoT is also giving companies new options to consider for pricing, business models, and partnerships. Products with new sensors, connectivity and compute power enable better ways of measuring product usage and satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to new “as-a-service” offerings where customers pay for usage or outcomes instead of simply owning a product.
The best ways to drive differentiation and innovation can vary widely by industry. Something we have learned through thousands of client engagements across many industries is that while there are many different paths to a successful strategy and design, there are generally a few things to avoid that apply across all industries. Or, as coined by IBMs IoT designers Sam Winslet and Sophie Riche, the Seven Deadly Sins of IoT. These seven deadly sins illustrate things that are easy to get wrong when developing an IoT strategy and designing or developing IoT capabilities.
Sin #1: Greed
Design for your targeted customer segment, not yourself.
Companies tend to focus inwardly unless they are deliberately and frequently reminded to look outside the business to their customers, partners, and users for inspiration and direction. With IoT, you are not your target user because your target user is often a mix of users across a connected device ecosystem. Therefore, your users have different needs, goals, service requirements and expectations. You must understand your target ecosystem in addition to your directly targeted customer/user segments.
Sin #2: Envy
Be differentiated, not simply better.
A connected washer or dryer is interesting, but it becomes much more valuable when combined with elements like an automated warranty registration process, a connected service technician network, and a proactive condition monitoring program. These new bundles of functionality are the “new and improved” customer experience now made possible by IoT. Companies keen to avoid the sin of envy should demonstrate contentedness and confidence in the quality of their market research, their customer insights, and their product development. This allows the creation of a differentiated IoT experience and offering, instead of having to engage in a frustrating catch-up race.
Sin #3: Gluttony
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
With any product or service, it’s important to distinguish between features that are needed and features that are simply possible. This is especially important to remember when developing IoT solutions. It can be easy to import past features, functions or interface elements when those things seem to come “for free” as part of your legacy code or product base. The temptation also exists for companies to simply ‘bolt-on’ new IoT features to existing products, thereby bloating them as well. I think taking a cue from Apple is often the right path with IoT design — ease of use and user experience are often more important than more features.
Sin #4: Wrath
Avoid impatience and false assumptions.
Wrath (or hasty impatience in this case) can lead to a false assumption of customers’ IoT knowledge and capability. Patience with customers and users is always important, but even more so in those where a loosely defined technological transformation is sweeping across the market. Asking one hundred enterprises to define IoT would likely lead to one hundred different answers. With this in mind, it’s important for any organization developing IoT solutions to be mindful that their customers likely don’t care about IoT. They care how their challenges can be solved, and are often not aware the solution lies within the connected devices and fabric of the Internet of Things.
Sin #5: Lust
Manage the desire to connect everything.
In the IoT marketplace, it can be difficult to avoid the trap of lust, which manifests itself as a desire to interconnect any and every product to the Internet. In the right situations, for the right customers, extensive IoT interconnectivity is extremely valuable. Yet unbridled lust for IoT-ificiation has its drawbacks. If not properly designed, this over-connectedness leads to more security risks, more complexity for end consumers, and more cost to manage.
Sin #6: Pride
Avoiding over and under-complication.
An IoT solution needs to be usable. Usability is learned from the discipline of regular, honest discussion with users. Pride enters in when an enterprise assumes it knows it users’ needs well enough that it does not need to seek their feedback. It also manifests itself when companies, for financially expedient reasons, decide that they know best for their customers. This pride can result in, among other things, an overly complicated or an overly simplified IoT experience.
Sin #7: Sloth
You must put in the hard work to make it easy for customers.
Companies should not assume that users will invest significant amounts of time and energy to explore and adopt their solution. There are too many options for users to consider for them to deal with the headache of complex or puzzling user experience. This is especially acute if your new IoT-enabled device is replacing the customers’ old non-IoT device, which only took them sixty seconds to setup and use. You can’t afford to give this customer a lengthy setup time or even worse, a setup experience that results in a 30-minute call to customer support. In addition, the customer should be able to quickly and easily exploit the new IoT features of this product. In this setting, therefore, electronics companies have to put in the hard work of design and development to address these concerns, and avoid the trap of sloth, i.e. ramming in huge amounts of IoT functionality in hopes that the customer will just “figure it out” or “call us if there’s a problem.”
These seven deadly sins illustrate things that are easy to get wrong when developing an IoT strategy and designing or developing IoT capabilities. Regardless of which sins you might struggle with, there are three basic steps to ensure a smooth IoT journey.
- Start simply with a secure, scalable, open platform.
- Solve business problems with expertise, applications, and solutions.
- Build your cognitive strategy.