Why IIoT Projects Can Fail Before They Even Begin – And How To Prevent That
Published on: Oct 27, 2021

I get it, you like clear, specific, DETAILED instructions before you start any project and you won’t even think about taking action before having it all at the tip of your finger. It’s honourable, but if you want to get started with IIoT, it’ll only stall the process. 

So, if you’re asking yourself… 

How do I specify my IIoT project? 

Here’s the short answer: you don’t. 

Instead, there’s a better approach to this crucial and valuable part of your business. 

What’s an IIoT project or initiative anyway? 

We’ve been talking about it extensively all over our channels – from the blog to the YouTube channel.

The foundation of IIoT is the integration of OT and IT, essentially bridging the gap between the plant floor and enterprise systems. 

IIoT is not a specific technology. It’s not a specific piece of software or a protocol or the like. Put simply, IIoT is a situation, a state of your business where all necessary data is available to everybody at all times when and where they need it. With this definition, it also becomes clear that you can achieve this situation or state of your business in different ways.

One of the main goals is to have a single source of truth for your data, visualise and control it from any device and from anywhere, and add more functionalities as you go, making the solution contextual to you and your specific needs. Oh, and let’s not forget the automation part – everything is automated and faster, significantly reducing human error. 

Common mistakes to avoid

With the definitions and potential confusion out of the way, let’s get down to business. 

You understand the benefits of implementing the IIoT initiative in your business and wonder: “How do I get started – I probably need to specify what we should do”. An approach that is equally common and unfruitful. 

With the digital transformation at the core of any IIoT initiative, you enter a different logic. It’s a logic that deviates in fundamental ways compared to how industrial systems historically were created. 

Instead, this new digital logic is governed more by the business rules of, for example, app development for mobile devices. 

Looking into the realm of this new digital business logic, it becomes clear that specifying an IIoT initiative in detail is nothing but a fool’s errand. Let’s have a look at some of the problems.

Becoming

Kevin Kelly coined the phrase “becoming” for the technological changes we experience around us because of digital transformation. 

The idea of “becoming” is both simple and a bit scary: you will never finish implementing and updating your digital solutions. 

Kelly uses the iPhone as an example. When you get a new iPhone, the first thing you do is to connect it to the internet. From there on, it never stays the same. It automatically updates itself, adds apps, removes things, changes settings, and the mobile device is simply adapting to your life. Essentially,  it’s “becoming” to adapt to your needs at any given moment. 

When I discuss this idea with people in charge of daily operations, I usually get two reactions. They understand and acknowledge the statement and premise, and they don’t like it. The dislike is natural because everything has been clear and steady for so long – systems could be specified, built, tested, and finally approved.

Today, not so much. The business needs to change much faster today, and digital reality allows for solutions today that we could only dream of just a short while ago. The business logic of “becoming” has made it into the factory floor and all the supporting systems. 

Analysis paralysis

In combination with a strong belief in the benefits of specifying one’s projects in detail, one unfortunate result of that is overthinking the whole thing. In the chase for getting the specs right, (and bear in mind, this is a moving target) the process will drag out indefinitely. 

Driven by the fear of not getting it absolutely right, the organisation will stall any decision and instead “investigate a bit more in detail”. 

But because of the business logic behind “becoming” and the fast-paced digital developments, you will likely never get it right. 

What to do instead

In Enuda, we believe that most digital transformation projects are essentially not technical projects but primarily cultural change projects supported by technology. 

The overall ambition or goal of any IIoT project revolves around people: help them make better decisions, work smarter, improve their daily work, and other similar human-centered ideas. 

Therefore, a better approach compared to specifying yourself to exhaustion is to start as small as possible. Identify a small area in the organisation where people experience something annoying related to their daily work, and then use digital technology to fix that. 

I firmly believe any successful IIoT project or initiative is focused on continuous improvements. 

Look for small annoying or tedious processes, find digital solutions, and fix the problem. Then move on to the next one. 

Who would be against any IIoT initiative that continuously made people’s life easier, more productive, more comfortable, or just more fun?

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