The team at conducted a very insightful interview with Bill Schmarzo, CTO of the Big Data Practice at EMC Global Services.  During the interview, Mr. Schmarzo made a number of statements that effectively summarized critical points around IoT deployments.  Here are the top few that we concur with and have identified as common observations for how to pursue successful IoT deployments.

Based on Mr. Schmarzo’s experience in the initial stages of Big Data, he mentioned,

“As an industry we tend to do a really bad job of relearning our lessons. We’ll break our pick. We’ll go and chase lots of [IoT] technology…The use case will not be well-defined, so the business returns will be marginalized.”

In previous articles referencing conversations with IoT providers, a clear business case with associated success metrics is vitally important when planning an IoT deployment. It’s probably obvious, yet while under pressure, many companies run first without effective planning.

Mr. Schmarzo continues,

“I predict, like we have in the big data space, that we’ll stub our toe, we’ll over promise, we’ll overhype, and then we’ll realize that Stephen Covey had it right the whole time, ‘Begin with an end in mind’. What are you trying to achieve? Let that drive what IoT solutions you want to get and what architecture you’re going to put in place, and all the other thigs that are required to support that particular use case.”

You have to love the wisdom of the late Stephen Covey captured in his perennial book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

This statement simply reinforces my point above and adds the importance of vision. It also nods to another important point – an understanding of integration and operationalization. The IoT architecture selected will lay the foundation for future success or failures. Certainly, it is incredibly difficult to envision five years out and what demands the organization will require from the IoT deployed today. However, most organizations have five-year strategic visions. As a part of the IoT business case, gather input from this five-year vision to at least consider its implications on the architecture choices made initially.

In the interview, Mr. Schmarzo recommended a three-pronged approach to IoT projects if they want to achieve long-term success. Below are the three along with my interpretation of what each means:

  • integration – identifying an architecture that provides future extendability and flexibility across the organization and data systems
  • scalability – ability to scale a successful POC across the organization to solve multiple use cases and to not create singular use point solutions
  • operationalization – ability to maintain and manage the IoT solution at a cost-effective and operationally feasible level for the long-term

From a technical perspective, the three-prong approach for long-term success is outstanding.

However, I would add a cultural component that I believe will impact a vast majority of organizations. Whether we call it adaptability around data access and insights for line-of-business decision-making or cross-department operability, an organization’s culture has to adopt a data mindset.

I hear “data-driven” decisions a lot from PR and marketing communications but I haven’t experienced it (or heard experiences about it) much in practice. I contend that many organizations today have incredible amounts of actionable data yet the people driving the business decisions don’t have access to it or access to it quickly. Further, what makes the data actionable can’t be delivered due to disparate systems or across-departments roadblocks due to policies, personalities or resources constraints. Culture (and other organizational dynamics) can negatively impact short and long-term success with the IoT.

Mr. Schmarzo further commented,

“Let the use cases tell you what you need to do. Identify something that works, then validate that it’s real, and vet that it’s feasible. Build out a roadmap of other use cases, and then prioritize the order that they will be executed.”

Excellent methodical approach to any project let alone an IoT deployment. Collaboration between product (assuming it’s revenue model related), business management, IT, engineering and data experts is one way to drive this methodical process. Some skill-sets are better tuned for detailed-oriented work while others excel at creating vision and business case development. Leverage these skillsets effectively and build teams that consist of the right ones to ensure success.

Lastly, the interview mentioned,

“While some IoT adopters will swing for the fences and try to find use cases that make a big impact, there’s a good business case to be made for projects that yield small 1% to 2% gains. If you string up enough of those small gains together, you can have something that’s worthwhile.”

This statement best represents what I have been hearing repeatedly from IoT providers that have clients successfully complete IoT deployments. Start small, prove it out and proceed with bigger projects. Get an early win to strengthen justification, learn the strengths and weaknesses, and build the people-oriented requirements that are essential for gaining even greater upsides.  Organizations tend to move slow so pacing IoT deplyments to the pace of the organization can only help ensure long-term success.

Feel free to read the interview at

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