Why IoT Projects Fail

Andy Slote - Director of Customer Success for ObjectSpectrum

August 1, 2020

Statistics on organizations reporting their progress implementing the Internet of Things show numbers as high as 80 percent where results significantly miss expectations. Industry articles describe the most common reasons for the lack of success, pointing to both organizational and technical origin issues, but are these problems specific to the IoT, or are they much broader and more general?

Many studies highlight the lack of necessary skills as a factor. For those working on complex technical initiatives with significant business impact for years, this is nothing new. Are you pursuing a Big Data strategy? Working on implementing Artificial Intelligence? When approaching any complex technology project, the need for a strong team with all the required knowledge is a given. 

We’ve also heard about insufficient, poorly-developed business cases dooming IoT projects. Overruns on forecasted investment, inadequate cost savings, and failure to meet revenue targets based on wrong projections have been part of the progress (or lack thereof) of Information Technology since inception.   

Every seasoned IT professional (and many project sponsors from other disciplines) have seen efforts derail due to a lack of management support. Whether due to poor communication, resistance to change, or politics, lack of support from the top is (and always has been) a potential threat to success. Is it novel to emphasize it as a unique IoT issue, as well?

Getting the right level of support from the top (and maintaining it) will often be a challenge, rife with political peril. The bolstering of skill sets and preparation of a perfect business plan can sell the project initially and lessen the possibility of your C-Level backing evaporating. The hard truth is, the complexity of a significant IoT effort makes both of these pursuits difficult.       

IoT projects of scale encompass both numerous technologies requiring new skill sets and complicated integrations with existing systems. To create a solid business case, project plan, and end product, at least one person on the team must be familiar with many technical disciplines, with a grasp of how they interrelate (AKA “IoT System Architect”). Here’s a potential list, which may have some additions and subtractions depending on the project:

  • Hardware Design
  • Embedded Software
  • Wireless Communications
  • Back End/Server-Side Development
  • Front End/Client-Side Development
  • Systems Integration
  • Data science
  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

This list can be daunting, and it should be. A person who has proficiency in all of these areas is a rare creature. You can go forward without them, attempting to construct a comprehensive business plan, project plan, and system architecture from the silos of expertise you already have or can recruit. Just be aware you have a strong possibility of becoming a part of the “80 percent club.”