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Lack of skills, expertise challenge IOT adoption

The Internet of Things (IOT) is being hyped as a trend in shaping the future of businesses around the world. Analysts believe the IOT is burgeoning, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, approximately 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.

Ross Hickey, CEO of IOT service provider Trinity Telecomms, says the IOT goes beyond helping businesses improve cost efficiencies, product quality, and service levels, it is driving completely new revenue streams and business models.

"However, as businesses look to the IOT to prepare for the future, they are struggling to get started, as they have little to no experience in terms of what is involved in an IOT journey, or the vast amount of skills and expertise needed to pull it off successfully."

According to him IOT, projects are multi-faceted and employ many new technologies and concepts. In fact, a recent Cisco survey entitled ‘The Journey to IOT Value', claimed that without adequate technical and business skills, the failure rate is 75%. "You simply can't just wing it."

Business skills

There are several elements that need to be considered with an IOT implementation –  strategy, infrastructure and business processes. "Business skills are needed to bridge the gap between IT departments and the business, as well as to have insight on where to acquire all the necessary skills internally and externally through employment or partnerships, and also how to develop those skills."

Hickey says the right business skills will bring a clear understanding and commitment to extending the business case into the digital world, and the transformation that it will require. Moreover, a clear, multi-year plan with milestones and measurable targets that is supported by a realistic business case is a must.

"A business embarking on an IOT journey needs to have a good understanding of their own domain or their operational area of expertise. The introduction of IOT forces and introduces new business processes that will affect the entire organisation."

Firstly, he says a business sponsor or leader is needed, who will have the vision of what the IOT project needs to deliver, and will be available to drive change and adoption that will bring about positive disruption. "Next, the project will need a business solution architect, either a dedicated resource or a partner, who will architect the real requirements to execute the IOT vision. Finally, a project manager needs to come on board, who will understand the desired outcomes of the initiative, as well as manage the impact of the business process change."

Technical expertise

From the technical side, skills are needed to architect, implement, develop, road-map infrastructure, manage security, and to capture and analyse data. "A highly experienced senior architect who has experience in fast data, understands the scalability required to ensure one doesn't use the POC environment to go to market, and who can ensure you measure to monitor, to have the insight on which to make decisions, is crucial."

Speaking of integrating third party components, Hickey says skills that are familiar and comfortable around platform-to-platform integrations and have the fragmentation and partnerships needed in IOT are crucial. Experienced developers who are comfortable with styles, languages and the mechanisms used for different applications or by different partners, are what is needed. "They must also be able to flexibly manage requirements that span a variety of hardware and software solutions."

With the IOT, it is also important to have security skills in place to ensure security is built in in from the ground up, and not added as an afterthought. "Start with a secure design from day one, don't think it is over-engineered. Security needs be considered across all layers of the solution, including sub-systems and integrations. It is important to know, partition and monitor your trusted and untrusted environments.

He says because the IOT is driving previously unimagined amounts of data, to get real insights from that data, skills around data processing and analysis are essential. "Fast data will soon be the new era, particularly in an IOT world. Data arising from turmoil, data in motion and data streaming will be where analysis needs to be applied. Real-time decision-making is the true value delivery of IOT."

Specific skills

Hickey says the list of technical skills needed to manage IOT projects is a long one. "A good IOT project will need a senior software architect and a full-stack developer. In addition, a hardware developer, senior firmware developer, front-end developer and senior back-end developer. A system administrator with a good understanding of hosted cloud environments, service provider relationships, and in-depth technical understanding around implementing a wireless networking solutions is vital. The system administrator will need to manage network requirements from the field to the hosted environment, and have the understanding needed to manage the volume of data."

Businesses underestimate how complex and challenging IOT projects really are, and having the sheer number of skills needed to implement IOT successfully, is prohibitively expensive for all but the largest enterprises. There are a host of steps to be taken to completion, and if a business doesn't have the skills, it will be impossible to move the project forward to achieve the desired results.

"However, for those organisations without limitless budgets, bringing an IOT cloud platform partner on board will help leverage the opportunities presented by the IOT.  Managing the complexities associated with implementing the IOT isn't easy. It requires skills, collaboration, solutions – for each element, and the system as a whole. A cloud platform that will enable the conversion of vast amounts of data generated by your IOT devices into fast and easily actionable tasks is the answer," concludes Hickey.


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