Global Business Intelligence

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Accelerating Technology
Innovation in the Age of IoT

There is an old saying that “speed kills,” and while that may be true, it is often a lack of planning that kills most technology-based business ideas.


The growth of IoT is making business and product strategy increasingly reliant on extracting value from the flow of data between and among both people and things. While businesses race to drive operational efficiencies and augment consumer experience through IoT, they also have to deal with increased complexity, volatility and uncertainty.


As a result, bringing technology innovation to market quickly in a smart, cost-efficient and operationally effective manner is more challenging and carries more risk than ever before.


Our company currently works with millions of customers around the world and we’ve seen these trials first-hand. Those entrepreneurs and organizations who are successful in accelerating IoT innovation in their enterprise or market sector usually do three things well.


First, they anticipate and plan for the unique technology challenges that accompany today’s IoT-based solutions. Second, they address the often overlooked challenge of organizational change that these solutions require to be successful. Finally, they think through and organize the right ecosystem that supports both innovation implementation and management. With proper planning, organizations can not only increase the speed of technology innovation, but also increase the speed of products to market, all while reducing both complexity and cost.

Planning for today’s unique technology challenges

Let’s start with today’s technology demands. While the potential rewards of implementing IoT solutions have never been greater, with them come greater challenges and more risk.


The good news is that there have never been more affordable hardware and software options than those that exist today. However, the flip side is that amongst today’s bewildering array of low-cost technology options, it has never been easier to make a shortsighted choice. A few bad choices can critically hinder a complex system. Successful companies spend a lot of time thinking through the “optimal mix” of technologies that can not only be fruitful today, but can adapt and grow as the marketplace changes.


In addition, IoT systems are casting an ever-wider net. This means that in addition to the growth of IoT technology choices, there is also exponential growth in the number of devices and endpoints an IoT system typically involves. IDC predicts that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices generating 79.4ZB of data by 2025. Organizations that succeed tend to find ways to simplify and optimize operations and management as their systems grow.


Then there’s the challenge of operational reliability and security of devices and data. As businesses become more dependent on the data and insights from IoT, reliable data storage and access becomes mission critical. In addition to operational risk, movement of data—particularly across borders—can also pose a regulatory and government administrative risk. There is also the risk posed by malicious actors as increased digitization of business operations has been accompanied by more attempts to hack or compromise that data. Successful companies think through what data needs to be stored where along with how the right data can be deliver to the right place at the right time for both operational efficiency and maximum insight.


Accelerating business IoT innovation is about managing the process of getting from here to there. Innovation is not a static event, it is a dynamic process.


Thinking as much (or more) about people as you do technology


Second, smart companies understand that technological change, particularly in the area of IoT, is also organizational change.


While IoT networks can do amazing things, they are still reliant on people. Someone needs to be able to see and act on a piece of data or insight—whether that be a warning alert in a manufacturing plant, a critical event in the supply chain, or a new opportunity based on the activity of a business partner or customer.


This is one of the most under-planned elements in business IoT innovation. According to research by Cisco, more than half of business IoT systems fail at proof of concept because management failed to adequately plan for staffing and operational changes. Business IoT innovation is about more than having the right technology; it is about having the right people in the right places doing the right things to make innovation happen. When implementing technological change, smart companies spend as much time thinking through the competencies, skills and schedules of the most critical aspect of their transformation plan—their people—as they do their technology.


Process implementation and the ecosystem


Finally, accelerating business IoT innovation is about managing the process of getting from here to there. Innovation is not a static event, it is a dynamic process. It requires having the ability to combine and operationalize—in as few steps as possible—the right design, financing, manufacturing, distribution and market support.


Just like devices, systems and organizations, the process of implementing IoT innovation quickly is inherently complex. It demands a tremendous amount of identification, delivery, coordination and synchronization among dozens of moving parts—from devices, gateways software and platforms to application programming interfaces (APIs), integrators and developers. That is why we often see companies having to engage about 10 different technology partners to bring an IoT solution to life.


All these new challenges and complexities are why we turned Avnet’s business model into an ecosystem. We understand that successful innovation is not simply having the right technology and good training. Technology innovation is a multi-step process, and each step requires a depth of knowledge and skill that often go beyond most organization’s ability.


Drawing from nearly 100 years of experience in the technology business, we’ve built our own comprehensive end-to-end ecosystem. This ecosystem enables us to work with customers to accelerate their ability to bring innovations to market—from the idea, to the design and sourcing of the technology, to making the product, delivering it anywhere in the world, and ultimately maintaining the product throughout its lifecycle.


Yes, there are times when “speed kills.” But it doesn’t have to. With proper planning, well-prepared people and a strong ecosystem, speed can be smart and safe—and,perhaps most importantly, successful.

By Bill Amelio, CEO, Avnet