Internet of Things (IoT) Strategist David Stephenson suggests that our past inability to gather and share real-time data about the current status of things —our “collective blindness”— has led to a range of workarounds. With new web technologies like IoT, these kludgy workarounds are no longer necessary. IoT provides the visibility to end this collective blindness and share the real-time data we need to make better decisions and work more precisely and effectively. However, it will take not only new technology but also new attitudes to get beyond those ingrained thought limitations and exploit IoT’s full potential.
Although early adopters have proven that the potential business value can be enormous, the technology is still very young, solutions are not well defined, requirements are loose and changing, and there is a high level of uncertainty. In other words, businesses have little idea of what is even possible yet.
As a result, IT teams need a way to continuously experiment and get new applications into the hands of users quickly, without forfeiting too many resources. To help the business unlock the value of IoT, IT teams need a way to rapidly experiment. Above all, they need an approach that facilitates frequent iteration and close collaboration between developers and the business, so they can turn new ideas into value-driving IoT applications.
IoT Applications Come to Life with Rapid Experimentation
In order to adopt a development process that allows for rapid, low-cost experimentation, companies need to approach IoT projects with a willingness to fail often in order to succeed sooner. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb with a brilliant eureka moment. Instead, he was an experimenter. In his mind, he thought, “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
And Google, one of the most successful and digitally innovative companies in the world, has a failure rate of 95 percent, recognizing that you only need to succeed once in order to win big. According to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “This is a company where it’s absolutely okay to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that.”
With that idea in mind, companies need the right set of tools and processes to foster low-cost, high-value experimentation.
5 best practices for fostering rapid experimentation in your IT organization:
1. Allocate time and resources for this type of experimentation to prove to your organization that this new approach can work, and then scale it widely as a new mindset.
2. Create cross-functional teams that include the business and IT. Bring together a person with an idea and someone with the technical aptitude to bring it to life.
3. Use visual, model-driven development in order to create a common language between business and IT to allow for faster experimentation and greater collaboration.
4. Create a feedback loop. It is important to have a mechanism to continuously capture feedback from users that you can take back into the process for continuous digital innovation.
5. Test a minimum viable product (MVP) early in the process to ensure the ability to change direction with minimal risk based on what you learn.
How One Company Went from Idea to Reality Within a Week
A media and entertainment firm has adopted these practices to rapidly bring their ideas to market with an IoT app. The firm was faced with the challenge that many of their clients, large festivals, are forced to turn away attendees at the gates of free events due to overcapacity without being able to take into consideration how many people left the venue. The firm had the idea to create a solution that leverages sensors in turnstiles to visualize attendee traffic in real time.
With constant ideation and experimentation, they were able to quickly make this idea a reality and deliver an MVP within a week of starting. Due to their willingness to experiment and rapidly iterate, they were able to validate their idea quickly and continue to evolve how they use the incoming data, which has resulted in new uses and forms of business value.
For example, the firm found that the data from these sensors could also be used to help clients understand how many people enter the venue to optimize how much food and beverages to provide the following night and can ensure security by scanning for credentials to ensure that all event staff are legitimate.
The entertainment firm can now help clients optimize, secure and enhance the experience of their events.
When developing new IoT applications, it is important to get these ideas out there quickly in order to validate or invalidate them. Don’t get stuck in the “it must be perfect” mindset. Instead, build and deploy a MVP and continue to iterate with feedback from customers, employees and partners to create the right new experiences.