Five Keys to Unlocking IoT Success Using Human-Centered Design

When businesses embark on building a digitally connected solution, IoT success is never a given. Yet all businesses that set out to do something new have high expectations for that effort – even if they don’t know what’s required to meet those expectations.

Even if we assume business leaders know the number-one reason why 75 percent of IoT projects fail, they must also know how to navigate the other pitfalls that exist in order to succeed. Those pitfalls are easier to spot when you follow a methodology.

Your Methodology: A Biased-Free Roadmap

We have a methodology that we deploy for every IoT project. By following it, it demands we set aside our egos, expectations, and what we think is best. Any investment in IoT shouldn’t hinge on the gut instincts of team members, but instead from insights that are revealed by staying the course of methodology and process.

We’ve previously shared thoughts on our methodology and how we teach it to our clients. It is a four-step iterative process rooted in human-centered design (HCD), and it informs every IoT project we help bring to market successfully for clients.

But even then, a methodology alone doesn’t guarantee success will follow. How the project team chooses to interpret and apply each step in the process becomes critical. The devil is – and always will be – in the details. Here are five things that can make or break your IoT project.

Five Keys to Unlocking IoT Success

If these actions unlock success, then the inverse also must be true. Regardless of how obvious they may seem at first, failure to address these issues is what contributes to the high failure rate of IoT projects. Staying focused on these elements within the HCD process helps ensure success will follow.

  1. Convene an experienced, cross-functional team

IoT projects shouldn’t be delegated solely to engineers and developers, yet that’s exactly what many companies do. They see the IT in IoT and expect they will have the solution. Their skills are essential, but their approach to problem solving is different from designers, strategists, sales teams, client-facing project managers, and marketers – all of whom have their own lens and perspective on solving the same problem. This is where convergent and divergent thinking pushes the cross-functional team toward possibilities outside the narrow lanes of team member expertise. If you don’t have the expertise in certain areas such as engineering, coding, or product design, bring in outside help and expertise to complete your cross-functional team of thinkers and doers. 

  1. Provide excellent visualization

This applies both to internal teams and external stakeholders. Sharing a story of a solution visually affords greater understanding of that solution, as a verbalized story will inevitably get bogged down in jargon. Visualization affords imagination with regard to what is possible – and it also affords stakeholders to question or articulate what they believe is implied. These insights bring forth tension and points of clarity to the room in ways that words and explanations alone cannot convey.   

  1. Ensure access to stakeholders

Who are you creating your IoT solution for? Is it for existing customers? Developing new markets? The sales team? The C-suite? Wall Street? There are many stakeholders and influential voices – and some are louder or more obvious than others. But understanding why your IoT solution deserves to exist helps you understand who your most influential stakeholders are. Access to these stakeholders and understanding their wants, desires, and pain points are necessary to realizing what to build. Bottom line: no matter your IoT project team’s skills, they cannot build a successful solution in isolation and without stakeholder insights.  

  1. Flex your creative confidence

Building the next iteration of what your competitors have already built, likely won’t result in the success your company envisions. It will be new to you, but not new to customers or the marketplace. By leaning into your learnings from stakeholders about desirability and what deserves to exist, you can build the creative confidence needed to pursue something that’s never been done before. If your solution doesn’t already exist, you’re likely on to something worthy, and only your creative confidence will bring it to fruition.     

  1. Maintain an open mindset

The way we envision building breakthrough IoT solutions and how it actually unfolds is humbling. There will be process hiccups, surprising feedback, and unanticipated setbacks. But maintaining an open mindset – resisting the desire to push the square peg of your ideas down the round hole of what is desired, technically feasible, and viable to the business – is where project teams ultimately win. Their willingness to persevere and committed to asking “what if” questions will reveal the best pathway forward to success. 

Any company can adopt a methodology or process of their choosing. Companies can proceed in checking the boxes of their own discovery, creation and decision making as they always have. And, when it comes to building something entirely new, that approach won’t guarantee success either.

That’s the hurdle: most companies want a prescriptive blueprint, not a conceptual roadmap. They want the product without the messy process. But that’s not how IoT solutions, or any innovation for that matter, come to market.

HCD on the other hand, demands a deep understanding of the end-user to discover their needs, pain points, and desires. These insights fuel product solutions, features, and roadmaps. And, not surprising, all five of the keys to IoT success are human-centered approaches.

When companies recognize and embrace a human-centered design methodology to their technology development needs –and build something that humans desire – then the best connections are made.

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