As startups continue to develop amazing IoT consumer devices, large corporations are taking notice. The success of Grush and Kolibree seemingly spurred Oral B to create a connected toothbrush; Sensoria’s smart running socks appear to have inspired Under Armour’s new line of smart running shoes, and Whirlpool and Kenmore have added a connected washer and dryer to their product lines. With more and more time-tested companies adding connectivity to their product lines, competitors are taking notice and are scrambling to add connectivity and analytics to their own product lines. Going from selling “regular” products to selling “smart” products requires more than simply adding Internet capabilities to an existing product; it requires a complete digital transformation across the organization. Digital technology will not succeed as an isolated offering; an organizational mindset across departments, employee talent, and leadership must “bleed digital” in order to successfully transform a product or an organization.
Organizational Mindset Across Functions
When a company begins to foray into the digital space, it is crucial that each area of the business adopts a digital mindset. If your company plans to develop a smart product that collects and stores large amounts of data, new possibilities will open up across every area of the business. Sales and marketing teams can use this newly mined data to better understand how customers use the product and identify new revenue opportunities; customer service can use this data to proactively help a customer troubleshoot their product as soon as an issue is identified, operations can use analytics to monitor productivity and make more informed business decisions, finance can come up with new revenue models based on customer fit, and the product folks can gain a deeper understanding of what customers want out of their product, so they can make well-informed enhancements. An organization looking to launch a smart product must embrace digital transformation through every facet of the company, and every area of the organization must share a digital vision as the company transforms itself in some way, into a big data company.
Not only is it important that every area of the organization embraces big data analytics capabilities as part of their strategy, but the technology folks involved in creating the products and the modern IT environment must understand technology in the digital age. It is imperative that each existing employee (i.e. engineers, designers and product folks) involved in building a connected product, drops the IT mindset and takes on a digital mindset. Someone who has developed hard drives for personal computers or on-premise servers for twenty years may not necessarily be able to handle the connectivity, data flow and analytics aspects of IoT; let alone understand anything about human-computer interaction. Your organization will certainly need hardware and software developers, but you also need these folks to be able to take into account design, data science, security, and interoperability. It is important that you re-align your organization to take advantage of the new skill-sets required, and that your builders understand that the new way of technology must align with the new way of business. Looking for digital-minded talent will be crucial in the organizational re-alignment and hiring process for a digital transformation.
In order to turn your company’s digital vision into a reality, it is important that this vision comes from the top, that is, your organization’s leadership team. Many board members and executives have been conducting business for decades, and tend to take a more pragmatic approach to business growth with a primary focus on cost cutting. Companies disrupting across industries are changing their business models to focus on the customer, to move more quickly and to use technology as the primary tool to gain a competitive advantage. Having leadership that not only supports the transformation but champions it throughout the organization will open up growth opportunities never seen before.
All in all, adding IoT to your company’s product line or operations can drive significant benefits. However, if this is viewed by the organization as an isolated project or initiative, you are setting the company, and your development team, up for failure. A product is only as good as the business behind it, and a digital product is only as good as the digital business backing it, across all levels of the organization.