Determining the Top Down Business Requirements for Deploying IoT

When building an IoT solution, you need to focus on what your target audience wants to use. To ensure that customers embrace your product, begin your journey by clearly defining your business requirements from the top down. Whether you're a service provider or an enterprise building IoT products, make sure that you state the business requirements first and then move toward technological implementations.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

Why would anyone want to change the things you currently using in the physical world of business to the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Although the sectors shown below can be further enhanced through IoT, there needs to be a business reason for it and not just a technical one. Techies, the type who by default don’t create documentation, tend to solve problems bottom up. The technology is chosen first, then there is a retrofit of underlying processes to fit with that technology; finally, the business is coerced to wave the wand at the newly acquired widgets, which in this case would be IoT products. This engagement model is the reason why so many projects around technology fail to deliver on business value. Simply put, the problem that is being solved is not the one underpinning the business.

The below infographic by Intel shows where smart things are most likely to be deployed.

A breakdown, by percentage, of the business areas that IoT will most impact
Image Credit: Intel

The Jobs Mantra

A smart guy named Steve Jobs once said:

“Starting with the customer” does not mean you double down on your app when 70% of your target audience simply do not use it …” — Steve Jobs

As he rightfully pointed out, you need to solve what your target audience wants to use. The correct approach is to start at the business level and proceed from the top down. The process and approach may vary from the provider of an IoT product to the enterprise that uses that product as they have different underlying critical success factors.

Service Provider Requirements

For service providers, the critical success factors could potentially be:
  • Move from delivering products sold as capital cost items with singular revenue streams to ones that are sold as an annuity stream through services.
  • Reduce churn to competitive products. The legacy environment makes it difficult to track usage and usability.
  • Be competitive. Within 5 years all other service providers will be exclusively selling IoT. You can’t compete if you are not in the game.

Enterprise Requirements

For enterprise players, the critical success factors could potentially be:
  • Shift things on the balance sheet from assets to inputs in the profit and loss statements.
  • Improve operational productivity. Implement connected solutions with analytics that will have better availability and reliability.
  • Reduce operational costs. This is achieved by leveraging the predictive and preventive modes of IoT operations that enhance any current reactive or scheduled maintenance abilities.
  • Remote operations. Provide the business to gain analytic insight into operations from an alternative physical location with a smaller headcount.

State the Business Requirements for the Technology

These factors mentioned above can be used to state the business requirements for the technology. This can be used to form the basis of technical functional specifications that include the underlying processes. Finally, you can now specify the scope of work and choose your tin or poison of preference. The described method has a higher probability of success than the techie’s bottom-up approach. As an example, an abattoir doesn’t want to know the temperature of a freezer as a business requirement. They want to be able to prevent the loss of carcasses due to temperature abnormalities. A data center also doesn’t want to know the temperature of their cold aisle containment rows. They want to provide continuous service of their IT kit without any servers being forced into thermal shutdown. A telecommunications company doesn’t want to measure power. They want to prevent unnecessary costs associated with rolling wheels should there be a link failure due to a power grid outage.

Make it Less Complicated

The primary goal of IoT industry players shouldn’t be making IoT less of a hassle—i.e. the KISS principle—but making the use of physical things less complicated.