How to Plan an IoT Project – 5 Things You Can Do Now

Given the immature state of IoT, what should transformation, business, and IT managers do to plan an IoT project today? Here are 5 things you can do now.


The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform the way we live, work and play. However, while there’s no lack of IoT platforms, business models, and innovative products in the market, today’s products are still immature point solutions. Given the immature state of IoT, what should transformation, business, and IT managers do today? Here are five things that you can do now, as you plan an IoT project and prepare to deploy.

1. Learn the Basics

Your journey starts with a knowledge of the IoT building blocks. No matter what solutions you consider, you want to know enough to ask the right questions. I use the “follow the data” framework. Trace the data flow, from capture, processing and action. Ask the following:

  • Once the data is captured by the sensor, where does it go?
  • How does it get from the “edge” sensors to the systems at the core? How does it get from the core to the user, who uses the information to do something?
  • Who touches the data and why?
  • How is the data transformed during this process?
  • What are the protocols used? Which ones are based on open standards, which are proprietary, and which are still to be “standardized”?

2. Fix the Gaps in Your Foundation

While IoT evolves, challenges remain no matter what solutions emerge. These include security, integration, data management (collect, transform, and store), and analytics.

As you plan an IoT project strategy, identify gaps in your infrastructure, core skills, tools and resources. Build a plan to address these challenges before you implement your first IoT projects.

3. Experiment, Learn, and Adapt

At this early stage, there are no right answers, no winning business models, and no “tried and true” IoT recipes to follow. Don’t try to predict the future.

Today’s immature products may not grow with your organization’s needs. Focus instead on using today’s IoT products to experiment with and learn crucial lessons. Accept failure and limitations. Learn from those experiences. Adapt the lessons learned and repeat.

Start small and add IoT pilots to existing projects. Don’t over-invest or over-commit. Plan small projects across the organization and scale over time.

4. Prioritize IoT Pilot Projects

It can be tempting to treat these IoT pilot projects the same way you you’d treat more established solutions, focusing on things like ROI and cost. However, this will lead to a portfolio of projects in which IoT is at the bottom of the priority list. Make these IoT pilots an explicit priority for the company so you can lay the critical groundwork for future success.

Remember, with early IoT projects, your main goal is to learn, experiment and uncover challenges. This will help you build the criteria for evaluating IoT projects and building the new digital roadmap. Consider projects based on the following:

  • Learning value and skill building
  • Project scalability
  • Cross functional involvement
  • Problem type solved
  • Type of feedback (technical, operational, customer, etc.)
  • Company impact
  • Integration and interoperability

5. Build “Information” Innovation

Much of the value of IoT lies in the information that you can capture. That information can allow you to improve processes and be more efficient, understand your customer and provide a better experience, enable entirely new business models, and much more.

Make sure to ask yourself:

  • What data do I need that I don’t have today?
  • Where should that data come from? Where? How?
  • After I get the data, what do I need to do to transform it? Do I need to combine it with data from other sources?
  • What other devices, processes, and people would need the new transformed data?
  • What’s the best way to deliver this transformed data?
  • What processes, technology, policies, organizations need to change with this data?

Take time to put together an information innovation strategy and roadmap. Work across the organization to create cross-functional teams to define this roadmap. Review it on a regular basis to ensure that your organization’s data needs are being met.

Originally posted on Strategy of Things.

Benson Chan
Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, an innovation management consultancy helping businesses innovate and thrive in a hyper-connected world. He has over 20 years of success in bringing leading edge business and technology innovations to market for corporate and start-up companies. His areas of expertise are in networking, cloud, enterprise IT, IoT and innovation management.