How to Prepare Your Business and Team for an IIoT Initiative

When digitally transforming your company with IIoT, the only thing that’s more important than the technology itself is the people implementing and using the new systems on a daily basis. This article discusses how communicating upfront with employees and tapping into the right skill sets—internally and externally to your company—are the key ingredients to successful IIoT initiatives.

Cory Williamson
Illustration: © IoT For All

Your company is about to invest months of time and research, and an undisclosed sum of money in its new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiative. You’ve talked about adding sensors for legacy machines, eliminating data silos and updating software. The bases are all covered, right?

Not so fast. If your company hasn’t considered the human and operational side of IIoT, it’s forgetting about half of the challenge. The staffing infrastructure to handle the challenges of IIoT, both anticipated and unexpected, isn’t automatically present in any organization. And given the amount of money companies are investing in IIoT (by 2020, discrete manufacturing industries are projected to spend $40 billion on platforms, systems and services), leaders would be remiss to overlook this key piece of the puzzle.

Have an Internal Conversation About Digital Transformation

How often does your company hit pause and make intentional decisions about the organizational structure to support technology rather than just letting it happen? Probably not very often. Ideally, conversations around change management should happen as soon as a company begins considering new technologies. However, most companies don’t know there’s a need to talk about concerns surrounding technology adoption until it’s time to flip the switch.

Although change management conversations should start as a top-down initiative from executives about where the organization is headed in regard to IIoT, be sure to include cross-department heads to ensure buy-in and cooperation. These cross-department leaders can also provide feedback about the necessary infrastructure for long-term projects and identify gaps in:

  • Staffing and expertise
  • Internal networking
  • IoT infrastructure and servers

While taking the time for such conversations may seem like an additional burden for people who have already-crowded schedules, they prove overwhelmingly valuable. Seventy-eight percent of companies say they’re seeing “some degree of positive business outcomes from their use of digital technology.”

Internal Talent Versus External Hires: What’s the Right Call?

There’s no one right way of doing things when it comes to tapping internal talent versus looking to external hires to handle an IIoT transition. It’s likely that your organization will benefit from a mix of both.

Start by looking inward to identify internal technology leaders in areas like marketing, IT, product and applications. This will save the organization some of the headaches of the external hiring process while providing the opportunity to elevate talented employees you may have previously overlooked. However, don’t add IIoT-related tasks on top of employees’ existing roles or give them work that’s outside their expertise or purview. That would be a recipe for frustration, overwork and an unsuccessful IIoT launch.

Unless your organization has a large talent pool to draw upon, you probably won’t find all the expertise you need internally. This is a process you should handle similarly to the tech side of your IIoT launch. Instead of hiring 20 new people all at once, fill positions that support your immediate need and grow incrementally. While the industrial landscape is absolutely headed in a direction that includes more IIoT, the technology is too new to justify a large investment just yet.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to IIoT staffing, engage an external partner to help define the framework for your project and install the right people in the right positions. From an HR perspective, that sometimes means bringing in personnel on a contract basis instead of making a long-term commitment. The potential pathways and consequences can be difficult to assess without the benefit of an outside point-of-view.

Planning for the Long Term

All companies should adopt the mantra, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” If you don’t have an early plan about what success looks like, you’re not going to capture those metrics later on. Have a solid, succinct definition—not only of what IIoT success looks like for your business but also of what it looks like for the specific people assigned to the project. That way, you’ll know when it’s time to expand your IIoT project beyond the test case, and you’ll also know when and how to grow your hiring to support your IIoT investment.

Written by Cory Williamson, Delivery Lead at Nerdery.

Cory Williamson
Cory Williamson
Cory Williamson is a Delivery Lead at Nerdery, a digital business consultancy. He has been involved with project planning, product development and growing client partnerships for more than a decade. Cory is passionate about creating strong teams t...
Cory Williamson is a Delivery Lead at Nerdery, a digital business consultancy. He has been involved with project planning, product development and growing client partnerships for more than a decade. Cory is passionate about creating strong teams t...