Insight: IoT beyond PoC, a shift in mindset
By Jason Kay, Chief Commercial Officer, IMS Evolve
The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a huge impact, with experts anticipating a significant increase in adoption of the technology, particularly across the enterprise.
Growth Enabler predicts that the global IoT market is set to grow to $457.29 billion by 2020 driven in part by the acceptance, adoption and business applicability of IoT across numerous sectors. According to research from Vodafone, the number of IoT adopters across all industries has already more than doubled since 2013, equating to 29 per cent of organisations globally and demonstrating how compelling the case for IoT is to businesses. However, the results from Cisco’s IoT deployment survey show how decision makers must place greater emphasis on business objectives when implementing an IoT project; 60 per cent of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage and only 26 per cent of organisations have had an IoT project that they believed to be a complete success.
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The conclusions of the Cisco survey may appear stark for some. IoT technology was developed with the aim of improving business efficiency and increasing value for adopters, however according to the research, it appears the full potential of IoT is so far, not being truly realised. If businesses do not achieve full value from their IoT deployments, then the growth rate of IoT could be at risk, and as a result businesses could potentially become hesitant to adopt it.
In reality, IoT has the potential to truly revolutionise technology and provide businesses with invaluable benefits, including increased efficiency and greater insight. However, it is vital that organisations and the technology vendors they collaborate with, take a considered approach to guarantee the future success of their project – and this requires a particular mindset.
In many cases, the goal of an IoT implementation is dictated by the technology. But just because the technology can provide a solution for a business, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one. As such, a shift in mindset is required across the IoT industry to prioritise the essential question when considering an IoT project: ‘why?’
Rather than putting the technology first and asking the question, ‘what technology is available and what problems can it solve?’ stakeholders should prioritise the business issues and ask, ‘what problems do we have, and how can technology help?’. Organisations constantly face challenges on multiple fronts, and collaboration across multiple teams and functions within the business is required to truly determine which solution implemented in which area will contribute the greatest effect on core purpose, and provide the biggest reward.
Consider the rip and replace IoT solutions as an example. There is an opportunity for industries such as food retail to achieve substantial benefits and efficiencies from implementing IoT technology. However, a rip and replace solution to extracting the data from their estate would not be feasible as the industry operates a fast moving environment with low margin consumer goods and a high cost of infrastructure.
Suspending operations or shutting stores for re-fit risks impeding customer experience, loyalty and brand reputation, and diminishing the potential business value of the solution. As revealed by the Cisco research, the value from IoT must be generated quickly, with as little disruption to the business as possible, or the project will quickly stall. By leveraging the existing infrastructure and deploying an IoT layer across the existing environment, organisations can unlock the data that is inherent within it and achieve ROI and tangible value within a matter or months, even weeks. Rapidly releasing value from IoT is essential in adopting an outcomes-led strategy and accelerating the shift into digitisation with low capital investment and high return on investment.
With full business-wide collaboration and an outcomes-led approach, businesses can partner with vendors that can rapidly deploy sustainable, scalable and – above all else – valuable IoT projects. It is only through organisations deploying established and repeatable solutions that deliver results far beyond proof of concept, that IoT will be able to fulfil its true potential.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”