Why do IoT projects fail and what can be done to ensure success?

The internet of things (IoT) is best known for unlocking new business opportunities by transforming the way people and machines work. In today’s world, data is the key to a business’s success; IoT deployments can provide critical data to any device such as a phone, tablet or computer within seconds to help businesses improve performance.
iot project planning

Faster data processing enables informed decision-making. There are clearly huge advantages, which is why so many IoT projects are being implemented around the world but sadly, there are still many IoT projects that fail. In this article, we will summarise the reasons why some IoT projects don’t work and what we do at Hark to make sure all of ours are successful.

What are the main reasons for failed IoT projects? 

  1. Lack of understanding of IoT cybersecurity risks 

Security is the single biggest IoT issue because, as with any technology implementation, it’s critical for organisations to maintain a secure data estate. In recent years, cyber-attacks are on the rise, including data breaches due to unsecured IoT devices. 

In order for an IoT project to be successful, there are a number of security checks that should be carried out. This includes the authentication of devices and ensuring confidentiality and integrity of all data, in order to meet compliance standards and requirements before implementation and signing contracts with suppliers. A good example of this is being certified with ISO27001 (I’m pleased to say Hark is ISO27001 certified).

Before starting your IoT deployment, check with your vendor/supplier that you’ve made the necessary considerations for device security and network planning as this is an important step. At Hark, this is typically covered as a first step of our discovery process in the ‘Connectivity’ stage of any project – the key question asked being, “What’s the best way to architect networking on this deployment?” 

  1. Lack of skilled professionals, experience, and resources 

It can be tough to find experts who have experience in planning, developing and executing IoT projects end to end. Organisations typically try to use their existing talent pool, trying to upskill and train them to work on such projects. But this can also end in project failure because the team is unable to lead the project to success. Think about it like this, if you’re a Technical Service Provider who has always provided on-site support for a specific asset, you’ll know how that asset operates like the back of your hand, however, it’s a completely different world when thinking about remotely connecting to assets – as there are considerations around UI/UX, reporting, cloud technology, security, audit logs etc. and a broad set of specific skills required.  

According to Forbes magazine, in 2019, there was a skills shortage within the IoT industry, with statistics showing that 76% of survey respondents felt that they needed more staff working on projects to have higher-level IoT specialists. Over the last 2 years, the skills shortage has increased

Hark tackles this by actively working with the widest group of stakeholders possible – ensuring that IoT enables rather than generates skills issues. We find it’s important to work alongside the Technical Service Providers, Facilities Managers, Networking Teams as well as different customer departments to ensure the expertise and skills are taken into account across the whole architecture of a project.  

  1. Connectivity can lead to further costs 

When deploying an IoT solution, there are a number of challenges faced by organisations in terms of costs.  

Billing / Inadequate Budget: Though it’s possible for smartphones and tablets to have ‘Unlimited data plans’, there is no such thing for IoT devices. Large deployments that are not carefully planned and scoped out effectively could have the potential to rack up high costs, which can have an impact on how viable the project can be within the business setting. 

Scalability: With organisations investing in IoT deployments, it’s important for project teams to be prepared for any challenges that may arise with business deployments, business systems, networks and processes. Requirements change and the deployed solution should address these changes. Powering, connecting, monitoring and potentially servicing hundreds of individual devices can be a pitfall for developers without a meaningful plan or partnership in place. 

Security: Any networking of devices, connecting to the Internet faces a number of security risks. When deploying IoT solutions, security risks are one of the top challenges that organisations face. Managing the risk of a security attack should be of the highest priority. Through due diligence into the available hardware and software for securing devices and networks that connect to them. 

In our view, all the above areas should be discussed, documented and planned for from the very start of an IoT project. Ideally, projects should consider creating threat models and connectivity plans as early on in the project as possible.  

  1. Unclear business goals and objectives 
    it’s essential to have specific goals that the business wants to achieve when implementing IoT solutions. It’s also important to specify rather than solely having an overarching goal of “the project must be successfully implemented”. Finally, it’s crucial for the IoT project to achieve specific deliverables, some examples of this could be improved asset availability, operational efficiency targets, increase customer satisfaction etc. 

 
Again, for Hark, this goes back to documentation; what is the IoT project trying to achieve? The best projects we’ve worked on are collaborative and often see us working with and/or training other vendors who are part of the overall architecture/estate solution. The excellent projects have an openness about the results and of course, the excellent customers are willing to share information on process cost, energy bills, and or maintenance costs that are involved with the deployment. 

How can the failure of IoT projects be prevented? 

  1. Ensure executive-level buy-in to support the project 

Business stakeholders need to be clear that there is a business benefit to implementing the proposed IoT solution. This can be seen as one of the biggest reasons that can make or break a project. Ensuring that the high-level executives support and back the IoT projects because they essentially have the final decision on whether the project is successful. Executives can pull the plug or reject IoT projects if they do not believe in the objectives and the business benefits of the project, involving them early ensure they have the context of the project too.  
 

  1. Be specific on the goals and objective of the project that the business wants to achieve with IoT solutions 

It’s important that the objective isn’t generic like, ‘the IoT project must be successfully implemented.’ Successful IoT projects keep specific objectives in mind, such as scenarios where your energy managers can perform better thanks to improved asset connectivity; quantifiable, operational efficiency targets in line with sustainability targets; or increased and improved customer satisfaction to name a few.  

  1. Ensuring project staff have the necessary skills and knowledge of the IoT technologies 

There are very few companies that have the resources and expertise to create a connected IoT solution under one roof. It’s very common that businesses often have to outsource the development of their functional IoT components to other businesses. This can make deployments fragmented and context can be unwoven from having outsourced work. Having skilled, capable and knowledgeable human resource working on IoT projects makes a huge difference and the resulting communication is critical in order to ensure successful IoT projects.
 

  1. Creating and using a Project Risk Register 

    A risk register is a document that is used to aid risk management in identifying potential setbacks within a project. This process identifies, analyses and solves risks before they become problems during a project. It will typically include other pieces of information around the priority of the risk and how likely the risk is to happen. Risk registers are used to provide tangible mitigation measures and alternative options to proceed with should a project risk occurs. This will allow the project team to be prepared with solutions and empower them to solve the issues.  

How can Hark help you?  

Since the inception of the business back in 2016, we have successfully been involved in the development and deployment of a wide range of IoT solutions including but not limited to Energy & Lighting monitoring for leading supermarkets helping them to save millions of pounds on their energy consumption. We have also deployed and integrated LoRaWAN and wireless networks for a number of clients across multiple plants and sites to improve signal quality for their devices.

In recent times we’ve worked with companies like NHS Property Services to provide expert consultation (through a series of workshops and sessions) and help develop a roadmap for introducing industrial IoT and energy analytics into their estate.

Our company mission is to improve efficiency, maximise yield and reduce waste, and our IoT solutions have the ability to minimise your costs and improve product quality. Interested in finding out more about us, get in contact!

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
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