8 Tips to Move Beyond the Pilot Phase in IoT


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Breaking out of the pilot phase in IoT is not a task for the faint of heart. Researchers at Deloitte report that “seventy-four percent of IoT pilots fail to scale, and those that aren’t immediately abandoned enter ‘IoT pilot purgatory.’” 

Yet the IoT market continues to grow, and a recent Gartner survey noted that 80% of organizations who invested in IoT witnessed “better-than-expected results.” It’s clear that success is possible, but many organizations need guidance in navigating this nascent field. Based on my experience in product management, I’ve compiled a list of tips for moving beyond the pilot phase in IoT and launching successful products. 

1. Keep Your Goals in Mind

When you’re moving from the IoT pilot phase into full-blown development, it’s important that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish with the finished product. (And if you haven’t clearly defined what business problem you’re trying to solve, you might consider heading back to square one to validate your investment.) 

In a field as innovative as IoT, it’s all too easy to get distracted by new technologies and everything that you could do. Eventually, the scope of the project expands until it’s no longer viable. Alternatively, you could end up investing significant development time into developing really cool features that never end up being implemented or used because there wasn’t a clear business case. 

At Very, we actively work to avoid situations like these by hosting Strategy Sprints at the beginning of all of our projects, where we define the minimum viable product (MVP) to use as our North Star from the pilot all the way to launch. 

2. Keep Time in Mind

Every project has a fixed timeline and budget that you’ll need to keep in mind every step of the way. This might sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how many IoT projects just go until they run out of time and money because there were multiple factors not taken into account upfront.  

Experienced IoT firms, however, can identify sustainable and scalable development tactics that can streamline the path to product profitability. Because of our team’s extensive experience in IoT, hardware, software, and firmware, we’re able to do things like:

  • Preselect off-the-shelf parts like microcontrollers that we know work best for different kinds of projects to reduce design time
  • Reuse previously proven-out block diagrams and technologies for multiple projects, like power circuits or Bluetooth circuits 

By saving time in these key areas, we can spend the bulk of our time on more complex work, like integrations, and make sure all the pieces fit together — kind of like high-tech Legos. 

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3. Break Out Specific Features

As you’re moving from IoT pilot to development, you’re more likely to find success if you break out all of the features you want the product to have and what each feature is trying to accomplish, and make sure everyone is on the same page on those things. Create a checklist to help you define what success looks like for each feature to help ensure that you don’t get stuck in never-ending development cycles trying to get something “just right.” 

Perfect is the enemy of done, and while quality should always be a goal, acknowledge that not every feature will always look and act exactly the way you wanted it to when you first started. If all of the minimum requirements are satisfied, however, you can move forward confidently, knowing that you will deliver a working product within the time and budget constraints provided. 

4. Prioritize Communication & Collaboration

At Very, we firmly believe that communicating and collaborating closely with clients is a key ingredient for successful projects. The customer should never be in the dark about any tradeoffs that need to be made or even roadblocks encountered because it’s only by working in lockstep that problems get resolved quickly. 

This is why we have a tightly defined communication cadence marked by consistent video and chat check-ins, embedding product owners within the development team so that we can adapt rapidly to changing business needs. This is also the best way to make sure we’re focusing the bulk of our energy on the things most important to the client on a particular project. 

5. Don’t Ignore Security

Security has notoriously been the big bad wolf for IoT in recent years, with hacks making the headlines left and right. While IoT definitely introduces new complexities and attack surfaces that can be difficult to navigate without expert resources, many of these IoT security incidents can be traced back to the de-prioritization of security during the development process. 

To avoid catastrophe later, make sure to build security considerations into your development process, timeline, and budget from the beginning, rather than leaving security as an afterthought. There are many cost-effective security measures you can take during your process, including implementing client-side SSL and following best security practices when developing IoT firmware

6. Learn from Past Projects

With every pilot and development project that you do, it’s wise to collect data on the things that went right and the things that went wrong and apply your learnings to current and future projects. If you find that you continually run into similar challenges on each project, you might have an organizational issue that needs to be resolved.

After every iteration on a particular project, the Very team conducts a retrospective meeting to identify new learnings that will inform the next phase of the project. Then, once the project is complete, we do a final retrospective meeting covering the entire project and record/document everything we discuss.  

7. Stay Ahead of Certification Requirements

If you’ve never launched an IoT product before, you’re not likely to be familiar with the compliance requirements for the hardware you’ll be using, and they’re definitely not the kind of thing you want to be frantically researching at the last minute. 

Regulations differ based on the kind of product you have, your unique configuration of the product, and the countries where you’ll be marketing and selling it. Without a proper guide to IoT product compliance, it’s hard not to get lost in the legalese. Additionally, without proper preparation, some compliance testing processes can add several months to your project, and trying to avoid testing is a highly risky practice. 

To stay ahead of certification requirements, you’ll need to plan for them from the beginning and explore doing your own pre-compliance testing to expedite the process. 

8. Select the Right Platform and Infrastructure

Finally, to keep your IoT project moving swiftly from pilot to development to launch, you’ll want to be sure you’re using the most robust platform and infrastructure.

At Very, we’re big believers in Nerves, which provides a platform and infrastructure to build, deploy, and securely manage fleets of IoT devices at speed and scale. Nerves makes edge computing easier by taking care of the most complex infrastructure challenges like the network, discovery, I/O, firmware updates, and more. This allows us to make the most of our existing team and focus on writing and deploying robust, maintainable software. 

Launch with Confidence

Exploring new technological frontiers can be challenging and scary, but only if you don’t have reliable guidance. These tips should help your steer your IoT projects in the right direction. If you’re looking for an IoT development firm with a proven process and proven products, reach out to Very today.