Book Review: Building Internet of Things

So next up on book reviews is Building the Internet of Things by Maciej Kranz.  First anything that starts with ‘beyond the hype’ to me sounds like a person starting a sentence with ‘trust me, this will work’.

IoT has the same aura around it that the Internet did back in the nineties.  Lots of hype, tons of articles, events and the line of business people are asking –

Are we doing this?

When are we doing this?

Why are we NOT doing this?

Should we be doing this?do-this-not-that

As such, I would recommend skipping that first chapter and go right to chapter two as it hits upon the power of IoT to help you answer some of those questions or just jump to No, no we should not be doing this – yet.

Use the book as a reference to help you ask the right questions both of your line of business and for those 30 vendors calling you on a monthly basis offering to help you with IoT.  This Forbes article is a good brief and the language is more LOB focused talking about manufacturers managing maintenance downtime and expense related to that versus IoT devices, storage and analytics.

In that it provides a benefit.  But, it does not live up to its title.  This will not help you build the internet of things.  Because to leverage IoT the focus is on business process improvement and innovating new customer facing services.

As such, if your business is not ready to transform business processes or is eagerly open to leverage technology for new customer services you will be wasting your time.

This book will help you develop the questions around your business processes to either generate that eagerness bring awareness to the line of business that IoT is not a cure, but component that can optimize process steps that were considered impossible to remove inefficient profit robbing steps.

Beyond the Fitbit, the NEST thermostat their are real business solutions in manufacturing, healthcare, energy and retail industries.

Working it purely as a business problem solution design will help you find the REAL solutions and avoid the hyped.  

What is the critical information technology at your company?

If you gathered all your managers in a room, all accept the IT people. Gather all your non-IT managers, directors, VP’s and C-level executives and ask what is the critical information technology at your company. What answer would you get or expect to get.

Is the most critical information technology your ERP system?

A module of your ERP system? Finance? CRM? Product Demand Planning?

Even more specific, a single business process in your ERP? A/R? Order Management? Inventory Management?

Or is it your project management solution?

Your business intelligence solution?

Or your content management solution?

I offer that while the answer from management would be a mix of the above, your staff would demonstrate that none of the above are critical to their daily functions.

The three that most staff positions are affected immediately by when there is a service outage is email, Internet access and MS Office. If your IT function has a help desk software that tracks incidents and number of user calls per incident, compare the number of user calls when the ERP system goes down, to the number of calls when email or the Internet service goes down. Look at MS Office support activity and compare the time between users noticing it is not working and calling the Help Desk versus when ERP is not working. This may not be a metric your Help Desk tracks, but it would be very revealing once you gathered the data.

What does this mean to your business. First, when the ERP system is down your employees find other activities to do, but are they contributing to the top or bottom line growth? No, they are not. It is busy work that is wasteful as it is not focusing the end user critical business processes or IT on prioritizing operation performance and reliability on the right information technology.

The squeaky wheel, the loud, thunderous roar of end users squeaky wheel is when email, the Internet and MS Office are unavailable or just slow. Therefore, ERP, BI, CRM and the rest of the high priced, high return information technology platforms are allowed to have reduced reliability, performance and slow general maintenance, such as upgrades. IT upgrades email constantly in the hopes that the new version will be more reliable and lower support calls and increase end user satisfaction. The same for the Internet pipeline, they expand it and expand it, buying new routers and firewalls that have higher speed capacity. With MS Office you upgrade twice as often as your ERP, due to end users complaints that they cannot open files from newer versions from customers and suppliers.

The costs of this mis-directed prioritization is the lack of leveraging available ERP upgrades, that your business has paid thousands of dollars in maintenance contract payments for those upgrades.

Printers get more attention than your information technology that directly supports your critical business processes that drive your customer retention, new product launches and track revenue growth areas and most profitable products and customers.

What is this costing your business? Even with a strategically minded CIO, the IT support staff will be pulled by the demands of the end users, which will reflect in application, server and network administration focus and planning.

What should business people be doing?

Measure IT focus. Help desk and operation activities that focus on critical information technology in terms of time spent, budget and project allocations and training dollars spent each year.

Ask the question what is the IT response when ERP goes down? How long to recover and how many end user calls are recorded?

Compare this to to the IT response when email or the Internet service goes down.

If the answers do not satisfy you, setup metrics on IT incidents and recovery from incidents, focusing on your critical information technology. Setup metrics on not just allocation of budget to your critical information technology, but on actual project time allocated to improving those critical technologies versus other non-critical business technologies.

It may take a senior management decree that if email, the Internet service or your MS Office goes down that the company will live with a longer down time to allow prioritization of IT budget, staff, training and projects in support of critical information technology that in turn directly supports the corporate goals.