Gartner defines a small and midsize business (SMB) as “a business which, due to its size, has different IT requirements—and often faces different IT challenges—than do large enterprises, and whose IT resources (usually budget and staff) are often highly constrained. For the purposes of its research, Gartner defines SMBs by the number of employees and annual revenue they have. The attribute used most often is number of employees; small businesses are usually defined as organizations with fewer than 100 employees; midsize enterprises are those organizations with 100 to 999 employees. The second most popular attribute used to define the SMB market is annual revenue: small business is usually defined as organizations with less than $50 million in annual revenue; midsize enterprise is defined as organizations that make more than $50 million, but less than $1 billion in annual revenue.”
Business cases for enterprise IoT adoption are available. Enterprise hindsight becomes SMB IoT foresight. How can enterprise lessons-learned pave the way for successful IoT adoption by the SMBs comprising the majority of businesses globally?
Based on Gartner’s definition, SMB IT requirements and challenges are critical aspects of whether an organization is successful in IoT deployment. As the CEO and/or CIO of a small to midsize business, chew on the following criteria before setting out on your SMB IoT journey.
Does the small to midsize business leadership team include a dedicated, in-house CIO?
The SMB CIO may not function in a dedicated position at the start of the IoT journey. In addition, depending on the number of employees, the CIO can wear multiple hats and serve several functions.
Interestingly, this scenario can prove beneficial in the beginning stages of IoT deployment. Chances are the SMB CIO is a cross-functional collaboration specialist, serving across several (or many) internal functions. As a result, the boundaries of job functionality and departmental silos are fluid.
On the other hand, the SMB CIO currently may serve as an IT generalist rather than an IoT deployment specialist. Consequently, when the company decides to embark on an IoT journey, that CIO is faced with a decision.
IoT deployment is an all-consuming, full-time, long-term, dedicated commitment. Can the SMB CIO go the distance?
Micro, small and medium-size businesses are a mixed-bag of information technology and operational connectivity capabilities.
The underlying premise of the IoT journey is deriving value from data collected via sensor-enabled, automated devices and machinery. How “connected” is your SMB?
First, determine whether the SMB CIO starts with a blank IoT slate. Then discover whether the company is partially or incompletely connected via a compatible IoT stack. Finally, plan how interfaces will be retrofitted onto legacy equipment and connected to various network interface portals.
The physical location of SMBs can present IoT connectivity difficulty. At IoT Emerge, Chris Lebeau, Global IT Director at ATS discussed how many plants are under-networked, partially because they are located outside of major metropolitan areas. While data is readily extracted from machines, often there is no good way to transport data due to insufficient WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth or cellular network capabilities.
Finally, plan with the future in mind. When creating IoT networks, scalability is a key factor. Volume and velocity of data is a sure-thing to bet on moving forward. Build appropriately today so you can handle tomorrow.
Can the SMB CIO function productively and profitably within the current SMB model and organizational culture?
Often, the SMB CIO is a family member within a family-owned business. There is a tendency to stick with history, continuing to do the things that got the business to where it is today. Except that the founding parents or grandparents weren’t counting on the IoT to ever “happen.” Then there is the accompanying tsunami of data from IoT automation, robotics and sensor-enabled devices.
Deploying an IoT strategy is painful and lengthy for any size business. Family-owned businesses are particularly sensitive to decisions impacting long term viability of the company. IoT deployment challenges existing processes, mindset and business models, as well as technical and leadership competencies.
Can the current business model scale to handle the accelerated pace of business in the IoT ecosystem? Are current decisions based on anecdotal memories of what happened or fact- and data-driven?
Cultural buy-in throughout the company represents the most daunting challenge for the SMB CIO, as it does for the enterprise CIO. The SMB CIO will encounter resistance to change while leading the organization towards IoT-enabled business models delivering greater value to customers.
Consider how successfully – and realistically – today’s organizational model and culture will evolve into tomorrow’s big data, analytics and insight-driven IoT environment.
Are you contemplating an IoT strategy for greater competitiveness? Is your SMB CIO part of your leadership team? What are your first steps?
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, strategist, speaker and coach focused on customer success for customer retention in the industrial Internet of Things ecosystem. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring, developing and implementing teams of collaborative technical, engineering, sales and business professionals. She serves manufacturing- and engineering- intensive companies, catalyzing teams to create enduring business outcomes.
Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.
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