As a kid I loved the story of the Three Little Pigs. In case you don’t know the story, it is a fable about three pigs who build three houses of different materials.
Interestingly, many discussions that I have with prospects about applications versus platforms, in the realm of IOT, remind me of this fable. This is because the platform-versus-application discussion often favors opportunistically short-term quick gains over long-term needs.
The arguments given in favor of applications are often the same. “If the application is exactly tailored to address this specific need, why build it ourselves?”
Or: “Why take the development risk?”
Another argument heard often: “We have been delaying this too long I need it now not next year.”
Even worse: “If IT steps in, they hinder innovation.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with the arguments (except maybe for the latter).
However, an issue arises if there is no strategy within the company to bring all those solutions together and bind them. If the business side buys applications, and then leaves them to IT to organize and support, support costs will explode. And not only that; while parts of the organization benefit from the application, the organization as a whole could suffer security and reliability risks, difficulties in orchestration, inability to upgrade assets or devices due to lock-in with application vendors, and much more.
Where a platform might require the most effort in the beginning, the advantages in the long term are undeniable for the organization. So is it possible to overcome some of the obstacles mentioned before and justify starting with an IOT platform?
The first suggestion is to consider a staged approach. Take a cloud-based platform to start with, consider one though that can grow to a PAAS or beyond if complexity increases. It will help accelerate the development in the beginning, allowing you to reduce risk and get some first findings - if the ideas that you started off with are the right ones. This allows you to get the confidence and buy-in from management for the more advanced solutions.
And secondly, refuse the creation of a business case per solution; to place a tab on cost and value of such innovation is nearly impossible, as the impact of IOT on the changing business models is often not understood enough. Instead, tie the introduction of an IOT platform to the digital transformation program and assure executive sponsorship.
To conclude, don’t forget that any application you can buy your competitor can buy too. If you do that and build your IOT strategy with straw or sticks I am sure that your competition will stand on your doorway on an early morning and try to huff and puff your organization away. Be safe and build your IoT strategy from bricks, build it on top of an IoT platform.