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Last week we had the privilege of attending and speaking at Smart Industry 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (You can download a copy of our presentation here). Smart Industry is a trade show that provides manufacturing innovators, business leaders, and technology experts with a forum to network, discuss best practices, and learn from one another. It was created with the intent to accelerate the ongoing digital transformation of manufacturing and related industries.

Given the nature of the event, we had the opportunity to sit in on presentations from industry leaders and have in-depth conversations with other exhibitors and attendees about the future of work. After being immersed in stories of transformative technologies and forward-thinking companies for several days, many insights emerged. This article highlights the top 5 insights we took away from the event.

1. IoT adoption is lower than you think

A large focus of the trade show was the importance of IoT and the positive impact it can have on business processes. At the same time, we learned that full-scale adoption of the technology is lower than many of us may think. Although thought leaders acknowledge the importance of developing an IoT strategy, few have implemented one at full scale or at all. Despite the seemingly unanimous agreement of the importance of IoT, the path forward is unclear at best. Few organizations know how to harness this massive amount of data to make a real impact on ROI.

Take away: you’re not as behind as you may think (or at all), take your time to develop a well thought out, robust strategy. Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t always the best approach.

2. Make your solutions brand-agnostic

As large brands, such as Caterpillar, begin to develop IoT solutions for their customers, they’re discovering that a tangible business value lies in extending this technology to similar products of other brands. This is because their customers utilize a variety of brands in their product ecosystem. Extending beyond one brand enables these companies to be more ubiquitous and capture more revenue.

Take away: Consider making your solution brand-agnostic. This way you’ll more easily become ingrained in your customer’s processes and provide increased value.

3. Working relationship between OT and IT

Operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) both play vital roles in an organization. For example, OT may detect a critical change in the way a machine is operating, but without IT, OT may not have access to the relevant information required to act on those changes. That’s because IT is responsible for putting in place infrastructure that enables the information to be transmitted to the cloud for analysis and is then relayed back to OT.

Take away: to fully harness IoT data, we need both groups to work together. Communication and collaboration are key.

4. Digital transformation is not only about innovation

After listening to several presentations, it became clear that one of the biggest hurdles of digital transformation is not technology innovation, but technology adoption. In other words, getting employees to adopt new technologies is difficult. This is not because the new technology is difficult to use, but because, as humans, we’re inherently resistant to change.

Take away: to overcome this challenge, business leaders are engaging with end users during the development and implementation phases to increase the rate of adoption.

5. Innovation requires process changes

Lastly, innovation in silos provides limited benefits. Having smart products, for example, isn’t very useful if I don’t have the means to access the information they’re gathering or if they don’t prompt action.

Take away: smart technology is great, but to reap the full range of benefits, we need to update our processes. This is something to keep in mind as you build your IoT strategy.

Overall take away

All these insights share a common denominator: communication. Whether it’s implementing IoT strategies with OT and IT or touching base with end users to develop usable processes and tools, communication can increase the efficiency and efficacy of IoT plans. Ultimately resulting in the development of a usable strategy and setting you up for higher ROI in your digital transformation.

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