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What Is IoT Without People?

Feature Article | July 14, 2017 by Bogdan Nica Hot Story

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables a huge spectrum of functionality for businesses, from tracking shipments to monitoring inventory and measuring how well specific pieces of equipment perform.

This year, Gartner forecasts that worldwide, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use — 5.2 billion consumer, 3.1 billion business. That’s a 31 percent increase over 2016. Estimates say that figure will jump to 20.4 billion by 2020.

IoT is powered by usage patterns created by data and sensors. But its reliance on “things” and “smart” objects distracts from the fact that IoT is predominantly based on input from… people. So what happens if the people using the technology aren’t using it correctly? What if they don’t have the skills to actually use it efficiently and effectively? How can IoT avoid a classic “garbage in, garbage out” scenario?

Only a skilled workforce will be able to take full advantage of IoT

First, the very same concepts that form the backbone of IoT — connecting, monitoring and measuring — must be applied to the workforce powering that technology. Why? Because the data that goes into making IoT run smoothly and successfully is turned into meaningful business outcomes by people.

Next, if IoT tracks everything, and if successful use of technology creates competitive advantage, how can organizations overlook tracking how their workforce is utilizing technology? If you can easily find out precisely what time a FedEx package leaves the loading dock, why wouldn’t you want to know how many steps it takes a customer service representative to resolve a customer query? Or how many screens they have to touch to complete an order?

The Importance of the Workforce

In Wired, strategist Dr. W. Charlton Adams Jr. emphasized the important role people play in IoT: “At the center is the human being who is making use of the applications and services that are enabled by the devices — the things — and their unprecedented integration provided in IoT.”

Monitoring an organization’s most important asset — people — cannot be minimized as a critical success factor of IoT initiatives. In fact, the competitive advantages gained from understanding your workforce mirror many of the same benefits delivered by IoT:

  • Identifying areas of performance that are weak, inefficient, or failing
  • Recognizing patterns that indicate systemic problems
  • Finding ways to take corrective action and improve outcomes, in real time

McKinsey estimates that the economic impact of the Internet of Things could have a $150 billion to $350 billion per year impact on labor productivity by 2025. With so much at stake for businesses, it’s clear that only a skilled workforce will be able to take full advantage of IoT. This means that businesses must ensure that employees have the technology skills needed to power their success. User experience analytics play a critical role in providing actionable data on exactly how employees are interacting daily with core business applications. This end-user data helps identify:

  • Skills gaps that require further training
  • Behavioral factors that inhibit successful technology adoption
  • Where process bottlenecks and inefficiencies are occurring
  • Workflows that can be streamlined and accelerated
  • Potential compliance issues
  • Hidden innovations

Tracking and monitoring software usage by real users is the most reliable way to gain valuable performance insights across the entire enterprise. User experience management software that can deliver these metrics — not just transparently, but also in real time — becomes the foundation for building, and ensuring compliance with, best practices.

We’ve seen many businesses start down the road to digital transformation, so focused on harnessing Internet of Things technology that they overlook one critical element of success: people. They don’t know whether their workforce has the skills necessary to use new technology and don’t consider the ongoing impact that it will have on training requirements and productivity. Our advice is simple: Don’t forget the people.

This story originally appeared on the SAP Community.

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