How to get C-level execs to back your IoT project

    How to get C-level execs on board with IoT
    How to get C-level execs on board with IoT

    If you’re a mid-level manager with a fantastic IoT idea that you know will be good for your company, you’ll want to get the board to review endorse it. Doing this can be tricky. Here at IoB, we’ve got some tips for success.

    Cisco has famously said that by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet and that these will generate $8 trillion (£5.6 trillion) over the next decade. Earlier this month analyst Gartner said that by 2020 more than half of major new business processes and systems would incorporate some element of the IoT.

    In the same breath, Gartner pointed out some challenges that the IoT is facing. One it forgot to mention, was the difficulty some organisations face in getting senior executives interested in IoT projects.

    The so called ‘C-suite’ of executives holds the purse strings and makes the decisions, but may not include a tech-savvy person in their number. And even if there is a board member with a technology background, the board may be wary of embracing IoT if they’re not currently involved with it or have a more generally cautions attitude towards technology. Furthermore, a culture of ‘why bother’ may exist, and especially in the more traditional and risk-adverse industries.

    Ultimately then, if the board doesn’t like an idea, it doesn’t get implemented.

    Focus on the ROI of IoT

    So, how does the humble middle-ranker with a good IoT idea encourage their organisation’s leaders to pay attention?

    A lot of what you’ll need to do is no different from making any other business case. You’ll need to cover all the usual ground, such as:

    • How the investment will generate a return?
    • What you expect the return to be (this could include more than just a financial return)?
    • An estimate of time to profitability?
    • Detailing of investment costs?
    • Detailing of development time and resources required – including any outsourcing?

    This is all classic ROI (Return on Investment) stuff.

    Also read: Half of UK firms will employ a Chief Internet of Things Officer in 2016

    Reveal the benefits to your organisation

    But you also need to think more strategically. Delving into IoT may be entirely new for your organisation, and committing may well require your board executives to think beyond the bucks.

    The nuances of how you get them onside will vary from business to business, and you will need to identify and then display the specific key benefits of your idea. It will also be useful to arm yourself with some broad information such as forecasts of the number of connected things worldwide and how they will generate new revenue streams. See our Cisco and Gartner examples as a starting point and look for more research closer to your industry sector.

    Your magic trick will be showing that global figures can translate to the specifics of your particular company. There are two key aspects here.

    First: the forecasts are clear that the IoT is coming and it will be transformational – does your business want to embrace that or be blinkered?

    Second: what are your competitors already doing or thinking of doing – will your business be left behind?

    See beyond the physical product

    Take inspiration from what Andy Hobsbawm, founder of EVRYTHNG told us: “Physical products that come with a digital layer of personalized interactive services use data to improve the consumer experience and supply chain operations over time. They are stickier, differentiated and create new revenue opportunities from subscription or usage-based services, or solve logistics problems like knowing where your goods are at all times and if they’ve been damaged, diverted, counterfeited or otherwise tampered with.”

    Shower them with case studies

    Real world examples of IoT in action – if not form your own sector then from one your chief officers can relate to – might help your case. This could be particularly useful if there’s no technical expertise on your board.

    Case studies are a dime a dozen, especially in an early-adopter IoT market, but if you can pick out a few that are relevant they will certainly help your case.

    Speak in business terms

    Another tactic if your board lacks technical people is to broaden your thinking away from the purely technical aspects of your project and look for more flexible ways of presenting ideas.

    David Gingell, CMO at TeamViewer, has some useful thoughts here: “Avoid technicalities when presenting projects. Instead of overusing technical terms, rely on drawing simplified schematic process charts and draw comparisons with other high profile or successful IoT implementations.”

    It will also be important to address the negatives. The IoT, like any new technology, presents threats as well as opportunities. A savvy board will ask about these areas and you’ll need answers to questions on topics like data security, industry standards, compliance. Be careful not to promise what you can’t deliver. You board should be able to understand your commentary on the issues and make a calculated judgement if you present them with fair information.

    In approaching your C-level execs you might find yourself needing to grasp a more stinging nettle than you really want to, juggling the high level ROI based business case with strategic thinking around your market and real world examples. Use what Hobsbawm told us as a mantra to help keep your eye on the prize.

    “IoT creates a bridge between atoms and bits to allow manufacturers to digitize their physical goods and actively manage how these new digital assets fit into the wider connected business ecosystem to drive greater value for brands.”

    Your task is to make that mantra tangible for your board.

    Also read: Stop making the same old mistakes with the Internet of Things