May 30 2017

A Majority of IoT Projects Fail. Here's Why

A Cisco survey highlights the struggles organizations have with getting Internet of Things projects off the ground.

The benefits of the Internet of Things market can sometimes be overhyped, and the promise of IoT initiatives was recently in the spotlight at the Internet of Things World Forum in London. However, the results of a Cisco Systems survey unveiled at the conference show that there are plenty of IoT failures to go along with the occasionally oversold successes.

Rowan Trollope, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager for IoT and applications, shared results from a survey of 1,845 business IoT leaders, and 60 percent reported that their IoT initiatives stalled at the proof-of-concept phase.

Of the remaining 40 percent of projects that made it to the pilot stage, only 26 percent of respondents considered their initiatives successful. Cisco attributes this high rate of failure to two overriding factors: integration complexity and lack of internal expertise.

Complexity, Lack of Skills Can Doom IoT

Integrating existing and newly introduced systems into a network is a process that’s rife with complexity. Organizations often have older workflow and production processes built in the pre-IoT era on devices and machines that were not designed to share data.

Adding to that challenge, organizations need to integrate new computing models and build new data flows that can stretch from the device at the edge of the network all the way to the cloud — all while navigating the fragmented battlefield of competing vendor protocols and frameworks.

Further, staff need to be trained to take advantage of this new operational model, which can make the task both complex and intimidating.

In addition to complexity, a lack of experience in IoT is also an unfortunate and unavoidable fact of IoT at this stage.

A prime example of where organizations fall short is the lack of cooperation between their IT and operational technology shops. Successful IoT projects require these two groups to be in sync, and that is typically not the norm within most organizations.

Why? It is a new relationship that most organizations will struggle with in the beginning because staff don’t have experience with this kind of collaboration. It requires a fresh mindset that can bridge the gap between how these two organizational groups typically think and operate. As Cisco’s Trollope points out, having staff with a diversity of experience will improve the chances of successful IoT initiatives.

IoT Optimism Still Abounds

Despite the large percentage of failed projects, organizations continue to maintain their optimism about IoT. According to the Cisco survey, 64 percent of the respondents are taking what they’ve learned from these failures and are accelerating their investments in IoT.

And 61 percent report feeling that they are just beginning the process of learning how IoT can optimize their businesses.

Addressing the Points of Failure for IoT Projects

To address this challenging IoT environment, Cisco also announced in London a new initiative called the Cisco IoT Operations Platform.

This offering consists of three main parts: connection management at scale using new tools to maintain fleets of connected devices; fog computing to assist in getting computing close to where the data will do the most good; and data delivery using scalable tools for filtering and distributing data.

With security baked in via Cisco’s Threat Defense solution, Cisco says it is positioned to help organizations yield more positive outcomes from their fledgling IoT projects.

For more on intergating IT and OT teams on IoT projects, visit


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