March 12, 2014

I Wish All My Clients and Portfolio Company CEOs Were In This Room With Me

The Internet of Things – IoT – is not a mystery to enterprise decision makers. The enterprise is not confused about IoT. IoT is not stalled, or rolling out too slowly for the enterprise.

The enterprise is grappling with a new definition of value, business, success. They know IoT is part of this work. But they need new frameworks before they roll out IoT in a big, broad way.

I learned this spending an intense day with a couple of dozen leaders from some of the largest, most innovative, and well respected brands in the world.

John Gallant, the Chief Content Officer at IDG and Hans Brechbühl, Executive Director, Center for Digital Strategies at Tuck, invited INEX to participate in a Roundtable on Digital Strategies on the impact of IoT.  Here are five of the top fifty powerful takeaways that workshop produced:

1.  Forget the definitions, we get the basics. In planning this workshop, attendees were crystal clear that they did not need ‘basic’ definitions of what IoT is. They understand the basics of connecting products – and some existing services – with digital devices, feeding a larger device/ machine intelligence service that would work with other sources of data to enable new value creation opportunities. They shared also that high level descriptions added little if any value to their strategic or tactical decision making processes.

2.  What is real, and now, not hypothetical by 2020. The people that participated in the workshop specifically represented the cutout of most impact leaders in The Internet of Things. They were subject matter experts in their industries; operators and engineers currently or in past lives. They had deep knowledge of the core values and variables in their markets, among their customers; within their organizations, among their teams. For these types of people, the value of talking about what some part of the world might look like in 10 years is anchored in how that 10-year vision is walked back to what that part of the world – or others – might look like in 10 months and 10 quarters, too. These people were/ are the rare carriers of cards to two exclusive clubs: Visionary and Implementer.

3.  They were in it already … just not calling it IoT. While it is true that the group was self-selected for interest, experience and even expertise, it was still amazing to hear in one session the following two themes:

a.  Enterprises are connected, and connecting … this asset, that inventory, these environments, some suppliers, these customers and more.

b.  They have not and generally do not call it IoT.

4.  Much more nurturing before wide-scale purchasing. In one of a number of straw polls conducted during breaks, the group was asked ‘How ready are you, or your customers, to deploy these systems, manage this data, create value from the new intelligence and insight?’ Remember now, these were rare leaders – rare for their combination of subject matter expertise, experience with IoT enablement, and level of organizational support to pursue the instrumentation of their physical world as it related to their business and market models.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 10.52.25 AM

5.  Deployers pace the market. Okay, more bias here in the sample perhaps – the workshop was dominated by enterprise deployers, but, we still cannot deny what they are thinking, and how that thinking is informing their strategies and tactics around IoT partner selection and prosecution.


According to the enterprises represented at this event – and many others that we have worked with in the past 6 months – these companies do not need a shove, push or nudge to get on with instrumenting the physical world.

They need technology suppliers to listen and learn the emerging language of value and values among IoT deployers and their customers. They have no doubt that the instrumentation of the physical world will enable or accelerate incalculable changes in their markets. However, they are convinced that the key driver(s) of those changes must be the people in their organizations creating new business cultures.

And they all agreed with one of the leaders in the room who summed it up for the group. Leadership must work with every level of their organizations, across every function or discipline, and all the way up to the Boards of Directors to create the new culture(s) that will be required to thrive, and take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks presented by IoT.

One of the most powerful inputs of that workshop, was also one of the post powerful moments of my career since launching INEX in 2011. Toward the end of Day 2, another one of the leaders offered a creed of sorts for a new version of capitalism in a post-IoT world:

1.  Not every interaction is a discrete transaction, but a potentially critical event in a dynamic, fragile customer relationship.

2.  Transactions are more than profit maximization or intelligence collection events for suppliers, they are first and foremost opportunities to create and deliver customer value.

3.  The definitions of value are changing in every market, customer evaluations begin before the first transactions are completed, and extend beyond income statements and balance sheets.

The times are a-changing according to the leaders that I listened to and learned from in that room.

And according to them, technical capabilities will be critical, but not lead the way.

People will lead the next revolution in business.

And IoT will be one of their principal tools.

Most hammers are commodities, most master cabinet makers are not.



March 12, 2014