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July 30, 2018
5 skills to future-proof your career in IoT
By: Kristian Harper

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”

It’s a great line from Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park and I find myself remembering it a lot, when I speak to clients about the Internet of Things (IoT).

Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean there’s a business benefit for it or that the users want to use it.

I saw a statistic recently: globally, up to 66% of IoT initiatives have failed! But not always for reasons you would expect. Sometimes the technology is not quite ready for the product, but often it is business factors such as pricing, target audience or it was marketed poorly.

Many businesses are not yet ready for IoT - the appetite isn’t there yet and it’s not well understood. Furthermore, a lot of transformational IoT offerings at this point don’t have a clear business benefit, making them too expensive for small business. That said, there are some amazing and thought-provoking examples of IoT out in the “real world” – but they are just scratching the surface.

So it’s still early days for IoT and we’re still learning the right mix: the right pricing, marketing, partners, hardware and software.

It’s fair to assume though that in 5 years’ time IoT is going to be huge, but it’s still an open question about what use cases are going to be popular and who is going to succeed at it. It’s such a big market and there’s room for lots of people to succeed – but we don’t know who they are yet.

Accenture’s approach to IoT is not a technology-led offering. We’re not talking to businesses about sensors and networks, we are saying to them we can automate your mine, or we can automate your supply chain. Which of your problems or inefficiencies can we help automate or eliminate?

Kristian Harper

It’s a growing industry. Here are some of the skills I believe could help you pursue a career in IoT.

An understanding of analytics

Even at a high level, the ability to derive insights from a tonne of data is a key skill. At the very least knowing what insights you want to get from the data. If you’re not thinking about ways to get benefit from insights, then you will be swamped in numbers.

Industry-specific expertise

To give an example here, we recently created an IoT solution for farming. Unless you know the growth cycle of a plant then you’re not going to know what the valuable insights to be derived from all your sensors actually are. People with industry expertise are going to be hugely valuable. It doesn’t have to be expertise in the technology. It’s someone who can come in and say: “Here are 50 things we could do to automate or make crop growth more efficient - but the most valuable one would be X”. This only comes from industry-specific knowledge. Without that knowledge, and I assure you this is true, the list of 50 things can be very daunting.

An understanding of solution architecture

Sometimes, the most valuable skill to have is being able to break a problem down to its logical components, then convert that problem into a solution. In IoT, no two solutions are going to be the same. Each one pulls data and insights from all over the place. Different sources. So, for example in farming you would be getting data from a variety of third parties such as input prices for fertiliser or fuel, or using futures prices to help forecast production. It helps to be able to take a complicated problem and break it down to its components before you get too far into it. Be able to think logically to help create the solution architecture. Having that ability to look at all the possible components of the solution and figure out how they operate and are interconnected is extremely valuable.

A product management mindset

I come from a product management background at Telstra (and then ME Bank) before joining Accenture 3 years ago. So I found that background very useful for IoT because it needs that product manager focus to able to say: “just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean there’s a business benefit for it or that the users want to use it”. Going back to my Jurassic Park quote. So that’s been my expertise – bringing that human user focus to a lot of the stuff we want to do in IoT, and that has been useful.

Knowing the Design Thinking or Lean Start Up approach

There’s so much ambiguity around IoT, we’re conscious of the fact that many businesses are nervous about the investment because they don’t know what the return is going to be. The best way to deal with that is finding a way to test it as cheaply as possible, help them built that and prove that the idea has merit. And then scale it. It’s the lean start up approach - find a way to do a pilot and if it’s not going well then learn from it and pivot or shut it down.

The design thinking approach is useful for co-creation – so workshopping ideas with your client.

It’s an exciting time for IoT with so many career opportunities. But it does have the downside and concerns around privacy. I heard somebody say the other day: “Does any of this stuff give you an Orwellian shiver down your spine?”. And I think absolutely it does – but it’s up to us at Accenture and other market leaders to lead the way and be ethical about it and the future of IoT.

Kristian Harper speaks to clients the Internet of Things

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