According to a research from analyst firm IDC, two-thirds of the world’s largest 2,000 companies will have digital transformation at the heart of their corporate strategies by the end of 2017. Central to this transformation is the Internet of Things.
The business benefits of becoming a connected product provider are undeniable – new business models and revenue streams, deeper customer relationships, and more. With those benefits come significant responsibilities that can be overlooked in the planning stage, particularly by those rushing to catch up with competitors. It’s important to look beyond just connecting the product and plan for what happens after the devices are connected, says Calum Barnes, product owner, Xively by LogMeIn.
Managing devices and data
The beauty of the IoT is that it makes products “smart”, meaning they have information to share around how customers are using them and how healthy they are, etc. Managing that deluge of information, though, can be a challenge.
Depending on how many devices are connected, there could be millions of data points that need managing. For instance, a single device could report every few minutes on information including product performance; how, when and where it is being used; as well as collected data like meter readings. That information is as good as gold to companies. It enables them to determine if any action is needed – firmware updates, proactive troubleshooting, notification of system wide alerts all helping to guarantee a great customer experience.
It can also help inform business strategy: which features are being used most or least; or how to directly market and upsell to customers based on usage. Managing all of that information and turning it into actionable intelligence is critical for a successful IoT strategy.
Managing user expectations
But as large as the data and device management challenge is, an arguably bigger one is how to meet user expectations. Gone are the days of ‘ship it and forget it’ products. Customers expect connected products to not only work, but be consistently maintained by the company (similar to regular smartphone updates).
Customers expect troubleshooting to be easy, seamless and in some cases proactive before they even know there is an issue. While adding connectivity to an existing device enables a whole host of new features, it also means new features to support. The support team for a traditional product company are likely not used to answer support questions about technical aspects of their product like WiFi connections or software updates. These new features require new training and tools to successfully manage both the devices and their owner’s expectations.
This always-on customer expectation also requires a product lifecycle plan. What happens when the product is superseded by a more up to date offering or it is simply no longer manufactured? Before the IoT, older or discontinued product models would continue working as they had before – even if the company no longer supported that product – they just wouldn’t get any new features. Take the case of Nest shutting down its acquired connected home hub Revolv. Once Nest shuts off the connection, it will no longer work. This has left customers feeling uneasy about the company and the reliability of the IoT in general.
Connected product companies need to have a strategic plan on how to handle situations like this to ensure that customers aren’t left out in the cold. Maybe it’s a clear migration path to another similar product or even ensuring the product has offline capability.
Successfully managing it all
Admittedly, managing devices, data and users can be head spinning, but partnering with the right people can make it significantly more manageable. Connected Product Management (CPM) platform vendors help companies not only jumpstart their IoT journey with connectivity, but also easily manage the relationship with those products and users.
The IoT gives connected products a voice and if companies aren’t listening to their products, they are missing out on the greatest business benefit of the IoT and most likely won’t be able to meet the expectations of customers.
The author of this blog is Calum Barnes, product owner, Xively by LogMeIn
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