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Author's profile photo Bogdan Nica

What is IoT without People?

The Internet of Things enables a huge spectrum of functionality for businesses, from tracking shipments to monitoring inventory and measuring how well specific pieces of equipment perform. This year, Gartner forecasts that worldwide, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use (5.2 billion consumer, 3.1 billion business) — a 31% increase over 2016. Estimates say that figure will jump to 20.4 billion by 2020.

The Internet of Things is powered by usage patterns created by data and sensors. But its reliance on “things” and “smart” objects distracts from the fact that the Internet of Things is predominantly based on input from . . . people. So what happens if the people using the technology aren’t using it correctly? What if they don’t have the skills to actually use it efficiently and effectively? How can the Internet of Things avoid a classic “garbage in, garbage out” scenario?

First, the very same concepts that form the backbone of the Internet of Things — connecting, monitoring and measuring — must be applied to the workforce powering that technology. Why? Because the data that goes into making the Internet of Things run smoothly and successfully is turned into meaningful business outcomes by people.

Next, if the Internet of Things tracks everything . . . and if successful use of technology creates competitive advantage, how can organizations overlook tracking how their workforce is utilizing technology? If you can easily find out precisely what time a FedEx package leaves the loading dock, why wouldn’t you want to know how many steps it takes a Customer Service Rep to resolve a customer query? Or how many screens they have to touch to complete an order?

The importance of the workforce

Strategist Dr. W. Charlton Adams Jr. emphasized in Wired, the important role people play in the Internet of Things: “At the center is the human being who is making use of the applications and services that are enabled by the devices — the things — and their unprecedented integration provided in the Internet of Things.”

Monitoring an organization’s most important asset — people — cannot be minimized as a critical success factor of IoT initiatives. In fact, the competitive advantages gained from understanding your workforce mirror many of the same benefits delivered by the Internet of Things:

  • Identifying areas of performance that are weak, inefficient, or failing
  • Recognizing patterns that indicate systemic problems
  • Finding ways to take corrective action and improve outcomes, in real-time

McKinsey estimates that the economic impact of the Internet of Things could have a $150 billion to $350 billion/year impact on labor productivity by 2025. With so much at stake for businesses, it’s clear that only a skilled workforce will be able to take full advantage of the Internet of Things. This means that businesses must ensure that employees have the technology skills needed to power their success. User experience analytics play a critical role in providing actionable data on exactly how employees are interacting daily with core business applications. This end-user data helps identify:

  • Skills gaps that require further training
  • Behavioral factors that inhibit successful technology adoption
  • Where process bottlenecks and inefficiencies are occurring
  • Workflows that can be streamlined and accelerated
  • Potential compliance issues
  • Hidden innovations

Tracking and monitoring software usage by real users is the most reliable way to gain valuable performance insights across the entire enterprise. User experience management software that can deliver these metrics – not just transparently, but also in real-time – becomes the foundation for building, and ensuring compliance with, best practices.

We’ve seen many businesses start down the road to digital transformation, so focused on harnessing Internet of Things technology that they overlook one critical element of success: People. They don’t know whether their workforce has the skills necessary to use new technology and don’t consider the ongoing impact that it will have on training requirements and productivity. Our advice is simple: Don’t forget the people.

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