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Why do you need an IoT mentor?

Why do you need an IoT mentor?

And as a follow up question, “who should be your mentor?”.

This you need to ask yourself before even taking on an IoT project.

Not only because the lack of a good experienced mentor might lead to a lot, ………..really a lot of frustrations but also to get crucial insights.

If you are new to IoT, then, take my advice and find one…

To put this in context:

Let me go back to a previous life (decades ago), just to clarify the point:

Years ago I was submerged in the start-up scene and there are a lot of similarities between starting a new business and an IoT project. (I’ll steal one of the start-up clichés to explain myself).

If you want to succeed, you need to have a good concept, real drive, a good team and willing to take a risk. Start pitching your idea to a crowd. Get a mentor.

Honoustly, in the start-up scene we hated investors with their condescending advice/opinion as it was often too practical for the dreams we had. We cut a lot of corners that came to bite us later.

Because, as it turned out, what we missed most of all was the practical advice. How does marketing work? How to distribute products? How to make a scalable solution?

Sure, dreams we had enough. Usually in the shape of an elevator pitch.

Now how does this relate to IoT?

easy answer: 1 on 1

Deploying IoT is really a lot like starting an new company but often inside the heavy inert structure of a large company.

Getting the experience and expertise is still an absolute priority as, unlike a start-up where you can twist and turn, corporate environment is often less forgiving.

But IoT experience doesn’t come in a bag on a shelf or from an investor during an event..

On top of that, IoT expertise remarkably harder to define than start-up experience.

Even defining what IoT experience exactly is would differ from person to person.

IoT in run phase is made up out of dozens of building blocks. So you will have to define which block you are talking about first.

Platforms, hardware, code, security, financing, maintenance, contact center, etc.?

Beside the semantics,

You can find info on IoT events but don’t hold your breath.


Firstly, the people you might meet during IoT events will be there with an agenda.

If they sell an apple, best solution to your challenge will be an apple. Before you know it you spend months comparing recipes for apple pie.

Secondly, with so few projects completed, there are only a handful of people that have experience in the full end2end game.

But even if you find someone that has done a similar business case, your solutions can still be totally different.

The reason for this?

Your IoT solution is also determined by your organization and all baggage that comes along with it.

That last point also means that you need to stay in control of the project and keep an oversight. Don’t follow blindly but try to understand the why and how of a solution..

As a consequence:

You will need to get familiar with lot of things that might be out of your comfort zone.

  • Technology and limitations,
  • Process flows, integration requirements,
  • Pricing, procurement,
  • Warranty handling,
  • Installation,
  • Maintenance,
  • security, safety, legal restraints, order management, certification and so on.

On top of that you might need to make a business plan, calculate ROI and TCO

Time to get creative, find solutions, tackle assumptions, find tools, find fools, find alternatives, motivate your colleagues, convince your management.

That's where your sparring partner or mentor comes in. 

It’s demotivating and ineffective to run down all the rabbit holes by yourself, especially if someone has been there before you.

An experienced sparring partner or mentor has done exactly that , preferably a couple of times and he/she knows about the Dunning–Kruger effect of IoT and can shield you from this.

Your sparring partner can also give tips and tricks to deal with this effect.

Common, how difficult can it be to connect a sensor to a platform? My ten year old son can do it..

Now the question is still who or whom will help you? and where to look?

First place to look is clearly your internal team, (make sure you make a high level requirement overview and a detailed competence matrix), then see what/who you have and what/who you need.

But don’t lose yourself in the details at this point or involve them too much yet.

It might sound egoistic to keep your cards close to the chest but you first need to establish the ground rules..

Then you look at peers from friendly companies that have done IoT projects. I know this is in contrast with our instinct to rush towards meetings with solution providers.

But remind yourself that the latter ones will try to sell you apples.

So, reach out to your peers, find out what their issues where but no two IoT projects are the same.

Keep in mind that you might have the same problem as your peer, but the best solution for your company might not be the one of your peer.

With that side note… peers from friendly companies are still the best way to get a good feel of the challenges ahead.

Take time to process it all, use flow charts or whiteboard drawings to get an initial design together.

Then it’s up to you to make some choices

You need independent professional agnostic IoT advice if you really want to go forward quickly.

Here it sounds like I’m going to put my sales pitch.

However, it’s really the best advise I can give you to speed up your project and avoid costly mistakes.

The alternative is to have endless meetings with endless vendors that sell fruit and will only confuse you.

A sparring partner will narrow the field for you, will give you focus.

You don’t need someone to take over your project, you need someone that lets you stay in control.

Sparring is sparring. You bounce ideas, design and discuss architecture, match hardware with sales strategy, discuss security, talk about stock management, maintenance, training etc.

Ideas that you check, validate, quote always with one eyes on the internal structure and the business requirements and one eye on the IoT building block options.

Hard to find, the IoT professionals?

Yes, hard, it will get better in a couple of years but today they are very scarce.

They are scarce not only because IoT is new but also because the required skillsets include a lot of totally different disciplines:

Like: knowledge of device hardware, networking, integration, processes, business plans and all the dependencies between them, just to name a few..

A matching “non IoT” sparring partner would have a process or transformation profile with PM skills.

On the counter indicative side,

An IoT hardware specialist or IT profile is probably not what you need as sparring partner.

As a conclusion:

Having a sparring partner is having a second pair of eyes, it’s speeding up delivery, avoiding unnecessary costs and most of all, it will get you out of isolation.

With a special thanks to Software AG (the Cumulocity team), MCS & Bagaar/Xylos, that have been my sparring partners on all different and specific topics.

Also thanks to all the other companies that helped me across the years with their technology and assistance.

Kris Van der Hoeven