Deciding to implement an industrial internet of things (IIoT) solution at your organization is only the first step in the digitization process. Once you gain alignment among your key stakeholders and identify your desired business outcomes, you then need the technology to get started. This leads to a common dilemma: do you build an in-house IIoT solution or work with an expert partner?
While your first business instinct may lean toward the perceived cost-savings of building a solution, it’s essential to approach any IIoT implementation from all angles. Once you have the technology and your strategy, for example, there’s
still the matter of training and deploying resources to implement and maintain new systems. Below is a framework I have seen a lot of successful organizations use to help make this decision - there are four questions you should factor into your decision-making when debating if you should build or buy an IIoT solution.
Does your team have the right skill sets?
Even the most basic IIoT implementations require a dedicated team from the beginning to make sure it functions properly. This includes a range of software and hardware solution development, technicians, project management, data scientists and engineers that understand the equipment. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but creating the right solution architecture to set you up for scale and talent to physically install the devices and systems on the floor is a key need. From there, you also need the talent to ensure the infrastructure is secure and the cloud connectivity and edge software systems are sound. A production-ready system today may not be “out-of-the-box.”
Do you have the resources to focus on an IIoT project?
Many organizations underestimate the complexity of an IIoT implementation. It’s more than connecting devices and analyzing data. It’s also about having the right resources and experience on hand. Even if your team has the technical skills needed to build a successful solution, do you have the resources to manage their normal responsibilities when you pull them away from your core business? On the other hand, if your team doesn’t have the expertise, do you have the resources to hire and retain new digital talent?
"Taking your organization through a digital transformation goes beyond connecting devices with sensors and reading data to achieve your desired business outcome"
Do you have the time to train your team in the vital areas of the technology?
Any size IIoT implementation takes a considerable amount of time and planning, both for the short-term and the long-term ways it will impact your business. It takes time for an in-house team to evaluate and begin an IIoT project, let alone ongoing support and maintenance. When you take into account any training expenses, as well as possible hiccups and technical glitches along the way, the time it takes to get even a small project, beyond a pilot or POC, off the ground may quickly compound.
Is your solution scalable and can it keep up with evolving technology?
IIoT solutions are never static. Therefore, it’s vital for any project to be hardwired with extensibility and adaptability in mind from the start. Not only will this ensure your solution can scale throughout your organization, but it also allows you to grow the system infrastructure whenever there are technological advancements.
Taking your organization through a digital transformation goes beyond connecting devices with sensors and reading data to achieve your desired business outcome. Any IIoT project involves a variety of factors, including having the time and resources to plan and implement the new solution, as well as the experience to maintain it successfully. Be sure to consider all perspectives before deciding whether partnering with a third-party vendor or going at it alone is the right choice for your business.
If you decide to involve a partner, make sure it’s an organization willing to take the time to truly understand the nature of your business, including your current and future needs. Ideally, a true partner who would be willing to have a gain share or “skin in the game” style commercial model. This will allow them to build solutions to fit your desired outcomes instead of pushing products without understanding the nuances of your business.