How to sell an IoT project to your board

Hand touching a blue light beam of interconnected wires

IoT projects have the potential to transform nearly every aspect of your business. So when we take an IoT initiative to the board, we have to remember that we are not just selling in another technology project, we’re actually selling change.

This will require you as the primary IoT advocate to breakdown resistance, and bring about a cultural shift, by convincing the board of the emotional as well as the rational benefits.

There are many approaches you can take to manage a change project but, based on years of experience, we would recommend one developed by John Kotter at Harvard Business School.

He advises that project managers follow 8 defined stages. We have adapted them here to correspond with the adoption of IoT within a large enterprise – although the principles can be applied to SMBs as much as they can to a multinational.

These stages include:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency

Inertia is the enemy of progress, and change is seldom comfortable. An IoT approach needs to build a positive case that must present superficially safe ‘do nothing’ inactivity as negative. This is because when the market is moving this fast, if you aren’t moving forward you are falling behind. Ask yourself:

  • What will happen if we implement this change?
  • What will happen if we don’t?
  • What are our competitors doing?
  • What do our customers need/ want/ expect from us and our competitors?
  1. Creating the guiding coalition

Delivering a vision needs the support of the visionaries. An IoT proposal must demonstrate benefits to key board members and other stakeholders sufficient to recruit them as advocates for the changed way of working. Ask:

  • Who is the main sponsor on the board for IoT?
  • Who owns the areas most affected? 
  1. Developing a vision and strategy

If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing properly. Whilst the initial phases of the IoT project may be clearly bounded, the full benefits and implications of organisation-wide adoption must be fully considered and elucidated in the business case. Ask:

  • What will the resulting organisation/ process landscape look like?
  • What steps are necessary, by whom to achieve that vision?
  1. Communicating the change vision

Organisational leaders commonly underestimate the importance of creating and broadcasting a persuasive story behind the proposed changes. They will often fall back on dictat to set direction. However, the board will find adoption easier if the wider team buy into the benefits. An internal communications programme needs to be part of the plan. Ask:

  • What does everyone involved/ affected need to know?
  • What does the organisation expect them to do?
  • How will change affect each stakeholder – positively and negatively?
  1. Empowering employees for broad-based action

Deep, permanent change is best when enacted by the widest cohort. The IoT adoption plan must consider how the operational staff and management can contribute their experience to shaping the strategy and implementation plan. Ask:

  • How can team members get their voices heard soon enough and loud enough?
  • How to ensure the best ideas win regardless of source?
  1. Generating short-term wins

Nothing succeeds like success. OK a hackneyed bit of business BS but actually there’s more than a grain of truth there. An effective change programme needs to gather wide support, and people from top to bottom (but maybe more especially at the top) of the organisation will happily attach their names to visible successes. Ask:

  • Which projects/ applications will deliver early results – however small?
  • Have the right process and result metrics been chosen?
  • Are everyone’s expectations calibrated with the likely outcomes?
  1. Consolidating gains and producing more change

Selling IoT as a new way of delivering products and services for the organisation needs to be recognised as a step forward and endorsed by the board as the ‘new normal’. The organisation’s internal communications media channels need to be enlisted to drive the message. Ask:

  • Is a plan in place to communicate successes internally?
  • Has a hit-list of projects been identified and prioritised?
  1. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Simply delivering successful IoT projects may not embed the new processes. This will require the proposer of the new processes and procedures to design or commission ongoing learning and development. They will also need a monitor and support programme to measure adoption and cement the changes. Ask:

  • Is the programme budget sufficient?
  • Will other departments (e.g. HR, L&D) lend support?
  • Have the board committed to reward ‘IoT-first’ behaviour?

With a business case and fully cost-justified implementation plan covering these points, your chances of delivering a successful project should be greatly enhanced. Plus, if you have properly considered and addressed each aspect of the 8-stage change process, then the likelihood is that your organisation will be able to rapidly adopt IoT and enjoy the benefits it brings long term.