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Ovum's recent global IoT enterprise survey provides deeper insight into many of the trends we've been hearing anecdotally in our IoT discussions with providers and enterprises in recent months. The survey covered 1,343 enterprises across 14 countries, who were deploying or in the process of rolling out IoT solutions. The aim was to explore IoT deployment strategies, drivers and challenges, use cases, investment, and technology and business choices.

The results clearly show that IoT adoption is still in the early stages for most enterprises. Fragmentation and immaturity characterize the market. Regional differences are significant in some cases, from technology choices to organizational goals and challenges. China, for example, emerged as a clear leader in terms of the size and ambition of IoT deployments.

But in many cases, drivers for IoT are universal – organizations are looking for cost savings, as well as greater efficiency and productivity. A solid one-third of respondents also placed high priority on using IoT to improve competitiveness or customer experience. Even in traditionally B2B sectors such as manufacturing, this was a key IoT objective for many enterprises. Sustainability and new revenue growth from IoT are also of interest, though further away for most enterprises.

Figure 1. Main goals of IoT deployment
Main goals of IoT deployment 

IoT challenges cover a wide range of issues including integration with business processes and existing IT, security concerns, and worries over in-house skill sets. These are not minor concerns, and providers should work to help their customers meet these challenges head-on if they wish to see successful and growing IoT deployments. In particular, enterprise concerns over IoT security are a significant hurdle. Given the growing attention by both businesses and consumers to data protection and transparent data usage, enterprises will seek robust guarantees that IoT security can be delivered at all layers of the IoT solution they are deploying – from network, to platform and cloud, to applications and endpoint devices.

Upfront and ongoing costs also emerged as a significant concern. Many organizations are not clear on how costs may be impacted as IoT deployments scale, or how replicable providers' assurances of cost savings and efficiency gains really are. In some cases, this reflects the impact of shifting business models. In sectors such as energy and utilities, the traditional business model has required significant upfront capital investment funded in large tranches and paid back over a number of years. Moving to IoT-enabled solutions entails different investment approaches and different expectations of revenue visibility – the challenges linked to this full-scale shift in business model make large-scale IoT deployment a slow process for most enterprises.

Figure 2. Biggest specific challenges to successful IoT adoption
Biggest specific challenges to successful IoT adoption 

Given the current state of the market, providers looking to sell IoT solutions must reach a broader range of enterprise stakeholders than they may be used to doing. Suppliers must be ready to engage in education about IoT solutions, use cases, and benefits – it's not just about introducing new technologies to the IT department.

Ovum's advice is to be ready to start small and to meet customers where they are. More than half of current enterprise IoT projects involve deployment of fewer than 500 connections/devices, and just 7% of enterprises surveyed had IoT deployments with 10,000+ connections/devices. But project size is growing. Within the next 12 months, 71% expect their projects to support more than 500 connections/devices. Investment intentions are also growing: 29% of enterprise IoT adopters will invest $1m+ in IoT in 2018, up from 12% in 2017.

A quick-deployment, targeted 'just do it' approach to IoT will work better than trying to promote broader strategic approaches, though these can be useful frameworks for a longer-term vision. Most survey respondents report measurable benefits from IoT deployments in less than 12 months; helping customers understand the best KPIs to measure and demonstrate IoT success can help drive further investment. Going into IoT project discussions armed with this information can maximize the chances of a successful outcome for all parties.

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