Enterprises that have accelerated their IoT deployments during the COVID-19 pandemic can be identified by their past project success and confidence that their efforts can deliver strong financial and competitive benefits. As part of our analysis of 451 Research's Voice of the Enterprise: IoT Organizational Dynamics survey results, we defined two distinct enterprise 'personas' – firms that accelerated, and firms that slowed their enterprise IoT deployments – to understand the dynamics and profile of each type of decisionmaker.
As we explored in an earlier report (Enterprise IoT survives – and in some areas thrives – in the time of COVID: Highlights from Voice of the Enterprise: IoT, Organizational Dynamics 2020, click here), roughly a third of enterprises accelerated, a third maintained, and a third delayed their IoT deployment plans in response to the pandemic. More fully understanding the characteristics of those groups can help IoT vendors and service providers better target their support resources and sales efforts. It can also help enterprises assess their own IoT strategies by examining the IoT approaches, successes and challenges of their peers.
The 451 Take
Overall, enterprises appear to continue being bullish on IoT during an otherwise very challenging 2020. Few of our VoTE IoT survey respondents (just 3% ) said they have stalled IoT deployments altogether, while a majority (63%) either maintained or accelerated their deployments. In some cases, it's a matter of keeping a good thing moving forward. Yet our respondents also reported interest in using IoT to address new, specific COVID-19 challenges – with 32% saying they already are planning new IoT applications in response to the pandemic, and another 43% saying they could envision using IoT for that purpose in the future.
However, not every enterprise can afford to be so steadfast in their IoT planning in such difficult times. Throughout this year, we've made it a priority with our VoTE IoT surveys to uncover pockets of outsized IoT growth in the face of pandemic challenges. Elsewhere, we've reported greater-than-average IoT implementation among such personas as 'AI believers' and 'edge-centric deployers' – two groups with technology beliefs and deployment characteristics that correlate to more aggressive IoT adoption.
Not every enterprise IoT buyer is created equal. Understanding why and how they differ is critical. When it comes to the key question of how enterprises have adjusted their IoT plans in the face of COVID-19, past successes and a bullish outlook on the strategic value of IoT appear to make all the difference. The successful and confident have doubled down on enterprise IoT in 2020, a dynamic that has the potential to widen the gap between winners and losers in the future, depending on how those bets pan out.
Understanding COVID-19's impact on enterprise IoT
We created and analyzed the COVID-19/IoT Accelerator and COVID-19/IoT Delayer personas as part of the work assembling 451 Research's Voice of the Enterprise: IoT, Organizational Dynamics 2020 Advisory report. Overall, 446 respondents shared how the pandemic impacted their enterprise IoT project plans: 31% accelerated, while 37% slowed their projects. This created the two personas we used in our analysis (another 32% reported no change in their project plans). Some of the more notable takeaways from comparing those two groups can be found in the figure below.
Figure 1: What separates COVID-19/IoT Accelerators from Delayers?
A few critical characteristics stand out for each group:
COVID-19/IoT Accelerators are much more optimistic about their IoT prospects. Three-quarters of our Accelerator group said they are deploying IoT with the expectation of 'strongly positive' or 'game changing' impacts to their earnings. By comparison, roughly the same percentage of respondents that were COVID-19/IoT Delayers were much more measured in their IoT expectations, citing moderate to no earnings impact from their IoT deployments. Enterprises enthusiastic about IoT's potential financial and competitive impact were much more likely to move ahead aggressively this year.
Past project success increased confidence to accelerate even in the face of the pandemic. Respondents that were part of the Accelerator group were much more likely (51% vs. 19%) to have achieved a 'very positive' RoI on past IoT projects versus Delayers. Past success not only kept their IoT projects prioritized, but led such organizations to 'pour gas on the fire' and accelerate their efforts during the pandemic. By comparison, the Delayer group were more likely to have faced challenges in their early IoT efforts, such as finding budget or garnering IoT skills – making it easier to stall IoT projects when faced with COVID-19 challenges.
A focus on IoT monetization rather than just cost savings kept IoT projects rolling. Respondents to our IoT survey have consistently prioritized saving money and optimizing operations as top IoT project drivers. We've seen that play out every quarter since we began our VoTE IoT surveys in 2016. That said, COVID-19/IoT Accelerators were notably more likely to cite a goal of using IoT to develop and monetize new products or services. The natural inclination during challenging times, of course, is to cut costs and save money. That makes it even more notable that respondents that are counting on their enterprise IoT projects to drive product or service innovation not only held steady but accelerated their IoT projects this year.
Finally, IoT projects for the COVID-19/IoT Accelerator group were more likely to be led by IT, while the Delayer group was more likely to be OT-led in their efforts. This distinction speaks to the role of each group – information technology and operations technology. Within IoT deployments, IT has evolved to accept its central role as technology implementor, while OT typically looks after business value and outcome considerations. It is not surprising that the enterprise group ultimately responsible for outcomes might be more conservative in their IoT outlook in the face of uncertainty.