While building the smart city for London and reinventing the users’ experience for one of the world’s largest bank I discovered how to transform an idea into reality. The leaders I worked with helped me to improve the way I work and now I have my own process which helps me each time when I’m starting a new project. Here are the steps that can be applied to most of the large IoT projects.
1. Identify the work streams
IoT projects and programmes are multidimensional and there is a lot of activities and clarifications prior to creating a reasonable project plan. What always helps is to identify the core work streams and high-level areas of the focus such as:
- Data Exploitation
Of course, all the work streams are interconnected on many levels but grouping similar subject helps to organise work and to communicate better.
2. Outline the high-level objectives
Reasons to bring the project to life might be many but finding the right “E-buttons” (Efficiency, Effectiveness & Economies) to justify the project to appeal to Senior Management it the most difficult. The most common triggers are related to the development of a new product or functionality to ensure an advantage over the competitors or to guarantee compliance with new regulations required by the law e.g. GDPR.
Outlining the high-level objectives of the project gives good steering to future activities such as sessions and workshops. On top of that, I like to formulate the principles which are helpful while making the decisions regards to the right approach and then to set up the goals which are indispensable while setting up the direction and measurements of the success.
3. Develop a good understanding
To improve something you need to first understand which of the elements require changes. Three areas it’s good to start the initial research:
Users – people on various levels of the organisation such as stakeholders, employees and customers and the more complex is the project there will be more types and you will need more follow up sessions to validate and clarify the final picture.
Organisation – itself with all processes, procedures and existing solutions which will require multiple integrations or replacements which may lead to the new projects also known as the sales opportunities if you are not working directly for the organisation.
Surrounding – which might be understood as a classical competitors research and analysing how they solved some of the issues or more creative approach how to connect to the surrounding through integrations with the complementary business.
To deeply understand the users’ needs, organisation and the surrounding you need to plan and conduct the series of workshops. The most common mistake I’ve seen while designing the services is the lack of validation end-user workshops against the project’s objectives and scope. Understanding for whom you are designing is a key but never forget about the stakeholders.
Most common outcomes of this phase are user personas and an outline of existing processes including pain points and areas for the improvement.
4. Define the problems.
At this stage, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the number of different perspectives on the same issues. As a manager, I always ensure that I have the right people in the room not only with the right skill sets but also a holistic view of the organisation and the right attitude. It helps to list the problems, prioritise and decide which of them will be solved within the scope of this project. A good practice is to print and display key information such as objectives, principles and goals in a visible space so you can maintain the focus.
Time to take user personas into the journey and solve their problems. This creative and collaborative phase is very exciting and often very surprising. It’s the perfect time to share ideas. It’s one of the key moments of the project, often determining its success. It must well be prepared ahead and it’s worth to hire an experienced coach to help to stimulate the group and facilitate the discussion.
6. Solution Design
While the discovery phase for one of the world ’s largest banks we identifies 34 internal systems for the potential integration, defined several dozen use cases and user flows. Collaborating with the technical teams and divisions responsible for employee’s well-being and security led us to the final design including a mobile app with basic functionalities allowing us to gather feedback regarding UI.
7. Live Proving
The best way to validate the concept is to deploy Proof of Concept. It might be just a basic data chain from sensors through a couple layers of software up to UI for the projects with a higher level of uncertainty so you can collect the key lessons. It gives a better understanding of the challenges and helps a lot while creating a project plan for the final solution.
There is nothing more exciting than creating something meaningful for other people and IoT is a great capability of doing that.