In 2018, it’s hard not to hear about enterprise digital transformation and how it’s a critical part of businesses staying relevant. But what does it really mean? Does it mean that you get rid of old desktops and replace them with tablets? Does it mean implementing a bring-your-own-device initiative?
Digital transformation can mean a lot of things for different businesses. But at the end of the day, decisions should always be based on what adds real value to the business. In fact, what really matters are the steps you take to enhance productivity and accelerate business growth.
Some companies, especially manufacturers, are approaching digital transformation with the Internet of Things (IoT). This is because IoT devices and apps can disrupt and transform business processes while creating new potential revenue streams (like data brokering with third-parties).
For example, for many years companies struggled with market saturation because they sold software and gave away software updates for free. They didn’t have a strategy to monetize those updates or have a plan to charge third-parties for the data. However, switching to a Software-as-s-Service (SaaS) model opened up a whole new revenue stream and helped accelerate business growth.
So how do manufacturers reach more customers and accelerate growth through connected devices? Let’s take a look.
1. Deploy Devices While Embracing Flexibility
We now live in a world already transformed by smartphones, wearables (like the Fitbit), and mobile apps. This creates an opportunity for manufacturers to find innovative ways to develop software and applications that can be integrated with these devices or work alongside it.
This software should also be set up in a way that’s flexible enough to be easily updated and managed across the device’s lifecycle. By doing that, you can ensure that you maintain an enhanced user experience (UX) to guarantee continued customer satisfaction.
For example, you can develop software that works on a smart thermostat which not only gives you advice on saving energy, but also innovative ways to cut utility costs through a mobile app. This can evolve over time to work with connected cars where the application is smart enough to set the temperature according to the user’s preference before they get home.
2. Move Away from Legacy Backend Management Systems onto the Cloud
Regardless of whether the business developed a connected device or built the software that runs on it, data and updates need to be sent and received seamlessly. To achieve this, you have to move away from legacy backend management systems that the device talks to and switch to a highly efficient cloud network.
When you’re working off the cloud, all the data collected can also present new revenue streams. It can provide valuable insights to develop new products, upsell other products, or it can also be sold to a third-party.
For smart devices at home, a connection can simply be a WiFi network. If the device is meant to work everywhere, then it has to be cellular. Either way, no matter how the data is collected, businesses have to ensure that it ends up in a big data cloud.
When there’s seamless software distribution, you can also push new value-added services and apps to help your business scale. However, there should be minimal human intervention and security should always be paramount.
3. Nurture a Robust Ecosystem and a Dedicated Marketplace
Connected devices can help you reach more customers, but if you want to last, you have to nurture a robust ecosystem of software and services. For manufacturers, this will require a service and outcome-based business model.
This means once you sell the device, you have to then provide the customer with a service and application ecosystem. This will essentially unify and define the end user’s connected UX with the help of third-party content providers, developers, and related businesses.
To achieve this, businesses will have to set up API and partner recruitment programs. Once you have an ecosystem, your partners will also want to market their solutions. This means that you will have to build a marketplace where they can promote their related solutions.
This is also important for your customers because they will want to access these solutions easily. Having a marketplace will also make it easier for customers to know when the latest solution for their device is released.
While third-party providers sell their solutions and services in the marketplace, device manufacturers also need to ensure that they get a piece of the action.
4. Generate Revenue
Are you going to sell your connected device around the world? Or will you only sell it within your own borders? These are important questions to ask yourself because selling apps globally will make it necessary to manage taxation in each country.
Then you will also need to figure out what type of payment model you’re going to use. Is it going to be subscription, pay-per-use, one-time, or even try and buy model?
You will also have to think about which payment methods you will accept and how you’re going to ensure security through the whole billing process. Next, you’ll have to devise a strategy to handle refunds and currency exchange rates.
Regardless of what you choose to go with, it’s always better to implement a highly adaptable solution. This is because when it’s highly adaptable, there’s less chance of doing a complete overhaul of the billing process in the future.
While IoT can certainly accelerate business growth and help you reach more customers, it will be a complex journey. This is because of legacy backend systems, propitiatory software, unique operating systems, and complex software distribution protocols.
While some of this will be new for some manufacturers and might even require the creation new business divisions, it’s certainly critical to remaining relevant in an increasingly digital world.