Former Amazon Executive on How to Lead Your IoT Strategy

Lack of expertise to lead digitisation initiatives, employee pushback and no overarching strategy for digitisation are just some of the challenges most companies struggle with.

Expert on digital innovation and author of the best-selling ‘The Amazon Way’ series John Rossman shares his lessons from his time at Amazon on how to develop a successful IoT strategy and plan to implement it across the organization – lessons that have helped Amazon become a digital leader it is today.

You’ll learn:

  • How to apply IoT tools and strategies to your business and how to use them to build your own understanding
  • How to communicate your IoT vision to your team
  • How to identify the requirements and next steps for your IoT business.

It was a dreary February early morning in 1999 in Portland, Oregon, and my good friend and longtime mentor, Steve Maupin, and I had just delivered an inspiring, value-building, and compelling integrated-supply-chain and manufacturing strategy to the senior leadership team of a forest-products company.

The CEO, at the surface a crusty forest-products operator but at his heart, a sophisticated sales and operating executive sat back after the presentation. Steve and I, standing up front, waited with the rest of his leadership team in silence. We had been retained to do an enterprise planning resource (ERP) software selection for his company and, as part of this, had built this integrated-supply-chain strategy.

The CEO looked up and, slowly, without emotion, started. “I drove in this morning in a good mood. I went and saw a baseball game with my son last night. Business is good. So I’m trying to understand why I’m so mad right now.” He turned to Steve and me.

“Have you ever heard the term RTFP?” he inquired. Steve and I shook our heads no.

“RTFP stands for ‘read the f—— problem.’ If I had wanted an integrated-supply-chain strategy, I would have asked for one.” What he was really looking for, or so he thought, was a software strategy, and so we quickly went on to the software-selection part of the agenda.

Steve and I laugh about this term, RTFP, and story. In the case of the forest-products CEO, we hadn’t worked hard enough to help him see the opportunity and the connection between the software he wanted and the integrated-supply-chain strategy we presented. These days we often refer to RTFP when collaborating on a client situation—usually in terms of how to help our clients start a project off with better questions. This notion of how to ask better questions has become foundational in how I attack problems.

In the course of my career, I’ve estimated and planned hundreds of projects. I’ve learned that, even before you start seeking answers, it’s imperative to understand the questions. Guiding a team to a successful outcome on a complex project requires understanding of the steps and deliverables, necessary resources, and roles and every inherent risk and dependency.

Before starting the hardware and software design, before figuring out how to engage developers, before planning the launch party, you should start with a better set of questions. Before I outline them, note on sequencing: Though I’ve outlined all of the following steps as sequential, they’re often actually done concurrently, and there are many ways to approach them. I’ve outlined them here in the most likely progression, which I feel helps lead to a top-down development of insights, but don’t feel trapped by the order.

I recommend using the checklist located at the end of this e-book to help you guide and keep track of your IoT planning.

As you build your plans, remember that though IoT can provide key pieces to the puzzle, it’s no golden ticket. Simply creating an IoT solution will not bring you success. However, if you focus on providing strong value to your customers through new or updated products and services, improving company operations, or creating new or more efficient business models, you’ll be much more likely to find success.

It might be obvious to you where the IoT opportunities lie in your business. You may see clearly how to proceed; that the organizational implications are minimal; that the work to be done is mostly technology oriented. If that’s the situation you are in, there’s a chance you should proceed directly to go, collect your funding, and enable a smart device.

But in most circumstances, to lay the right foundation, understand the breadth of the opportunity, and develop understanding and support in the organization, there is work to be done before proceeding to construction.

To read more, download the ‘Leading IoT Strategy’ Guide by John Rossman here.

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