The Internet of Things (IoT) has become the new frontier of business, and concurrently, is the new frontier of threats. In this four-part series, I’m covering various angles of IoT Security. Whether you’re on the purchasing, sourcing, and finance side, handle IT security and risk management, or you are project-or product-managing an IoT deployment, security is a major piece of the puzzle. Start from the beginning of the series, and subscribe to our blog to be notified when part four drops.
I’ve covered how finance and IT teams can cover their bases when it comes to IoT security. Now I’ll get into considerations product and project managers need to take. These are somewhat more complex roles when it comes to IoT and its security than with other teams, as product and project management tends to touch all aspects of the product throughout its life cycle.
Let’s begin with the product manager.
The product manager has either come up with or has been given an idea to turn into a tangible product and bring it to the IoT marketplace. Here are a couple scenarios I see frequently:
- They are being asked to “connect this to the cloud,” but they don’t know how to do it.
- They may manufacture a product but they aren’t specialists in the connectivity portion of it.
Traditionally, this isn’t a team that aligns early with something like a managed services provider, but there are several reasons to start those conversations sooner rather than later. A reactionary conversation is one that requires a retrofit solution; an early one (six months to a year before a product ships) will let you consider more options for the actual build of the product, saving you time, cost, and ultimately netting you a higher quality IoT product.
Here are a few of a product manager’s considerations around IoT:
- Should you be embedding an LTE chip inside your product, or should you be looking at connecting it to an EDGE gateway?
- How will you monetize it? Will it be built into the costs of the product or will you offer it as a subscription (a bolt-on product you’re driving revenue to)?
- Cellular-or LTE-enabling - Even if your product is something you ultimately see being on a wired network, there could be reason to consider cellular-enabling it to help reduce the sales objection of getting it on the network.
Scratching your head at that last one?
To Cellular-Enable or Not?
Here’s a prime example: A company we work with has a product that submits data back to doctors and hospitals. As they initially went about trying to sell the product, they couldn’t get traction because every time they went to deploy it, the IT department would tell them there was no way they were going to let them put an unknown commodity on their private network.
That certainly makes a lot of sense, particularly from the perspective of a business in the medical industry, where network security is of utmost importance.
So when you think, “hey, cellular-enablement isn’t in the long-term life of this product” and dismiss it, you may be doing a disservice to your sales team. By cellular-enabling the product, you give it a shot in otherwise “instant shutdown” customer environments. Once they’ve come to trust you and your product (nine or 12 months into usage), they will be more open to a conversation about maximizing the product's potential within their wired network. But you need to let them warm up to the idea.
This is IoT security from your customers’ point of view. Product managers should always think of their sales teams. Cellular-enabling your IoT product could be something a product manager could offer as a tool to help close the sale.
IoT Business Strategy
There are a host of reasons to build an IoT product. You may simply wish to introduce a brand new line of business off of which you will generate revenue. Or maybe you have an existing product you want to enable with new capabilities to keep up with your competitors. One of the challenges of productizing IoT is data usage.
Once you deploy, your data usage will go up and down. How will you track and manage your inventory (what equipment is deployed where, and to whom?) Billing information, cost center, and GL codes—will you have the ability to back-bill that info into your platforms?
You want to capture all of that information to maintain the integrity of the billables. While this is technically on the operations side of things, product and project management typically wants to understand and contribute to the processes by which the product is tracked and managed.
Here’s an example of how we do that: If we’ve deployed, say, 5,000 devices for a customer, we want to track which cost center they should be billed to. Every month when the bill comes in from the carrier, we provide an allocation to the customer that provides the total amount of charges and breaks them down by the (15, for example) customers incurring costs.
When that allocation of charges is done automatically by a managed services provider, your inventory and its integrity is maintained without heavy lifting for the IoT vendor (you). Most companies deploying IoT don’t want to or cannot feasibly maintain an internal team to manage these complexities. It’s not in their wheelhouse and it doesn’t pay to try to build out a new team from scratch.
The earlier the product manager covers each of these challenges with an IoT managed service provider, the more solid the foundation of the IoT deployment will be.
IoT and the Project Manager
The dream has now been realized. The business has bought in on an IoT project.
A company usually is not built to take off running with its first (or second or third) IoT deployment. Because of this, working with an external managed services company can not only assist with knowing the unknowns, but it can save the deployment from falling to security or other project weaknesses.
An IoT project manager should consider offloading the project management entirely to an external team that can bring it all together: get it deployed, load the firmware, manage the billing, kitting, and logistics, and everything beyond that. Alternately, you may want to focus on getting help with the facilitation of your product's assembly and shipment — SIMS, routers, cases — all of the pieces that make up the whole of the product.
Just as you get help through the planning phase, get help through the deployment phase. You can’t feasibly triple your company size to deploy an IoT product. An IoT managed services provider will allow you to stay lean and focus on sales and revenue rather than get caught up in billing, assembly, and shipping logistics.
Just as importantly, enlisting a team with IoT security expertise will protect you and your customers from vulnerabilities you likely could not have considered on your own.
If you already have an IoT line of business or IoT is on your radar, schedule an appointment with me for a free one hour strategy session.