Don’t let the skills gap hinder your IoT success

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Since the term Internet of Things (IoT) was first coined in 1999, the market has experienced vast growth and maturity, evolving rapidly – and it is showing no sign of slowing down. According to Omdia, the number of global satellite IoT connections is set to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25% for the foreseeable future.

About the author

Mike Carter is President of Inmarsat Enterprise.

For businesses, this trend means the need to manage and maintain the networks, clouds, connections and applications that store, transmit and analyze IoT data will only grow. With almost countless areas of niche expertise combining to make all this possible, it is difficult for an employee to have the full range of skills required for the task. As it is still unrealistic for companies to have an entire team dedicated to IoT, there remains a significant IoT skills gap.

Recent research from Inmarsat – which looked across the agriculture, electrical utilities, mining, oil and gas and transport and logistics sectors – reflected this. Many organizations indicated that a lack of in-house skills was a barrier to IoT adoption, with over a third reporting it was their top barrier to IoT deployment. In addition, half of businesses lack cybersecurity talent, with just less than half saying they require staff with additional skills in data science and analytics and connectivity technology.

Interestingly, the IoT skills gap was reflected across all levels, with many businesses also lacking the strategic IoT skills needed in the C-suite or senior leadership team. With less than a third of respondents claiming to have all the skills needed at this level, the gap is preventing them from fully integrating IoT into their overall business strategies.

So, what can organizations feeling the pain of the IoT skills gap do to ensure their businesses can flourish?

Prioritize IoT at board level

Despite an overall eagerness to adopt IoT, especially from those who understand the sustainability, efficiency and safety gains it brings, many businesses lack the strategic IoT skills needed to optimize it – often including the C-suite or senior leadership team.

Boards have a great opportunity to lead from the front by prioritizing IoT in their business strategies. Having a technology expert on the board enables the kind of strategic decision making needed for IoT to fulfil its full potential, so bringing in someone with that expertise can be very beneficial. The solid understanding of IoT and the skills that underpin it gained by such an addition to the board enables it to understand – and close – the organization's IoT skills gaps. Having the right skills in place across all levels will ensure businesses can best utilize their IoT data and better integrate IoT projects into their wider operations.

Invest in upskilling and retraining

As IoT is an emerging technology, few of today’s practitioners planned to embark on this career path, nor formally trained for it. Instead, most have backgrounds in fields such as computer science, engineering or software development, with many picking up IoT skills as they go. So, the most direct way for businesses to overcome their IoT skills gap is to incorporate IoT into their employee training programs.

Investing in upskilling or retraining existing employees not only enables individuals to undertake more senior or technical roles, it also means their people are equipped with a solid understanding of the technology and its role within the business. The more knowledgeable employees are about IoT, the more powerful a business’ IoT strategy will be, leading to more successful IoT deployments.

Small businesses lacking the resources to implement corporate training programs can explore the next option, seeking external experts who can help.

Partner with external experts

Although the IoT skills gap is a major concern for today’s enterprises, the research also found that only a third of organizations typically look to partner with an IoT service provider to support an end-to-end solution and work with them to plan, implement, and maintain it.

As we’ve established, for IoT to be a sustained success, access to the relevant skillsets is needed at all levels. If organizations do not have the resources to plug these skills gaps internally, they must look to external partners to provide the necessary skills – and ensure they have the right structures in place to support long-term partnerships with these organizations. Being unafraid to look outside the four walls of your organization for the tools you need is critical, as IoT skills shortages could derail a business’ IoT project, potentially causing major consequences down the road for remote operations and more.

Businesses of all sizes, in all sectors, have the power to optimize their IoT investments by tackling their skills gaps through strategizing, employee training and working with specialist partners – relatively simple fixes with a major pay-off.

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Mike Carter is President of Inmarsat Enterprise, leading a team focused on the provision of satellite connectivity and IoT business solutions to land-based businesses.