Finding the right skills for your IoT project can be a challenge. According to the latest Microsoft IoT Signals report, 47% of businesses say there are not enough available skilled workers to implement effective IoT roll outs in their organisation.

The IoT skills problem

The problem is that IoT is inherently complex. The same report also suggests that one in four organisations that have adopted IoT cite complexity/technical challenges as a barrier to further their IoT adoption. The roll out necessitates a multidisciplinary approach both to initial set up and ongoing management. The skills required for the successful roll out of an IoT project see a workforce needing expertise in fields including data and business intelligence, UX design, software, hardware, information security, networks, and mobile development, amongst others.

For many businesses, this poses a significant challenge. There is also a requirement to pool resources from various teams and unite them under one common goal. This too can be difficult – IT and Operations Departments, for example, often operate independently from one another and speak very different languages, but both departments are necessary for successful implementation of IoT. To do this, both departments will either need to be upskilled in each other’s areas, or someone with the right skillset will need to bridge the gap between them.

What’s more, for many organisations, the problem is exasperated by the fact that these skills simply don’t exist within their existing talent pool. This forces businesses to turn to recruitment, which can be costly and equally as complicated if you can’t find the exact match for the very specific skills you need.

Having a workforce with the right skills is critical to having a successful IoT infrastructure, so here is our step-by-step guide to investing in the right skills.

How to invest in the right IoT skills

Do a skills audit and create an upskilling plan

Some businesses may find that upskilling key individuals in their workforce is the most cost-effective route to IoT adoption. To identify whether this is the right path for your organisation, we suggest you conduct an audit of your current workforce and see where knowledge and skills gaps exist. From there, you can identify whether additional training and upskilling can be used to bridge skills gaps.

For ongoing management of IoT systems, you’ll need to consider solutions that match the skill set of your current workforce. Thankfully, many solutions are built with usability in mind at the data visualisation stage. Mike Bell, executive vice president of IoT and devices at Canonical, said in an interview with CIO Dive, “As business processes grow increasingly connected, supporting IoT technologies must be easy enough for anyone to manage, monitor and use, regardless of their background, knowledge or personal skill set.”

Assess your recruitment need

As many business leaders will know, it’s often more cost effective to retrain staff than to recruit new ones. However, weighing up what skills are needed and by when will have a large bearing on whether a recruitment strategy must be developed for hiring anew. For instance, some businesses may need to hire fresh talent in the short term in key areas in order to implement IoT roll-out, but looking to the longer term, it may be possible to retrain existing members of the workforce to carry out key operations, analysis, and monitoring once initial implementation has been completed.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing your IoT development will allow you to have more capacity and specialist skills on hand for the fraction of the cost. It’s also likely to help you get to market faster – a serious benefit in highly competitive global markets. As with recruitment, this may be a consideration for initial roll out to ensure you have the backing of knowledgeable and experienced staff to give your project the best start.

Academic partnerships

Many universities are actively involved in research and the latest technical developments, making them an unrivalled source of information. Depending on your business requirements, you can take full advantage of this by turning to them for your recruitment needs – this could be through an internship, placement year, or a grad scheme. You may also want to consider a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a government-backed programme aimed at improving business’ competitiveness and productivity by partnering them with an academic or research organisation to recruit a qualified graduate.

One front door

Knowing which route to take to address potential skills gaps can seem like an overwhelming task, but Innovation Hubs and University Enterprise Zones like Sensor City can act as the initial gateway. Using them as your first point of call will help make the process more streamlined and easier to digest. We have direct links with our university partners, enabling us to more easily facilitate access to their skills pipeline and academic expertise. We can also be used as an outsourced engineering department, offering technical consultancy through our on-site trained personnel.

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to create a successful IoT strategy for your business, download our free 2020 Guide to IoT adoption here.

If you’re looking for more hands-on business support with IoT, get in touch with us to find out more about how our Space to Innovate packages could help you.

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