Endless opportunities are opened up when you connect your business with the Internet of Things, but that doesn't mean the process is always free of obstacles. Whether you're thinking about transforming your own business using IoT or you dream of creating an IoT solution for a consumer market, this type of project requires a hefty investment and the right partner to succeed.
Once you have a firm grasp of the problem you are trying to solve using IoT solutions, one of the next steps is creating a shortlist of IoT partners that you can select.
You can only usefully narrow down your list to the best possible IoT developers for your project, however, if you know the right questions to ask and the types of answers to look for. For this reason, we've created a list of ten questions you'll want to ask any prospective IoT partners before you hire them.
Asking the right questions before you hire IoT developers can help ensure that your processes are agile, your resources are used efficiently, and you are able to achieve successful and desirable outcomes. It's easy to assume that implementing an IoT system is a one-time deal, but existing solutions often need to evolve with the changing tech landscape over time.
For this reason, selecting a partner you feel you can work with in the long term is exceedingly important.
When you're hiring anyone to take on any type of task, one of the primary questions you'll want to ask is what type of experience they have that makes them feel they are a good fit for the role. The right IoT partner will be able to present you with some case studies where their services have helped companies develop IoT partners. Ideally, these case studies will show that they have worked on IoT platforms on on-premises devices or gateways as well as those distributed between cloud services.
If you find that they have worked in your particular industry, all the better. That being said, an IoT team that has successfully implemented projects in a few areas with a set of best practices and an architectural approach can often apply the same methodology to industries they have yet to work in.
Since IoT projects require a wide variety of expertise, from cloud services and mobile app development to protocol optimization, it's important that anyone you hire is experienced in several different aspects of software development.
You'll also want to learn about their experience working with third-party systems through APIs and what programming languages they have expertise in.
It's not absolutely essential for your IoT developers to have experience designing hardware components, but it can be a big plus. If the partner you find has expertise in this development aspect, it can mean that you don't have to look for additional partners to design sensors and devices.
Ask about how knowledgeable and competent they are when it comes to hardware engineering and if they have established relationships with hardware manufacturers.
During implementation, selecting your hardware and software will be a critical decision. There are a number of different tools involved in IoT projects, and the interoperability and connectivity of these systems is something that shouldn't be overlooked.
Implementing IoT includes required components such as sensors, edge gateways, communication protocols, IoT platforms, and cloud data management and analytics software. When you're talking to prospective teams, ask them about their experience with various hardware and software to see if their expertise and your needs sync up.
IoT solutions are commonly divided into two categories: internally and externally focused projects. Internally focused projects involve creating and retrofitting assets within a company, while externally focused products consist of building new products to be sold to consumers.
It's common for IoT vendors to work solely in one of these groups, so it's a good idea to find a partner with experience in the realm applicable to your project.
One thing you'll absolutely want to find out about is the operation processes of potential IoT partners. You can ask them if they have specific protocols they use to streamline production or if there are best practices they follow during the process.
A competent and reliable team will be able to walk you through their methodology and practices ahead of time. They'll also inform you about the software solutions they have found that help make the process as streamlined as possible.
Understanding the best practices of software engineering is highly important when setting a steady development pace.
To get into further details, you can ask them about their policy regarding response time (and how strict that policy is,) how they approach communication flows, and whether they are proactive in dealing with predictable issues. It's also important to ensure that they are generally on the same page as you regarding the vision your business has for the solution.
Finally, you'll also want to find out how involved they will be in the discovery stage of your project.
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This question is particularly important if you are creating a consumer-oriented IoT platform. A user-friendly and intuitive interface is a must in these instances, and you'll want to make sure you find a partner that is well-versed in the best practices of UI and UX.
In your search for IoT developers, you might find that some are specifically focused on things like server infrastructure, architecture, and firmware development. In other cases, you can find competent and capable partners when it comes to incorporating intuitive UI in both web and mobile apps.
As you might imagine, this is a vital question to ask before beginning a project with IoT partners. Otherwise, they might fall short when it's time to produce the user-facing functionality.
Robust data security is a must in the dynamic IoT environment. This is perhaps one of the most important questions for you to ask when hiring IoT developers, as you'll want to make sure that their security mechanisms are beefy and highly capable.
You might find that you can further narrow your list using this question, as data security should be a non-negotiable element. Any IoT developer you partner with should know exactly what to do when it comes to protecting your device, incorporating data encryption, and employing security mechanisms for both cloud and device storage.
Look for thoughtful and engaged partners when it comes to data security questions. On top of that, ask to look over the tools and processes they use to complete security audits.
Your IoT solution will likely need to scale up over time as your solution has had time in the market. When you select an IoT partner, you want to know that they will be able to help you manage changes and scale up when the time comes.
For example, it's completely within the realm of possibility that you could want to add new devices and features down the road. It's essential that you don't have to reorder the entire solution at this point but instead can have the team make the necessary changes to keep things flowing seamlessly.
Relatedly, you'll want to check their ability to manage your IoT projects from afar, even if you scale up later. After all, the last thing you want to have to do is throw out your existing solution or find third-party solutions once you've outgrown your current partners and system.
When you partner with an IoT vendor, you want to know that their solution will be able to align with your desired outcome and existing architecture. Similarly, it's important to learn about their agility when it comes to implementing the solution.
In a perfect world, the IoT partner you find will be willing to work with the technology, tools, and devices you prefer. It's also a good idea to pair up with a team willing to incorporate your company's existing infrastructure to create a customized solution for your organization.
As a quick note, you'll want to watch out for providers that try to pin you to specific proprietary tech as a part of the partnership. Even if they otherwise seem like a great team that could help provide the solution you need, it's best to avoid these types of companies because it can cause big problems in the future.
Since many complex components exist in an IoT ecosystem, implementing an IoT system isn't the world's fastest process. While it can vary greatly depending on the particular project, the average time to market for an IoT is around 18-24 months.
That being said, many different factors can impact how long it takes to implement this type of system, and you'll want to learn how they build timelines depending on the project's size, scope, and requirements.
Are you in the middle of an app development project, and you're constantly running into obstacles that slow the process? Check out our guide on how to stop your app project from stalling. If you're really in a bind and you need to start over with new developers, read about how to change app developers mid-project here.
The previous questions in our list should help you narrow down your final candidates to a shortlist. Once you have this in hand, you can start talking numbers.
It can be a good idea to offer some high-level requirements to help the vendor create a quote that reflects the scope and size of your project. You can go a step beyond that and provide them with a detailed request for a quote, which can allow you to receive comparable quotes from different teams.
In addition to how potential partners answer the above questions, you'll also want to make sure that they have all of the necessary technical skills to get the job done well and efficiently. Typically, an IoT team will include people in a variety of roles, including:
When you're delivering a project that involves the Internet of Things, there are a number of skills the development team should have up their sleeve.
Of course, there are also soft skills you should keep an eye out for, too. After all, the best IoT team in the world isn't worth much if they aren't able to communicate in a timely and clear fashion. The ability to keep everyone on the same page as things progress is essential and non-negotiable.
Choosing the right IoT team can feel like a daunting and truly arduous task, but you'll find that all of your hard work and effort paid off in the end. The last thing you want is to make a split-second decision when it comes to hiring IoT partners, and you'll be glad to know that you went the extra mile to find developers that are willing and able to turn your dream into a reality.
At Planetary, we know what it means to engage in a meaningful and productive partnership with businesses. After all, we specialize in helping companies of all sizes take a concept and turn it into a beautiful, functional digital product. If you're looking for the right team to help you transform your next app project from a vision in your head to a sleek, intuitive product, drop us a line today and tell us a little bit about what you're working on.
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