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Why You Need a Chief Internet of Things Officer

To be successful, IoT initiatives require a new kind of leadership. Here are the four skills that are essential for your next must-hire role—the CIOTO.

Imagine that you just bought a technological gadget that had rave reviews. After waiting anxiously to get your hands on the device, you discover that can’t figure out how to use it. Making matters worse, the instructions included with the gadget are so vague that they are unusable. You decide to scour the Internet for some sort of guide on the device but to no avail. All of the information you find there seems to parrot what’s in the manual. What you really need is to enlist the help of an expert.

Such is the case with IoT initiatives. This year, analysts ranging from Accenture to McKinsey have observed that the majority of industry professionals are now convinced of the IoT’s promise—to cut waste, improve efficiency, and to drive new business models and revenue. But many still struggle to even launch IoT initiatives—let alone make them successful.

Leadership is crucial to success. Businesses need to perform a complete reappraisal of their go-to-market leadership strategy, and the must think critically about new roles. Traditional product teams will no longer cut it—the new team needs cutting-edge technology and electronics experience and data science savvy. Yet most companies don’t seem to have anyone on staff who can help with all of these initiatives.

Enter the chief IoT officer (CIOTO)—a new role that can help make the promises of IoT-fueled business transformation into reality. The time is here for businesses to proactively seek leadership that can not only lead the technology team, but also support business forecasting and weather a chaotic market.

Related: 2017 Salary Guide: IoT’s Captains, Data Stars, Security Pros, Developers

An effective CIOTO must be adept at a variety of tasks and needs to have mastery in four major areas:

1. Architecture Strategy Smarts

If your “in-house” systems are not in order, it doesn’t matter how many “things” you are trying to smarten up for your customers. Even B2B IoT developers must take note—even though we know much of this revolution will happen in the cloud, their strategy must mirror solid, architectural mandates, including layered security and governance policies. An ideal CIOTO should have a good grasp of IT security as well as proven experience with architecture strategy. Otherwise, the projects he leads will be too slapdash to sustain, at best. At worst, he will leave you open to security snafus and other glitches that will hit your bottom line and reputation—hard.

2. CRM and/or Sales/Marketing Savvy

The most profitable companies must know how to run the customer-facing facets of the IoT. The multi-nationals use chief data officers and chief digital marketing officers to ensure these activities shine. Your CIOTO needs many of the same skills but will have a better understanding of where the data comes. If important data is missing, the CIOTO can make recommendations on how to get it by adapting the sensor network or the customer record.

3. Product Development “Chops”

Your CIOTO must know how to navigate the R&D waters. Or you need to enable her with a solid, executive-board level mentor early on to get her up to speed. Most IT leaders understand the use of new and “upgraded” products and how to roll them out. Few recognize the specific challenges of taking a product to lifecycle—and beyond. In this day and age, many startups in the IoT space aren’t even going to production while they’re selling their ideas to VCs. Meanwhile, many of the big guys have to cut through many layers of red tape to launch IoT projects. You need a practical, experienced leader to manage the innovations inherent in IoT.

4. Enterprise-Wide, Project Management Muscle

If you haven’t run a huge project for a company of comparable size, with all of the politics, roadblocks, silos and, um, nonsense that goes with it, you can’t even get an IoT project started—let alone achieve a stunning ROI. You. Just. Can’t.

Your CIOTO must be a project management superstar or, better yet, a portfolio management superstar used to guiding enterprise-wide, strategy-specific ideas to fruition.

A CIOTO also needs to unleash digital transformation efforts throughout all divisions of an enterprise. They should be able to speak to engineers, executives, and operations staff in their own terms, and help cut through the siloes between them to foster collaboration within all of those groups.

This person is not a fictional character, but seeking an expert in all four traits is difficult but certainly not impossible. The right candidate can truly empower your IoT efforts to realize all of the benefits this exciting movement promises. Chief Internet of Transformation Officer, anyone? 

Bill specializes in IoT recruitment, he’s spent the last 20 years in executive search helping candidates and hiring managers in the software and professional services industry. His website is

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