The Emergence of the IoT Architect

Unlock IoT success by identifying and empowering the IoT architect.

This article has been updated from the original, published on August 8, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

With over 10 billion internet-connected things expected to be in use by 2018, set to increase by 32.7% in 2019, organizations are increasingly pressed by market and internal demands to develop and support Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

However, IoT requires strong executive sponsorship. Organizations will have to rely on a special kind of leader to seamlessly plan and deploy these solutions. Someone, such as an IoT architect, has an essential role in the successful development and operation of IoT.

“These individuals are hard to find,” says Erik T. Heidt, research vice president at Gartner. “They are responsible for the vision, strategy and end-to-end architecture of IoT solutions.”

Because an IoT solution has so many integrated components, creating a target IoT architecture is particularly important

Essential skills for the IoT architect

The success of the IoT architect relies on a mix of technical knowledge, business acumen and delivery skills. “The possession of superior capabilities in any one of these three areas will distinguish technical professionals from their peers. Those having such capabilities in two or more of these areas will be in extremely high demand,” adds Heidt.

A recent Gartner survey found that 76% of respondents in organizations with an IoT architect feel that their organizations are prepared to address their IoT needs. Only 31% of respondents in organizations without an IoT architect say the same.

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The IoT architect has 5 main responsibilities:

  1. Spearhead development of the IoT vision and technical strategy
    The IoT architect must work with key business and IT leaders to develop an IoT vision that sets objectives for the business to shoot for and to communicate that vision to key stakeholders. Part of this involves documenting the business’s critical success factors, and part of it entails using the business value to drive engagement. An effective IoT vision is not merely aspirational; it’s rational and deliberate.
  2. Design an end-to-end IoT architecture
    The IoT architect must identify and document the IoT target state for the organization and ensure that the target architecture will address current and future business requirements. An end-to-end IoT solution typically spans a wide variety of technology areas ranging from data collection sensors, equipment or appliances at the edge all the way to integration with enterprise applications and systems. “Because an IoT solution has so many integrated components, creating a target IoT architecture is particularly important — especially if the organization is likely to create and deploy multiple solutions over time,” Heidt says.
  3. Enable the design and construction of IoT solutions
    The IoT architect collaborates with and enables solution architects in their design and implementation of IoT solutions. The target architecture is a valuable asset, but not the only one the IoT architect has to contribute. IoT architects bring lessons learned and design experience from across the portfolio of implementations in which they have participated.
  4. Create a process to build IoT solutions
    Developing and standardizing the process for building IoT solutions and then guiding the evolution and improvement of that process is key. This will help make the organization’s creation of IoT solutions easier and more reliable because these initiatives will follow a process that incorporates the organization’s experience and accrued best practices in IoT solution development.
  5. Collaborate with diverse enterprise groups to deliver value
    IoT unites business activities in the physical world with back-end processes while increasing the involvement of IT and non-IT groups, such as business units and operational technology (OT) teams. The IoT architect needs to engage effectively with teams across the organization to develop clear business objectives for IoT solutions and to ensure they integrate well with existing operations.

“This is a key reason that engagement skills are a fundamental requirement for delivering IoT — and are a critical competency for IoT architects,” says Heidt.

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