Discussing the Chief IoT Officer and People behind the IoT at IoT Convivio

In a beautiful villa outside Milan, precisely Villa La Valera in Arese, since September, there has been an unusual and jovial discussion on the Internet of Things. 30-40 top managers from various Italian organisations have gathered at the IoT Convivio (http://iotconvivio.com/) twice, one in September 2016 and the second on in December 2016, to discuss about the profile of the Chief IoT Officer and his or her team. To be honest, profiling the Chief IoT Officer has been just a narrative stratagem to explore the people behind the Internet of Things and the challenges those people have to face. I had the pleasure to chair and run the discussions. The IoT Convivio sessions explored a variety of technological and business themes. But, here, I want to share some points that have strong and not widely explored IoT policy implications.

The discussion started from the assumption that the IoT is a multidisciplinary and transformative vision impacting any economic sectors and any living environments. From a business perspective, the IoT vision is an absolute competitive advantage necessity. It is about changing modus operandi, optimizing processing and generating new ideas. But, all this requires a strategy with external and internal implications for the organisation. Who designs, develops, and deploys an IoT strategy? And how should this individual and his team be? And, here, the key question: is there the need for a new professional figure, the Chief IoT Officer? The attendees agreed that organisational change is necessary in order to embrace the IoT. They also believed that we could imagine the Chief IoT Officer (CIoTO) as an evolution of the current experienced Program Manager or Project Manager. That evolution is not simple. The CIoTO should be able to run complex and multidisciplinary projects. He or she should have “political capability” in order to champion short-term and long-term impact of the Internet of Things in the organisation. He or she should be able to navigate changeable contexts, being able to speak the language of engineering and the language of branding at the same time. And, with all this, having continuous, and clearly, in mind the business objectives. But, he or she is not a “superhero”. He or she needs a team, an “IoT Team”. And how does the IoT Team look like? The participants have explored numerous professions and skills in the area of data science, software development, marketing, branding, and design. But, they also raised a strong concern about the availability of such professions tuned to the IoT. And, therefore, the question was: how do we form those skills? This is an IoT policy question of extreme relevance and urgency. There was a school of thought arguing that the companies have to stimulate the academia on those needs as it is already happening in certain cases – Politicnico di Milano, Imperial College for example. There was another school of thought arguing that the approach should be more proactive. The education system requires a reform able to answer the needs of a labour market strongly affected now and in the future by technological change. An innovation studies’ model, called Triple Helix, could be a framework to explore proactive approaches. The Triple Helix brings together academia, government, and businesses as the engine for innovation. The same collaborative model could be used to designed the educational format to form professions needed in an “IoT Team”. There was not final consensus and answer. However, the debate is open and it will be re-discussed at the next IoT Convivio in Rome, where IoT policy issues will be explored extensively.

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