How Innovation Leaders Can Champion the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Promise (and the Trap) of Connected Products

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of an IoT product (or connected product) strategy, which means it is a great opportunity for Chief Innovation Officers (CINOs) to show leadership and give their organizations clarity in this emerging space.

Embracing connected products means that “normal” product companies need to answer a dizzying variety of unfamiliar questions like:

  • Which standards should I adopt?
  • How do I handle data security?
  • What technology do I buy vs. make? With whom should I partner?
  • What new capabilities do I need?
  • How should I organize?

However, because these are the more concrete “how” questions, many companies gravitate to them as their IoT starting point. But although important, these questions aren’t the game changers and not the place to start. For example, one company who came to Altitude had started by spending millions on a robust business analytics engine and CRM backbone to crunch the terabytes of data its connected products would produce. But the value propositions of its first four connected products had been hastily conceived, nothing more than existing products with gimmicky apps thrown in. All the products failed and the IT backbone sits empty of data. This is when they turned to Altitude to help them define a lasting IoT product strategy and vision based on a reframing of how connected products can create value for their customers, not just their business.

To be successful at capitalizing on IoT products, CINOs and Innovation Product Leaders need to start with “Why?” Why will our customers value connected products? Why will they make our customers lives simpler, better, or more meaningful? Only once you have this reason for being understood, does it make sense to move on to the questions of “How?”

So far, consumers have largely found smart, connected devices to be underwhelming. If consumer product companies continue to grapple with the minutiae, and not the big picture, they will cede their markets to startups.


CINOs and Innovation Product Leaders To the Rescue

As companies struggle with these early days of connected products, so too do CINOs and Innovation Product Leaders struggle to establish their roles and their influence in their organizations. Expectations for CINOs are high, while budgets remain low, tangible results thin, and tenures short. But CINOs can find opportunity in their companies’ struggle to get connected product strategy right. In consumer product companies, CINOs must be the one driving the big picture. They must be the ones asking, and answering the “why” questions so critical to strategy. To rise above the morass that IoT products can become, we suggest focusing on three key principles that are currently getting lost:


Today’s connected product efforts are being driven from either a technology or business perspective. The CINO’s and Innovation Product Leaders’ most important role in connected products is, in fact, to preach that the dollars and the bits aren’t the point. The point is what the company can do for people, for their customers, with them. When it comes to IoT, Job #1 for the CINO is to put customers at the center and reframe the company’s purpose from what it makes to why it makes it.


The Lean Start-up movement and its emphasis on Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and agile learning cycles are critical to successful connected products. But they are only a means to an end. MVPs should be steps on a path towards a powerful, inspiring vision for the company’s future, centered around the transformative promise of connected products to meet the needs of people. CINOs and Innovation Product Leaders should be the champions of this vision.


By embracing connected products, the CINO is aiming at much more than product innovation. S/he is taking a leadership role in transforming the business; s/he is seeking innovation’s maximum potential. CINOs should use this elevated purpose to secure the deeper resources and broader freedom to experiment that will be necessary for success.

What do you believe is the role of the Innovation Product Leader or CINO in IoT? Altitude is focused on working with companies who strive to develop bold strategies and visions for an IoT enabled future. Please reach out if you want to talk further or I welcome you to download my new IoT paper SMART. CONNECTED. How You Can Design a Truly Meaningful IoT Product Offering.

Dan Ostrower

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Dan Ostrower