What’s the business case for IoT? Maybe there isn’t one.

I don’t mean companies shouldn’t invest in it; I mean trying to make the business case may be futile.

Not that long ago, I was getting phone calls from colleagues who wanted advice on how they could help their companies make the business case for mobile. Many forward thinking people saw how critical it was, but couldn’t make enough of a case that the revenue increase or expense savings would outweigh the investment cost. Their executives were leery. Oops!

We all know the stories. I don’t choose my bank anymore because of the relationship with the banker at the nearby branch (sorry Mike, I do think it’s nice you call me every couple months). I choose Chase because of how I can interact with them via text, their app, and their website. And, I’m sure they save money in the way they interact with me, but technology is the reason they have me as a customer. It is make or break.

IoT is just the next wave and the stakes are even higher. We’ve learned from internet and mobile investments that we don’t know what we don’t know. We also know that the speed of technology change is only increasing. Many companies are now paying attention, which makes technology an even bigger weapon (or threat).

At this point, my Apple watch is a fun little toy, but it isn’t hard to imagine that in a year or two, it (or something similar) will be so important that I’ll be making buying decisions based on it. Maybe I will choose my doctor based on who can integrate with my health data. Maybe as a business owner I will only want to work with an insurance company that tracks the data (health, wellness, safety) of my employees.

I interviewed an executive yesterday as part of a technology innovation process design. When I asked which technology areas were most likely to drive his company’s strategy he said, “I don’t know – and that’s exactly why we need this process.” Awesome answer. Because of that approach, his company is more likely to be around in five to ten years.

So, you can put together a business case to justify moving forward on IoT initiatives at your company, but the numbers will never look convincing enough to the sticklers and the curmudgeons, as is the nature with most innovation. And by the time you get through the business case process you’ll only be that much further behind.