‘Human glue’ and ‘humility to learn’ – 10 lessons in private 5G (#1-3, on people)
This is a fairly straight writeup of a summary report / blog from UK5G, the government-backed innovation network dedicated to industrial 5G in the UK, from a couple of weeks back, about findings from the UK’s grand £200 million trials and testbeds (5GTT) scheme – which has seen 1,250 partners engage on 100 projects over the course of about five years. Enterprise IoT Insights took its biggest conclusions, about how to scale 5G-based IoT projects in a way that works for the telecoms supply chain, in a separate piece. This one considers the rest of them.
It might be noted, as well, that the source material – available here – is well written and reasoned, and should be looked up. This exercise leans heavily, if not entirely, on that document; it just seeks to repackage them as a top-10 summary of habits and cautions for industrial 5G – gathered from multiple engagements in the UK, but applicable anywhere in the world. Anyway, all credit goes to UK5G for documenting the process, and Peter Whale, senior advisor at UK5G, for putting it down in print first. Here is the first sermon, hymns one-to-three – all about people.
Lesson 1 | People – a diverse team
This is a big point; this stuff does not get solved in isolation. The network component is just that – a component, a springboard, and a start-point for a solution, perhaps, after the business problem has been scoped and expanded. UK5G says the 5GTT trials in the UK have all, without exception, recruited a “diversity of skills and backgrounds”. This is not news, of course. “The importance of assembling a well-functioning team… is well recognised,” it notes.
But it is worth restating, too. The whole Industry 4.0 project crosses fairly rigid vertical markets, in which any number of sub-markets and sub-disciplines exist, with newly digital horizontal tech, of which 5G is just one. It takes a village to make an IoT solution, they say; IT and OT and telecoms, at least, from both sides of the track. UK5G names the “public and private sector, industry and academia, entrepreneurs and engineers,” among the likely stakeholders.
And these, it suggests, should be assembled for the whole nation as a “corpus of people and organisations who have worked together on complex stuff” – and can be tapped for rapid knowledge and experience.
Lesson 2 | People – the human glue
It is a team sport, is the point. But the UK5G summary is more interesting than that because it makes explicit that this Industry 4.0 negotiation and design takes more than just a grab-bag of multidisciplinary experts, plus people to manage and people to promote. For 5G to take root in industry, as part of grander schemes, you need “pragmatic generalists”, it says. Soft skills matter, too – otherwise this rarefied gallery of knowledge stays closed, it implies.
A variety of stakeholders should be at the table, it writes, but “each… has its own vocabulary, competencies, performance parameters – and, to be frank, quirks,” writes UK5G. Which means generalists – normal people? – should be hired as go-betweens, often, to “value” and translate inputs from all sides. Something like this was required to knock heads (“barrier busting”) between operators and councils to secure sites for 5G masts, it says.
But the same applies to any entrenched OT entity, to keep ‘coal-face’ concerns at the heart of the discussion, whether in cities or factories or mines. The point is project teams require “people… who can bridge across disciplines and sectors, both to act as ‘translators’ and to provide the human ‘glue’”, writes UK 5G. Because, it says, “someone needs to retain the big picture [and] keep everyone on track”.
Lesson 3 | People – humility to learn
There is another point about people, from the 5GTT findings; they need to be resilient enough to “roll with the punches” – and humble enough to learn. Reading between the lines, the message is these incubation testbeds in the UK have unfolded like start-up innovation projects – which is what they are, except that mega companies have sometimes been pulled into the sandbox, especially around the provision of 5G.
But brands, reputations, and hierarchies should go out of the window, along with jackets and ties; the advice is to get dirty in collaboration. UK5G writes: “Willingness to embrace other organisations, the humility to learn, and a can-do approach are three attitudinal traits for success.” The point for a part of the supplier market, more used to innovation-at-leisure, or else innovation-acquired, is to forget everything you know – except about the nuts and bolts of tech.