This is part 1 of our series in which we cover system integrator’s role in IoT, and how they can start to launch more and recurring IoT projects.
Gartner says IoT is moving from ‘what’ to ‘how’. We think that won’t happen without massive involvement from system integrators.
Vendors aren’t offering an end-to-end solution
IoT is complicated. It has many moving parts – the sensors or devices, the connectivity, the platform, the business logic that makes it all happen, the applications, the users (including training and changing their workflows). Not a single vendor in IoT can offer an end-to-end solution that covers all of these, and frankly, you wouldn’t want them to. If a platform offers devices, your IoT application will be limited to what those exact devices can do. The same is true for the other vendors – if you start with a device, your platform will be somewhat limited, etc. The true value of IoT lies in its unlimited possibilities, you should always be able to select your “parts” in order get the maximum benefit from your application.
So we have this complex solution with lots of moving parts and vendors. Historically, the only ones who could pull together a project like this have been the system integrators. They have experience putting together networking, IT or security projects using equipment from different vendors and making them all interoperate, and then training the users or monitoring and maintaining the application themselves.
In a valuable Machina Research report titled ‘System Integrators are most trusted to deliver the IoT’ they claim 70% of companies already work with system integrators today, and in fact, consider them an integral part of their workforce. Also, 44% of IoT projects today are executed using system integrators. In our own business, we see the system integrators and service operators as integral to building an IoT project. We rarely see cases where the customer can pull together a project on their own.
Serving all business units and systems
IoT will have the most positive impact on the enterprise when it crosses business unit borders. The grand vision of smart manufacturing plant isn’t limited to the connected production line but also to warehouse monitoring and beyond to the supply chain. Each of these is owned by a separate department yet the IoT application can and should connect them all, enabling rules and actions between them and reaching correlated insights. In addition to their project management skills, a system integrator is well placed to have smooth access to multiple business units. Another aspect of IoT that system integrators have historically provided, is integration with systems like the existing CRM, ERP, BMS, or WMS whatever is in use. The IoT data should be populated across the existing systems in order to unlock maximum value from it.
Is it really IoT?
Many customers we talk to don’t even realize their problem can be solved with IoT. Their refrigerated goods are going bad. They think they need a better thermometer or a connected thermometer. They aren’t aware their connected thermometer can be easily expanded to humidity and door sensors, of controlling everything remotely, monitoring electricity and lighting usage and optimizing the use of refrigeration space. IoT technology brings so many possibilities it becomes hard to narrow down to the ones that will have a positive impact on the business and define the various project phases. This is where the expertise of IoT system integrators and service operators is invaluable. Because of their exposure to multiple projects and industries, they understand how to build a business case, how to phase a project so that a customer can handle the burning issues immediately and build up to additional benefits. In many cases, they have vertical expertise as well, and the deep understanding of the business drivers can improve the IoT application design.
Start small and scale
We’ve talked a lot about the complexity of the IoT project, about the number of players and vendors involved. This complexity is the reason we need to start small and scale. IoT is new and yet unproven. In combination with its unlimited possibilities, end customers are going to have a hard time committing to anything large. Other barriers to commitment are resources and the potential business impact. The most common deployment will start with a PoC, a first step. Vendors have a hard time starting small and scaling, while system integrators are structured to provide scale to their customer’s businesses.
So how do we move from ideas to execution in IoT?
We bring in the system integrators.
Download this handy guide to learn more about why system integrators are best suited for IoT implementations.
* This blog post is based on a Machina research report titled ‘System Integrators are most trusted to deliver the IoT’ and our own experience talking to both end customers and system integrators.