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A couple years back, I remember seeing a published IoT time-to-value diagram. It laid out the multiple steps that it takes to complete an IoT solution and deploy to customers, including the various partner types and skillsets needed in each phase.

At that moment it became evident to me that there was an opportunity that had not yet been captured — and that was how to connect these partners and bridge their capabilities to expedite time to value for partners and customers alike. IoT is involved from both a product perspective and a partner perspective. There are a lot of moving pieces, and it can be daunting to determine the best IoT solution, identify the right partners, and achieve a clear ROI expectation at the start.

That’s where Microsoft, with its partner-plus-platform approach, fills a huge need and is driving change in the IoT industry. We’ve done a great job innovating the most consistent and comprehensive set of edge-to-cloud services available. And, in addition to driving R&D and continued product innovation, we’re leveraging part of our $5 billion IoT investment to fuel the IoT partner ecosystem to accelerate business transformation, innovation, and time to value.

Transformation starts with a cultural and organizational mindset shift

PCL Construction is a great example of this. By embracing cloud, mobility, data analytics and enterprise-class integration as their guiding pillars, this centenarian company is leading digital transformation in their industry through IoT. This includes their Job Site Insights (JSI) platform which involves spatial intelligence innovation on Azure.

Yet their IoT journey also required change. According to Chris Palmer, Manager of Advanced Technology Services at PCL, “Cultural transformation was a necessary and a driving factor in PCL’s IoT journey. To drive product, P&L, and a change in approach to partnering, we had to first embrace this change as a leadership team.” Now, through the insights generated by the JSI platform, PCL has been able to increase productivity and safety, reduce rework, minimize costs, decrease energy consumption and improve the overall quality of projects.

This mindset shift is the key to unlocking real business model and P&L transformation. Organizations must be prepared to rethink product development — how to build and strategically enable solutions in areas like billing, evergreen updates, and point-in-time updates. They must explore ways to shift value up the stack and generate new revenue streams by turning a fixed purpose device into a customer relationship. And they’ve got to reimagine their approach to emerging skillsets and create incentives that align with intended company and customer outcomes.

We envision, build and scale solutions with an ecosystem of partners every day, and those who are embracing transformation are best positioned to take advantage of and keep pace with technological innovation. Business model transformation is foundational to success in scaling your technological innovations.

IoT ecosystem innovation: partners and solutions

Microsoft relies on the partner-to-partner imperative in delivering customer transformation through IoT. Setting up partners for greater success is central to our approach.

One of the ways we do this is through our matchmaking program. The ability to supplement a partner’s core expertise with the expertise of others extends opportunities for partners and accelerates solutions for customers. Breaking down silos and enabling partners to focus on what they do best is a key part of this ecosystem.

Solution accelerators comprise the second component of IoT ecosystem innovation. Open-source, preconfigured solution accelerators built by Microsoft help expedite the development of secure, differentiated IoT solutions for a specific vertical or use case. These first-party accelerators provide a common architectural framework relevant to a number of IoT use cases (horizontal and vertical-based) upon which partners and customers can build their solutions. They serve to minimize risk, decrease development costs and drive resource efficiency, so partners can focus on more strategic innovation.

Microsoft’s partners are also creating third-party, open-source solution accelerators. These accelerators focus on energy management, asset tracking, digital signage, and more – some of which are being used by companies to fast-forward their IoT solution development and bypass upfront development costs.

The third component of IoT ecosystem innovation are solution aggregators. Aggregators are partners with the in-house capability to pull together the multitude of partner components, services, and solutions needed to bring an end-to-end IoT solution to market. Partners such as Avnet and Synnex, to name a few, have deep expertise in channel distribution with significant reach to bring all the needed components together for commercial deployment.

Accelerating time to value

Customers want to achieve time to value as quickly as possible. And that’s the net result of transformation combined with our IoT ecosystem innovation. When partners embrace business model transformation, they stand to offer customers a much greater value. Leveraging a common architecture and repeatable solutions through accelerators and aggregators can eliminate up to 80 percent of the development work. And teaming up with compatible partners offers greater speed, scalability, and depth of expertise. Which means customers get their IoT solutions up and running faster — hastening ROI and increasing profitability.

I think Avnet exemplifies how successful business model transformation plus ecosystem innovation increases time to value. They’ve completely transformed their business to embrace this model. Their IoTConnect platform helps customers scale into vertical markets by addressing key challenges such as configuration, cross-device communication, and device monitoring. They also tap our vast ecosystem of IoT technology providers to identify the best solution for each customer. 

Reducing the complexity of IoT and accelerating time to value is a major differentiator that, when combined with our technology innovations, offers unsurpassed value to both our partners and customers. I hope you’ll join me at the IoT in Action event in New York City on January 14, 2019, or at an upcoming event in a city near you. This global event series is an opportunity for you to connect with other partners in the IoT ecosystem and learn more about the disruptive IoT solutions that are transforming the way business gets done.

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This article was originally published on the Microsoft Azure blog.

Rodney Clark

Rodney Clark

Vice President IoT Sales at Microsoft

Rodney Clark is the Vice President of the Worldwide Internet of Things Device Experience and Mixed Reality Sales team. In this role, Rodney is responsible for building Intelligent Solutions, from edge to cloud, with the more than 9,000 ecosystem partners, and driving sales and go to market execution to accelerate partner solution deployment.