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Distributors and VARs: The unsung heroes of the IoT market

The background

Commercial IoT has received substantial press over the last three years. It started in 2015 with hyped claims of IoT’s ability to deliver total transformation, but expectations around the technology have matured and IoT is now viewed as a reasonable technique for solving business problems. However, one thing has not changed: When it comes to IoT market participants, the focus of the discussion remains on larger IT vendors, SIs and customers. The missing story is the involvement of the distributors, VARs and smaller SIs, and the current needs of the small to midsize customers.

What are distributors?

Distributors sit between IT vendors and VARs or SIs, procuring equipment or software from the former and distributing it to the latter two. Because distributors generally have a very large customer base, they can help vendors reach more customers or provide a channel for vendors that cannot afford to build their own, such as smaller ISVs. Because distributors procure equipment from vendors and stock it themselves, they are incentivized to educate VARs or SIs about vendor products and help market them as well as to deliver sales training, demos and exhibitions. Distributors are masters of the supply chain, bundling and contract negotiations.

What are VARs?

VARs, along with SIs, serve on the frontline of IT and offer a more tailored storefront to customers than a larger vendor. VARs will seek to build and deliver turnkey solutions by mixing and matching technology and software, as well as layering on services of their own, such as integration, customization, consulting, training and implementation. VARs are often organized by customer type, from those offering general IT services to those specializing in education, the public sector, heavy industry and other niche areas. VARs, along with SIs, often have the keenest grasp on customer challenges, making them well positioned to package IoT components, build applications or offer services.

Technology Business Research, Inc. announces 1Q19 webinar schedule

Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces the schedule for its 1Q19 webinar series.

Jan. 9            Virtualization flips the axis on technology monetization and adoption

Jan. 23         IoT is getting a lot easier

Feb. 6           The pendulum swings: Customer demands reshape how infrastructure vendors do business

Feb. 13         5G will be an evolution, not a revolution

Feb. 20         Customers care less, vendors buy more, and both sides become more intelligent

Feb. 27         Consulting’s robot army: How RPA changes the consulting business model

Mar. 20        Enabling stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem to navigate the path to value-based care

TBR webinars are held typically each Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

 

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information please visit www.tbri.com.

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It’s time to stop calling IoT a technology

Yes, we all do it. Every analyst, vendor and customer has referred to Internet of Things (IoT) as a technology. I have done it countless times, and so have my extremely talented and informed peers. However, it’s a misnomer, a shortcut, and a cop out, and if we actually think of IoT as a technology, it’s ultimately harmful to the adoption of IoT. IoT is actually a technique for solving business problems using a combination of technology components and services, rather than a technology in and of itself.

No one vendor does IoT alone ― it’s not a deliverable, self-contained technology solution. Rather, it often involves a “leader” company, generally a consulting company or an ISV, assembling a solution sourced from software, services and hardware components from partner companies. My colleague Ezra Gottheil likes to use a construction analogy. A general contractor will shop at Home Depot (the wide and increasingly saturated IoT marketplace) for all the components he or she needs to build a structure. The general contractor will also hire subcontractors (partners and specialized vertical ISVs) who have certain expertise. Even as we move closer to prepackaged IoT or shrink-wrapped solutions, multiple vendors will continue to be involved in delivery.

Some of these components can be grouped into the “new technology” bucket. As TBR closely monitors use cases and fills our use-case database, which currently has more than 360 entries, IoT projects are increasingly linked with augmented reality/virtual reality, blockchain and analytics. All of these new components, including IoT, are enhanced when used in cohesion.

But many of the components, such as servers, routers, mobile devices, sensors, connectivity, IT services and business consulting, have existed for decades. IoT is a new shiny label slapped on a technique IT companies have been using for decades: pulling together IT components to build solutions and help customers achieve their goals.

TBR believes when a vendor tells a customer “you should adopt this new transformational technology,” it is usually met with eye-rolling. IoT is no different. As soon as the “new technology” discussion comes to the table, customers instinctively rock back on their heels. It sounds like a large and long-lasting commitment, which leads to rip-and-replace cost fears, technology lock-in consternation due to a rapidly evolving market, and a general lack of understanding about the benefits.

TBR believes vendors should change the message. Begin with discovering what a customer’s business problems are, then suggest using the technique of IoT to begin strategically solving them in a stepwise manner. It’s not a rip-and-replace approach; it’s seeing where improvements can be gradually made to increase connectivity throughout an organization and ultimately deliver improved insight. It might mean adding sensors to legacy equipment, using IoT components and new analytic tools to tie together legacy data and create new insight, or implementing tangential technologies such as blockchain to better inform customers on their supply chain. Eventually, it could mean all of these combined.

At a recent vendor event, the CEO of a Boston-based IoT solution vendor asserted that IoT is now passe. True customer evolution, including problem solving comes from the bigger picture ― using the technique of IoT, tangential technologies, and internal and external data sources to supercharge efficiency and gain insight.

IoT as a technology is a lazy oversimplification. Let’s start messaging how the technique of IoT ―a new way of thinking about and applying technology ― can help solve current business challenges in an agile and cost-effective manner.