How One Channel Partner Built Out A Successful Practice To Monetize IoT

A few years ago, Microsoft partner New Signature was in the same position as many channel partners when it came to the Internet of Things – the company wanted to build out an IoT practice due to the hype, but was unsure of where to begin.

"We didn't know where to start," David Geevaratne, chief sales officer at the Washington-based solution provider, said at The Channel Company's NexGen conference Tuesday. "We had heard all the information and seen use cases from niche companies, but we're not a niche player – we're a broad cross-stack on-premises and cloud mobile Microsoft partner. How do we adapt to fit that unique IoT space?"

Fast forward to today, and the company has a successful IoT solution use case under its belt, an IoT practice and team comprised of analytics and engineering solution specialists, IoT marketing materials and seminars, and a portfolio of analytics offerings for customers.

[Related: CompTIA: More Customers Are Looking To Adopt IoT, With Partner Help]

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The key, stressed Geevaratne, was to take a step back and look at how the company's existing technology offerings, services and customer base could fit into IoT. "We leveraged the fact that we had an existing knowledge around technology so we could go to businesses and tell them It's not about devices or things, it's really about analytics," he said.

New Signature has tapped into the Internet of Things with a sweet solution – helping The Hershey Company wire its existing production equipment. The company helped Hershey save hundreds of thousands of dollars, decrease waste, and create a leaner operation through connecting its infrastructure so that the popular candy – like licorice – could be tracked digitally for weight and other factors at every stage of the production and packaging processes.

However, well before working with Hershey, New Signature had to take a variety of steps to build out its skills and offerings around the Internet of Things.

To start, the company created an IoT investment strategy, which outlined a starting point and pinpointed different target goals as part of building an IoT practice. To build out a successful IoT solution, New Signature decided to start with its largest existing customer base and focus on its existing business intelligence and analytics service offerings.

"We knew that as a solution provider, we didn't want to go to everybody; we wanted to take care of specific customers in very specific verticals," said Geevaratne. "We wanted to grow organically with our existing capabilities, and we also wanted to use our existing strong Microsoft relationship."

That relationship was a large driver in New Signature's IoT solution, where data is sent from the machines to the Azure IoT Hub and into the cloud, and analyzed with Microsoft Stream Analytics. New Signature holds a silver-level competency from Microsoft in data analytics and a gold-level competency in cloud platform and cloud productivity.

Another important step in planning an Internet of Things strategy was taking a step back and defining what a successful IoT practice would entail in terms of budget and strategy, over the next six months.

In New Signature's case, the company established a goal to deliver three IoT strategy projects and one IoT implementation, as well as deliver $500,000 in revenue from analytics projects.

And on the marketing and sales side, the company outlined several goals, including launching IoT webinars, events, case studies, sales trainings, and sales materials.

Building out a team that can "speak the language" of customers for IoT solutions is also critical for partners starting in IoT, stressed Geevaratne. New Signature hired an advanced analytics player who could lead the charge around IoT solutions, as well as developers, solution architects, project managers and sales directors to own the sales process around IoT solutions.

"Solution providers should focus on common scenarios which are more diverse, include remote monitoring, connected manufacturing operations, asset tracking, fleet and facilities management," he said. "You know your customers best – imagine what the possibilities are when we think about connected things and devices."