Solution Providers Want In On IoT But Vendor Enablement, Like The IoT Market, Is Just Getting Started

The channel's interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) market is at an all-time high, but partners are still wondering how to make money off the market, and many say they aren't finding they help they need from vendors.

Several solution providers that CRN talked to said they still aren't getting the right amount of "enablement" from vendors – including good products, technical and sales training, and marketing materials.

"I think that traditional IT vendors have good IoT programs catering to developers, but they're lacking that integration piece for the channel, for taking IoT solutions to market," said Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based solution provider. "The challenge for a lot of vendors is that so much of their IoT offering is wrapped around development and creating devices – what is missing is the traditional solution provider role, and that is what vendors and the channel are still struggling to define."

[Related: Supercharged: How Solution Providers Are Moving The Needle In Today's Innovative IoT Market]

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According to a CRN survey of 241 channel players in 2016, 49 percent of respondents said they are getting "too little partner enablement" from vendors, and 24 percent said they see "no partner enablement."

Only 24 percent of respondents said they are getting "the right amount of partner enablement" from vendors for IoT opportunities, and 3 percent said they see more enablement than they can utilize.

Andrew Piland, chief operating officer at Datel Systems, said that IoT is still a buzzword for his company, as opposed to a stable solution for making money – and a lack of understanding and resources is not helping.

"We're not deploying solutions, though it's something that we want to look at," said Piland. "We don't know where we would begin and we don't really have any good existing connections around IoT. Everyone's talking about IoT, but it's similar to how people talked about the cloud – it's vague and not very well defined. We haven't had a lot of interaction from vendors for figuring out real world applications where we can deploy IoT solutions."

David Felton, owner of Canaan Technology, a solution provider in Norwalk, Conn., has experience installing connected lighting and thermostat systems in homes and building management systems through working with vendors like Control4 and Nest. However, Felton has not heard anything from his traditional IT vendor partners about how he can get involved in IoT solutions.

"I don't think that a lot of vendors understand what the channel's role in IoT is," said Felton. "I don’t think a lot of them understand what IoT is. My guess is that partners will stop talking about the cloud and start talking about the Internet of Things as the IoT market shakes out."

Some vendors are making significant efforts to include partners in their IoT push. Many partners found that vendors like Intel and Dell have been proactive in reaching out to companies, for instance. In a recent study, market research firm ABI Research highlighted Dell and Intel as two vendors who have expanded their partner programs and are successfully working with channel partners.

Dell, which is expanding its partner program ecosystem with its series of IoT gateways, is aiming to double its program members by the end of 2016. Through a partner portal, Dell customers can search for the partners that will best fit their needs, based on a variety of metrics like vertical offerings and location.

Dell also recently announced its IoT Solutions Partner Program, which currently includes ISVs and is made up of three tiers – Premier, Preferred and Registered – will now include systems integrators such as Datatrend Technologies, L&T Technology Services, Action Point and Mobiliya, according to Dell.

Meanwhile, Intel has been pouring resources into its IoT Solution Alliance, which creates interoperable, secure solutions to drive efficiencies and deliver device system performance insights. In 2015, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip company also offered IoT retail specialty benefits to incent its partners to deploy IoT solutions.

"Intel's starting the conversation … they know who we're selling too and how we can expand into IoT," said one partner, who wished to remain anonymous. "It would be nice if there were more vendors driving IoT solutions or at least offering us case studies around IoT. We want vendors to help make introductions to other players in the IoT market."

Moving forward, partners stress that vendors need to focus more on being proactive in reaching out to their channel partners and keeping them aware of new IoT products and resources.

"Right now the traditional solution provider channel is not getting enough training and exposure to IoT-related technology …. I think vendors need to get out and start marketing or engaging with IT solution providers that they normally wouldn't engage with in the past [around IoT]," said Alvarez.