GE Digital Pivots Industrial IoT Sales Focus From Platform To IoT Apps -- And Looks To Partners As Sales Engine

GE Digital has a resounding message for its channel partners as the company rejiggers its sales strategy around the industrial Internet of Things – focus on the IoT apps, not the platform.

Kevin Ichhpurani, executive vice president of global ecosystem and channels at GE Digital, and corporate officer of GE, told CRN during GE’s Minds and Machines conference in San Francisco last week that channel partners will have more success developing and selling applications around IoT, as opposed to grappling with the long and complex sales cycle of the GE Predix IoT platform itself.

’We’re seeing significant growth in our partner revenue – a several hundred percent increase – and we’ve really made some significant pivots in our program,’ he said. ’We’ve worked with our partners to take an apps-led strategy, so leading with applications powered by the platform, as opposed to leading with the platform.’

[Related: GE Digital Channel Executive: 'No Other Company Has Built A Partner Ecosystem This Broad']

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Predix Cloud, designed specifically for industrial data and analytics as a Platform as a Service, enables operators to use machine data faster and more efficiently. But GE wants its channel sales strategy to revolve not around this platform, but around the applications built on Predix – which include solutions for asset management, operations management and business management.

’The problem with leading with a platform is that customers don’t know what to do with that without a use case, so we’re leading with our sales motions, together with our partners APM, ServiceMax and our industry apps, powered by our enablement platform,’ said Ichhpurani.

GE has been placing significant investments around developing and extending its industrial application ecosystem -- the company said in October that its industrial IoT platform, Predix, will now be available for use with development of apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad via the new Predix software development kit.

The Boston-based company last week also introduced Predix Studio, a development system that helps companies build and scale their industrial applications and simplify the development process. Predix Studio, which will be available in the first quarter of 2018, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate the workload behind creating industrial IoT apps, so that app development becomes more seamless and easier for operational technology operators with domain expertise but no coding experience.

Andy Sivaraman, senior vice president at Paramus, N.J.-based GE partner ITC Infotech, agreed that applications create a far easier and less complex method for approaching customers in the industrial space with IoT solutions.

’For any partner, trying to sell an IoT platform is a very tall order … it’s very hard to sell a platform, there’s a much longer sales cycle,’ he said. ’It’s easier to create apps on the platform and sell that a solution, telling customers that we have an app for asset management. Especially because many customers have already decided to use a platform, whether its GE or PTC’s platform, and want us to be agnostic.’

Looking to the year ahead, Ichhpuani said partners can couple app development with their own domain expertise in vertical markets to help GE power ahead in the industrial IoT market.

’Take your unique domain expertise and extend our platform, and work with us to build a business case for the client,’ he said. ’We look at our channel partner community as a way to get greater scale and footprint in the community.’