Building An IoT Practice: Partners Need To Start Small And Simple

Solution providers need to deliver a business outcome to successfully sell the Internet of Things to customers. And Ingram Micro is there to help every step of the way, making sure partners understand the key considerations involved.


The allure of the Internet of Things for businesses is not about the technology itself—but about the problem that is being solved.

That’s according to Eric Hembree, director of IoT at Ingram Micro, who said solution providers need to deliver a business outcome in order to sell IoT successfully.

“IoT is all about the business discussion, not about the technology, so understanding that with our partners and having them communicate that [is really important],” Hembree said.

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“We can also help facilitate those discussions with the end users. [We’re trying] to really understand what they are trying to solve for. What is the business problem that exists today, and how can we leverage IoT solutions to solve for that?”

Ingram Micro recently hosted its first IoT Summit in September, an event focused on helping solution providers deliver better IoT experiences to their customers. Hembree said starting small and simple with the Internet of Things and building up to more complex solutions has been a catalyst for growth among partners who have successfully developed that line of business.

“Our approach is all about enabling the channel community around the opportunities that exist with IoT and making sure that they understand all of the key considerations of an IoT project and how Ingram Micro can help orchestrate and facilitate all those different areas,” he said. “So we expect our partners not to be able to do everything—it’s too much of an ask with how broad of a subject area IoT is.”

Mark Essayian, CEO of KME Systems, Lake Forest, Calif., has built his own IoT practice leveraging the distributor’s resources. He said there is no better partner to have on your team than Ingram Micro.

“Once Ingram Micro decides to enter a market, whether it’s IoT or any market, they’ve spent I don’t know how many millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to investigate that market and determine that it’s going to be profitable,” he said. “They help you build not only an understanding of what IoT might do, but also what you need to do to be successful from a business perspective, from a financial perspective, what you need to do in the sales world.”

Partners just jumping into the market have to consider a number of solution elements, Hembree said, including deployment of the device, integration with the network, dashboard creation, data management as well as security, with much of it specialized by industry. That’s why Ingram Micro has invested in creating its own expertise around those areas to help partners navigate their entrance into IoT, he said.

“It’s a lot for a single partner to take on,” he said. “We weren’t the first in the market to roll out a dedicated IoT focus, and that was kind of deliberate and by design. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t come in presuming to know what the channel, or even our vendor partners, needed from distribution in the space. We wanted to do a little due diligence internally first and have some creative sessions, have micro sessions with some vendors and some partners, to really understand where they found success around IoT and where they saw failure around IoT.”

Research firm Gartner forecasts that IoT deployment in the enterprise and the automotive segment is expected to grow to 5.8 billion endpoints next year, a 21 percent jump from 2019, which is an opportunity that solution providers should not wait for.

“If our partners take that sit-and-wait approach, they’re missing out on an opportunity to generate money,” Hembree said. “There are solutions designed for today. There are incremental ones that they can get to today. There is a business that they can build today, and it really just needs to start small. Engage with our team. We’re not asking them to jump off a cliff. Jump off of a chair. Get some base hits. The base hits add up to runs.” Hembree said to help give partners a push, Ingram Micro has been running business intelligence on its partners’ customers to help them better see the openings in their market. He said it doesn’t take long before a “light bulb” goes off and the partner sees the “pull-through” opportunities.

“We’ll say, ‘You sell a lot of access cameras right now. Have you layered in the software analytics portion that can detect traffic, or heat mapping, or loss prevention, on top of that existing hardware that’s already out there?’” he said. “So a lot of times partners are already selling a couple of the IoT components, but they’re missing one key component and that can be a software piece, or a platform piece or an analytics piece. It really rounds out an IoT solution.”

KME Systems’ Essayian said there is more to selling IoT than moving a box. He said it is a specialized field that requires education and investment, which Ingram Micro has ready to deliver in order to help its partners break into the market. “There’s nothing wrong with selling a Nest thermostat. But selling one doesn’t make you an IoT provider. What does is investing in people and your process and marketing and sales. We have started with all of that, thanks to Ingram,” he said. “We went from having no practice six months ago to having a practice today. We’re crawling with them. I think pretty soon we’ll be walking, and certainly by mid-2020 we’ll be running.”