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Packaged IoT Solutions Can Help VARs Get Past Pilot Paralysis, Survey Says

'The more that these are packaged, the more that these are proven, the more that these are ready to go, hopefully what that allows is to cut down on the proof of concepts,' IPED senior consultant Mark Williams says.

Many solution providers struggle to get their IoT projects past the pilot stage, but an increasing number of them point to packaged solutions as a reliable and repeatable way to reach production, according to a new report that surveyed value-added resellers and system integrators working in the field.

The new report by IPED Consulting, the consulting arm of CRN parent The Channel Company, found that 50 percent of surveyed solution providers say that less than half of their IoT deployments reach production while a quarter of such projects begin with a proof of concept, or pilot phase.

[Related: Futurist Ian Khan To MSPs: Trust Is Central To IoT, AI, Blockchain]

Speaking at The Channel Company's IoTConnex virtual conference on Wednesday Mark Williams, the senior IPED consultant who led the study, said that some solution providers can take advantage of the complexity of IoT projects to differentiate themselves in the market with custom offerings.

But that complexity is also what can stall projects, Williams said, which is one of the reasons why 60 percent of surveyed solution providers said they see packaged solutions as important or critical to their IoT practices moving forward. The other reason these projects fail to reach production is the lack of a return on investment.

"The more that these are packaged, the more that these are proven, the more that these are ready to go, hopefully what that allows is to cut down on the proof of concepts, because ultimately, these have been proven to some point, to some extent in the past," he said.

Williams pointed to Intel's IoT Market Ready Solutions as a good example of how a vendor can provide channel partners with solutions consisting of hardware and software that have already been validated.

The IPED consultant said one of the most interesting comments he heard in his research came from a solution provider working in both IT and operational technology who said that their job "is to solve business problems for [their] customer" and not get stuck working on "science projects."

"I thought that was a great description of how what they mean by packaged offerings," Williams said. "What it means is that there is a way that solution providers can go back to doing what they do best, which is around integrating, implementing, configuring and installing as opposed to having to figure this out every single time with different customers."

Meanwhile, most of the solution providers IPED surveyed said that most of their IoT opportunities are found with existing customers as opposed to new customers where there is no relationship.

"The reality is, because of the requirement of business consulting and going deep within the clients, most partners and most solution providers really are focused on that trusted relationship and being able to work with them," Williams said.

These kinds of customer engagements often require multiple solution providers working together, including those on IT and operational technology, or OT. "One of the most critical aspects to success is a being able to work with others in front of customers," Williams said.

While IT solution providers and OT solution providers have different business models, they are each starting to invest in complimentary areas as they begin sharing IoT opportunities, the IPED research found. For instance, while most revenue for OT solution providers comes from consulting, their second revenue driver is coming through the resale of IT hardware and software, which is the main source of revenue for IT solution providers. On the other hand, managed services continue to be an important driver for IT solution providers while it remains low on the list for the OT side.

"We found that by cross-pollinating and working together, many of the partners, the solution providers are starting to recognize and see insights into how the other side is working and starting to make investments in some of those areas," Williams said.

Ray Miciek, executive vice president of sales at Aquitas Solutions, a Roswell, Ga.-based systems integrator that provides connected maintenance solutions, said packaged IoT solutions have been an important part of the company's go-to-market strategy.

"Generally, that's what the market seems to like if we can hone in on the right use case, package that and then expand out," he said, because PTC's ThingWorx platform allows that to happen.

However, Miciek said, the company also provides value-added services when a customer doesn't use IBM's Maximo asset management software, which Aquitas resells, and wants to use a competitor's product to connect back into the ThingWorx platform.

"Our value add is understanding how to configure ThingWorx," he said.

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