Q&A: Schneider Electric Worldwide Channel Chief Discusses Digital Transformation And Building An IoT Channel

Schneider Electric Channel Chief: "Digitize Or Die"

As more manufacturing companies are looking to the Internet of Things to help cut costs and driving efficiency, Schneider Electric wants its partners to get on the forefront of IoT through its EcoXpert Partner Program.

Nicolas Windpassinger, the worldwide channel chief at Schneider Electric, has been working over the past year to better enable partners to tap into opportunities around IoT. Windpassinger's recently-released book, "Digitize or Die," dissects how partners and customers can successfully prepare for the influx of new technologies and business models that IoT is enabling.

Windpassinger talked with CRN about the opportunities around IoT and how Schneider Electric is positioning partners to tap into these opportunities.

What kinds of partners does Schneider Electric work with? Are these partners on the IT side or are they more experienced with operational technology (OT)?

As part of our partner program, we have systems integrators, contractors, and other kinds of partners that go across the spectrum of all of Schneider Electric. We have a lot of operational technology channel partners, but we want to enable them in IoT and transform our overall partner program into an IoT channel.

Today, in the operational technology world we're seeing new opportunities in building management, energy management, and power management for IoT. A few years ago I was in the IT world and looking for markets that would really be transformed or hit by the disruption of the market – and because of IoT, now is the time when this digitization of the market can happen.

Schneider Electric is undergoing a complete transformation of its products and channel to keep up with IoT. I'm in charge of IoT on the channel side. That’s an important transformational aspect – it's not about technology, it's about transforming partners to expand their expertise.

What role do you see the channel playing in IoT?

When people think of IoT, technology is only a small portion of the whole equation. The ecosystem and the channel are just as important, if not more, than the technology side. If you don’t take into account your channel, and you merely bring your best technology to the table, it does nothing because there's no one there to install it. That's going to involve both the IT guys and the OT guys on the other side of the fence.

In IT and OT, we want to figure out how we help our partners and educate them around cybersecurity, as well as help them engineer and commission products when there's a network. It really is a transformation from the product side but also from the channel side.

Because IoT impacts both IT and OT in the industrial market, how are you working with sides?

We're currently working on different aspects – we're working on the technology side, by having an in-depth discussion with manufacturers to embed software into products to help our partners better engineer and commission and be more competent in bringing IT and OT together.

We want to translate both the IT and OT sides to benefit the end user from a technology perspective. On the partners' side, we're making sure we built up the right framework from an education perspective.

What are you doing to train partners and prepare them for IoT opportunities in the future?

Schneider Electric has EcoXpert University – we want to focus on how we train and help our partners to educate themselves on our technologies. This is the core of the transformation of the channel to IoT centric. We want to help partners grow in the IoT space.

What specific IoT services can partners offer to end customers?

I think there are a few different things. The main thing is connecting assets that were not connected. IoT can connect electrical panels, or building management systems. The first thing partners can focus on is connecting those assets, extracting the data from them, building value around that data and enabling better-optimized energy consumption. It's really about helping our partners extract more values from products and technologies.

For instance, with electrical breakers, you can connect it to the internet, see your energy consumption, use it and adapt it to reduce energy consumption while at the same time reducing your carbon footprint.

What are customers looking for from your channel partners in terms of IoT?

For our partners, IoT is a way to build more services and bring in OPEX revenue. it’s truly an opportunity to create new revenue streams. Connectivity by itself doesn’t do anything, but partners can add value to the data they extract and add services and expand products around that.

From the customer side, end users are looking for well-trained partners who understand the market, and are able to explain the value proposition. Some customers are receptive to IoT, it really depends on the customer and use case.