Solving the challenge of partnering in the Internet of Things has become a major puzzle for even the most skilled alliance executives. It’s a complex Rubik’s Cube of possibilities with multiple cross-industry, interlinking combinations.
Take, for example, Joan Meltzer, CSAP, IBM alliance executive for Twitter and former smarter cities go-to-market leader at IBM Analytics, and a 36-year veteran at IBM Corp.; Mary Beth Hall, director of product development for IoT at Verizon, where she has worked for the past 20 years; Tony DeSpirto, CSAP, managing director of strategic accounts at Schneider Electric. These seasoned alliance leaders manipulated the Rubik’s Cube in a panel discussion moderated by Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, entitled “Capturing the Value of IoT” at the March 1-4 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. Here are some snippets from their provocative conversation:
Joan: If you are looking for answers, you are in the wrong session. We are all good at managing our jobs one-on-one. If there is any area that companies can’t do it alone, it’s IoT. It’s very complex. We still need the discipline of alliance management and strategy, and we still need to think value creation and capture to put out the whole value chain—it’s how the partners are going to make money.
Tony: Schneider Electric is focused on the industrial IoT. We are in the infrastructure of everything. What we are struggling with now is how do we make money in IoT? We see value in data, but it needs to be processed through analytics. How to value the partners you have is part of the equation.
Mary Beth: Verizon has been a Telecom business for the last 20 years and is now shifting to a technology company. I am managing our ThingSpace platform [designed to simplify the development and launch of IoT applications]. How many people have an Apple watch or app for phone tracking health? That’s one example of how Verizon is making money. Think about a smart sneaker, a sensor in a sneaker that tracks cadence and whether you are hydrated. How do we proliferate that? Is Nike willing to allow us to put partners in their ecosystem that were competitors? Fitbit and MyFitnessPal are allowing potential competitors into that space. We as thought leaders in that space need to adapt to that. How do we do that? There’s not one player at the table any more, there are six or seven, and that is really changing the way we market things.
Tony: We in this room are unencumbered by that to a certain degree. As alliance managers, we have an ability and obligation to seek out these new business models. Thinking of how we will make money in two or ten years, the ideas are not going to come from executive management. They are going to come from peers in the room. You need to say “yes,” and figure out how it will be done. For most executives, it’s an uncomfortable thing to turn that “yes” into a repeatable model.
Joan: It’s like sitting at a table with an elevator and escalator company, and working with them together. The elevator manufacturer is about maintenance. With IoT, the elevator can connect with the escalator, and that’s a new revenue stream. The functionality evolves into our revenue stream.
Mary Beth: We need to put it together for the customer. That is some of the challenge we have seen at Verizon. Partners and customers require treading on new ground for partnership models with the unique needs of customers in mind. For example, there is a winery on the West Coast. They need to be able to fertilize the ground. We are helping provide data for the soil. It’s not a hard thing for us as technologists, but it is for farmers who are not used to be in that data space. And they can in turn sell it to other wineries.
Tony: How many of your companies have IoT initiatives? Our senior leadership is thinking about how they can make their numbers today, so it’s all the more incumbent upon us to blaze that trail and show them where that value is. The fundamentals of partnering don’t change. It’s still basic blocking and tackling. The people you are talking with might change, and the executive management of a company might need more partnering intelligence.
Mary Beth: In terms of driving change at Verizon, I am in the product role. When the product was fully ready for customers, we would launch. Now we can’t do that. We’re moving from a command-and-control leadership to a more servant leadership. I’m in the product and new business group, and you’re going to see some cool stuff coming out of Verizon that you haven’t seen before.
Joan: You need to figure out the whole chain to deliver the solution. We started to see that in the cloud. But there is a gap in the solution where we don’t always have access to the marketplace.
Mary Beth: Sometimes it’s about looking at a new market in a new way. Putting things together in new ways to get leadership to buy into it. Show them a little bit of what it looks like.
Jan: The fundamentals of partnering are the same, but how do you keep the same with six to seven partners? How do you make sure everyone is getting the value?
Tony: The concept doesn’t change. I believe that when you try to get six to seven people to agree, it won’t happen. There will always be someone who will win and lose because of the complexity. When things are tough, I go back to the fundamentals, like let’s get together at least once a quarter.
Mary Beth: We had to break the barrier between legally what we felt we could do and what the market was asking for. We said “We are going to open everything up, we are breaking down barriers.” We put in governance around the partners in that space, and they are partners that are reselling that service. But the complexity in IoT is still there. We are desperately trying to simplify it. We are not there yet.
Joan: We are all about repeatability, but you have to have assets that are repeatable. With smart cities, we are able to package things up and periscope it. I expect the same thing to happen with IoT. But you may not be able to resell that solution. I hope next year we will be able to talk about repeatability because none of us can afford to be in an on-and-off business.
Tony: We need to get our leaders out of the comfort zone. That’s what we get paid for.
Joan: You need a really solid project manager who will require everyone to come together. Ask what’s hot? Healthcare, the automotive industry, airplanes—anything with asset management is very hot.
Tony: With the industrial portion of manufacturing, the technology on the factory floor is 30 to 40 years old. That’s slowly opening up. There is money to be made in the data that is involved in manufacturing. That is a data rich environment.
Mary Beth: Simplify the complexities with your partners, be innovative, and finally, don’t be afraid to go after something you think is there.