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Collaborating at Digital Transformation Speed: Report from the ASAP Tech Partner Forum, Part Two

Posted By ohn W. DeWitt, Monday, June 19, 2017

When I think of digitization, disruptive technologies, and the blistering pace of change, I understand that it impacts companies of all sizes. But, like many folks I’m guessing, I have this image in my head of nimble hotshot startups headed by 26-year-olds causing all the disruption and driving all the innovation. But of course, that’s not the case at all—tech industry giants like Cisco and Intel, and leading storage solution players such as NetApp, “aren’t young companies,” noted Erna Arnesen, CSAP—NetApp is 25 years old, Cisco 30, and Intel 40. But they are in the thick of driving digital transformation through ecosystem partnering with a diversity of players, from startups to decades-old tech firms to an increasing number of vertical industry operational technology companies.

We were talking with Arnesen last Thursday, the morning after the inaugural ASAP Tech Partner Forum in Santa Clara, Calif. (see Part One of our coverage http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/278261/Collaborating-at-Digital-Transformation-Speed-Report-from-the-ASAP-Tech-Partner-Forum-Part-One). On the conference line with me and ASAP Media Managing Editor Cynthia B. Hanson, Arnesen was joined by Gregory Burge, CSAP, a consultant and immediate past president of the Silicon Valley Chapter, Citrix alliance executive and current chapter president Ana Brown, CA-AM, and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, and Ann Trampas, CSAP, both of Phoenix Consulting Group.  Where we left the conference recap, Arnesen and colleagues had just described the very effective opening presentation by two NVIDIA executives.

Now we were discussing the three established tech leaders represented in her panel discussion focused on “Strategies You Need to Partner Everywhere” the previous morning. Arnesen, a familiar face in Silicon Valley and ASAP for many years, moderated a discussion among Steen Graham, general manager, IoT ecosystem/channels, Internet of Things Group, Intel Corporation, Maria Olson, CSAP, VP of global and strategic alliances at NetApp, and Andres Sintes, Cisco’s global senior director, partner GTM, digital transformation & IoT. The three talked about how their large organizations are making key strategic shifts and embracing “the importance of these large-scale, multi-partner, broader ecosystems,” Arnesen said.

One “back to the future” theme that emerged: verticalization driven by engagement with operational technology (OT) companies. The panel delved into the shift required to move beyond partnering with traditional partners. “As the Internet of Things [IoT] and digitization have transformed partnering, the operational technology players who didn’t come from the IT world are really the players that we are engaging with IoT and a lot of these other disruptive technologies,” Arnesen explained.

Panelists emphasized that “multi-partner engagement is key because of the complexity and size of digital transformation solutions,” Watenpaugh commented—and this raises many strategic questions for companies and their strategy and partnering leaders to sort through now. “To do these at scale, you’re going to market as an ecosystem of partners. The verticalization discussion was interesting—are companies really verticalizing? The operational technology companies have specific industry expertise but often lack the IT expertise. So are we going back to the future with verticalization—for example, with vertically oriented VARs [value-added resellers]? Are horizontal partners going away or rendered less relevant because we are leading with vertical applications?”

Definitive answers are still being determined—but even amidst unprecedented change, the “80/20 rule” applies. “The panel emphasized that you’ve still got to focus on your bread-and-butter [that drives] 80 percent of revenue while you’re doing these innovative partnerships. In the midst of SaaS [Software-as-a-Service], you still need the edge devices, the sensors, and analytics. And you need to engineer the business processes and human interface—if there is one,” Watenpaugh said. “This requires tight integration and coordination of these components, and it needs to be simplified so that it is digestible and repeatable.”

Burge added that he was intrigued when Steen Graham brought up an interesting new concept—“the IoT aggregator”—in the context of this discussion. The aggregator bundles these solutions so they can be deployed repeatedly and at scale.

Many of the themes continued into the next presentation by Karen Dougherty, vice president of channel and alliances at GE Digital, Brown recalled.  Dougherty’s presentation, “Building a Thriving Ecosystem: GE Digital's Partner Journey,” walked attendees through recent developments at a company that predates the 20th Century. “I thought her presentation was super strong—really effective,” Brown noted. “I liked it for two reasons. At events like ASAP’s Tech Partner Forum, I find it really valuable to learn about what multinational conglomerates, like GE, are actually doing. We learned from Karen Dougherty how they’ve taken a 125-year-old company and pivoted to the conceptual era of software-defined business intelligence and big data analytics with Predix, a cloud-based PaaS [Platform-as-a-Service] that enables industrial-scale analytics—asset performance management [APM]—and has been a key component in building and managing the company’s ecosystem partnerships.”

Arnesen chimed in to agree with Brown’s assessment. “She gave us a lot of information. Her division alone is 28,000 employees at GE Digital, and hiring another 20,000 by end of year. … GE built Predix, this platform of its own, and calls it a ‘purpose-built platform for industry.’ Consider that they are driving a lot of the change in traditional industrial companies. They called it the ‘digital industrial blueprint.’ It takes big players with deep pockets to do this,” Arnesen noted.

“Karen Dougherty’s presentation was so rich, talking about enabling productivity around industrial assets using Predix, which interacts with physical assets—asset performance management and operations optimization providing a way to connect machines, data, and people,” Brown continued. “She shared a real-world renewable energy example involving wind turbines, using the capabilities of the software to predict that something’s going to go wrong—an example using an industrial asset that will be more and more relevant in the next few years because of the worldwide efforts to combat climate change. Dougherty was crisp and, from tech perspective, so interesting,” she enthused.

Dougherty also touched on the impact of all the data now being collected via the industrial Internet, noted Trampas. “In her Schindler example, they can now answer the question, ‘How many people are there on the escalator at Union Station at the middle of the day?’ And they can sell this data, which is a new business for people like Schindler,” Trampas added.

At this point, we have only gotten to lunch—this just completes our recap of the morning’s presentations. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part One of ASAP Media’s recap of the June 7, 2017 ASAP Tech Partner Forum at http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/278261/Collaborating-at-Digital-Transformation-Speed-Report-from-the-ASAP-Tech-Partner-Forum-Part-One. Stay tuned for more ASAP Media coverage of the conference, including the forthcoming Part Three of this series, where we’ll discuss topics and insights from afternoon sessions, including “Customer Experience Is the New Competitive Battleground” presented by Tiffani Bova of Salesforce. 

Tags:  Andres Sintes  asset performance management  broader ecosystems  Cisco  digitization  disruptive technologies  ecosystem  industrial Internet  Intel  Internet of Things  IoT  Maria Olson  multi-partner engagement  NetApp  operations optimization  partnering  partners  Steen Graham  strategic shifts  verticalizing 

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