Do you see technology companies taking IoT directly to the customers?
Internet of Things (IoT) is more of an eco-system play, and mostly fronted by SI. Unlike previous Technology adoptions, IoT is not about just technology, it’s about the system, it’s about change management, it’s about integrating with Operational Technologies. Most importantly, IoT means a strong domain expertise needed to make sense and use of data collected by this vast sensor embedded in different aspects of the business. There is no one solution that fits all, hence technology companies will not be able to directly take a solution and address all challenges of an Enterprise or an Industry.
It’s more of a collaboration between SI, technology partners, platform players, OEMs and to a good extent the customer’s themselves, to analyse business challenges, priorities, requirements, digital journey and define RoI. The technology may contribute just about 30-40%, but defining the business priorities, process consultants, working with OEMs are crucial. Also, system integrators will be able to handle getting insights from Data for true ‘Action and Insights’, and integration possibilities with legacy and new age Digital systems, which forms the rest of the contribution.
Just to share, we at Happiest Minds are playing an SI role bringing in vast partner ecosystem of Semi, Device players, Sensors, Platform Players, Start-ups etc. We do have our in-house sales team and at the same time we get leads from our strategic ecosystem of partners as well.
Is it wise to go direct in a country like India?
No, not at all! India is a vast country with different geographical conditions and language barriers (different dialects). No vendor community can have a bandwidth that could cover a country like India. Moreover, each business problem and within that Business Priorities are different (it could be cost optimization, customer happiness, increase in revenues, new business models, etc). Next, the amount of hand holding, customization and personalisation required at the customers’ premises to best fit IoT can be managed by system integrators. Series of workshops at customer places with different stakeholders in the customer’s organization are conducted. Hence, we see SI can play a pivotal role in India. This is the age of collaboration, so both the IoT technology vendors and the system integrators along with inclusion of customers have to work together to reach and serve the customers better.
“The amount of hand holding, customisation and personalisation required at the customers’ premises to best fit IoT can be managed by system integrators.”
In fact, it is interesting to see that customers take their problem and seek solution from their old and trusted SI partner first. Most of these SIs would have strong expertise in IT systems alone, but they fail to understand the importance of hardware/device in a true IoT system, nor they bring a strong eco-system of hardware or software vendors. Customers rely on the advice of an SI to find a solution and then deliver it. Thus, we see new Age SI truly evolving as strong partners who can deliver solutions specific to customers and customer’s applications and needs.
How would you define Happiest Minds and its positioning as an SI?
At Happiest Minds, we are just not a software or technology player, we enable very customized hardware solution for our customers which could be from a large eco-system we have created, or even to actually building the specific hardware addressing the customer context. This puts us in a unique position of delivering modularised hardware as a platform including the whole IoT system at the backend. Once you understand hardware/device, you can extract and reliably take the data from this devices, and your device management which is core to your deploying and running an IoT system becomes much more efficient. We are an end-to-end IoT ecosystem SI with 50+ partners, and we consult, deliver, deploy and also manage the IoT deployment through our IoT operation centres.
“A true SI would need a complex team of Infra experts, DB experts, Security experts, Device experts, and lot of automation people who can continuously look for Automation and reduce the role of manual intervention as much as possible.”
What according to you are the best practices for SIs to be a part of this game?
The coming calendar year 2018 is expected to be the most happening year not only for IoT but also for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). And the SI community will be playing the most crucial role in this transition provided they learn and unlearn few things.
This is the Era of Mass Customization and Mass Personalization. Though, SI of yesterday has been doing integration in traditional way like an ERP system, the context here is different and often the challenges comes from sensors/ devices/ gateways who are now becoming your backbone to get data on the move. So SI has to be flexible as well to understand the real pain points of the customer too and make him part of the solution definition. This helps him build a very customized robust solution for the customers addressing both the digitalization efforts and the business priorities. An important element of IoT is that it is not a standalone system, so truly, IoT SIs would have to have tremendous knowledge to integrate with customers current and legacy systems like CRMs, ERPs, internal and external system to help them make a seamless transition in this IoT journey.
As mentioned earlier who better than SI knows the ground customer connect? The vendor/ technology community can bring the best practices from other sites and countries. But localising to address localized business challenges is key and overcoming language barriers is the advantage SI carries. Localization is not only on language, but it is all about understanding local business complexity, local rules and regulations, the end customers’ needs and habits etc. If the SI is open to learn and bring the best of the global technologies and combine with customized localisation, then there is a big play an SI can play in this digital transition.
• Not a one-time game
The technology has changed the way businesses are managed. With the team size growing, coming of new devices in the premises, all make the businesses as ever-evolving. IoT is not something which SI partner will go, deploy and stop, it’s a continued activity. IoT today cannot be deployed without a truly DevOps integrated deployments. The devices need to be managed which also increases the complexity, of a field deployment, service, maintenance, manageability, upgrades etc. So the SI for IoT has to not only manage the IT infra but the real devices on field.
“This is the age of collaboration, so both the IoT technology vendors and the system integrators along with inclusion of customers have to work together to reach and serve the customers better.”
What kind of hiring trends we see with the coming of IoT?
IoT will see an increased demand of hiring from technology side, solution architects, process consultants, domain expertise, data scientist, security experts, data analyst, and visualization. Depending on the technology stack you choose hiring would differ. A true SI would need a complex team of Infra experts, DB experts, Security experts, Device experts, and lot of automation people who can continuously look for Automation and reduce the role of manual intervention as much as possible. The Device installation, and repair/replace service still would remain a manual task, but that also is getting augmented with AR/VR technology coming in fore.
With automation, many of the recurring tasks would go off, but interesting IoT is opening a major new requirement of experts and people who understand and can play around with data, with mass personalization and Visualization appeals. In one of the major IoT deployment for a large broadband player, we reduced the manual process, by providing high level of automation. We managed around 500,000 broadband boxes with just handful of people, rather than an army of people, and the focus has now moved from mundane tasks to real value adds like customer satisfaction, on time installation, on demand field services etc.
What is the typical investment from an SI to lead the IoT deployment?
To design the right architecture, platforms and devices, SI needs to have the large labs, process consultants, data analytics people, process experts, labs, workshop and ability to understand customer problems. There is an inherent investment working with customer to do this customised implementation to address customer problems either in terms of cost optimization, downtime reduction, increased efficiency, new revenue streams and empowering people at all levels to take decisions based on data at their hand, available almost real-time.