IoT: Distributors Among First Responders

There's no need for partners to go it alone down the IoT opportunity path.

Channel Partners

March 6, 2017

5 Min Read

**Editor’s Note: Distributor Report is a recurring column featuring thought leadership from IT and cloud distributors. We’re looking for insights into evolving business models in this new era of distribution, product and technical service offerings, education and training, marketing/branding, credit and a myriad of other services.**

Tim CurranBy Tim Curran

There’s a lot of interest in the IT channel these days around Internet of Things (IoT), and why not? This burgeoning market represents a $9 billion opportunity in the U.S. for small and medium-size business (SMB) alone, according to Techaisle. And, SMB is right in the channel’s sweet spot.

So, as solution providers begin to figure out how to take advantage of IoT, and IoT vendors look to capitalize on the SMB opportunity, both sides should know that help is available. IT distributors have invested millions of dollars to develop IoT relationships and solutions ahead of the demand curve, ensuring that that business is nurtured and fulfilled.

“Aggregate, automate, advocate,” is how Greg Dixon, CTO of distributor ScanSource, describes distribution’s IoT mission.

“Our job is to watch and carefully prepare, so our channel can participate in IoT. If we do nothing, the market will go past us — and it won’t apologize,” Dixon said. “We’re watching closely, looking for near-term use cases that our channel can make money at.”{ad}

IoT will continue to bring challenges and opportunity to distributors and channel partners, said Kirk Robinson, senior vice president, go-to-market, for Ingram Micro. “By working together [with vendors and channel partners] to identify our common goals, we become stronger, more strategic and are able to help channel partners deliver the service experience businesses want and need to realize their potential and exceed their goals,” he said.

What Distributors Do Best

In many regards, distributors’ IoT strategies are not so different from how they’ve developed practices around many other “hot” technologies in the past, such as cloud, big data, virtualization and more. Collectively, distributors have always kept close tabs on what’s coming next and helped ensure that the latest, most innovative technologies had a chance to succeed. Why would IoT be any different?

Of course, GTDC members and other distributors aren’t operating in a vacuum. Their investments in IoT are also a correlation of vendors’ recognition that the distribution channel is the most cost-effective and efficient route to develop the SMB market through solution providers.

“Distribution to us represents trusted customer relationships. We could never have the size or leverage that a distributor has with its customers,” said Michael Campbell, CEO of MachineShop, a Boston-based developer of IoT middleware.

A GTDC survey last year revealed that more than 85 percent of vendors rate IoT as …


… a “huge” or “significant” opportunity for the channel. In addition, 72 percent of vendor channel executives said they’re already offering or plan to offer IoT solutions through distribution.

What’s spurring this movement? A massive increase in the number of connected devices, according to Gartner. By 2020, about 20.8 billion devices will be connected, up from 6.4 billion last year. More than 5 million new “things” get connected every day.

Getting Ready for IoT

Meanwhile, solution providers stand to benefit too. Distributors are helping IoT vendors – many of them new to the channel – develop appropriate partner programs and training/enablement initiatives. Today, many solution providers aren’t equipped with the resources or skills to test and build IoT solutions across a wide range of vertical markets.

“It’s going to be a big play for them and for us,” said Sam Ruggeri, president of Advanced Vision Technology Group, a Hauppauge, New York-based solution provider, told the GTDC. “We’re already thinking a lot about it, no question about it, but there’s no way we’d be able to sort through all the vendors and build solutions without the help of distributors.”{ad}

When Tech Data announced its acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions, the press release noted its intention to “partner on delivering world class IoT end-to-end solutions to the market.” Now that the acquisition has closed, you can bet IoT initiatives are in development.

In the GTDC “Insights into 2017″ research report, Rich Hume, COO of Tech Data, illustrates his company’s interest by citing a favorite example of IoT technology in action: vineyards that are able to measure soil content and humidity through sensors in the ground.

“As more vendors and partners start thinking about selling IoT, remember that you have to do it in the language of the vineyard. You have to describe the business value of your solution in the context of an industry vertical,” Hume said.

Indeed, it’s time for solution providers to start initiating IoT conversations with their customers. If you’re unsure of where to start, or of what to talk about, chat first with your favorite distribution partner to help get up to speed.

Ask your distributor what IoT solutions they currently carry, particularly around a vertical market or a technology you specialize in. The amazing thing about IoT is that the solutions we can build are limited only by our imagination. The channel’s core value has long been to provide technology solutions to help customers solve business problems. Slowly, that’s changing. Now we’re helping customers realize benefits they never even knew were possible. That’s the potential for IoT, and, that’s the opportunity for all of us.

Tim Curran is the CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC), responsible for the strategic direction of the international trade association that represents members with more than $130 billion in annual sales.

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