October 5, 2012

Bridging Transformation and Incrementalism: A Key To Growth In M2M/ IoT and Connectivity Markets

One of the key deliverables of an INEX partnership with our clients is that we help our clients build bridges.  Bridges that bring together formerly disconnected ideas, strategies, tactics, stakeholders, value propositions, opportunities.   In this post we share a little on our perspective as it relates to bridge building as it relates to growth in M2M, IoT and connected device markets.

Vision:  Tonic Only

Vision is such an alluring term in leadership discussions we have today.  It is perhaps the only common link between legitimate political elections, blasphemous radical religious movements and TBD tech startup trends.  Leaders with vision.

Yet at least in tech markets, there is a rumbling mantra:  ‘You can’t feed your family with ‘transformation’.

Nonetheless.  Markets require someone to guide the hurtling blue marble.  And, so we have tech evangelists.  Analysts.  Visionary CEOs.  And all the good, bad and ugly that comes with it.

I will put a stake in the ground here on vision:  We cannot sell transformation – the required follow-up to vision when we are asked ‘and?’ –  but we must share it.  It is necessary, but not sufficient.  Even when a brilliant current product lineup accompanies a brilliant vision, something is missing.

There is too much uncertainty in too many markets, with too much at stake for most sane managers to throw caution to the wind, or ‘toss the pig’ as some bilingual English-French speakers mixing metaphors would say.   In other words, you need to create a whole new context for the flying pig to be truth.

Often, transformation requires extensive overhead to deliver definition, evidence, distribution, acceptance and adoption of a new context. This is a barrier to M2M adoption.

Point Solutions:  A Primary Path to Now/Near Term ROI

ROI is another dominant theme in virtually all of the market intelligence that we conduct at INEX – and we are conducting A LOT.   Since January of this year, we have surveyed – web, telephone, 1-1 in person, small group on-site – nearly 2,000 qualified specifiers and buyers of M2M/ IoT and connected device solutions.

They all like suppliers with vision.  They appreciate products that embody that vision.  But they need for Now-term (<12 month) and near-term (12-24 month) ROI.

And often, but not always, now- or near-term ROI requirements translate into simpler, smaller, lower-risk projects.  Point solutions.  Sometimes they translate into incremental innovations defining ‘new’ platforms.

At INEX, we believe that the point solution phenomenon that has dominated so many mission critical tech markets – and indeed is the business model of consumer electronics – is the bonded pair of that other major trend in consumer, commercial, industrial, infrastructure and maybe – just maybe – national security technology markets:  platforms.

The problem with point solutions, or incremental enhancements to platforms in mission critical markets – according to buyers and sellers in those markets – is that often, they are ‘just not that compelling.’  There is too much competition for too few dollars chasing too few authentic ROI opportunities.  Point solutions get lost in the noise; can be highly unprofitable for suppliers due to the project management associated with deploying them; can risk ROI value propositions due to their narrow footprint and support for other proprietary, or standard, platforms.

Too often, a point solution business model reinforces a high overhead transaction-based business model, not a strategic engagement one. Another barrier to M2M adoption.

So how are a number of M2M/ Internet of Things markets exhibiting such strong demand and robust revenue growth?

A Third Way:  Selling Bridges

Successful suppliers share their vision; sell their bridges; and deliver point solutions.

At INEX, we have developed a number of tools specifically designed to help clients build those bridges.  One of them is a simple conceptual functional model of M2M/ IoT and connected device markets that we call ‘The Continuum’.

It proposes a simple idea:  Trillions of dollars of the global economy rides on assets, inventories and processes that are essentially black holes to the organizations participating in the global economy.  And while the term ‘glass pipeline’ is already old enough to vote in 50 states, it remains more vision than reality in many parts of the economy.

Retailers still do not know where a significant amount of their merchandise is once it leaves the DC.

Operators of many transportation fleets are still unable to see many of their assets once they leave the motor pool because they have not been shown the value of that vision.

Utilities and infrastructure managers – at least outside the smart grid/ digital meter space – still need to pile into trucks in order to learn anything of value about their remote assets.

And these examples say nothing about the ability to change the status of those assets, the inventories/ processes they are managing, or the ambient environments within which they operate.

These are temporary conditions.  The days are coming across a number of applications within any number of market sectors, segments, niches or splinters, when bridges will be built to help connect vision with point solution; asset with operator; data with value.   But that is a series of technology development and business model conversations for other blog posts.

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October 5, 2012