April 5, 2012

The Next 20 Billion Node Survey Update: Operations Executives Matter. A Lot.

As published in CW Weekly 3.15.12

You must obsess about understanding operations executives’ priorities, or you will not be very successful in most connected device markets. The latest returns from the Connected World/INEX Advisors survey, The Next 20 Billion Nodes, are providing a few data points to support that bold assertion.

Thus far, C-level/Vice President or Director/Manager titles make up 54% and 35%, respectively, of the survey results. These people tend to have budget, authority, and need. Among supplier respondents, 73% are sales/marketing personnel.

But, what is most interesting is a look into the functional responsibilities of the respondents from the user/deployer community. To be clear, more responses are needed, but, the people that are taking the survey to date are the right people.

Primary Functional Roles (Titles) of User/Deployer Survey Respondents (as of 03/12/12)

But there is something more interesting in here than just respondent demographics. When asked about their perception of the most powerful impacts of their solutions, nearly 65% of suppliers stated the most powerful and valuable impacts of their solutions were on their customers’ customers. And who has more impact on the core value delivered in a customer relationship than operations?

During the past decade, and more acutely during the past four years, operations executives have emerged as more powerful buy-side influencers in a number of B2B technology markets. Their involvement seems to be playing out in a number of connected device markets as well.

Examples include:

1. Lower risk projects—smaller footprint, staged scope rollout, lower budget, shorter schedule

2. Greater intensity on multiple financial metrics for projects—ROI, payback period, and total cost of ownership. Note: These do not describe the same thing.

3. Larger participation among operations executives—in many cases with formal authority, in many cases … not so much.

If suppliers are pursuing market development strategies that emphasize value added to customers’ customers as a core value proposition, they will need to engage the people most responsible for delivering to customers. Those people are operations people; not exclusively, but, with as much primacy as any other group.  If suppliers are going to engage operations executives, they should know their approaches tend to be more conservative than IT professionals and about as conservative as finance executives, sometimes more conservative.

What are the implications of all this? 

1. If you are a CEO, CFO or CIO (Chief Information Officer), working with a creative COO (Chief Operating Officer) or operations executive(s), make sure you make time on your calendar, and in your agenda, to study the scalability and extensibility of the solutions they championed during the past four years.

2. If you are a connected solutions sales or marketing executive, make sure that you sort the tension that will exist between (a) the likelihood of extending, and perhaps complicating sales cycles in the near term, and (b) the greater potential for deeper, more authentic, lasting, larger, and more profitable relationships with customers, and their operations executives that you will come to know well.

Strong participation is coming from the supplier community, but more input is needed from the user/deployer community. If a broad collection of users can invest 10 minutes in the survey, then it will create strong evidence for the latest assertion from INEX Advisors: There are invaluable lessons to be learned from operations executives and their teams that found new ways to innovate themselves out of the recession despite massive reductions in force and budget cuts.

The advice of INEX Advisors is to embrace the ‘skunk-works’ successes of the operations executives during the past five years. Their most recent experiences could be your most powerful source of execution inspiration.

Your help is needed in order to make this survey as valuable as possible. Please invest 10 minutes to share your ideas. Take the survey. Access the results. Make better decisions.

April 5, 2012