(NOTE: This story was originally posted to CRN.com Nov. 2.)
If you've been wondering whether the Internet of Things would be a welcome addition to your offerings, there's new research that should convince you to join the party.
The IoT market is perhaps more lucrative and complicated than many once thought, a study by ABI Research found. And as such, vendors are becoming more strategic in expanding their partner programs to loop VARs and system integrators into their IoT strategies, ABI says.
Ryan Harbison, research analyst at ABI Research, told CRN that IoT channel partner programs are evolving to become more strategic for both the vendors and VARs.
"IoT partner programs are critical, as supplier diversity and offer complexity is not lessening and no one company can deliver a complete end-to-end IoT solution," he said. "The first time I looked at the market, about a year and a half ago, partner programs were more of a certification – but partners weren't getting any value. Now, these programs have evolved to drive IoT solutions and become more strategic."
Today, many vendors are creating partner programs around their Internet of Things offerings – but many channel partners are still scratching their heads and wondering where to begin.
According to a CRN survey of 241 solution providers, almost 49 percent of respondents said they're seeing too little partner enablement from vendors to help them capitalize on IoT opportunities, while only 24 percent said they were seeing the right amount of partner enablement. This is changing, said Harbison, as successful vendors begin to focus on several new capabilities in their partner programs, including specialized training and sales support, certification programs, co-marketing and brand management and revenue sharing.
But another important feature that the channel needs from partner programs are networking events, he stressed, particularly as the channel needs to work with multiple vendors to deploy Internet of Things solutions.
"Vendors need to be careful about who they align their brands with … they need to host networking events for partners to make sure that members in their ecosystem complement their core business function," he said. "If you have two larger vendors working together, partners could be using hardware services from one company and analytics tools from another."
ABI Research highlighted two vendors that have expanded their partner programs and are successfully working with channel partners – Dell and Intel. Dell, which is expanding its partner program ecosystem with its series of IoT gateways, is aiming to double its program member roster by the end of 2016. Through a partner portal, Dell customers can search for the partners that will best fit their needs, based on a variety of metrics like vertical offerings and location. Dell recently announced its IoT Solutions Partner Program, which currently includes ISVs and is made up of three tiers -- Premier, Preferred and Registered- - will now include systems integrators such as Datatrend Technologies, L&T Technology Services, Action Point and Mobiliya, according to Dell.
Similarly, ABI Research highlighted Intel’s IoT Solution Alliance, which creates interoperable, secure solutions to drive efficiencies and deliver device system performance insights.
Partner programs drive value for parent organizations, like Dell and Intel, by expanding their ecosystem user base through their partner connections, said Harbison. Tony Safoian, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based SADA Systems, agreed, saying that the channel is critical to vendors for understanding vertical market needs and business applications of IoT solutions.
"Our job is to understand use cases and tools … that's where the channel comes in to work with the business and understand their needs, versus just the technical solutions," Safoian said.