[Avnet] 5 steps that will take your IT solutions company from 0 to 60 in developing IoT technologies

In just a few short years, Software Productivity Strategists, Inc. (SPS) transformed from a company selling technology that was becoming obsolete to an innovator in Internet of Things (IoT). As the vice president of Innovation at SPS, I wanted to share the story of how we embraced a solutions-based approach to transform ourselves; one that creates and delivers IoT based applications for our customers.  You can do it too with these five easy steps.

Step 1: Embrace the need for change

Change can be a real challenge to embrace, so Step One is to do some soul-searching and figure out not just why you need to change but also what could happen if you keep things the way they are. For SPS, we wanted to stay ahead of the competition and the evolving IT landscape.

As technology continued to develop, we noticed more industry focus on cloud and IoT; it was becoming the next evolution in IT and we knew that if we didn’t reevaluate the way we did business, we could get left behind selling technology and in our target markets.

By embracing a solutions-based approach, we were able to have more relevant conversations with our customers and better identify their pain points; instead of selling products to the IT department, we were creating conversations and solutions that solved real problems for line of business executives. This helped inspire confidence throughout our company and in our abilities to deliver.

Step 2: Recognize the potential behind the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is an incredibly viable and lucrative opportunity for IT solutions providers looking to meet the demands to increase connectivity. The market for IoT applications in business, for example, is predicted to grow to $886 billion by 2020!

Our mobile development team began to investigate IoT technologies, including IBM BlueMix® and Watson™, a few years ago. This went hand in hand with recognizing the need to change; our team members were learning these new skills but if SPS didn’t give them the outlet to leverage their talents and develop solutions with our customers, we risked losing these skilled employees as well as customers.

Step 3: Look for opportunities to learn and hone new skills

There are many outlets to explore new opportunities to learn or improve skills in IoT technologies or related software – both virtual and in-person.. Hackathons and classroom training provide hands-on experience while webinars and virtual training are great options for remote teams and may be more cost-effective.

SPS explored hackathons. Avnet Academy hosted a virtual hackathon with instructions to create a mobile application that leveraged BlueMix and Watson. Our development team won that hackathon in 2015 by creating an IoT application that had broad appeal to consumers. Not only did it validate our developers’ skills, but it confirmed that being innovative in our development could in fact win us more business.

Step 4: Leverage software and partnerships to create IoT solutions that solve real business problems

With experience under our belt and a new customer approach, our teams were able to have more in-depth conversations with new and existing clientele. For example, after talking to one of our existing customers, a vegetation management company, we were able to identify its need to keep workers safe as they tended to trees and other greenery. Their employees were frequently high up on machinery using loud tools to trim branches and were often at risk of being struck by branches or other debris. This may not seem like a problem that could be solved with technology, but we were able to think outside the box thanks to our training and approach with IoT and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

We leveraged the Raspberry Pi (a low-cost, highly flexible device) to quickly prototype a safety helmet with a sensor that detected and reported environmental information. Now, the company can predict when workers are most at risk, leading to fewer accidents and improved productivity.

SPS developed the ‘thing’ - an IoT app embedded in a safety helmet.  The information gathered and transmitted back to the application helps their vegetation management customer keep its workers safe.
SPS developed the ‘thing’ – an IoT app embedded in a safety helmet. The information gathered and transmitted back to the application helps their vegetation management customer keep its workers safe.

Step 5: Keep your commitment to growth and transformation

SPS knows that this IoT success isn’t the end of our journey. As time continues to pass and technology continues to change, if we don’t continue to evolve then we risk offering obsolete products at some point down the road. Embracing the Internet of Things is about becoming more flexible as an organization, leveraging new technologies and creating innovative solutions that solve business problems for your customers.

Always look for opportunities to network with IT partners. Browse a training catalog and hone a new skill. Reconsider your approach when talking to customers and have better conversations to uncover pain points. IoT success is out there and ready for someone to deliver the next big thing… will it be you?

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