SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

2017-top-10-image2017 has the potential to bring unprecedented changes to the technology landscape for SMBs. In most years, the top tech trends tend to develop in an evolutionary way, but this year we also will see some more dramatic shifts that SMBs need to put on their radar. Areas such as cloud and mobile continue to evolve in important ways, and they are also paving the way for newer trends in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, integration and the Internet of Things (IoT) to take hold among SMBs.

Although we can’t cover all of them in our Top 10 list, here are the headlines for SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Tech Trends  that we think hold the most promise for SMBs in 2017. Click here for the full report.

  1.  The Cloud Continues to Power SMB Digital Transformation.
  2.  Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) moves from hype to reality for early adopter  SMBs.
  3.  The Rise of Smart Apps for SMBs.
  4.  Focused, Tailored CRM Solutions Take Hold With SMBs.
  5.  SMBs Get Connected With New Collaboration Tools.
  6.  SMBs Modernize On-premises IT with Hyper-converged Infrastructure.
  7.  Application Integration Gets Easier for Small Businesses.
  8.  SMB Mobile Momentum Continues, But Mobile Management Lags.
  9.  Online Financing Options for Small Businesses Multiply.
  10.  Proactive SMBs Turn to MSSPs and Cyber Insurance to Face Security  Challenges. 

Please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com or 508-734-5658  to learn about licensing options.

IoT: Where Innovation, Pragmatism and Collaboration Meet

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic in technology. IoT, which connects objects to the Internet, will radically change how businesses, governments, and individuals interact with the physical world. Consequently, developers are seizing on the opportunity to capitalize on the almost $6 trillion that Business Intelligence estimates will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years.

seersucker

Dell and Intel’s “Connect Wha Matters” IoT Contest awards dinner was held Searsucker in Austin, TX.

With so much development in the pipeline, what will success look like in the IoT market? Dell and Intel recently sponsored the “Connect What Matters” Internet of Things Contest, which sought out innovative industrial IoT solutions that incorporate Dell’s Edge Gateway. In my first post about the contest, I discussed V5 Systems’ Portable IoT Security System, which took top honors for its solution, which fuses edge and hybrid cloud analytics capabilities into a pre-integrated, compact and solar-powered wireless outdoor security system. This second post takes a broader look at the awards event, traits that many of the Gold and Sliver award winners share, and my perspectives on IoT and Dell’s approach in this area.

And The Winners Are…

The title of the contest, “Connect What Matters,” gets at the heart of why IoT is sparking so much interest. IoT marries technology–from the data center to endpoint sensors, from the cloud to analytics, from wireless to wired networks–to objects in the physical world to address pressing industrial challenges in unique and effective ways.

winners

Congratulations to the 16 winners of the Dell and Intel “Connect What Matters” IoT contest!

Contest winners brought IoT excitement to life with creative, pragmatic solutions. The five Gold contest winners, selected from more than 970 contest entries, included solutions that span across many industries, from farms to factory floors:

  • Eigen Innovations has built a video analytics solution for the factory floor. The solution uses thermal imaging cameras and PLC/sensor data captured through Dell Edge Gateways to help manufacturers integrate factory floor big data, machine learning, and human intelligence to improve process control and quality monitoring directly on the factory line.
  • Iamus combined IoT platform and facilities management expertise to build a unique smart street lamp solution for a smart city project. The solution enables cities to visualize, monitor, manage and optimize their environments to improve quality of life and reduce environmental impact and energy costs.
  • n.io developed a solution to transform manual, subjective farming operations into highly instrumented, automated precision agriculture systems. The solution helps agricultural companies increase crop yields and optimize delivery of resources, such as water.
  • RiptideIO created a packaged software-as-a-service (SaaS) IoT solution for small retailers to make store equipment smart. RiptideIO monitors and captures data on air conditioning, lighting, locks and other systems, stores it in the cloud, and alerts retailers if there’s a problem. The solution diagnoses the problems so service technicians know what parts to bring to fix the equipment.
  • Software AG has built a predictive maintenance solution that brings in-memory edge analytics to collected machine data for real-time predictive maintenance. Software AG’s solution enables both real-time condition monitoring and dynamic remaining useful life prediction. Key capabilities include data filtering, aggregation, threshold monitoring, Bollinger band calculation, baseline threshold calculations, gradient trend discovery and missing data notifications.

The 10 Silver winners include AZLOGICA, Blue Pillar, Calibr8 Systems Inc, Daliworks, ELM Fieldsight, Independent Automation, Onstream, PixController, Inc., PV Hardware and We Monitor Concrete. These companies further underscored just how enormous the IoT opportunity is. For example, solutions ranged from PixController, which aims to plug leaky systems in the gas industry with optical methane emissions detection, to ELM Fieldsight, which has partnered with Dynoptix to create a connected health system to monitor human body temperature and heart rate.

Where Innovation, Pragmatism and Collaboration Meet

Dell’s IoT contest winners are combining innovation and pragmatic industry expertise to solve real world problems. These companies are helping businesses and government replace manual data collection and subjective judgments with automated data collection and analysis and objective measurements, helping them to operate more efficiently and effectively. This translates into good news for both vendors and their customers.

Industrial IoT solutions must solve very complex and often specific problems, making collaboration another key success factor. No one vendor can possibly supply all of the technology, operational and industry expertise required to successfully bring an industrial IoT solution to market.

attendess2

I had the opportunity to network and meet with many of the winners as well as members of the Dell IoT team.

Partners I spoke to at the event emphasized the value of working with Dell’s IoT Partner Program, citing Dell’s Edge Gateway, deep technology expertise, strong brand and go-to-market support as critical to their initiatives. They were also excited about Dell and Intel’s partnership to build re-usable building blocks that promises to make it easier and faster for them to develop and scale IoT applications. For more info on Dell’s IoT Partner Program, see Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part One and Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part Two.

In addition, IoT winners spent a considerable amount of time at the awards ceremony learning about each other’s offerings, and exploring how to partner with each other to extend their solutions for additional industries and uses, and to enhance their solutions with additional capabilities.

Delivering Fast, Measurable Value

Unlike some technology areas where the value proposition is fuzzy and the return on investment can be difficult to measure, by their very nature, IoT solutions offer a built-in value proposition for customers. Dell’s IoT contest Gold winners easily paint the picture of how their solutions provide clear, measurable value, as described above.

And so do the Silver winners. For example, Blue Pillar Systems’ has more than 7,000,000 Energy “behind the meter” that control electricity in hospitals, data centers and other facilities, providing real-time control and visibility to make critical infrastructure safer and more efficient. Meanwhile, We Monitor Concrete can help concrete companies, builders and contractors monitor and manage concrete mixers to ensure that concrete is the right temperature and strength when delivered to a construction site.

Perspective

canstockphoto23533086The IoT revolution has only just begun, and Dell’s Connect What Matters contest also marked the one-year anniversary of Dell’s IoT Division. Dell’s IoT award winners are living proof that even at this early stage, IoT is quickly moving from hype to reality.

The diverse applications demonstrated provided abundant proof of how industrial IoT (IIoT) can deliver strong, evident value across industries and use cases. As important, although winners’ IoT solutions required a lot of technology and industry expertise to build, their customers don’t need to be technology experts to quickly deploy and get benefit from their solutions.

In addition, winners also validated Dell’s IoT approach and Edge Gateway Series, which takes care of some of the heavy technology lifting, and frees partners up to focus more of their energy on building unique and valuable solutions tailored to the needs to different industries and uses. Based on the innovation and value showcased in the first “Connect What Matters” contest, I expect that Dell’s IoT strategy and partner programs will yield an even more abundant crop of strong IoT solutions in its second year.

This post was sponsored by Dell.

The Right IoT Stuff: V5 Systems Wins Dell’s IoT Contest

The Internet of Things (IoT) has come a long way since 1982, when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University modified a Coke machine to create the first internet-connected appliance, which could report on inventory and whether drinks were cold.

Today, cloud, analytics, wireless and other technologies have advanced to the point where IoT can provide a simple, effective way to communicate with and through machines to get things done more easily, and to make better decisions. IoT, which connects physical world objects to the Internet to sense, control, interact and report on activities, is growing at an exponential pace. IDC and Intel project that the number of IoT objects will grow from 2 billion objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020, equating to about 26 smart objects for every person in the world. And while consumer devices get the lion’s share of attention, industry represents the greatest opportunity for IoT to help companies track inventory, manage operations, improve efficiency, save money and protect people and property.

So it’s not surprising that according to CB Insights, corporate investors (e.g. corporations and their venture arms) have funneled $3.2B into the IoT space over the past six years, and that in 2015, they nearly doubled their 2014 IoT investments.

V5 Systems: From 12 Volt Batteries to State-of-the-Art Outdoor Security Systems

Amidst so many IoT startups, what makes one rise to the top? Dell has just announced the winner of its “Connect What Matters” Internet of Things Contest, in which it sought out innovative IoT solutions for businesses that incorporate Dell’s Edge Gateway. More than 970 contest registrations from 93 countries with 16 winners from 9 different countries claiming prizes worth more than $600,000.

Dell awarded the top, Platinum honor to V5 Systems for its V5 Portable IoT Security System, which fuses edge and hybrid cloud analytics capabilities into a pre-integrated, compact and solar-powered wireless outdoor security system.

Mazin Bedwan

Mazin Bedwan, V5 Systems President & COO

As with most great stories, V5 has an interesting beginning. I had a chance to interview President and COO Mazin Bedwan, about the company’s roots and solution. Mazin had previously been CEO of Pacific Stereo in the Bay Area, which was the largest 12 Volt automotive electronics retailer in North America. A few years ago, Steve Yung (then an ex-Cisco executive, now Chairman and CEO of V5 Systems) came to Pacific Stereo looking for a four-camera security system for his Volvo SUV. He wanted it to run–regardless of whether his car was running or not. Mazin tried to sell him a $200 car alarm, but then learned why Steve wanted an always-on camera system. Steve lived in a nice neighborhood that was experiencing rolling blackouts, making it easier for criminals to break into cars and homes. He wanted a car-mounted security system to watch his house from his driveway, as he was intent on catching the bad guys.

A few weeks later, Mazin and his brother Eddie delivered the camera system to Steve, who decided it was commercially marketable after it recorded video that led to the arrest of a home intruder/burglar. They named the company after V5, the region of the brain responsible for motion detection.

Bringing the Right Stuff to Dell’s IoT Contest

PSU Solution

V5 Systems V5 Portable IoT Security System

V5 Systems’ V5 Portable IoT Security system solves a big and pressing problem. Until V5 brought this solution to market, outdoor security vendors would cobble together solutions with off-the-shelf parts. Because power isn’t readily available in many outdoor locations, vendors would fill up trailers with 12-volt batteries and or diesel generators to back up solar panels, power cameras and motion sensors, and then tow the solution around.

Mazin emphasized that V5 chose innovation over integration to create an alternative to this cumbersome approach. Numerous patents and trade secrets attest to V5’s mission to deliver IoT value through innovation on many fronts.

Superbowl Deployment

V5 Portable Security Unit Deployment at Super Bowl 50

For instance, V5’s Portable IoT Security System:

  • Overcomes the power supply challenge. V5 has been granted 6 patents for its solar-powered smart power system, which enables it to run continuously outdoors. This negates the need for multiple batteries and generators, and the space they take up.V5 Systems has developed their own proprietary power and power management system. This means businesses can deploy the device to create a security zone in places without power–such as on a mountain top or in a forest–and get real-time alerts sent to their IoS or Android devices. 
  • Makes installation and transport easy. Businesses can install and start using the device, in under an hour. V5 pre-integrated computing, power, communications, storage and sensor capabilities in what amounts to a micro-data center. Because no trenching is required, users can circumvent lengthy permitting processes. And, at less than 20 inches long, it’s a snap to take the device down and redeploy in another location, such as changing security vantage points at festivals, concerts and other events.
  • Features bullet-resistant solar panels. Solar panels are a real pain point for law enforcement, because people can shoot and break them. V5’s proprietary bullet-resistant solar panel provides customers with an additional level of reliability, and gives V5 strong differentiation versus competitors.
  • Improves analytics accuracy. V5’s analytics library increases the accuracy of the data sent from the device. For instance, motion sensors at airports can be triggered by turbulence from planes, but V5’s analytics library provides more granular identification. For instance, at San Jose Airport, V5 has achieved 98% accuracy in detecting actual people or vehicles versus motion from jet turbulence.
  • Not only sees, but also hears. Unfortunately, campus violence has become all too common. Prior to deploying V5’s multi-sensory solution, San Jose State University lacked the capability to deploy a multi-sensory security solution for Spartan Stadium and one of its dorms. Now, the university has deployed V5’s Portable IoT Security System with cameras as visual sensors and microphones as acoustic sensors, to monitor dorms and Spartan Stadium from vantage points outside the facilities. The multi-sensory capabilities enable them to detect gunshots with 95% accuracy distinguishing gunshots from other loud sounds, and also to triangulate where the shots are coming from.
  • Will soon be able to detect chemicals. Methane, ammonia, chlorine and other gases are hazardous to breathe. With enough volume, these gases can also cause explosions, as on a Los Angeles city block in 2016, and in a cow barn in 2014 in Rasdorf, Germany. V5 will add chemical sensors in Q4 of this year.

Scaling With Dell

V5’s system is relevant and replicable across many industries. But V5 initially targeted law enforcement agencies. According to Mazin, they figured if they could succeed with skeptical cops, they’d succeed anywhere. Law Enforcement represents 10% of V5’s addressable market but accounts for 90% of its credibility. This strategy has worked, with endorsements from early law enforcement customers helping V5 open the door to sell to airports, universities, transportation, oil and gas, agricultural and other industries.

However, V5 needed help to effectively scale its solution, sales and service capabilities. Through its partnership with Dell, which began in 2015, Dell Services sells a unique V5 SKU. The SKU includes V5’s portable security unit, sensors, enclosure, power system, communications, storage and Dell’s Edge Gateway. Dell Services also provides 24/7 first-line tech support for the system, and access to Dell Financial Services.

Dell Unit

Dell Edge Gateway

 

V5 has also standardized on Dell servers.Dell’s Edge Gateway serves as the “industrial IoT brain” for the system, connecting to V5 devices. The Gateway Edge aggregates and analyzes the input, and sends it on to users’ Android or IoS devices. Because the Edge Gateway is designed for harsh conditions (from temperatures ranging from -30°C to 70°C), has a low-energy, fanless design, wall and DIN-rail mounts and it can sit within the V5 device. As a result, it sends only meaningful data to the cloud or control center, reducing data overload and bandwidth requirements.

Summary and Perspective

IoT is more than a technology buzzword. It is literally changing the very definition of computing. With IoT, devices and objects of all shapes and sizes can communicate directly, and as Mazin noted, “we’ve created a system that fits in your hands, has all the capabilities of a data center and can be deployed in any outdoor environment.”

IoT companies such as V5 and others highlight the enormous potential to IoT to do many things more easily, cost-effectively and intelligently than was possible in the past. IoT challenges–including privacy, security and skills–still need to be addressed, but the increasing digitization of the physical world make the sky is the limit for IoT innovation.

Mazin, Steve and Eddie seized this opportunity, creating a new business and business model based on the Industrial IoT. They serve as a great example of how IoT is redefining and reshaping how businesses get things done, and the elements needed to turn an idea into a reality.

This post was sponsored by Dell.

 

Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part Two

canstockphoto24687951Laurie: Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group, and today I’m continuing my conversation with Jason Shepherd, who is Director of strategy and partnerships for Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division. In this second post, we talk about top challenges IoT partners face, how Dell helps address these challenges, and get an update on Dell’s IoT contest. In the first post,  Jason provided an overview of Dell’s new Internet of Things division and how its partner programs are structured. In this one, I’m following up to hear about your meeting with Dell IoT partners recently to talk about their challenges. What did you learn?

Jason: Yes, we had our first IoT partner round table, with over 30 different ISV partners, to have an open discussion about their challenges and what they need to accelerate in the market. (see one attendee’s perspective here). We found that their number one challenge, after security–or in some cases, even before security–is data integration. They are looking for hardware solutions, such as Dell’s Edge Gateway 5000 Series to provide a foundation for normalizing all the different fragmented data standards in the field.

Another top challenge is making end users aware of the potential of IoT, helping them to understand potential ROI (return-on-investment) for a solution, and convincing them to take that first step to deploy. So in addition to helping partners on the technology side, partners also want Dell’s help with marketing use cases, case studies, solution blueprints and other assets that help demonstrate ROI and show customers IoT’s potential.

We’ve found that Dell’s perspective about starting small and building fast for IoT is really resonating. There’s a lot of big talk about IoT, and that can be overwhelming. Dell’s approach is practical, to help people first connect existing systems and solve an immediate problem, and then build from there. And then of course, being able to incorporate security and management tools that IT is familiar with helps our OT-focused partners gain credibility and overcome potential IT hurdles. Also, partners need help to connect with other partners. At the end of the day IoT is a partnership game.

Dell’s focus on edge gateways, combined with providing credibility and visibility are really critical, especially for smaller innovators in this space. The other thing that came out of it was having quality hardware. Something in the sweet spot between maker-grade and boutique product that’s purpose-built for these industrial use cases but affordable, that they can really trust and rely on. They’re looking to us to help with that.

Laurie: Can you talk more specifically about the kinds of support you give them?

Dell’s IoT lab in Singapore

Dell’s IoT lab in Singapore

Jason: Yes. We have certification and sales engineers that work with partners to go help them build on Dell technologies, and we have Dell IoT Labs around the globe (Santa Clara, Limerick and Singapore). Partners and customers can bring in their own technology to prove out their solutions on Dell technology.

As partners build solid use cases for their solutions, we can help them create blueprints, ROI proof points, and go to market plans to jointly pursue opportunities.

Laurie: Do you do that on an individual basis?

Jason: Yes, and as Dell and its partners mature together and IoT use cases become even more repeatable, we can develop focused solution bundles complete with sensors, infrastructure and software. We won’t be able to do this for highly complex scenarios but it’s certainly foreseeable that we can create bundles for things like a remote monitoring solution for a data center, a predictive maintenance solution for a machine, a quality control system for the end of a manufacturing line, or a building automation solution for a small retail space. Reducing complexity through solution bundles is where you really start to enable scale or deploying IoT solutions.

Laurie: Do you foresee Dell building sensors?

Jason: We’re do not plan to make sensors, but in time we will certify partner sensors to work with Dell Gateways, the rest of our infrastructure and enabling technologies, and offerings from our key software partners.

Laurie: Okay. So, what are some of your favorite partner stories?

arrow logoJason: One is Arrow Electronics, which we showcased at Dell World last fall. Arrow has a warehouse in Phoenix, with eight business units using the facility and power. They all just split the power bill at the end of the month, because they couldn’t determine who was using how much. Arrow, their system integration division, and OSIsoft, which is a well-recognized leader of data historian software with their PI platform, teamed up with Wireless Glue, a startup that provides gateway middleware for connecting to industrial sensor protocols. They all came together to build a solution to instrument the warehouse and create dashboards and analytics of the power consumption. which is a great example of how different partners with different capabilities can join forces to solve a problem. And now that Arrow has the IoT infrastructure in the warehouse they can look at other things they can do to add value. For example, it could be something like making their forklifts more effective, or doing indoor location tracking for pallets and other assets in the warehouse.

Laurie: So the light bulb goes on and they start to look at other use cases.

Jason: Yes, once you have that infrastructure you can start to riff off of it and do new things. It’s a classic example of starting with a focused problem—not trying to do too much at once. Fix the core problem and then grow from there, which is right in line with our message of starting small and building fast

Inex logoAnother example is INEX IoT Impact Labs, in New Bedford, MA, is focused on accelerating and improving how small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in the community learn about and gain value from the Internet of Things (IoT). Dell,  IoT IMPACT LABS’ parent INEX Advisors, Analog Devices, BCC, Foley and Lardner LLP, and PTC Inc. have teamed up to create this IoT solutions hub with many of the end users being fisheries or farms–small businesses in small cities, which don’t have the IT expertise or resources to take advantage of IoT on their own. The Lab is working to field-test, document and commercialize the most efficient and effective approaches to IoT so that SMBs can deploy solutions to level the playing field and help them compete more effectively.

Laurie: Yes, INEX is very interesting, this video does a great job of telling their story. One last question for you: How is the Dell Internet of Things contest shaping up?

Jason: Really well. Solution designs had to be submitted by March 31 and we received more than 120 submissions worldwide from a mix of current Dell customers, ISVs, developers, systems integrators, entrepreneurs and channel partners. Across all different sizes and industries, in different verticals–from universities and schools to hospitals to financial services to food distributors. All are interested in building solutions on top of our new Edge Gateway and with other Dell technologies. We’re seeing use cases that we’ve never even thought of, which is what’s really exciting about bringing this community together in this way.

Laurie: How will you select winners?

Jason: We’ll be looking for solutions that are really innovative, and also have strong market viability, balancing technology, implementation, and go to market opportunities.

Laurie: When will the contest be judged and winners announced?

Jason: Judging is underway and it’s going to be tough to pick the winners. I anticipate in the May-June timeframe we’ll start to announce the winners. There will be 16 prizes, and the total prize value is $600,000.

Laurie: I’m sure you’ll get some really creative entries, please keep me posted! Maybe we can do a follow up about the winners. And thanks again for taking time to dive into Dell’s IoT program with me.

This is the second of a two-part blog series on Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division and partnership programs, sponsored by Dell.

 

Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part One

Laurie:  Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group, and today I’m talking to Jason Shepherd, who is Director of strategy and partnerships for Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division, as part one of a two-part blog series.

In this first post, we’ll discuss Dell’s IoT strategy, and how Dell has structured its IoT partner programs. In the second, we talk about the top challenges IoT partners face, how Dell helps address these challenges, and get an update on Dell’s IoT contest.

So to start, can you give me a high level overview of Dell’s IoT strategy?

Jason Shepherd, Director of strategy and partnerships for Dell's Internet of Things (IoT) division

Jason Shepherd, Director of strategy and partnerships for Dell’s Internet of Things (IoT) division

Jason: Sure. Our strategy is to be the leader in open, scalable IoT infrastructure that enables successful solution deployments. Dell is one of the few companies in the world that have a little bit of everything needed for an IoT stack. We have broad relationships and partnerships that we will continue to grow to accelerate IoT adoption.

First, we decided that while consumer IoT is interesting, our focus is on commercial and industrial use cases. Some high level vertical focus areas include building automation, manufacturing, and transportation.. Specific use cases include remote monitoring and control within these environments, asset management, process and quality controls, fleet management, logistics and many more.

 

Dell Edge Gateway

Dell Edge Gateway

The core purpose of IoT is performing analytics on the data that you capture to yield some benefit or ROI. But one of the biggest challenges developers face is getting to the data, especially from existing systems. So we designed Dell’s Edge Gateway 5000 Series to bridge these systems to the Internet first and allow you to connect to more new equipment as you go. Dell’s gateways can also perform analytics on data locally so only meaningful information is relayed to the data center or cloud, so you’re not flooded with noise. Our strategy is to drive intelligence and capabilities to the edge in industrial use cases so people can get the data and build value on top of it. Our edge gateways fill a critical gap in the market for purpose-built products that can reliably withstand harsh industrial environments, yet come at attractive price points and are backed by Dell’s brand and global presence and support.

The other thing that drives our strategy is the notion of fostering IT and OT (operations technology) convergence. Many times IoT solutions are purchased by a non-IT entity, whether it’s OT, facilities, or even the marketing organization. These folks can find it difficult to get the IT support they need on the network to bridge their “things,” such as equipment and sensors, to the Internet. Meanwhile, IT departments are often wary of adding more technology from brands they don’t know to their network, due to security and management concerns. Dell has been deployed in IT environments for a long time, has built strong credibility with IT, and can help bridge these conversations and foster OT and IT cooperation and convergence.

Dell IoT GatewaySo we can help OT be more successful while also calming IT’s concerns, and enable IT to manage and support these systems.

In fact, even partners that are rebranding our systems are saying, “Hey, I still want it to say ‘Built on Dell’ because it means something to IT when I bring it in.”

Laurie: Good segue to dive into specifics on Dell’s IoT partnership initiative. How is it structured and why?

Jason: Well, IoT is still in the buzz cycle. It’s early in terms of what it represents, and the landscape is really fragmented. There are many different platforms and solutions, which is great, but can also make it difficult for customers and solution providers to navigate.

In addition, many partner programs out there are structured like traditional channel programs, in which partners that pay more are in higher tiers and get preferential treatment and visibility. We think the IoT market is too immature for the typical partner program approach where partners pay fees. Even just certifying products is tricky when these solutions are so complex.

Dell’s IoT partner program does have multiple tiers, Executive, Associate and Registered, but tiers are based on the partner’s ability to perform in the market. We want to help customers find the right partners, versus just throwing everybody into a big bucket and seeing what happens. With this structure, we can help reduce some of the fragmentation problem. We curate Dell’s IoT partnerships based on factors such as maturity, solution value and differentiation, and will add mechanisms to help partners move up in status.

For instance, our entry-level Registered partners are doing very interesting things that warrant us helping them drive awareness, but we haven’t had enough experience with their solution to broadly recommend them into Dell’s customer base. Moving up, partners at our Associate tier offer more differentiated and proven solutions, whether through great integration, scalability, established channels or other factors. Highly strategic companies that offer clear differentiation, best in class solutions, and a proven ability to execute are in our top Executive tier.

Laurie: So, there’s room for the new innovators.

Jason: Absolutely, the main point is that we don’t allow providers that haven’t yet proven themselves to pay their way into more prominent placement, because this wouldn’t help end-customers make a good decision about who to work with. Instead, partners are vetted on ability to execute and overall maturity. It’s definitely more of a lift for Dell, but it’s a better service to the end customers. It’s by merit and demonstrated ability to solve customer problems, including providing support after the sale.

Laurie: What other partner attributes are relevant to Dell in the IoT space?

Jason: Since much of our initial go to market strategy is based on our new purpose-built edge gateways, our initial focus has been on partners that build software platforms that leverage gateways in their solutions. Another partner type are makers of cloud platforms that don’t have a strategy for edge data integration and analytics today, but realize that they need one because you can’t send all of your IoT data to the cloud because it gets expensive. For these cloud platform partners, we can bridge to the edge and provide value there. We’re also building partnerships with pure-play visualizataion providers and analytics companies that complement other partners and our own Dell Statistica offering with capabilities such as stream processing, video analytics and artificial intelligence.

Laurie: So, these different types of providers could be laid out across the different tiers based on maturity and strategic importance?

Jason: Yes. The one exception is with security tools. Dell has a broad security portfolio that IT trusts, but we’re always on the lookout for new solutions that address some of the net-new challenges at the edge. But we are not adding entry-level security partners – companies are either offering strategic value or they’re not. We take security very seriously.

Laurie: Makes sense! So, why are partners choosing to work with Dell in the IoT area?

Jason: Many IoT providers will participate in multiple partner programs. But Dell is attractive for a few reasons. First, we have a very broad customer base, and we’re very in tune with our customer needs. Even at the entry partnership level, when we flat-out set expectations that we will not recommend or directly sell the partner’s solution, they want to work with us to gain visibility. Being tied to the Dell brand, and the IT credibility that we talked about, and our global presence and support, are key. Many IoT innovators are very small, so this credibility really helps them. In addition, partners like that we provide choice and we’re open in how we do things.

People also like that Dell has such a strong hardware base, providing something tangible to attach their software to. Many partners are looking at appliance-type IoT models. Dell has been doing that with PCs and servers for a long time, and we can also do it for IoT with the Edge Gateway Series. Through our configuration services, partners can have software pre-installed, so their customers can simply purchase gateways directly from Dell, load them on trucks, and install them in the field. We also have ISV partners that are OEMs. They use our hardware and sell their own branded solution. Of course, there’s also attraction to the potential for co-marketing and joint selling. But, like I said, we can’t do that for everybody. We would only do that for people further up in the tiers.

This is the first of a two-part blog series on Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division and partnership programs, sponsored by Dell.

My Top Posts From 2015

new-year-images- collectionSeems like we blinked and its already 2016! I hope your New Year is off to a great start. Here are my most popular blogs from 2015.

Thank you again for reading and commenting on them. And please let me know what SMB related tech topics are of most interest to you in 2016.

SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

Making The Internet of Things Real For SMBs

Are You Keeping Pace With Your SMB Customers?

Taking the Plunge: Triggers for Small Businesses to Move to SAP Business One

Trends in Small Business Adoption of Mobile Solutions

Cloud Is The New Normal for SMBs—But Integration Isn’t

SMB Spotlight: Empowering A Billion Women by 2020 Teams Up With Xero

The Cloud: Mother of Re-invention for IBM

Charting a Course in the ERP Clouds

Mobile Solutions Play a Big Role in Small Businesses

SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

Foggy Crystal Ball-128x128Here are SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB Technology Trends for 2016! A more detailed description of each follows below. (Note: SMB Group is the source for all research data quoted unless otherwise indicated.)

  1. SMBs That Make the Business-Technology Performance Connection Outpace Their Peers.
  2. The Battle for Self-Employed Workers Heats Up.
  3. SMBs Tune in to IoT Possibilities.
  4. Public Cloud Is a Done Deal, but Cloud Variants Remain Hazy for SMBs.
  5. Security Remains the Elephant in the SMB Room.
  6. Mobile Solutions Occupy a Bigger Part of SMB IT Real Estate.
  7. SMBs Rethink CRM.
  8. SMBs Move Up the Cloud Analytics Curve.
  9. SMBs Streamline Internal Processes to Focus on Business Growth.
  10. More Tech Vendors Use Big Data to Provide New Business Services to SMBs.

Detailed SMB Group Top 10 SMB Technology Trends for 2016:

  1. SMBs That Make the Business-Technology Performance Connection Outpace Their Peers. SMB success is increasingly tied to technology. SMBs that view technology as critical to improving business outcomes are outpacing their peers in terms of business growth. According to SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study, 29% of SMBs view technology as helping them to significantly improve business outcomes. These “progressive” SMBs are 18% more likely to forecast revenue increases than their peers. Progressive SMBs spend 29% more on technology, are 55% more likely to have fully integrated primary business applications (financials, CRM, HR, etc.) and are 86% more likely to use analytics than their counterparts. By using technology to streamline workflows, slash time spent on repetitive data entry and inefficient processes, gain better insights into opportunities and threats, and create new business models, progressive SMBs are well positioned to tap into new customer requirements, improve customer engagement and experience, and enter new markets. As they move forward, they will continue to outpace their peers and reshape the SMB market.
  2. The Battle for Self-Employed Workers Heats Up. According to April 2015statistics from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 40% of all U.S. workers are contingent, which includes the self-employed as well as temp workers, contractors, on-call workers and part-time employees. That number represents a 10% increase from the previous GAO survey in  The survey spans industries from construction to pet care, and from professional services to Uber and Lyft drivers. This trend shows no sign of abating, with the GAO predicting the percentage of self-employed workers to rise to 50% by 2020. Self-employed workers need tools to manage finances, build brands and grow their business—but they must do all this on a shoestring budget. SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study shows that consequently, many of these workers rely on Excel spreadsheets: 40% of self-employed workers use Excel for accounting, and 85% use Excel or email (such as Outlook or Google) for sales and contact management. On average, median annual spending on technology for businesses with one employee is approximately $3,500, which includes client devices, productivity software, business software, Internet connectivity and mobile data service and device expenses. Vendors such as FreshBooks and Square have been pioneers in developing solutions specifically for self-employed workers. But more vendors, such as Intuit (with QuickBooks Self-Employed) and Sage (with Sage One), are following suit. Although the sheer market volume creates great potential, rapid scale will be required to attain and sustain profitability in this cash-constrained segment.
  3. SMBs Tune in to IoT Possibilities. The Internet has delivered its latest game changer: the Internet of things (IoT). As with the Internet innovations that preceded it, IoT presents tremendous potential for disruption—along with all of the opportunities and challenges that accompany this type of sea change. Yet IoT is still just a buzzword for most SMBs. When asked in SMB Group’s2015 SMB Routes to Market Study, “What are the top three technology areas that are most critical for your business to invest in over the next 12 months?,” IoT ranked at or near the bottom. Only 18% of small and 13% of medium business decision makers selected IoT as one of their top three priorities. But factors such as vendor education and early success stories will help SMBs better understand IoT use cases and opportunities, both to improve internal operational efficiencies and to create new product and services offerings. SMB Group research indicates that SMBs in retail, wholesale/distribution and discrete manufacturing (e.g., auto, electronic equipment) are likely to lead the SMB IoT charge. Regardless of industry, IoT solutions built to move critical, trigger-based data to the Internet (through smart gateway solutions and applications) and store less important data locally will be key to helping SMBs avoid information overload and achieve successful IoT outcomes.
  4. Public Cloud Is a Done Deal, but Cloud Variants Remain Hazy for SMBs. Cloud solutions are already part of the business fabric for most SMBs, with the adoption of cloud solutions surging across all solution areas, according to SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study. In fact, the cloud is poised to overtake on-premises deployment in the next year in areas such as collaboration, file sharing and marketing automation. Cloud adoption is also growing in areas in which it has traditionally lagged: Almost one-third of SMBs planning to purchase accounting and ERP solutions say they plan to purchase a cloud offering. But for the most part, SMBs have been choosing public cloud options—despite several vendors’ vocal promotion of private and hybrid cloud alternatives. Although each variant has its pros and cons, most SMBs remain confused about what private and especially hybrid clouds are as well as when and why they should consider them. Most vendors define hybrid cloud as the integration of a public and private cloud; but because private clouds are still rarely utilized by SMBs, the hybrid cloud notion remains hazy for SMBs. Microsoft with Azure Stack for Windows Server, IBM with its Bluemix-powered “cloud everywhere” platform and Dell with Dell Cloud Manager are trying to make private and hybrid cloud options more accessible and manageable. But unless and until vendors offer more articulate, relevant and compelling alternatives, SMBs will continue to opt for the public cloud in the vast majority of cases.
  5. Security Remains the Elephant in the SMB Room. As SMBs rely more on technology to run their businesses, the requirements to secure and protect data and access become more critical and complex. SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study shows that medium businesses rank security as their second most pressing technology challenge, while small businesses rank it as their number-one challenge. However, many SMBs feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the seemingly endless potential for digital security breaches that could wreck havoc on their businesses. All too often, they continue to take an outdated, ineffective, 1990s-era “whack-a-mole” approach to security, deploying point solutions to ward off the security threat du jour. However, vendors are delivering more holistic, end-to-end, risk- and rules-based solutions for SMBs. These solutions can enable them to close off the biggest vulnerabilities to their most critical corporate data, wherever it resides—whether endpoint devices, mobile apps, on-premises infrastructure and applications or the cloud. Although most SMBs will need help understanding this approach, once they do, they will be able to face and address the security elephant in a more effective way.
  6. Mobile Solutions Occupy a Bigger Part of SMB IT Real Estate. SMBs continue to turn to mobile solutions to help redefine business processes and pursue new opportunities. SMB Group’s2014 SMB Mobile Solutions Study indicates 59% of SMBs view mobile solutions and services as “critical” to their business. The effects of mobile adoption impact traditional IT in endless ways. For instance, 85% of SMBs see mobile apps as complementing traditional business apps; 70% believe that mobile apps will replace some of their current business applications; and 48% say their employees are doing significantly more work on mobile devices. As important, mobile solutions account for a growing share of SMB technology budgets, with median spending on mobile solutions as a percentage of total technology spending rising year-over-year. However, while they’ve been swept up in the mobile tsunami, many SMBs have yet to put mobile strategies and solutions in place to optimize their mobile investments. SMBs will need better guidance from vendors both to effectively manage and protect mobile assets and to better integrate them with traditional business applications and infrastructure.
  7. SMBs Rethink CRM. SMBs need an integrated, holistic view of their customers, but “enterprise” CRM has proved too complicated and costly for most. The good news is that vendors are crafting CRM solutions specifically designed and priced for SMBs. These solutions go beyond contact management to help SMBs improve the customer experience; compete in a social, omnichannel world; and access analytics to stay ahead of their customers’ expectations. Examples include Salesforce, which introduced Salesforce IQ as its new sales management entry point for SMBs and followed up with a free integration for SalesforceIQ withcom customer service. This combination provides sales and customer service reps with a complete view of customer interactions across sales and services. HubSpot launched Connect to integrate customer data from different applications, such as billing and payment data from FreshBooks and customer service records from Zendesk, into HubSpot, for a more complete customer view. Meanwhile, SAP rolled out SAP Anywhere & Everywhere to help SMB retailers and etailers manage sales, marketing, ecommerce and inventory activities in a more cohesive way. And Infusionsoft, which has focused on very small businesses from the start, is adding new capabilities to enable buyers to better personalize the Infusionsoft experience to their style and preferences. These vendors—and others—will help more SMBs realize that the time has come to modernize and integrate their CRM approach.
  8. SMBs Move Up the Cloud Analytics Curve. Vendors have been making big investments to build powerful yet cost-effective cloud-based analytics solutions. Designed for business users instead of data scientists, these solutions offer user-friendly interfaces, guided discovery, visualization tools and natural language capabilities to help users quickly get actionable insights from their data. For instance, IBM’s Watson Analytics minimizes the effort required to turn raw data into insight via visualizations. Users connect their data source to Watson and then query Watson about the data in plain English (or their native language). Watson then builds a dashboard or graphics so users can easily visualize the findings. It also offers a built-in predictive engine, which can, for instance, generate personalized offers based on customer preferences and purchasing histories. Another example is Tableau, which recently introduced Vizable, designed for a touch-based, mobile world. Vizable reads a spreadsheet or .csv file, determines the key categories and then displays an initial graphical view of the data that users can explore by pinching, swiping and dragging on the iPad. Vizable also offers a built-in animation engine to help users understand why results change as they manipulate the data. With clear benefits and easy access, SMBs are shifting from on-premises analytics to the cloud. This is particularly true in medium businesses, which cite analytics as the second most critical area to invest in over the next 12 months. Although most of these businesses currently use on-premises analytics solutions, among those planning to purchase or upgrade in this area, 48% plan to use cloud-based analytics solutions. This trend will strengthen in 2016, as more SMBs seek out analytics solutions that are easy to buy and use in order to stay ahead of the market and their competitors.
  9. SMBs Streamline Internal Processes to Focus on Business Growth. SMBs say that attracting new customers and growing the business are their top business goals, according to SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study. Unfortunately, many SMBs waste so much time managing the daily internal grind of financial, human resources, procurement and other back-office processes that they don’t have time to focus on growth, opportunity and innovation. But SMBs in fast-growth industries such as software and biotech are role models for a more modern, automated and often cloud-based approach—one that enables them to spend less time on back-office processes and more time on decision making. In turn, early SMB adopters across the spectrum are taking note. They are replacing or foregoing outdated, disjointed back-office systems with next-generation solutions. These solutions enable them to automate drudgery and gain time-saving, visibility, collaboration and decision-making benefits that give them the flexibility to adapt to changing market requirements. As early adopters reap these advantages, pressure is mounting for SMBs that have resisted change. They will need to bite the bullet and update the way they run the business, or they will fall behind their more nimble peers.
  10. More Tech Vendors Use Big Data to Provide New Business Services to SMBs. Tech vendors are increasingly applying analytics to challenge traditional service providers in “non-IT” areas. For instance, Intuit recently launched a new financing alternative in partnership with OnDeck. The service uses small businesses’ QuickBooks accounting data to qualify applicants for lower-rate loans than those available from traditional lenders. Intuit also formed a partnership with Stride Health, which integrates Stride Health’s personalized health insurance, healthcare and compliance management within QuickBooks Self-Employed. Meanwhile, Intacct, which provides cloud ERP software, has partnered with Pacific Crest to provide SaaS businesses with real-time comparisons of their performance relative to their peers and pinpoint specific levers for improving their execution. And IBM continues to push Watson deeper into healthcare, with a planned $1 billionacquisition of medical imaging company Merge Healthcare. IBM’s intent is to apply image analytics to medical images taken by Merge, which are used in medical specialties such as radiology, cardiology and orthopedics. Big Blue also purchased the Weather Company’s digital assets (everything but the TV network). IBM will use the Weather Company’s forecasting data and technology to create services to help weather-reliant businesses to maximize profits. Because so many industries rely on weather data, the opportunities are endless. For instance, retailers need to know if they should stock up on groceries before a winter storm; farmers use weather data to maximize crop yields; and construction workers monitor the weather to determine the best times to pour concrete or operate a crane. As these types of services proliferate and become more powerful and convenient, they offer new ways for SMBs to grow and innovate.

If you are interested in learning more about licensing options for SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com or 508-734-5658.