From Hype to Reality, a Partner Ecosystem Perspective

Having spent most of my working life around technology I have seen my fair share of economic booms and busts. Apart from the meta-economic influences, the Silicon Valley cycle usually follows its own wave tied to “the next big thing”-- the wave of investment, over expectation, under delivery, and subsequent crash. This obesogenic hype environment means great ideas typically die before their time and are reborn years later when the foundational problems have been resolved.

History of Transformation

Industrial digital transformation has been evolving for decades, and it’s probably fair to say it began January 1, 1968 with Dick Morley and his hangover leading to the development of the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). The term Internet of Things was coined by Kevin Ashton, and around 3 years later the Cloud started to happen. A decade ago sensor prices started to fall and in 2016 the Industrial Internet of Things was born.

Being responsible for the Partner Ecosystems of ServiceMax (the leading field service solution for Industrial companies) and subsequently GE Digital, I was exposed to new ideas every day and had a front row seat to new technologies. Some technologies have a natural “wow” factor such as drones, AR, VR, with no shortage of players.

The Latest Cycle

What I have enjoyed about the latest industrial transformation cycle is that there has been enough momentum and external innovations that the good technologies haven’t died -- there has been a rationalization but promising ideas have survived. In addition, the move to the cloud, the explosion in cheap storage and compute, automation and manufacturing innovation, have all contributed to the initial flaws in an idea being resolved in a timelier manner.

At the same time, a host of forces -- global competition, the impending threat of climate change, increasing demands for more equal standards of living and basics like clean water and electricity -- have all placed new and dynamic demands on industrial companies.

So, what is the current state of Industrial IoT and digital industrial transformation?

Some trends continue, with new innovation in sensor technology and more ubiquitous connectivity increasing the options for deployment. Every asset manufacturer is sensoring up. So big-data is here to stay and getting bigger.

The same advances in elastic storage and compute are helping to realize the promise of analytics and machine learning. There has also been a rationalization of expectation around the Asset Twin. Element co-founder and VP Product, Sameer Kalwani, wrote an excellent 3-part blog discussing this.

The Challenge - for Customers and Partners

As I speak to partners the repeated problem is that their customers struggle to realize the value of their solution because they don’t know what an Asset Twin should look like, and they can’t access the siloed data or trust that data. Element is the enabling technology allowing businesses to free their siloed data and to rapidly build Asset Twins. Element too allows them to follow a rational journey.  They may aspire to have Data Scientists delivering predictive models that deliver 5% additional performance. But for many, reality starts at creating and implementing OSIsoft Asset Frameworks or HMI accessibility across the entire fleet of assets. The promise of data analysis can’t happen in a scalable, repeatable, trustworthy manner until data preparation is done properly and efficiently.

We now have the building blocks for digital transformation but as we’re exiting the hype phase, what of the day after tomorrow? And where do we as a small company place our bets with partners? The established players have market share, and decades of trust with their customers; and there are plenty of new companies innovating at an amazing pace particularly in asset management, analytics, and machine learning. Ultimately, Element chooses partners based on their ability to help provide optimal solutions for our customers

The Shakeout...and Why I’m Optimistic

When evaluating partners, I often look less at technology, and more at Go-To-Market capabilities. The way companies develop software has become faster and more agile, yet the way companies partner has stayed pretty much the same.  Innovation in partnering, not just technology, is required. There will be companies I need to partner with irrespective, but the ones that most excite me are those willing to be creative and flexible in the way they work with Element and others.  In the end, our goal is to optimally serve our customers by achieving the same velocity in our GTM as we have in our product development.

In the coming years we’ll see new household names emerge and, sadly, we’ll see some big names struggle and potentially fail because they couldn’t execute fast enough or couldn’t see the strategic imperatives for the projects.  We’re already seeing some of that.

But the overall trend is for successful players to move ever-more quickly through the hype cycle and deliver exciting solutions to customers. I’m optimistic and excited to be helping build the relationships that provide you with the solutions you require.

If my perspective resonates with you and you'd like to explore a partnership, reach out to me: partners@elementanalytics.com