Interview with Nicolas Windpassinger, the Global Vice President of Schneider Electric’s Partner Program, on the channel opportunity of the Internet of Things.
With the ongoing deployment of IoT (Internet of Things) in buildings, especially buildings with specific usages such as hotels, hospitals or data centers, a mix of new companies and existing technology players are offering solutions and services for various business use cases.
IoT technologies in several aspects differ from the more traditional IT. At the same time, several IoT use cases require skillsets outside of IT: operational technology, electrical know-how, the list goes on.
- On one side you have the “historical” IT channel: A while ago we had an interesting talk with people from Cisco on how IoT brings in these entirely new dynamics, challenges and opportunities for the IT channel. Think about system integrators or ISVs, for example.
- On the other side you have the “historical” OT channel: There is a whole channel of companies who are specialized in less typical IT domains but in areas such as building management systems, electrical contracting, facility management, energy management (where we also encouter the building energy management system), data centers and so forth.
- New breeds: Last but not least, on top of that the business and solutions focus of some vendors in turn creates the conditions for new breeds of partners.
Ecosystems connecting expertise and igniting growth: EcoXpert
One of the companies that has built a vast channel, partner and certification program for such companies and helps them in creating additional benefits with IoT is Schneider Electric with its EcoXpert program.
We previously talked with Nicolas Windpassinger on his new IoT book ‘Digitize or Die’. As mentioned, Nicolas is also responsible for the company’s partner program, called EcoXpert. It is a brand on its own and received a 5-Star Rating in the 2017 Partner Program Guide of channel publication ‘par excellence’, CRN.
Time for a look at the channel dynamics, evolutions and challenges with regards to IoT in the traditionally less IT-oriented ecosystems of channel players across various IoT use cases.
Nicolas, can you start by saying something about the ways in which Schneider Electric overall is active with IoT?
Nicolas Windpassinger: We are fully embracing and pioneering in the IoT movement through our IoT Platform EcoStruxure, which is the digital backbone for our IoT-enabled applications, our solutions and services.
With EcoStruxure we are connecting best-in-class OT solutions with the latest in IT technology to unlock trapped value in our customers’ operations and tap into the true potential of the Internet of Things. The EcoStruxure technology is a game changer for our industry and enables our customers to onboard to the world of digitization so they can compete in their own markets.
And what is the role of the EcoXpert Partner Program in this scope?
Nicolas Windpassinger: EcoStruxure is creating unique opportunities to boost the growth and differentiation of our partner companies. That is where the EcoXpert partner program comes into play.
At the core of our program is our mission of connecting expertise, igniting growth and enabling the success for our EcoXpert partner companies. The program unites leading technology providers and system integrators with our customers around the globe.
Trained and certified by Schneider Electric, EcoXperts have some of the most sought-after competencies in the industry and are pioneering the future of intelligent buildings and the Internet of Things. Through the EcoXpert program, we are able to deliver smarter and more efficient buildings to our customers.
The Internet of Things and its vast network of channel partners in building management and energy efficiency
Can you give us a few examples of IoT applications and solutions, how they help EcoXpert partners and their customers and how you expect this to evolve?
Nicolas Windpassinger: The current ways in which the Internet of Things is de facto used depends a lot on the activities and areas of expertise. We have 6 different EcoXpert badge certifications: the BMS certification (systems for building management, where IoT plays an increasing role), Critical Power, Light & Room Control, Datacom, Connected Power and Home & Small Business. On top of that there are several specialization tracks.
The types of companies, their skillsets and, as mentioned, the applications typically differ per certification badge.
In BMS, for example you’ll encounter system integrators and other partners which have been working in the building management and building automation field, predominantly with a mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) background in commercial buildings.
Their skillsets and offerings evolved from HVAC to control systems, integration into third-party systems (lighting, security access and so forth) and now to full IoT building automation.
Critical Power EcoXpert badge owners have different backgrounds as they specialize in power management or energy management systems with smart meters and systems throughout buildings where electricity is critical such as hospitals and airports.
Energy accounting, power quality, power availability and managing energy cost, assets and networks are essential solutions for them and their customers.
IoT is not just about large channel partners and contractors
Does this mean that EcoXpert is only for larger companies with larger end customers?
Nicolas Windpassinger: No, certainly not. There are really various types of partners. What they have in common is that they grow their business and revenues by offering smart solutions to help their customers realize ample benefits and, doing so, growing and even transforming their own business with the Internet of Things as an enabler for growth today and in the future.
Moreover, there is a badge that has been specifically designed for IoT electricity solutions for small and medium end customers who are typically served by electrical contractors.
These are the holders of the Connected Power badge. They mainly specialize in acquiring the IT skills to move from traditional electrical installations to smart panels and monitoring and optimization of energy consumption in smaller companies through the use of our smart panel components, connectivity and a dedicated cloud application.
One of the main challenges for these electrical contractors is that they know mechanics and electricity but need an additional knowledge of IT.
The benefits for doing so are huge: instead of working in a highly competitive space with tight margins and commoditization, they can build lasting relationships with customers, move to selling services and reap the benefits of being much higher in the value chains of end customers, in this case those smaller to medium-sized companies like restaurant chains or retailers who know about and want energy-saving solutions with additional monitoring and alerts that spare them from potential disasters when there are power outages.
So, it requires a forward-thinking, changing and services-oriented mindset on top of the training. We help them with that as well.
Channel dynamics in an evolution of convergence and integration
In our previous interview you mentioned disruption. Do you think that if the types of companies, which you mentioned, don’t transform themselves in the IoT space, they will face commoditization?
Nicolas Windpassinger: In many cases this is already happening. Just think about the mentioned electrical contractors who increasingly have to work with customers that understand the benefits of smart electrical solutions. Or about how smart buildings are changing the status quo.
In that perspective it’s important to look at ecosystems and an increasing convergence. The Internet of Things and ongoing digitization have a convergence and integration impact on partners as well. That’s why companies who have earned a certification badge in one area, increasingly move to a multi-badge approach, enabling them to grow their business and skillsets to tap in the huge revenue and service potential of related areas. By way of an example: a certified Building Management System expert might decide to go into Light & Room Control in commercial buildings too.
That convergence is what we’ll see more and more as the Internet of Things continues to transform – and indeed disrupt – so many areas of business and society.
Disclaimer: we deliver services to Schneider Electric’s EcoXpert program, including content services. Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: Montri Nipitvittaya