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Digital transformation and the rise of intelligent features are unstoppable trends, and that’s great. But it also makes things more complex for businesses and organizations trying to do what they do best, but do it bigger, broader, and better all the time. Fortunately, they don’t have to do it alone. There’s a whole ecosystem of partners out there to smooth the way and fill in the gaps.
And systems integrators—or SIs—and aggregators are integral to making those partnerships happen, and to making them flourish. They take the guesswork out, so that companies can focus on what really matters for them and their clients. Four experts discuss the lay of the SI/aggregator landscape: Lisa McGarvey, a VP at the solution aggregator company TD SYNNEX; Matt Tyler, a VP at the technology integration and services company Wachter; Tobias Ender, CEO of collaboration consultant GPA; and Ben Kotvis, Senior Architect in the Enterprise Strategy team at Insight. They’ll talk about the role of the SI today, how technology trends both complicate and invigorate the picture, and what’s next for the SI/aggregator space (Video 1).
How has the role of SIs and aggregators evolved as the IoT space has evolved?
Lisa McGarvey: If you look at the move from traditional distribution and product sales to what TD SYNNEX is seeing today, we’re actually aggregating and orchestrating solutions. Traditional distribution was really limited in its value creation, and we believe this newer model is exponentially more valuable to our partners and our ecosystem.
Digital transformation is allowing solution aggregators like TD SYNNEX to differentiate and to unlock the potential of the ecosystem. We’re continually growing our capabilities to meet the emerging technology and transformation needs of the markets we’re seeing. We know that building and delivering complete solutions is a lengthy and complex process; our job as an aggregator is to simplify that complexity.
What are some of the challenges the IoT space is facing today?
Matt Tyler: As vertical silos of technology have been implemented over the years, our customers are looking to integrate them—to share the data, and to make it more valuable and actionable. The challenge from the OT side at Wachter is that we now need access to data centers and data sets that we never would have had access to before, enabling us to provide the connectivity and sensor traffic, and to tie disparate systems together.
Tobias Enders: At GPA we’re using IoT devices and sensors a lot in the context of smart workspace and smart building—IoT sensors with cloud subscriptions, different portals, and so on. And we see that the market is still very fragmented, which adds a lot of complexity to rollouts. Our customers really want the scale and speed that we design for, and they want it on a global scale. Therefore we need strong partners helping.
Ben Kotvis: Yes. The ability to use the partners that we have all over the world is really important for different pieces of a solution. We can tap into them to provide services and to source hardware quickly. It’s something that we at Insight put a lot of work into—creating those relationships and maintaining those relationships.
What’s the value add of aggregators and integrators when it comes to scaling?
Matt Tyler: Lines of communication are key to selling any type of solution. Some retail customers have a top-down approach; we may go sell to the C-suite in a retail setting, and then they push that digital-transformation directive down to the retail stores themselves. So in that situation sometimes we need help from our partners, such as TD SYNNEX or Insight, depending on the market.
Whereas in manufacturing or heavy industrial, the plants and the manufacturing environments have more autonomy and we’re selling more at the plant level, where we feel very comfortable. Having either the relationship base or the knowledge base allows us to sell our solutions in really any market.
How should SIs and aggregators be thinking about new technologies like AI, cloud, and the edge?
Tobias Enders: I think what is really critical around these trends and technology deployments is to emphasize that we need to think about the end user first. Of course, we use AI or the cloud to simplify and to add speed and scale into deployments, but ultimately our key focus should always be the end user and what they want to achieve by using these technologies. But we do think AI is just at the beginning of a huge trend for large organizations.
Give us some real-world examples of how SIs and aggregators can make a difference.
Ben Kotvis: Speaking of AI, Insight has a client that makes outboard motors. It had some defects in its die casts, and it was using AI models to detect them. We were able to operationalize that AI at the edge so we could take a thermal image of the die cast and look for those defects. Then we could notify the operator in the manufacturing plant with a visual alarm if there was a problem. And it tied in heavily with the operational systems that the client was already using. We were able to prevent a lot of extra work by determining problems early in the manufacturing process.
We’re also doing a ton of work with computer vision and looking for patterns in the retail world—looking for people going into areas where they shouldn’t be, for example. The challenge there is undersizing the computing. The retailers might think they’re going to use two particular computer vision models, but they end up thinking, “I could maybe have another five here, and they could help us with all sorts of additional problems.” So that introduces new problems, but it’s good for our business.
“We know that building and delivering complete solutions is a lengthy and complex process; our job as an aggregator is to simplify that complexity” – Lisa McGarvey, @TDSYNNEX via @insightdottech
Matt Tyler: Wachter is working with a robotics company that’s a package solution. It comes into a distribution center and is able to de-palletize, pick, pack, ship, and re-palletize all of the inventory. It’s tremendous, and it uses a lot of AI in that. Well, what it wasn’t looking at was the maintenance and health of its own robotics within its own system. So we worked with it to implement vision systems within its robotic cells to keep an eye on what’s going on, and to call its robots out of service if there’s a potential for failure.
Lisa McGarvey: TD SYNNEX is actually working with Wachter and Matt on an opportunity right now to monitor generators. We needed an SI; we needed someone to help connect and monitor multiple models and brands of generators, as well as provide installation and implementation services. As an aggregator, we identify and bring together those multivendor solutions.
Tobias Enders: We see a big trend towards hybrid working. Lots of our customers end up with unused capacity of space in their office buildings. On one side that’s a big pain point, but on the other side it’s a huge opportunity for them—to rightsize their buildings and benefit from the cost savings, or to add more people to one particular space to use its capacity better.
Of course desk sharing is something that nearly every organization around the globe is currently implementing. IoT comes into play with that, because we need to really understand the utilization of the working space. So GPA helped a large manufacturing company to equip all its desks with little IoT sensors to measure occupancy—if someone is there or if it’s free. This helps dramatically in getting a better understanding of how the space is really used.
That comes together with a smart building platform, with an app where you can book your desk. The corporate real estate managers use the dashboard to see the utilization. This sounds like a very simple use case, and of course it is. However, it’s a huge, huge business case; return on investment for the customer with that information is a 40% or 50% savings of real estate cost, just with a couple of sensors on the desk.
Lisa, you mentioned the partnership with Wachter. Are there any others you want to call out?
Lisa McGarvey: I definitely want to call out Intel. Intel has made significant investments in its solution aggregator program—Intel® IoT Market Ready Solutions—and in the ecosystem partners that it brings to us, as well as the industry expertise that we’ve leveraged. TD SYNNEX has a great partnership with Intel, which has really helped us as we’ve had to respond and adapt quickly to all the accelerated business-transformation needs brought about by the pandemic. The Intel Solution Aggregator relationship enabled us to do that.
What are some of the criteria that you at Insight look for when choosing a partnership, Ben?
Ben Kotvis: Areas where we’re weak or where we don’t have particular specialties our clients need are obvious points. There can be a lot of complexity around operational-computing technology, and our partnership with Wachter is valuable because it plugged into an area where we didn’t really have the expertise. Another great place to build partnerships is around services where physically, or from a particular locale, we just don’t have coverage.
Matt, what is the value of partnering with someone that might be thought of as a competitor?
Matt Tyler: It’s amazing that about 40% of our business is done with partners, either sell-to or sell-through. Through our partnership with Intel, through our partnership with TD SYNNEX, I’ve built a relationship with the folks at Insight. With the level of trust that we have, we can fully engage with end-user customers without fear of anyone’s ego, or anyone trying to take business from the other.
What opportunities can we look forward to in the future?
Ben Kotvis: Things are coming to life that Insight has been investing a lot of time and energy into. I mentioned retail earlier—we’ve invested a ton into the computer vision and intelligent edge there, and we’re really seeing it come to life right now to an extent that is very exciting to us. That’s something that we plan to build on and widen and bring into other industries as well.
Tobias Enders: GPA has identified the IT space as a very relevant part of future business. We want to reduce complexity, and IoT is still very complex and fragmented, so this is where we see opportunity. In the IoT space we feel that we can add lots of value from a consulting standpoint, but also from a systems integration standpoint.
Matt Tyler: If you’re paying attention to anything in the news, the explosive adoption of AI—including ChatGPT—is absolutely incredible. We’re going to see that shift into the commercial-market space—fully autonomous retail stores, fully autonomous factories and logistic centers. Wachter sees this as being the next big step to being able to ultimately provide customers and consumers a better shopping experience, and retailers a better online receiving experience.
Lisa McGarvey: TD SYNNEX has a four-pillar investment strategy to support aggregation and orchestration. One: invest in high-growth technology areas. Second: strengthen our end-to-end portfolio, customer solutions, vendors, and our ecosystem. Third: transform digitally through advanced analytics and digital platforms. And last: expand our global footprint.
But the goal is to really help our partners deliver the right solutions, knowing that no one can do it alone.
To learn more about system integrators and the IoT space, listen to The Power of IoT Partnerships with SIs and Aggregators. For the latest innovations from TD SYNNEX, Wachter, Inc., Insight, and GPA, follow them on Twitter at @TDSYNNEX, @WachterInc, @InsightEnt, and @GPA_AV and on LinkedIn at TD SYNNEX, Wachter, Inc., Insight, and GPA.
This article was edited by Erin Noble, copy editor.