Five Things To Consider When Choosing an IoT Service Provider
IoT projects have many interconnected pieces – hardware, wireless connectivity to the cloud, data processing components, a user interface, etc. – and it’s important to consider how a technology partner can support those various components. As such, it is essential that companies implementing IoT solutions understand what they need from a provider.
While some organizations have more robust offerings that can provide a complete solution, it is not that uncommon for a company to use more than one vendor to help realize its goals. These five things to consider will help you choose the best IoT service provider(s) for your project, no matter its complexity. Answers to these questions will help create a project framework that gets your deployment off the ground and poised for success.
1. Is your IoT project’s scope clearly defined?
Your search for a provider probably started after many internal discussions about what needs your IoT project will fill and the business goals it will help meet. But there are some additional big-picture questions you will want to ask yourself before you start reaching out to potential service providers.
Have you decided how you’re measuring success? Specific metrics that determine whether or not a project has been completed to your satisfaction can serve as the project’s North Star, guiding decisions and actions along the way. Those metrics can also help you determine whether you’ve gotten an appropriate return on the investment in the partnership.
Have you determined how quickly this project needs to go to market? The speed of deployment can affect cost, as projects operate within an interrelated triangle of scope, time, and cost. Potential partners will also need to be able to evaluate their capacity to support project scalability. If your needs don’t match up with a service provider’s capabilities, it will lead to considerable stress as the project unfolds.
2. Who is going to accomplish this work?
Deciding what functions you need partnering associations to cover the most is another key step to determining what kind of provider will be right for your IoT solution. Do you have fewer resources in software development? Is your team less experienced in the hardware side of the project? Do you need support around strategic oversight?
Once those questions have been answered, it’s time to look at your team and decide what in-house skills are available for the project. Does your team have the bandwidth to work hand-in-hand with the provider to ensure success?
Sometimes, even if you have the right people on your team, they may not have the bandwidth available to effectively complete the work without reprioritizing other mission-critical tasks. That’s a case in which a provider could step in and assist, as well.
3. Has the vendor (or vendors) worked in your specific field of IoT?
As you begin the search for the right provider, you’ll want to review their prior IoT experience and read reviews to get a sense of customer satisfaction and challenges. But while you’re doing that legwork, it’s important to look for vendors who have worked in your specific IoT vertical. Their experience and knowledge of your unique needs could save you time – and money – during implementation.
Look for providers who have broader experience across all stages of the project lifecycle. They will be more conscious of potential challenges and anticipate ways around obstacles you might not yet see on the horizon. That experience will save you money and time in the long run.
4. Can your team manage multiple vendors or does it make sense to look for a single partner?
Different vendors offer different types of solutions. Some can provide a more integrated package, and others may only offer specialized support. Using multiple providers greatly increases the complexity and time involved in managing the project. Honestly appraising your internal managers’ capacity to provide partners what they need to accomplish their work and move the project forward is critical to success.
If your internal team has the capacity to manage multiple vendors and coordinate their work, that opens up opportunities to look for partners that are highly specialized in their part of IoT systems. This customized support may help speed up deployment of particular aspects of the project or even yield a more sophisticated overall solution.
If the best path forward is to work with more than one service provider but internal bandwidth to manage them is limited, consider exploring whether one of those partners can take on the coordination between providers. That would free up time for your internal team, while still allowing you to leverage specific skill sets across the IoT implementation.
5. What support do they provide after the implementation stage?
Sometimes, service providers can be very hands-on during the kick-off phase but may be ill-equipped to handle the growth and expansion of your deployment. This is why it is important to enter partnerships with IoT service providers that are invested in a long-term partnership with your company. If the relationship operates at a sustained pace, the partner could even help you anticipate additional needs as the project scales.
As you research potential partners, it’s not a bad idea to ask them to connect you with other long-term clients. Those references can provide you with a clearer sense of how relationships with that partner might unfold over an extended period of time. A good reference question to ask would be how supportive the partner organization is once the IoT project is past its start-up phase.
Another benefit to a relationship that unfolds at a sustainable pace is that it builds a base of trust from which to operate if/when problems arise. Being able to count on the partner if something goes wrong or a crisis arises is critical. Service providers need to not just be able to help implement and support, but also to troubleshoot IoT deployments collaboratively.
A Foundation for Long-Term Success
Building a successful IoT service provider partnership starts with clarifying your company’s needs and expectations, and establishing your vision for what success will look like. Then, through conversations with potential partners and their existing clients, you can discover where your project team and the provider share overlapping values and approaches to deployment.
By laying that initial foundation, it means you will be able to scale IoT projects more efficiently and effectively. It also creates room for flexibility as your strategic goals shift over time. Answering these five questions at the beginning of the relationship sets your project up for long-term success.
Soracom’s developers, solution architects, and support teams are available to help you think through your specific needs. Connect with us through our Contact form, and someone will reach out to set you up for success.
Do you have questions about an IoT project? Speak with one of our experts today to learn how Soracom has helped more than 20,000 innovators deploy, scale, and secure their IoT projects.