Managing an M2M solution, Part 3

Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

Application Enablement Management: I get asked a lot about what is required to manage a successful M2M solution.  There are a lot of moving components, and it can be daunting.  Once you have made up your mind that you want to proceed (developed a business case, secured funding), you now have to decide the right combination for the solution to deploy (hardware, software, cellular technology, etc).  But....you're not done.  You have to manage these devices while they are in the field.

There are 4 important stages to managing a device, and we are going to address them in their own blog:

1) SIM / Activation Management

2) Device Management

3) Application enablement Management

4) Managing the "presentation" layer

When a lot of people look at a solution, the first instinct is to think that most of the work went into the interface that you are looking at.  It makes sense, since that is where most of the "wow" factor is, whether it is a cool map, great looking chart or an informative email that it sent to you to let you know of an event.  In reality, most of the really tough work is done behind the scenes.  Drawing the required information from a remote device, sending the information along to a server and putting the information into a useful format is where the real skill lies.  These actions, and more, can be summarized by the term "Application Enablement Management" or AEM.  It is also sometimes referred to as Solution Enablement Management.

This step can be used by two different types of parties:

1) Companies who are offering a complete solution to a customer.  This may be a vehicle tracking application, a hosted solution to monitor tank levels or a solution providing analytics.  As part of their offering, they need to have a reliable method of drawing the required information from the remote unit (speed, location, temperature levels, etc) and transporting this information to their database.  At that point, their solution continues onto put the data into a manner that it can be useful for the user (called the presentation layer, which is covered in the next blog).  For many existing solution providers, there were no options for AEM, other than to develop it themselves. Today, many solutions exist to not only provide a reliable method of gathering the correct information but also to expedite the development of a solution (often by years).  This allows the solution provider to focus on differentiating themselves by sales and service, and not have to be an expert on wireless.

2) For some customers who have already developed/procured a Presentation layer (such as their own mapping software, their own database or using industry platforms like SAP), they simply need a reliable method of getting the information from the field and having it delivered to their system (in a format that they can use).  This is where AEM solutions can shine, as it can reduce the cost/complexity/time to market of solutions down to weeks (even days).

For many customers, both solution providers and customers who are doing it themselves, it makes sense to combine the first three management steps into one offering (Managing the SIM, managing the device and AEM).  I want to make these blogs about information, not about selling, but feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions on how Novotech can help deliver these 3 parts combined in one single package, to effectively reduce the support burden and speed up deployments.

Thanks for reading,

Larry

Managing an M2M Solution, Part 4

Managing the "presentation" layer: I get asked a lot about what is required to manage a successful M2M solution.  There are a lot of moving components, and it can be daunting.  Once you have made up your mind that you want to proceed (developed a business case, secured funding), you now have to decide the right combination for the solution to deploy (hardware, software, cellular technology, etc).  But....you're not done.  You have to manage these devices while they are in the field.

There are 4 important stages to managing a device, and we are going to address them in their own blog:

1) SIM / Activation Management

2) Device Management

3) Application enablement Management

4) Managing the "presentation" layer

What is a presentation layer?  Well, it is anything that allows you to make sense of various pieces of information.  For example, it can range from a system that emails notifications out to you when a particular valve is closed, it can be a map that allows dispatchers to see which repairperson is closest to a particular customer or it can be a database where information is stored for future use.  Really, it depends on how you want to access the information, do you want it sent to you in real-time and how your business needs to use the information to improve your productivity.

For many customers, they have spent time and money creating or customizing their own system.  This could be a database where information is stored, a system that Customer Service staff uses to find information for clients or a map used to dispatch vehicles.  While there are some great 3rd party solutions out there, these customer want to use a new solution to improve the functionality of a system that they are invested in.  This is where the first three layers of management come into play.  The first three layers manage all of the components (cellular network connectivity, the mobile device and retrieving only the information that is needed) and present the information into a manner that the presentation layer can use.  Using a combined approach greatly reduces integration issues, deployment time and the learning curve for staff (since they are using a system that they are familiar with)

For other customers, they may be either using manual systems (yes, pen and clipboard is alive and kicking) or may be looking to reduce their in-house IT staffing needs by outsourcing a solution.  For these customers, a solution combining all 4 layers makes the most sense.  These solutions, by the nature of being a package deal, are well-tested and can be deployed quickly.  Common solutions that fall into this area include Vehicle tracking, tank monitoring, security systems and more.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help you with your M2M needs.

Larry

M2M – Not exciting, but high growth

Through this blog, and my day to day work, I do get a lot of calls and emails from people at various organizations who have been tasked to sell different M2M solutions.  This ranges from Cellular network salespeople, to salespeople from dealers of cell carriers to hardware manufacturers and to software/integration companies.  While many people understand the basics components of a solution, there is a lot of worry about how to put it all together, how to position it to a customer and how to know about a customer's business enough to even know if they are a good candidate for it.

This is the first portion of a tutorial series on how to sell M2M solutions....

Phase 1 - "I don't even know where to look for a good candidate"

Phase 2 - "Ok, they seem interested...how do I position this solution to them?  What should I know about their business to properly position the solution?"

Phase 3 - "Ok, they are interested and agree that it will help their business.  How do I go about selecting the perfect hardware/software/solution management package?"

Phase 4 - "They agree with the solution and want to do a field trial to prove that it works"

Phase 5 - "The trial went well, and we received a purchase order.....how do we deploy this effectively and quickly?"

Phase 6 - "The deployment went well....how do I manage this customer, post-deployment?"

So, the solution has been deployed, and the customer's cheque has cleared.....but, you are far from done.  Some things that you still have to do include:

Validate the ROI  When you first proposed the solution to the customer, the reasoning behind it was probably either to make them more money (i.e. increase collection of revenue / increase productivity to allow for more sales per hour) or save them money (i.e. decrease clerical costs, lower fuel consumption).  Has the solution done this?  If not, when will it start to do so?

Prepare a case study / reference  This may not apply to every customer, as many of them do not wish to tell the world what they have been up to, especially their competitors.  However, many companies like to inform their customers how they are going to be better serving them by the addition of technology or even scare their competition.  Preparing a case study allows for customers who may be in a similar situation (not even necessarily in the same vertical/geographic space) to see how another company dealt with these issues and how they are better for it.  As well, it is always great to see if you can use this customer as a reference for other customers who may wish to ask questions.  

Set up long-term support   Once the solution has been deployed, you want to ensure that the support system that you set up (whether you helped the customer be able to monitor themselves or if you are providing support services) is meeting the requirements that were laid out.

Set up recurring meetings  For many deals involving on-going support, post-deployment meetings will be normally agreed to in the early stages of the solution.  However, it is still a great idea to check back often with your customer for a few reasons.  First, if the solution was successful and they are a growing company, you may be able to expand the solution/number of units to the customer.  Next, you want to ensure that parts of the solution (especially pieces of hardware) are holding up well.  This may be due to physical abuse, may be checking to see if the level of storage is sufficient.  Finally, checking to see if the server/platform is handling spikes in usage, whether they were planned for not.  

Repeat business  Many solutions may have a shorter shelf life, due to the quick changing world of technology.  You want to ensure that you are bringing new ideas to your customer, so that you are top of mind when it comes to any future refreshes in technology.