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5 steps to delivering IoT innovation

There are a lot of people out there with ideas – new, interesting and exciting ideas. A few of these ideas have transformed the way we work and play. Others had the potential to do so but didn’t. What is the difference between the two? The ability to deliver innovation.

At the heart of the digital transformation taking place in the global economy is the rare ability to take an idea for a new IoT solution and move it into reality. Without it, an idea will always remain just that – an idea.

How to deliver: that is our focus. Helping companies figure out how to deliver ideas in a realized form to the right people, in the right way, with the right support. In my experience, delivering and nurturing innovation in the marketplace requires at least five things.

First, you deliver innovation by having the right processes for designing, assembling and building your product. That’s a lot easier said than done. There’s plenty of focus on the supply chain. But before you get to the supply chain, there is the design chain. Today we see a democratization of design, and it’s a wonderful thing. Even the smallest of startups and the most isolated inventors suddenly have access to complex, sophisticated and powerful design technologies. So delivering innovation starts with matching the right design with the components and suppliers to get it built.

man pressing buttons on modern smart watchThe second step in delivering innovation is identifying and getting technology to the right people. Multinational companies that produce and sell millions of innovative products are currently facing a business decision – how do they enhance their business models using IoT technology? Then there are the small innovators and makers who just need to pair the right technology to their idea and get their product to market. I’ve found that innovation happens as much when connecting with people wearing flip flops and t-shirts as it does in connecting with people in business suits. I call it value distribution as opposed to volume distribution. It’s the ability to deliver technology both to large manufactures as well as smaller entrepreneurs who are increasingly becoming the idea makers of the next big thing.

Third, delivering innovation means getting products all the way into market. You’ve got an idea, you’ve got the right design, the right suppliers and the right production. You’ve reached out to the tech giants and the makers. But can you get it in front of the people who will want to buy and use it? That’s a big challenge.

No market is the same. There are regulatory compliance issues. There are import and export requirements. You have to deal with different customs and clearance requirements. Then once you’ve got your idea and product inside the country, there’s figuring out the right channel strategy. That is a big part of what we do at Avnet. We know because we’ve worked in just about every market imaginable. Delivering innovation to the right markets requires knowledge combined with experience and relationships. That is how we deliver innovation to more than 110,000 customers in 125 countries. Best of all, if you do it right, you develop a “sticky” relationship with your customers. And that stickiness is not only what makes innovation happen, it drives the next round of innovation.

Next there’s the challenge of provisioning and updating. How do you make sure your innovation – be it a piece of equipment or software or consumer product – stays innovative? This is another aspect of delivering on innovation that many people tend to overlook. Delivering on innovation means knowing where you are in your product lifecycle. Are you extending the 2.0 version while people are moving on to 3.0 or 4.0? How about the ingredients of your innovation? Are they being eclipsed by newer, more advanced (and potentially more profitable) technologies?

Finally, there is lifecycle support. At Avnet, we work with literally hundreds of companies to manage everything from extended warranty to standard or advanced replacements to on-site servicing agreements. No matter how innovative, every innovation has an “end of life” transition. Eventually, everything expires, and we help companies transition from one technology to another. That eventually leads us back to where we started, having the right design, supply and manufacturing for the follow-on idea that will usher in the next cycle of innovation.

And that transforms the next wave of ideas into reality.

Delivering innovation requires identifying and leveraging a global network to get the best technologies from the best suppliers. It requires the ability to deliver those technologies to anywhere around the world. It means having the ability to do everything from navigating customs to making sure orders are filled and billings collected. It means finding new routes to the next market.

All this is what turns an idea into a true innovation.


By Lou Lutostanski, vice president, Internet of Things at Avnet (NYSE: AVT), a leader in technology distribution. The company designs, supplies, makes and delivers solutions that enable customers to get their products to market anywhere in the world.

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