How to Choose a Technology Partner for Your IoT Solutions

Product development is already a demanding and exacting process. From prototyping to production, there are numerous opportunities for errors to creep in, and years can crawl by before the first product is introduced to the market. The process becomes even more complicated when you introduce connectivity features into your product. This spawns a fresh profusion of factors to consider: data security and management, privacy, manufacturing, supply chain, user interface and more. 

But there is a simple way to minimize inconvenience and potential missteps and further the success of your connected home and building solutions: find technology partners. 

The recent and expected growth of the connected home and building market represents an important opportunity for OEMs that develop devices, appliances, security and lighting to differentiate their products with new functionality and connectivity. But with the increasing number of devices on the market, it takes domain expertise to stand out from the crowd.   

Enlisting expert help can be one of the most effective ways to solve challenges within your solution ecosystem. In Jabil's Smart Home Technology Trends Survey, almost all participants identified partners as an important part of their strategy. 

Download the Smart Home Tech Trends Survey Report.

What types of technology and business partners are important to your connected home and building solution strategy? Choose all that apply.

Considering the importance of data in a connected world, global enterprises consider technology partners with expertise in data management to offer the highest potential value. Next, 60 percent of survey participants emphasized the importance of partners with manufacturing expertise in connected devices in achieving their goals.

Smart home and building solution providers are also looking to collaborate with companies that have expertise in the cloud, telecommunications and payment processing. As you can see, a diverse set of technology partners can greatly benefit global enterprises. 

Crestron: A Technology Partner Case Study

From lighting and climate control to sophisticated audio/visual presentation and communication systems, Crestron has a diverse product portfolio, with 3,000 offerings (and growing). Even more complex, the company is committed to continuous product development, adding up to 350 new products to its arsenal each year. 

When Dan Brady, executive vice president of manufacturing and supply chain, joined Crestron over a decade ago, the company's rapid growth had overtaxed many of its manufacturing processes. To accommodate escalating product delivery demands, the company had collaborations with more than a dozen manufacturing companies. The subsequent lack of integration between the various groups fragmented the supply chain while impeding the ability to deliver products on time. Crestron needed a technology partner to consolidate all their manufacturing needs. 

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Although you may be aware of the types of technology partners you need for your connected home and building solutions, how do you pick the right one? After all, adding any third party to your company's ecosystem can be a formidable risk. Here are six questions to ask when choosing a technology partner for your connected solutions:  

1. What is the technology partner's domain expertise? 

The options for technology partners in the market are as vast as the number of connected solutions. The future success of your collaboration – and possibly your company – depends on competent research and an understanding of your potential partners’ domain expertise. The research shouldn't solely rely on what the company tells you about itself. Explore online reviews whenever possible and speak with their current customers. In addition, review the latest media coverage on the company – it'll speak volumes about the authenticity of a company. 

Crestron’s dozen manufacturing collaborations caused a lack of integration, segmented manufacturing and an imbalance of inventory, making it difficult to scale their supply chain operations. "Every time we outgrew one partner, we would bolt on another," Brady explains. "What we needed was a larger, more capable partner that could keep up with both our production volumes and stringent quality standards." 

Brady had amassed nearly two decades of experience working with Jabil on large-scale projects during a previous tenure in the telecommunications industry. After the two companies committed to collaborate, almost overnight, Jabil assembled the first Crestron factory, convening more than 2,000 employees at its facility in Guadalajara, Mexico. "An entire leadership team in Mexico worked around the clock for nine months to ramp up manufacturing of 100 new products," Brady says. 

Today, Crestron can accelerate new product introductions, thanks to a steady pace and consistent level of quality, reliability and product delivery. None of this would be possible without true domain expertise to support them every step of the way. That is why your search needs to be thorough – you need a company that can deliver on its promises. 

2. How compatible are your company cultures?

In your search for technology partners, you will come across many companies with adequate domain expertise. What will set each of them apart will be their company culture and how compatible it is with yours. 

"Cultural fit was most important," Brady says. "Everyone we spoke with could handle our volumes, but our bigger concern was the relationship. It would take a special company to help us launch more than 300 new products in a year." 

Crestron prides itself on treating everyone like a customer, both internally and externally. "In particular, we seek suppliers and manufacturing partners that share our values. We nurture those strong relationships and treat them as part of our team," Brady says. 

For Crestron, flexibility and rapid response were two major attributes they required when working with a company. Their belief in honoring commitments permeates every facet of the business. Crestron is dedicated to doing what's right for both the business and their customers, which in turn, drives the quality of their technology, people, partners and products.

When teaming with another company, culture fit is essential. It's the guiding light for your business relationship. 

3. What is the global reach of your technology partner?

With approximately 3,500 employees dispersed across 92 offices worldwide, Crestron has a diverse global footprint. While your current plans may not involve international expansion, it is crucial to be prepared. It is better to work with a global technology partner that can begin locally and scale as needed than to pick one that will not be able to accommodate your growing geographical needs. 

Keep in mind that a global company will likely bring a more diverse workforce and perspectives into their work with you, thereby increasing your effectiveness. That is why Jabil, with 100 facilities in 29 countries, was a great match for Crestron. 

"As we expand and grow our global footprint, our partnership with Jabil will become even more important to supply and support points around the world," says Randy Klein, president and chief executive officer of Crestron. "Jabil is in lockstep with that global footprint and reach to support our initiatives at all international locations."

As the landscape for connected home and building develops, new opportunities for technology partners will arise. The process of choosing the right partner will remain critical for any global enterprise that wants to become more efficient, increase its capabilities and expand its resources with maximum ease and efficiency. 

Download the 2020 Smart Home Tech Trends Survey Report

Insights on technology adoption, industry opportunities and biggest challenges from over 200 IoT decision-makers at smart home and appliance OEMs.