As the digital world accelerates and companies embrace digital transformation, we need to learn how to effectively bring to market and sell collections of hardware, software and services from numerous companies that are integrated into complex IOT solutions. Each of the layers in the Internet of Things Reference Model (above and bottom of this blog) can contain components from one or more companies that when combined create an IOT solution.  

These multi-company IOT solutions bring many benefits, but they are also accompanied by their own go to market and sales challenges. The key questions is: How do we overcome the challenges to accelerate these IOT solutions to market and sell them?

Following is part one of a two-part blog that squarely defines and then answers these challenges.

Companies will either digitally transform or become irrelevant or even non-existent. Across the globe in every industry, companies are being challenged by industry peers and others outside their industry. These challenges are coming from large enterprises, medium sized companies and even small start-ups.

For Cisco and our partners, the question is: how do we support our customers to successfully transform their companies? First, we must recognize that the digital transformation of a company means that they have to do things differently – very differently – and that there will be implications.

A good place for them to start is by clearly defining their vision of the future. This usually includes their approach to improving customer service, or their focus on reducing costs by optimizing operational efficiencies, or by implementing innovative new business models. Some companies might even elect to address more than one of these areas at the same time.

Whatever alternative they elect, we can be sure of one thing. Customers, in order to transform quickly, are seeking to acquire specific business outcomes – not hardware, software nor services. This invariability leads them to purchasing or subscribing to specific hybrid offers or IOT solutions – combinations of any digital products and services that deliver relevant business outcomes. They could be predictive maintenance solutions for manufacturing, patient monitoring solutions for healthcare, POS solutions for retail, personal funds transfer solutions for finance, or big data solutions across all industries. They could be structured or unstructured solutions, and they could be created by Cisco or by a Cisco partner. This means that if we continue to only sell individual products and services, we are likely to be replaced by others who are selling solutions.

However, whichever solution or whatever the source, there is one thing that most of these IOT solutions will have in common. They will be hybrid offers composed of hardware, software and services from multiple companies, and they will be somewhat customizable to fit the customer’s specific digital transformation objectives. These can be called multi-party, multi-company, or multi-partner hybrid offers or solutions.

The Value (and Risks) of a Multi-Partner Approach

Why multi-partner hybrid offers or solutions? Because the days of building monolithic, large, vertically integrated solutions are mostly gone. The reason is simple – the cost and time required to create these solutions is excessive, There is no time for lengthy development cylces, due to the accelerating pace of change in the marketplace and the digital transformation happening every 18 to 24 months that require companies to be agile and stay ahead of the digitization curve for their industries.

The benefits of multi-company solutions are clear:

  • Hybrid offers can be quickly created with the simple integration of proven components
  • Companies can leverage the investments of other companies
  • They can can capitalize on the marketplace branding of the solution components
  • They can employ the go-to-market capabilities of other companies, and/or partner in several other ways that drives joint success.

If managed properly, these benefits can be powerful. But, as with any set of benefits – like any medicine – there are side effects that need to be overcome.

Here’s an example:

If we collaborate with several companies to “integrate” a solution composed of products and services from those companies, then we have to not only assemble the solution, test it and document it, but we also have to successfully bring it to market together  Many times, companies are good at assembling or creating a solution made of component parts because they have previously developed processes and approaches to build these types of solutions.

However, they frequently overlook the go-to-market piece. Solution creation can be so challenging, arduous and time constrained that many companies simply do not spend the time to adequately prepare their solutions for sale. This is particularly true for multi-partner solutions since it can be much harder to orchestrate all of the partners who are part of these solutions. Most importantly, there is typically a lack of a repeatable proven methodology to take these multi-partner IOT solutions to market.

The outcome is that these multi-party solutions are frequently “thrown over the wall” to sales.  They assume that sales knows how to sell the solutions. But, this is simply not true – especially if a company’s sales teams have historically sold individual products and services as opposed to solutions, let alone multi-party IOT solutions. The result is poor absorption or sales of these solutions.

Examples of these solutions might be a private cloud IOT offering composed of products and services from six different companies. Or a security solution from four different companies. Or a predictive maintenance solution from three companies. These solutions could include components from Cisco, plus a value added reseller, one or more independent software vendors, a system integrator, a storage provider, a co-location supplier, a consultant, and others.

If you have tried to sell a multi-partner IOT solution, then you have experienced the challenges of aligning numerous people from several partners. In absence of a well thought-out go-to-market multi-partner methodology, you may have created your approach on the fly. You have likely even found that a joint IOT solution was missing critical go-to-market components, that the partners have not worked together in the past, that there were competitive overlaps between the partners, and that there was no agreed upon approach to sell or support the solution.

Accelerating Cisco Ecosystem Sales – ACES:

The above challenges led Cisco to develop “Accelerating Cisco Ecosystem Sales” or ACES. ACES helps you answer questions such as:

  • Is my IOT solution ready to go to market?
  • How do I get all of the IOT solution partners aligned?
  • Why should the IOT solution partners work with me?
  • Which partners should I engage in my accounts?
  • How do I drive accountability?
  • What role does each IOT solution partner play in the sales process?
  • How do we structure the IOT solution deal?
  • How do we get started?

In part two of this blog, I will introduce ACES, describe how it works, provide proof points from actual ACES engagements, and explain how you can get started today to answer the above questions.

Bob Vizza, ACES Program Manager


“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum writing on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.



Bob Vizza

Business Development Manager, ACES

WW Sales - Digital Solution Sales