Channel technologies, Channel partners

VP, Internet of Things: Does Hot Executive Title Have Staying Power?

Eric Williams
Eric Williams

Avnet, the large distributor, today named Eric Williams to the "newly created role" of vice president, Internet of Things (IoT). The global VP of IoT role calls for Williams to "develop and deploy a global IoT strategy, working across the company to design, develop and drive edge-to-enterprise IoT offerings."

That's a big opportunity -- and a lofty challenge. Just about any device, sensor or networked item with an IP address can fall under the Internet of Things umbrella. Plus, just about every piece of software can carry an IoT-type of label.

There's the industrial IoT wave -- where companies like General Electric are leading the conversation. And there's the consumer IoT wave, where giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft are trying to define how everything works together to create a more intelligent world around us.

VP, Internet of Things: Who Are They?

Eager to wrap their arms around IoT opportunities and challenges, companies like Avanade, Cisco Systems, IBM, Presidio and SAP now employ VPs of IoT. But the job role at each company varies greatly -- based on the company's specific starting point.

Presidio, for instance, is a network-centric solutions provider and hybrid-cloud provider that works closely with Cisco, EMC, VMware and several other vendors. You can bet Presidio's IoT strategy will therefore lean heavily on network and storage opportunities. In stark contrast, SAP is an application- and data-centric software giant -- both on premises and in the cloud. You can bet that the IoT strategy there will closely align with data gathering and management, using tools like SAP HANA.

And what about IoT at Avnet? That's a big discussion, actually. The company distributes everything from electronics components -- where IoT sensors could be a huge opportunity -- up to enterprise systems.

While Williams will certainly check in with Avnet's top vendor partners, he must also take an holistic view of the market. Perhaps checking out IoT conferences for startups and trends. And then ultimately  analyze -- from the edge to the enterprise -- how customers are gathering, managing, optimizing, protecting and monetizing data. In other words, a VP of IoT role is closely related to the big data wave, at least in mind mind.

VP, Internet of Things: New. Hot. Title?

Within the enterprise market and the midmarket, just about every major IT company is focusing on the big data and IoT waves. But the IoT movement hasn't really caught fire yet in the SMB market or among MSP-centric software companies.

Most MSP-centric companies I hear from are still talking about traditional security and storage opportunities -- involving traditional devices (smartphone, tablet, PC, server) or the cloud. The data gathering, sensor and data monetization conversation is in its infancy here.

Overall, I do think we'll see more VPs focused on IoT opportunities in the enterprise and the midmarket -- though perhaps not too soon in the SMB space.

VP, Internet of Things: Careful of the Hype

Nearly 10,000 Internet of Things jobs are listed on LinkedIn as of today (Jan. 14, 2016). The careers cut across content creators to programmers, strategists, marketers, researchers and more. Companies from Avanade to SAP have employees who carry the VP, Internet of Things title.

No doubt, it's a growing opportunity. Just be careful of the hype. For about two years now, I've been hearing about another big title: Chief Data Officer. Many pundits say all large companies are bound to have CDOs. My hunch? The pundits are wrong. It's a growing title -- but not growing nearly as fast as the pundits claim.

In many cases, CDOs fill a really big void between CIOs and Chief Marketing Officers. But in many companies, I think the CIOs and CMOs together are tackling the big data conversation.

Still, some "hot" IT titles have managed to gain traction for the long haul. Chief among them: VP, Cloud Services or something closely related to that term.

Tim and Eric: Similar Paths?

A case in point: Avnet's Tim FitzGerald has been VP of Cloud Solutions at Avnet since around 2012. Earlier, he led much of Avnet's research in and around the cloud wave -- trying to determine how distributors and channel partners will participate in the cloud wave.

Tim FitzGerald

When FitzGerald began his cloud-centric journey around 2008 (perhaps earlier), it wasn't clear that a VP of Cloud Solutions or VP of Cloud Services title would ever emerge -- or stick around. But here we are in 2016, and thousands of folks across the globe now carry that type of title. Credit FitzGerald for helping to define how cloud would reshape the IT channel -- along with Avnet's role in that transformation.

Fast forward five years to 2021 or so. I wonder if Williams will still carry the VP of IoT title at Avnet. I'm not questioning his skills or potential execution. Rather, I wonder how the IoT discussion will evolve. Will it remain front-of-mind? Or will IoT blend into the overall business-technology discussion?

If I had to guess, I suspect VP of IoT roles will be around for the next decade or so. But I think only the largest and/or most data-centric companies will create such a role in their organizations. If every enterprise and midmarket business truly becomes data-centric -- as so many folks believe will happen -- the VP of IoT role could truly go mainstream.

In the meantime: Careful of the hype.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.