When I go see my family doctor with a medical problem, I don’t expect her to be a master of all things, and neither does she. Medicine is complicated, and gets more so every day, so it just makes sense that GPs and specialists come together in dynamic teams to achieve the shared goal of providing each patient with the best possible care. If I’m sent to consult a specialist, my GP receives a detailed, technical report using a format and terminology designed to eliminate the possibility of potentially disastrous misunderstandings. That’s just one example of how formalization can take the guesswork out of professional collaboration.
Unfortunately, the spirit of professional partnership that drives the practice of medicine is hard to come by in the information technology sector. Firms with one specialization will sometimes subcontract skills they don’t have in-house, but that’s a different thing from a truly collaborative partnership among professionals with the autonomy to make the best decisions based on their expertise and suggest new approaches to their partners in the interest of the best outcome.
For some projects, this may not seem to matter that much. You won’t get the best possible product, but it won’t tank the project either.
But in the case of IoT solutions, it matters a lot. IoT has many moving parts, from software and hardware design, to cloud integration, security, manufacturing and, of course, various regulations that must be navigated. You can try hiring a traditional system integrator, but they don’t have the expertise to pull all these threads together and weave the solution you are looking for. You’ll end up with a patchwork instead of an elegant design.
That’s why we have entered into a handful of carefully selected formal partnerships with companies that excel in their fields to provide integrated, concept-to-market solutions where everyone has a shared sense of ownership and responsibility for the client’s care. Let me give you a couple of examples.
A group of hockey dads, who enjoyed the ice-side feel they got from the real-time scoreboard in their local sports bar, formed a business to do the same for the North American living room. They approached Electric Imp, provider of the secure, cloud-connected hardware platform used in many modern connected devices. Electric Imp realized the team did not have the in-house skills to build a hardware product or cloud-connected application on top of their best-in-class product, so they made introductions to Design 1st and Macadamian. Macadamian collaborated by taking up the software development and UI design, as well as providing business case input into critical software-related decisions. Design 1st, leaders in industrial design and product engineering, performed a critical review of the hardware business case, analyzing their cost structure and overhauling the hardware design to achieve a cost-point per unit that made business sense. Electric Imp knew they could rely on the professional partnership with Macadamian and Design 1st for the integrated, full-service team they needed to pull the IoT pieces together within the tight budget and timeline.
Another example illustrates how this close-knit working relationship can overcome serious technical obstacles. We developed a connected postal meter for Pitney Bowes, the multinational office equipment company. It was based on a legacy meter and we added advanced functionality using a cloud connection and back-end integration. Electric Imp provided the secure connectivity at the heart of the solution. We did the software development and project management. To meet Pitney Bowes’ need for the solution to work with office workflows, we collaborated with Electric Imp to extend their desktop authentication API. The integrated team approach made communicating requirements for these extensions seamless, accurate and fast. In a conventional project where the various vendors don’t have the access to each other that we’ve formalized, the potential for churn and delays would have been very real.
The formal partnership is relatively new, and we’re learning more as we go along, but the benefits have been impressive so far. We’re completing projects more quickly, at lower cost and with less risk. We’re able to provide clients with a single, coherent team with clearly defined roles for everyone involved. Perhaps the best part is that, like hospital doctors, lessons learned are used to improve our working relationship, so it’s a partnership that gets better with time. I think that’s a win-win for everyone, most importantly, our clients.