By Stephen Ennis, Director, Tech Data Academy Europe.
Tech Data is one of the world's largest wholesale distributors of technology products, services and solutions. So when it comes to IoT and IT training, Stephen Ennis, Director, Tech Data Academy Europe, has some wise words of advice for IT providers looking to get into IoT.
Education is a must, especially for IT professionals
No matter what walk of life you’re in, training and education always matter. In the IT industry, most organisations responsible for operating data centre environments demand that IT professionals have the right IT certifications just to get through the front door. Rightly so, given the value of the data that resides there. Having the latest certifications is the best way for a serious IT professional to show employers and customers that they have the skills and competency to use all the products correctly and to their full capacity. Let’s face it, no one likes the idea of unplanned downtime because a configuration feature was overlooked or misunderstood. When it comes to IT training and certifications for the Internet of Things (IoT), IT providers and the IT professionals who work for them have to consider some additional factors unique to IoT.
IT providers need a good grasp on IoT if they want to stay relevant to their customers
IoT is an innovation centric technology. With an IoT perspective you can look at an organisation’s business model and ask, “If we ripped out all the legacy stuff and tore up the rule book, how can we serve the customer and create a business model that is a thousand times better?” The power of this technology is simply extraordinary. We’re already helping IT providers with a number of [SJE1] IoT projects that will redefine entire industries. An IT professional with good knowledge, technical skills and a positive attitude can play an important role in smoothly guiding the innovation process to outcomes that are realistic and financially feasible.
IoT is too broad to go it alone
Here comes the big BUT! IoT is a very broad topic, covering many different disciplines. Every IoT project we’ve worked on has been very different. Generally, you need technical expertise spanning; sensors, gateways, networking, security, analytics, cloud, digital applications, software integration, API management, workflow, machine learning and storage. There are very few IT providers, let alone IT professionals, who have the necessary depth of technical understanding across all these disciplines. In addition to the technical expertise, you also need to have the right vendor relationships across these technology areas in the geographical regions of the world you’re working in.
How do most IT providers move forward with IoT?
In reality, most IT providers decide it is financially too much of a commitment or risk to have all the IoT skills in house. Under-utilisation of expensive specialist skills can eat into profits and impede the IT provider’s ability to invest in other growth areas. Instead, most IT providers will partner with a global IT distributor with expertise in IoT, and look to them to fill in specialist skills gaps or step in when workloads become high.
How do you choose the right IoT courses?
There is no single IoT course out there that will teach an IT professional everything they need to know. This is where expert guidance careful planning and good judgement comes in. Let me explain . . .
Everything starts with understanding the customers you want to serve
An IT provider exists to serve its customers. Most IT providers will have a sweet spot where they focus. It may be around a vertical market or a business challenge. In this space, the IT provider is looking to be stand-out brilliant! It is important an IT provider takes the time to make wise decisions on where to focus their business before investing in training and resources.
The expert guidance of a good technology distributor and what to expect
A good technology distributor will already have a lot of IoT experience. Plus they will have relationships with all the technology vendors that are making the biggest difference in IoT. A large proportion of these vendors are often born in the IoT space and will not be familiar to IT providers coming from the datacentre world. By sitting down with a distributor and discussing the customers you serve, the distributor should be able to narrow down the list of technology vendors you should explore further.
Carefully plan out the IoT skills you need, project-by-project
With each IoT project requiring a different set of skills, you’ll need to decide what skills you want to train up in-house and what skills you can contract in from your IT distributor. This often means having a frank and open discussion so that you get access to the expertise you need, when you need it. The other consideration is for the IT professional employed by the IT provider. They will certainly have a view on where they want to focus their career. Having the right mix of skills and resources is in some ways the age old challenge IT providers have always faced. The only difference being is that with IoT, you are less likely to be able to cover the entire solution. This requires a more careful and close alignment with organisations who can step in and fill any skill or resource gaps.
Guiding the IT training and certification process
Often choosing the right course can be tricky. The IT professional is expected to architect, develop and implement an IoT solution. This requires deep technical understanding down to an individual product level. At Tech Data, our training business unit, Tech Data Academy, will help students identify the right courses and guide them through their certification process. We are fortunate at Tech Data that we are global distributors for the majority of the major technology brands leading the way in IoT, next-generation, hybrid cloud and datacentre technologies. We are constantly adding to our rich portfolio of vendor-authorised technical training. When it comes to IoT, we have recently added IT training and certification around IBM Watson, which enables you to augment an IoT solution with some incredible cognitive computing features.
The quality of training is an important factor
Unless you have requested an IT course to be customised around an IT environment or a particular set of skills, you should always check that you are booking an official vendor-authorised course. This way you can guarantee the quality of the materials. Non vendor-authorised training is often not recognised and can’t be used on your journey to certification. For these reasons, all the courses we provide are vendor approved. In addition, having the course delivered by an expert trainer with real-world experience is another important factor. As most people know from their school days, a good teacher makes all the difference.
Everyone learns in different ways
In the 21st century, we have technology to offer students a high degree of flexibility on how to consume their courses. These can be delivered on-site, online or self-paced, depending upon the student’s preferred learning style.
Everyone needs friends!
When it comes to IoT, IT providers who have good companies they can partner with, like an IT distributor, can work together post-training and support each other on IoT projects. An IT provider with good skills and approach becomes part of a much wider IoT ecosystem, consisting of organisations working together to serve their customers. With expert guidance, careful planning and some good judgement, IoT training and education could be the start of a very exciting and successful chapter for you and your organisation.