Specialists vs. end-to-end partners: the pros and cons for developers
Getting a product to market requires more than just the right idea; it also requires the right people, with the right skills, in the right places, seamlessly communicating with one another for the best outcome. But getting a product to market also often means deciding between several specialists or a global partner for your needs.
With needs ranging from hardware and software development to regulatory certification and even setting up customer service, how can developers choose the right path for them?
Getting an idea from first sketch to full solution
Let’s take a hypothetical product like a bird feeder. For many people, there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee and watching birds flock to a feeder out your window. Wherever you are in the world, you have your native, colorful feathered friends that congregate at your sunflower seed or suet cakes. But IoT is transforming everything, including the appreciation of nature.
Imagine a feeder with sensors that alerted you each time a new bird landed, uploaded your best bird photos to Instagram, and sent you a text message when the feeder needed refilling? And no need to keep a “bird journal,” your connected bird feeder will do it for you, conveniently cataloging every avian visitor.
Such a feeder is indicative of a growing trend: IoT for entertainment, whether it be the latest martial arts app, weather device or birdfeeder. Avnet recently surveyed developers on a variety of issues and more than 1 in 4 are working on entertainment-related products to infuse IoT into the every day.
Here’s where the first choices in partners are made, when ideas are still being formed. These early decisions can cast long shadows on your project whether partnering with specialists or end-to-end partners. There are pros and cons to each when it comes to reducing time to market, decreasing technical complexity, and lowering costs.
The pros—and cons—of specialists
The camera, for instance, is a crucial part of the feeder in our example. But a camera at this form factor doesn’t just need to be small, it must also be ruggedized so it can withstand wind, rain and baking sun, not to mention the errant squirrel or curious bird.
This is where product design specialists, especially with a background in integrating cameras into designs, can help you accelerate the process. They will understand the latest in camera technology as well as how this might impact temperature or data transfer.
However, this feeder will need more than just a camera. It will also need sensors to gauge feed levels, and a lithium battery charging dock. Plus, you’ll need IoT security expertise so that your bird camera can’t be commandeered remotely by hackers (not as far-fetched as it sounds).
Each of these will require a specialist with that same deep level of expertise, where you’ll get a strong knowledge in each individual area. However, specialists are specialists for a reason; a design specialist might be intimately familiar with the board-level details, but when a product goes into manufacturing, a specialist might not understand how to communicate with a factory when looking to speed up timelines, or optimize efficiency.
End-to-end partners mean end-to-end service
An end to end partner will be able to see the whole ecosystem that your invention occupies, including the roadblocks that you might not see coming. In the end, three key areas will determine how your feeder takes flight and whether working with all of the different myriad of specialists or a single end-to-end partner makes the most sense:
- Speeding time to market: The IoT feeder is a bright idea, but you might not be the only one on the planet to have this birding vision. With faster design cycles and new technology emerging every day, it’s hard to get products to market. In today’s competitive environment it’s a race against the clock—and your competition. An end-to-end partner is basically an extended team, who can keep the process moving quickly and reduce the time you spend managing the host of partners it can often take to get IoT solutions to market.
- Decreasing technological complexity: Birdfeeders attract nature-lovers, not necessarily tech lovers. Often times, creators have deep understanding of their area of expertise, and not of all the interconnected parts. While building a team to help carry out this vision ensures high levels of customizability, it also means missing out on the latest innovations that a larger partner has to keep its ear to the ground for. End-to-end experts have global teams who know how technologies integrate—and roadmaps into technologies that might not even be on the market yet that can help your product stand out from the rest.
- Lowering costs: The price point for consumer products is crucial, whether you are looking for crowdfunding, or to go direct-to-consumer through e-commerce or store shelves. While a $500 connected bird feeder might grab a niche audience, will it be enough to keep the business behind your product running? While short-term costs might drive you to a specialist with the lowest component parts, it’s well documented that $1 spent in design can often save $10 in development and $100 in deployment. End-to-end partners have the industry perspective have deep relationships with factories that are experts in your product type, a wide network of supplier partners to determine the best technology long-term, and global experience to help you navigate supply chain issues, scalability, and even geopolitical concerns. After all, today’s cheapest sensor may be caught up in a tariff war six weeks from now.
While specialists provide real benefits, end-to-end partners provide many others. To see how Avnet can support you wherever you are in your product development journey, learn more about all the specialists in our end-to-end ecosystem.
Bob Merriman is a Business Development Manager for Avnet and has a wide range of professional experience, having previously held roles in global system deployment, project management, and general management. In his current role with Avnet, Bob is responsible for deploying Avnet's expertise to help new and exciting technology get to market. A hardware startup founder himself, Bob is uniquely positioned to understand the challenges in bringing a hardware product to market.