Daniel Elizalde is an expert on all things IoT. He works as VP-Head of IoT at Ericsson. He’s helped train over a thousand product professionals at Stanford’s Continuing Studies program.
In this episode, Daniel shares how he helps product leaders create winning products and gain the skills they need to confidently and efficiently manage any IoT product.
Why you have to check out today’s podcast:
- Learn the step-by-step framework that helps product managers define, communicate, and drive their IoT product vision forward
- Identify costly blind spots in your IoT product pricing strategy
- Learn how to provide enough value that makes sense for the customer to adapt your IoT solution
“One of the challenges when defining value for IoT (Internet of Things) is having a clear understanding of who your customer is.”
– Daniel Elizalde
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02:38 — Backstory of Daniel’s IoT career, starting from the era of telemetry to M2M to IoT and now becoming the most visible expert when it comes to IoT
04:07 — Daniel leading the area of thought leadership for Ericsson in IoT
05:23 — Daniel’s checklist: 12 Steps Every Product Leader Should Know to Create Profitable and Scalable IoT Products
07:05 — Complexities in developing IoT products
08:39 — Business model defined – a way of collect, deliver and collect value from your customers
09:13 — How IoT opens the door for new business models and innovation for companies
09:50 — If you’re able to monitor your product, 24/7 in the field, how can you actually leverage that to provide new and innovative ways of monetizing and adding value?
11:44 — If it is a subscription per se, how can you make sure that you continue to add value to your customer
12:28 — Understanding the true Capex of IoT
14:09 — How Daniel coach companies to think about how to charge for hardware upfront
14:34 — What is going to reduce the friction on your customer site through business model experimentation
19:25 — Software companies struggle to figure out how to build-partner purchase, deliver-sell hardware being in a completely different ballgame
24:29 — Pricing challenges: how do you provide enough value that makes sense for the customer to adopt your IoT solution
“The challenge with IoT is that to provide an end to end IoT solution, you have to put all those things together with the technical complexity that entails. But of course, with the pricing complexity, and the business model complexity, and they go-to-market complexity” — Daniel Elizalde
“Companies are starting to figure out that this is so complex that you can’t just put something together and launch it to market and hope it sticks. You have to do your homework from a product management perspective.” — Daniel Elizalde
“That’s the value of product management and IoT strategy is, hopefully, you can be two, three steps ahead and have some inkling that it will be worth it before you commit to building something like this.”— Daniel Elizalde
“IoT opens the door for new business models and innovation for companies.” — Daniel Elizalde
“The role of a product management team here is to figure out understanding the complexities of IoT and then being able to model different approaches and test them with the customers. There’s no one size fits all.” — Daniel Elizalde
“Sometimes figuring out that your competition IP, not all other types of similar solutions, but just what are the other alternatives that the customer can realistically do for less money.“ — Daniel Elizalde
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Full Interview Transcript
(Note: This transcript was created using Temi, an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)
Daniel Elizalde: One of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen in industrial types of applications is just a lack of visibility on their processes. They need to optimize; they don’t know exactly how. So, a lot of time what IoT can give you is that visibility. And then you can actually leverage, let’s say, machine learning or other tools to get some insights so that you can make decisions.
Mark Stiving: Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the connection relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving. Today, our guest is Daniel Elizalde. Here are three things you want to know about Daniel before we start. He is the IoT instructor at Stanford University. Wow. He’s VP and head of IoT for North America at Ericsson and he’s been an IoT product management coach for many years. And I am so fascinated to have Daniel on. Welcome, Daniel.
Daniel Elizalde: Thank you so much, Mark, for such a nice introduction. I hope I live up to it.
Mark Stiving: I’ve heard you speak before; I think you’re going to.
Daniel Elizalde: It’s an honor being here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Mark Stiving: Hey, let’s start with the easy question. How did you get into this IoT stuff?
Daniel Elizalde: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. And honestly, I’ve been doing connected products for over 20 years. When I started my career, I was at a company called National Instruments, which was instrumentation for manufacturing. So really, adding sensors to data acquisition systems, acquiring data, concentrating them, and storing it in a server, and providing reports and insights out of that. And it turns out that, that was 20 years ago, but that’s what we call IoT today.
And because of how my career has progressed, I have always pursued these types of companies and roles that have to do with hardware and software, acquiring data from the real world, and has evolved into having a name today, you know, it evolved from being Telemetry and M2M, then IoT. And so now I have IoT in my title, but that’s what I’ve been doing for all my career
Mark Stiving: Yeah, what I find fascinating is, you are probably the most expert person in IoT, maybe I’ll say, the most visible expert person in IoT because almost every article I run into that says IoT, you wrote it.
Daniel Elizalde: Thank you. Yeah, I can’t take that credit. And there’s a lot of experts out there and I just really made part of my mission to articulate the lessons learned and try to do that in, you know, with Ericson as well.
A part of my role is to be that area of thought leadership for Ericsson in IoT. So, you know, I’ve been very vocal about this topic for many, many years with my podcast and my blog and my classes. And it’s just something that I’m very passionate about. Demystifying what it is and focusing on value. And that’s one of the reasons I was very excited to come to your podcast because it’s not about the gadgets. It’s not about the technology. It’s about value.
Mark Stiving: Oh, what a great lead into the next topic I want to bring up. And I want people if you’re not familiar with IoT, and you’ve never built an IoT product, I just want you to understand how complicated this thing really is. So, Daniel’s put out his article, a paper that says, “12 Steps to Profitable IoT Products.” And if you were to look through that, one through five steps one through five, are typical product management tasks, things that we would all do if we were product managers.
Step six is about data strategy, and I hope you’ll not get a chance to talk a lot about step six today, Daniel. Step seven is the business model, which is what fascinates me. And then, eight through 12 are these technical implementation issues, like the IoT technology stack. Daniel, can you just briefly tell us what those are so that people who aren’t familiar with this or are in awe of what you do and what these companies that do IoT have to do?
Daniel Elizalde: Yeah, thank you, Mark. I think that that’s one of the first things that I’ve started in my classes, and when I talk to my teams and I coach executives and all that is, starting with the building blocks, and in my view of the world, every IoT product has these five layers of the IoT technology stack.
So, you have the devices themselves, the hardware with the sensors, and the computing. Then you have embedded software, then you have some sort of connectivity. In the case of the expertise we have at Ericsson, of course, this is going to be cellular IoT. And then you have some kind of cloud aggregation component. And then you have applications on top of that. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are building something for smart homes or, you know, security for buildings, or manufacturing, or autonomous vehicles, they all are sharing that same technology stack.
Therefore, each one of those layers of the technology stack, it’s its own product in its own right. So, the challenge with IoT is that to provide an end to end IoT solution, you have to put all those things together with the technical complexity that entails. But of course, with the pricing complexity and the business model complexity, they go to market complexity, etc. So, it’s the same type of product management challenge that we’ve been experiencing for years, it’s just exponentially more complex because of the amount of components that you have to deal with.
Mark Stiving: And so, imagine that you’re a software company, and you have to do great product management for your software product, that’s hard. And then you say you’re a hardware company, but of course your hardware run software, now you’re doing two of those things. And what we just heard Daniel described is, I’ve got five of these layers I have to deal with, not just one or two. That’s insane.
Daniel Elizalde: Yeah. And then there are some additional complexities from, you know, for a process perspective that I like to discuss, which is security, right? Security is a big thing. So, you know, you have to deal with security at each layer of the stack. And then regulations, right? When you’re dealing with, especially the types of products that I work with, industrial products, critical infrastructure, there’s a lot of regulatory aspects to your products across the whole stack. So again, complexity starts building up, and that’s why they’re so complex.
Mark Stiving: So, all I could say is, it has better be worth it.
Daniel Elizalde: And that is exactly what we are dealing with within the industry. I think that companies are starting to figure out that this is so complex that you can’t just put something together and launch it to market and hope it sticks because, you know, you have to do your homework from a product management perspective. And yes, the tools and technologies have made it a lot easier today than it would have been 20 years ago. But still, it’s a big undertaking. So, it better be worth it, right?
And I think that’s the value of product management than IoT strategy is, hopefully, you can be two, three steps ahead and have some inkling that it will be worth it before you commit to building something like this.
Mark Stiving: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s jump into talking, let’s do business models first. And if we have a chance, we’ll come back and chat a little bit about data. Do you have a nice way to summarize business models? I looked at a bunch of them and tried to summarize them myself. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on that
Daniel Elizalde: For sure. So, I like to go back to the definition of what is, you know, business model, right? The business model, as you know, is just a way to collect, deliver and collect value from your customers. And so, there’s a lot of different ways that you can think about how you could do that. And what is very interesting about IoT is that it opens the door for new business models and innovation for companies. And yes, that’s, I mean, that could be a typical heading from a blog post, right? That we’ve heard that a lot. But what does that really mean?
The way I see it is that if you think about how, let’s say, hardware companies in the past, they would develop a product and they would ship it to their customer, and they never heard from them again, right? Other than support. IoT, what enables us to do is to have a 24 seven connection to that customer, because we are adding sensors, and we’re monitoring the behavior of that product in the field. And so, if you’re able to monitor your product 24/7 in the field, how can you actually leverage that to provide new and innovative ways of monetizing and adding value?
So, subscription programs or subscription models is one of the key ones that we see a lot, and we can talk a lot more about what that means in IoT. But it’s a way of saying, well, instead of having a Capex expenditure, well, actually, let’s take a step back and understand what the customer is really trying to solve. They’re not looking to buy equipment; they’re looking to solve a problem. So maybe you can sell them a subscription to solve that problem, that just happens to have hardware attached to it, right? So, it opens all these possibilities.
Now the challenge is, you know, which one is the right for your company, for your customer, and can you actually pull it off as a company, right? So, we can talk a lot about examples of business models, but I think it’s interesting to know that not because IoT enables them, it means that it’s right for your customer. And then actually, your company can pull it off.
Mark Stiving: Yeah, I think the subscription model is pretty amazing for IoT. But what I, you know, I think of software companies, and I’ve dealt with tons of them, where they had on-prem or perpetual license solutions. They said, “Hey, I want to go to a subscription,” and they just took the total three-year cost of ownership, divided it up by 36, and said, “We’re going to charge you this much per month.” And now it’s a subscription instead of a perpetual license.
And what they didn’t do was think through the continual delivery of value to the customer, right, because the subscriptions should be different than a perpetual license product. Do you see that in IoT as one of the stumbling blocks?
Daniel Elizalde: I do. I see that a lot, and I’m really glad you’re pointing it out. Because the way to describe it is not necessarily a subscription, it’s just a payment plan, right?
Mark Stiving: Exactly.
Daniel Elizalde: The idea is, if it is a subscription per se, how can you make sure that you continue to add value to your customer? And so, there’s a couple of things that we can discuss, like, one of them is traditional software companies that go to a service model. They don’t have the hardware component that is associated with IoT. And what that means is that there’s always a Capex expenditure that somebody has to pay for, right? It doesn’t mean that you can charge your customer for it, you could, but doesn’t have to be. But that doesn’t mean that that cost doesn’t exist.
So, yes, you can have this subscription, but then you gotta make sure that either your customer pays for some of that hardware costs upfront to make it viable, or that the longevity of the minimum contract is such that you can actually amortize that cost. So those are the kind of things when you think about subscription with IoT, companies don’t necessarily think about the physical aspect of things also require an operation, the choir maintenance. And so how do you bake into that plan? If it’s just the operation, like, if you were doing software, that’s one thing, but when you have these physical things, you know, how do you bake all those things?
Installation, right? I used to work at a company doing energy storage solutions and, you know, an installation of one of those systems would be $300,000, $500,000, just the installation, right? And so how do you actually break all the different components of the solution in terms of price and value? And also, the different elements of the lifecycle, right, installation, provisioning, operation, maintenance, how does that all play into, right? So that’s why we’re talking about different types of approaches, right?
Mark Stiving: Yes. So, let’s talk through the hardware piece. When I think about software, oftentimes they have implementations. So, you’ve got a big implementation, you’re going to charge your customer for implementation services and, you know, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, typically, if you’re going to do that, and usually you get that upfront. In hardware, you’ve always got this physical cost, right? You’ve got a real-life cost; you’ve got to pay for the product. And even if there wasn’t implementation, how do you coach companies to think about, do I want to charge for that upfront?
Do I want to bundle it into the monthly subscription payment? I often think of my cable company, I actually use Dish Network and have a dish box. And so, I didn’t pay them for it, but I pay monthly for it.
Daniel Elizalde: Correct? Yeah. And the reality here is that the way I coach companies and even my teams, right, because, you know, as head of IoT here at Ericsson, I run the D15 IoT studio and we run an innovation hub, doing these kinds of solutions, right? So, I’m in it every day. And some of the discussions that I have with my teams and other companies has to do with understanding what is going to reduce the friction on your customer site, because it’s all about adaption, right? And so, there is no one size fits all.
The approach I like to take is business model experimentation. And so, by understanding how the different pieces, like, which are the different pieces, right, like the stack and the lifecycle, and then the different levers that you can pull subscription for the software. Payment for the hardware upfront, payment of the hardware deferred, the hardware is free, but you charge a big maintenance fee, right?
So, you can play with all those things to figure out, I know I’ve done a lot of spreadsheets that I use as templates to figure out, “Okay, let’s move all these levers and figure out when my return is positive.” And then you got to go out and test them because if your spreadsheet says this is possible, that’s good for your company. But that doesn’t mean that that’s the least, that’s the frictionless approach for your customer. They might say, “No, no, you know what, we actually have more Capex budget than Opex budget, so we actually want to do it this way.”
So, one of the challenges when defining value for IoT is having a clear understanding of who your customer is, what industry vertical they’re in, and how do they buy? Because then the experimentation has to do with how we reduce that friction. And so, the role of a product management team here is to figure out, understanding the complexities of IoT, and then being able to model different approaches and test them with your customers, right? That’s the key. There’s no one size fits all.
Mark Stiving: Yes. So, what I love about that is that all companies should be doing, is going out and listening to their customers, and how do they want to buy and see if we could sell it in a way that they want to buy it.
Daniel Elizalde: Yeah. And it’s, I made a joke to my team the other day. It’s 2020 and, you know, we’ve had agile and lean startups and all these different philosophies for a while now. And the majority of companies are still technology first and putting something together and see if it sticks, right?
And so, it’s interesting that tools are out there but it’s just very contrary to what typical business, as usual, is, right? Because here when you’re talking about IoT, whether we like it or not, whether you’re a startup, or whether you are an established company, the technology and the area of IoT, it’s emerging technology, it’s emerging business, it’s innovation. So, you have to treat it with that experimentation and iterative approach, as opposed to business as usual, right?
So that’s where I see a lot of companies, especially bigger companies stumble because they’re not used to that. And they think, “Well, we’re a mature company, this is just some new tech, we’re just going to run with it.” And it’s very different. So, it’s a switch in mentality and you have to start thinking a little bit more like a startup in the sense of, you got to try things because it’s also going to be new to your customer, right? So, you’re fighting the incumbency of whatever they have today that you’re trying to displace.
Mark Stiving: Yeah.
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Mark Stiving: Another thing I see in, let’s say big companies especially, but hardware companies in particular, is if a hardware company goes to decide, if decide they want to sell software, they want to sell services along the side, I find that they have a really hard time selling the software because they’ve gotten themselves so locked into a cost-plus mentality on the hardware products. Do you see that as a problem in the IoT, as they’re shifting towards IoT as well?
Daniel Elizalde: It is. It is a big problem, I see. And that’s why I believe IoT as a quote-unquote, “Discipline,” is important to understand end to end because hardware companies, as you mentioned, have now to struggle with building, delivering, and selling software. But the same is true on the other side, software companies have to now figure out how to build, partner, purchase, deliver, sell, hardware, and that is a completely different ballgame as you know.
So here, I think, the interesting thing is that no single company can own it all. So IoT forces us, or invites us, I would say, to do a more partnership-oriented, go to market approach. Because it’s, you have to partner with the companies that know how to build hardware, deploy, sell, with the companies that know how to do software at scale, on the cloud, at the edge, on the connectivity part, so that you can have a cohesive whole, taking the best of all worlds. And that’s what we do again at the studio because Ericsson focuses on connectivity, I mean, we’re experts on the cellular part.
Well, when we are working on an IoT solution, well, who is the best in class device vendor for this particular application, and embedded vendor, and cloud provider? And we’ll provide the connectivity. And you put things together in that way, and then you have to figure out the go-to-market of that, right? And of course, the pricing of such a complex solution with so many players, right?
So, I think that in the past 10 years, we’ve learned that, first, nobody can do it on their own, right? No single company can do it all. And then vendors are trying to say, “Okay, well, I’m a software company and I will just buy the other pieces from the rest of the stack and put it together myself,” hasn’t been successful either. So now we’re starting to see a multi-company approach, That’s the latest iteration. We’ll see where it takes us, right?
Mark Stiving: And so, I assume that it’s usually one company taking the lead to put all the pieces together. Is that true?
Daniel Elizalde: Yes, that is true. That’s what I’ve seen the most. And I think the interesting part is, from the customer perspective, they need to understand who are they buying from per se, right? When you talk about a big enterprise company that, you know, it’s an established company and just has a problem to solve, they’re not going to care about technology building blocks. They want one company that provides a product and service, right, and that’s important, product and service, to solve their problem.
And so, yes, there needs to be a group of companies that are aligned to provide the solution. But the end customer does not want to deal with a piecemeal approach and having to deal with, “Okay, so I buy the hardware from you, and I buy these from you, and I buy the integration from you, and the mentors from you.” Because they’re saying, “You know what, you guys are not ready for primetime.” And that’s one of the challenges we’re seeing of why the solutions are not scaling.
From a technology perspective, yeah, they can do the work. But when you start talking about scaling in millions of devices worldwide, the approach starts to crumble. And so, does that resonate? Is that similar?
Mark Stiving: Absolutely, that resonates completely with me. And then if you think about what a buyer actually wants, they want a solution to their problem. And so, they don’t want to have to piece it all together.
Daniel Elizalde: And you know what’s interesting that I found, is that part of the business model mindset shift has to do with product companies now starting to offer services. Because what the buyer might want is a service, right? For example, if they’re manufacturing equipment is breaking down, they don’t want a dashboard that tells them that it’s about to break down with predictive maintenance and IoT, right? It’s like, “I want this fixed.”
And so, it is possible that the company ends up selling a service to provide predictive maintenance on those machines. And the technology that they are using to figure out when the equipment needs its service is an IoT slash edge slash AI type solution. But ultimately, what the customer is paying for is a service of, like, professional services of maintenance backed by a tool. And so that is a big mental shift of, like, what customers really want versus what companies are willing to provide today.
Mark Stiving: Yeah. And let me offer, that it’s actually a step further than that as well, I don’t think customers want to buy maintenance, they want to buy uptime.
Daniel Elizalde: Very good. Yes. I love that. That’s true, right? Because they really don’t care about maintenance. And that’s why I think that a lot of the challenge of understanding the customers is understanding the problem in depth.
And the problem is, like you just mentioned, right, it’s not maintenance. The problem is that they might be losing money because of uptime challenges. And that’s, I think, where, you know, when I was thinking about our conversation today, pricing challenges, a lot of things have to do with how do you provide enough value that makes sense for the customer to adopt your solution? Because, yes, you can provide a very complex IoT solution and service to provide enhanced uptime or the customer can just buy a redundant pump, and that gives them the uptime. And that’s that, right?
So, sometimes figuring out that your competition may be not other types of similar solutions, but just what are the other alternatives that the customer can realistically do for less money, right? At the end of the day, they don’t care about an IoT solution, they care about uptime. And if they just buy another pump, its problem solved.
Mark Stiving: I don’t think anybody cares about an IoT solution.
Daniel Elizalde: Agreed, agreed. Yeah, and it’s interesting because, you know, coming from the guy with IoT in his title, but it’s true, right? Really, we have to focus on solving problems. And, you know, sometimes when I’ve been, you know, talking to other executives or coaching companies, etc., I’d be the first one to say, you know what, you really don’t need IoT for this. If you do this other thing, right? Just hire three more people to look after your equipment and you’ll be fine, and it’s cheaper.
So, it’s important for us to be humble in that perspective that, first of all, IoT is not a silver bullet, and if we continue to think about that and lead with the technology and IoT, we’re really not focusing on solving the customer’s problems. And then we can’t complain that we’re not gaining adoption, right? Yeah.
Mark Stiving: So IoT is just a tool. It’s not the product or the solution, it’s just a tool.
Daniel Elizalde: It’s a capability that can help companies provide a better, faster, cheaper solution to their customers, whatever that might be.
Mark Stiving: So, Daniel, I feel so remiss, we’re almost out of time but I have to have this conversation with you.
Daniel Elizalde: Of course.
Mark Stiving: What is it about, the thing about IoT is I now have connectivity to some hardware device someplace remote from where my central office is? And so, there’s data that can transfer to there, there’s data that can transfer from there. What is it, can you summarize the extra value that I could possibly achieve, or the companies look for, as they’re trying to figure out, “Does IoT make sense for us to go implement?”
Daniel Elizalde: Yeah, that’s a really great question. And it all comes down to what is the actual problem from the customer perspective. And one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen in industrial types of applications is just a lack of visibility on their processes. They need to optimize; they don’t know exactly how. So, a lot of times, what IoT can give you is that visibility. And then you can actually leverage, let’s say, machine learning or other tools to get some insights so that you can make decisions. And that alone is very valuable, right?
Mark Stiving: To make sure I understand this, we’re talking about the customers’ visibility into their own process they didn’t have, not the vendors’ visibility into the customers’ process.
Daniel Elizalde: Correct. Exactly. And that’s where data strategy comes into play, right? And I’m glad you asked that because there’s a couple of way that I think about that strategy. One is, how will you use data as a product company? How will you use the data that you acquired from your IoT systems to provide value to the customer, right? Like this, either visibility, or reports, or predictive, or whatever, right? But there’s also, is there a data strategy that benefits your company per se?
So, for example, the whole goal of you deploying the systems is acquiring data. And then you’re going to aggregate all that data and you’re going to sell it to third parties, right? For example, there are companies that do that with smart meters, and then they aggregate all that data and sell it to utilities because they don’t have access to that data, right? So those are two different things.
So, it’s really important to understand the reason you are using this tool, IoT, is to collect data from the real world to provide insights, and then monetize those insights. Either directly to your customer or to sell it through API, so to third party source as reports, so that having that strategy of how you’re going to leverage that data is extremely important because the value that you can assign and ultimately the price that you can charge is going to depend on the perceived value of your customer on those insights out of the data. Nothing else matters.
Mark Stiving: Daniel, I could talk to you for another three hours, but we are out of time.
Daniel Elizalde: This has been a fantastic conversation, Mark. Thank you so much.
Mark Stiving: So, I have to end with this question, though. What’s one piece of pricing advice that you would give our listeners that you think could have a big impact on their business?
Daniel Elizalde: Mm-hmm. I think the one that I would give out is experiment with business models because building the solutions and going to market is expensive and it’s hard. So, as much as you can, put your hypotheses on paper early and test them out with your potential market to see if there is traction, if your solution is viable, desirable, and feasible. And iterate, iterate, iterate. I don’t just think that you have the answer internally in your company and go build this thing, and then face that nobody wanted it. So, test out your business models, your value proposition, your pricing proposition, and your willingness to pay very, very early on, and often.
Mark Stiving: That was a brilliant suggestion. Thank you so much.
Daniel Elizalde: Thank you, Mark.
Mark Stiving: And Daniel, thanks for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?
Daniel Elizalde: Thank you. Yeah, I think the best way to see what the work we’re doing is, go to ericsson.com/iotstudio. And that’s the website of my team. And you can see all the amazing things that we’re doing with IoT and 5G, and how we’re leveraging this and how we work in the IoT studio. And there’s a way to contact us there.
Mark Stiving: Excellent. Episode 68 is all done. My favorite part of today’s podcast was everything. But in particular, talking about the business models. To our listeners, what was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments or wherever you download it and listen. While you’re at it, would you please leave us a five-star review, these are very valuable to us. Don’t forget we have a free community where you can download all of the content that I create, that’s at community.championsofvalue.com. If you have any questions or comments about the podcast, or about pricing in general, feel free to email me, email@example.com. Now, go make an impact.