Becoming the “New Polymath” – Using Embedded Software to Help Transform Your Hardware Business

By: Vikram Koka

I recently read a very interesting article published on called, Software in an Age of "AND not OR". In the article, Maryann Jones Thompson from interviews IT and innovation expert Vinnie Mirchandani and asks questions about his new book, The New Polymath. What I found interesting and also reinforces what I see often in companies that I talk to is the idea that there is a transformation going on in the software and hardware industries. We see traditional software companies moving to hardware and vice versa…hardware companies moving to software companies and everything in between.

Specifically, I see this first hand as I work with many "hardware" companies which are now becoming polymaths by turning into hardware + software + services companies as they deliver a truly integrated and complete solution to their customers. I see hardware companies using software licensing and entitlement management to help monetize their devices more effectively using embedded software while giving them the ability to easily turn on/off device capability and capacity. I see this often in telecom, networking, and data centers of all types and sizes. I see service providers and enterprises transforming themselves by working with their suppliers to dramatically increase machine utilization and dynamically moving capacity driven by demand.

In addition, I see traditional hardware companies becoming polymaths by increasing their sources of revenue and improving margins—moving beyond the peaks and valleys of box purchases driven by demand to subscription/ recurring revenue models. They are driving faster adoption of new technologies by their customers by using their already existing deployed equipment as a "platform" for new applications, services, and content.

I even see some hardware companies going further down the polymath chain and becoming pure software companies by making themselves "ingredients" into other hardware products. Truly a transformational move by reducing all the manufacturing costs and leveraging the distribution channels of larger companies. And in other cases, hardware companies are making the move of increasing service revenues and directly managing their equipment at customer sites, so that the customer does not have to build up expertise and competencies which is not core to their operations…another transformational revenue change.

How are you transforming your business? Is your business becoming the new polymath?

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