The Integrator/Manufacturer Relationship

Industry experts weigh in on what an integrator needs from a manufacturer in this day and age and why.

When a security integrator begins deciding which manufacturer to use for an installation, a myriad of key elements come into play. Does the manufacturer have easy-to-use online training? Stellar customer support? Are their products ones that can deploy and be configured quickly and simply? A handful of security integrators have provided insight on the key elements they take into consideration when choosing a manufacturer. Each has weighed in on what they believe are the most important elements when making their decision and why.

In-House Capabilities

Recently, Steve Pharis, the president and CEO of Tutela Total Security Solutions had to make the decision of which manufacturer to use for video management systems (VMS). After consulting nearly 10 different companies, he decided to go with Salient Systems.

One of the key reasons Pharis’ company decided to go with Salient was because the company had an in-house ability to convert from analog to IP, something that isn’t present in every VMS company. “They make their own boxes and they use their analog cards to convert from an analog to an IP system,” Pharis said. “If you are to replace your analog cameras and go to IP and use the same box, they credit you for that conversion. You don’t have to buy new licenses.”

Pharis adds that this was one of the differentiators when his company decided to go with Salient over other, larger companies who, unlike Salient, use a third party manufacturer for an IP conversion box. “They had control over that and they offered a price point solution that was very enticing to us and the end users,” Pharis said.

“There’s definitely an advantage to manufacturers who have in-house capabilities because it allows us to reduce or eliminate issues and improve efficiencies,” said Robert Gaulden, the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Kratos PSS. “It just streamlines the process. It’s good for the customer, it’s good for us and it’s good for everybody involved.”

Multi-Channel Training

Another critical element when choosing which manufacturer to use in a security installation is the quality of the company’s training programs, according to various integrators.

Salient in particular offers online and in-house training for its integrators and its integrator’s customers. Brian Carle, the director of product strategy and Salient Systems, believes that high-quality training is critical for any successful security manufacturer. “We recognize training is a critical component to making the integrator successful, which ultimately makes us successful,” Carle said.

Though customers and integrators enjoy in-field training, Carle pointed out the benefits of online training. “Online training allows you to access it anytime you want,” he said. “It’s more convenient and integrators don’t have to take personnel out of the field for travel and class time.

Michael Thomas, the president of security company ICS, believes a combination of online and in-field training is definitely a positive when choosing a manufacturer. “I believe online training and in-field training are very important to an integrator because they provide a great basis for continued education as products evolve and new technologies emerge.”

High-Quality Technology

At the most basic level, integrators need a company whose technology is top notch. They want systems that are easily configured, quick to deploy and reliable.

Pharis was drawn to Salient Systems not only because of the ease of use of the products, but because the company has an open platform and can integrate with several different products. “They integrate to multiple platforms— they’re not pigeon holing themselves,” said Pharis. “They are an open platform, which is very strong, and their video interface provides a very detailed, strong, easy to use video management solution. So you’ve got an easy to use product with great support and the ability to be an open platform. It’s hard to find that in any product.”

Carle echoes this statement from the manufacturer standpoint. “Integrators and manufacturers have to be able to get in there and effectively use the product,” he said. “Features should be intuitive and users should be able to access features with a minimal number of actions. Having an easy-to-deploy product is critical.”

A Personable Approach

While easy-to-use, high-quality products are a given in most integrators decision- making process, many believe that where certain companies stand out above others is in their personal relationships. Some companies may have strong products, but are not willing to adapt and change with each integration. Pharis says that this was one of the selling points about Salient. Being a smaller company, Pharis felt Salient could make each integration more personalized and individualized.

“If you’re going to use a nationally recognized company that’s been in business for 100 years, they’re basically saying this is what we have and this is what we do,” said Pharis. “For smaller companies, they can say listen, these guys have a nice project, let’s dive into it; let’s help them design a solution. And that is saying let’s put the customer first, let’s put the integrator first, and let’s help them solve this problem.”

Carle believes this is an important part of the integrator/manufacturer relationship, and suggests that the key to success is providing a program that can fit a variety of situations. “It’s important for a manufacturer to provide a product an integrator can use in a wide variety of scenarios,” said Carle. “Security products companies that keep a smaller reseller channel allow themselves to personalize or individualize the approach they provide to designing systems or supporting installations.”

Beyond personalized solutions and a personable team, Thomas points out it can be as simple as reliable and friendly customer support. “Even a quick phone call to say, ‘Hey got your message and I’m on it and here’s what happens next’ can be the key to a respectful relationship.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Security Today.

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