What Every Security Integrator Should Know
How systems integration firms can evolve to benefit their organizations
There are few who would argue that security technology
offerings have changed and matured at an incredible
pace over the last 10 to 15 years. Conversely, there are
many who feel that most of the security integrators in
this space are stuck in the 1980s and walk around with
their knuckles dragging the ground. I certainly won’t argue with either
point of view and to be honest, I do have a few old scars on my
knuckles; but I am also convinced that the integration companies that
are successful are evolving and changing by leveraging new and innovative
technology offerings available on the market today. What’s
even more interesting is that the most progressive systems integration
firms that exist today are driving technology changes within the
market to meet the expectations of today’s demanding end users and
shareholders within their own organizations.
Many of these organizations figured out a long time ago that if
they don’t evolve internally and change with market demands, they
will be left behind and most likely, out of business. Now, let’s discuss
how today’s market-leading systems integration firms evolve and how
evolution benefits their organizations.
LEVERAGE COMPLEMENTARY TECHNOLOGIES
TO HELP GROW AND MATURE YOUR BUSINESS
I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day who runs a very
successful systems integration firm headquartered in Atlanta. During
our conversation, he told me a great story about one of his project
managers being asked by a customer years back if they could help
him out by installing some “it” cameras. The employee scratched his
head and called his supervisor and asked, “Hey boss, the customer
out here just asked me if we could install some ‘it’ cameras since we
are already installing the network cable. He said it would be easy to
add this piece to our contract. Any idea what an ‘it’ camera is?”
Now this happened more than 10 years ago, and back then, this
firm knew everything there was to know about installing communication
networks but had no idea about security cameras. However,
they were smart enough to identify an opportunity to expand their
business and went out and hired some “security” experts and ultimately
changed the way they go to market. The company is now incredibly
successful today because they made these changes internally
and externally with minimal disruption to their organization and
The same opportunity still exists as traditional security firms
are now hiring registered communications distribution designers
(RCDD) and network design specialists so they can offer their customers
end-to-end design-and-build surveillance systems including
the network infrastructure, communication equipment, installation,
and commissioning of the entire system—not just the “IT” cameras.
The same can be said about other complementary systems such as
mass notification, shooter detection, visitor management, virtual
storage and even PSIM applications. If done correctly, these additions
to your bid package will eliminate unnecessary mark-ups, increase
the dollar value of your projects, and expand your service base and
most importantly, gain you wider and deeper access into your existing
customer’s business. Adding some of these technology offerings
will also make you more attractive to new enterprise customers who
are looking for business partners, not contractors.
THE CLOUD IS YOUR FRIEND
The secret’s out and if you’re not currently taking steps within your
organization to take advantage of cloud-based security technology,
you can stop reading now and go install some analog cameras.
Cloud-based technologies offer the end user and systems integration
firms a multitude of advantages over traditional client server applications.
From my perspective, the ability of starting small and scaling
out is probably one of the most overlooked, as it offers the end
user a budget-friendly way of migrating to the new platform, while
the systems integration firm gains a steady stream of ongoing project
work. Also, don’t overlook the new advanced video verification
and monitoring services out on the market today. Overall, hosted and
managed applications add additional value in regard to operational
budget considerations for the end user and a recurring monthly revenue
(RMR) stream for the systems integrator; it’s a win-win for both
when implemented correctly.
Cloud-based technologies offer additional advantages over traditional
systems on the service side as well. Managed access control
systems are gaining rapid support from end users with distributed
assets and for the systems integrator, servicing and managing these
systems can be done remotely, right from the office. Yes, there are
legitimate cyber security concerns associated with cloud-based applications,
but if you put the proper policies and procedures in place related to password protection and access rights, the risk is minimal.
Most importantly, margin levels are higher than traditional competitively
bid security projects and there are fewer competitors to get in
the way of your success; so what are you waiting for?
Streamlining your technology offerings, reducing the number of systems
you offer, and focusing more on the systems that your organization
can use to provide you with a competitive advantage over just
throwing another bid out there are just a few ways to begin thinking
strategically in your business. To start this process, you also need to
develop an internal vertical market focus so you can keep the technology
that best aligns with the customer focus of your business.
Also, your sales team must become intimately familiar with their
customer’s business, understanding the reasons why they need security
technology and how your organization can help them meet their
Instead of carrying five or six technology lines each for CCTV and
access control, take a serious look at your customer base, what markets
your organization performs best in and what markets on which
you want to really focus. Then reduce the number of lines down to
two or three platforms that you can truly support and lead with moving
forward. After that, align strongly with the lines that you keep,
working with them to understand the strengths and features they offer
in the markets on which you are focused. This is also a great way
of helping your organization create subject matter experts internally
as it’s much harder to develop expertise when you are working across
five or six platforms versus two or three. I can also guarantee you will
get more support from the technology manufacturers and more leads
if your numbers are growing with them instead of just flat.
Let’s now discuss a few ideas that will help your organization
evolve, taking advantage of the points discussed above.
CREATE SUBJECT MATTER “CHANGE AGENTS”
IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
Internally, the best way to foster change is to bring in or develop a
“subject matter expert” (SME); someone who understands the new
trends and technology, how it’s applied, the value proposition both
internally and externally and how to position it alongside the other
market offerings of the organization. Overall, this individual will help
the organization orchestrate and implement the proper way of selling
and deploying the technology with minimal disruption to the organization.
This individual will also be instrumental in supporting the sales
effort, often meeting with end users to help position the organization
as a leader on the technology as well as differentiate the company
against its competition (which is why you are doing all of this in the
Many organizations today often have an internal group of SMEs
that support the field in pre-sales, sales, and post-sales implementations.
Making these changes internally will most certainly come at a
cost but getting the right SME to lead the charge will keep the investment
reasonable and help you maintain positive sales throughout
LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS
Another way of helping your organization evolve is to collaborate
with best-of-breed technology manufacturers to support your organization
in building out the value proposition, sales, and deployment
strategies needed to change the way you are currently doing business.
After all, they have probably seen it all and most likely worked with
other integration firms that have taken the same path your organization
is going down; so why not lean on them for support? Additionally,
most technology partners today have some level of direct
involvement with end users and if you truly collaborate with them,
they can be a great source of qualified leads as well as direct sales
support when needed.
Project registration on strategic accounts will give you a pricing
advantage and if done correctly, your SME will give your organization
the credibility needed to take the project off the street and the
extra price advantage you gained by teaming with your technology
partner to the margin line. Also, don’t be afraid to take advantage of
the Professional Services group within a new or advanced technology
partner. Getting that extra hand on the first couple of implementations
will go a long way in developing your own organization while
mitigating the risk associated with the first couple of installations.
The investment is well worth it.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE INTERNET
It still amazes me what you can find by spending some time searching
specific topics on the Internet. Use this tool to research market
trends and the technologies helping drive these trends while keeping
a keen eye out for complementary technology offerings you can bring
into your organization that will help you meet customer demands.
Additionally, the Internet has become an excellent tool for helping
technicians troubleshoot field issues that they come across during the
normal course of their day. Every week, one of my technicians will tell
me about an issue they came across and how they found the solution
on YouTube or one of the tech chat rooms out there.
The technicians of today grew up on computers and are very comfortable
navigating vendor sites as well as chat rooms looking for answers.
The other advantage here is that almost every reputable technology
partner has developed excellent Web-based training on their
system; and some even offer complete system certifications online,
which will save you time and money getting your team up to speed on
any new technology platform you bring into the organization.
If you still don’t believe your organization needs to change and
evolve to be successful in today’s security market, and you don’t agree
with my comments, go out and visit the Web sites of the regional and
national system integration companies that are doing well. I guarantee,
in most cases, you won’t see a picture of a CCTV camera; you
will probably see things like computers, network diagrams, integrated
systems and other technologies that align with the core values and
strategic mission of the organization. You will also see vertical market
expertise proudly displayed in the form of case studies and white
papers. These documents are how these organizations successfully
differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Trust me when I say that today’s end user is doing his homework
and is not just looking for a security contractor, but rather a business
partner who they can bring into the fold of their security operation;
someone who will guarantee they are successful in meeting their internal
goals. It’s been my experience that once they find that organization,
they will have no problem paying them a premium to keep them
on the team.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Security Today.