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 customer base. 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?

THINK STRATEGICALLY

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 internal goals.

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 first place).

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 the transition.

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.

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