As many of us have seen for some time, many types of electronic security systems are morphing into computer systems. Sure, it takes experience to know how and where to place cameras, monitor systems effectively, ensure smooth traffic flow for access control systems, and myriad other skills we’ve had to learn through the years. But the physical interconnection of the equipment is essentially identical to an IT systems deployment, and there’s a danger there — or is there?
The obvious danger is that many of our clients and customers are already proficient at connecting computer equipment. In fact, at many larger organizations they may be better at it than the typical security integrator. They deal with networks, interconnections, cabling, and other infrastructure elements day in and day out, and in many cases they’re the ones tasked with maintaining the systems.
So, what’s to stop them from installing their own systems? That’s getting to be a tricky question, as the answer, more and more often, is “nothing.” If it is just interconnecting networked gear, they’re already doing that. Couple this with the trend toward marketing to IT professionals by manufacturers and you can see the integrator slowly being edged out. In fact, some larger firms have hired our consulting firm to fill in the missing pieces — determine camera and card reader locations, help with equipment selection, and provide engineering support — to cut out the integrator on projects where they don’t feel the integrator adds value. We’re not crazy about that idea as we’ve always worked well with integrators and they are a major source of referrals. But in many cases it is hard to argue with that logic.
So, is the sky falling? Probably not. The self-install has always been around, ever since Sam’s Club started selling systems (remember Ultrak?). And while many people may have the skills to install these systems, few have the bandwidth — time is still a precious commodity, especially after all the downsizing businesses have been through in the past few years.
But it is essential that you maintain your computer and networking skills to play in this game. End users may be open to hiring an outside firm to do work that they may be able to do themselves, but you can be assured that the outside firm they decide to hire will be at least as competent as their in-house people. Make sure that short list of qualified professionals includes you and your team.