Developing a Migration Path to IP
Ideally an integrator should develop a long-term relationship with a customer built on trust and an ongoing, mutually beneficial business partnership. Realizing such an approach depends on looking beyond the idea of simply “selling a system” and thinking long-term about how you can meet the end user’s continuing needs, both now and in the future.
The approach is a way to turn an integrator’s full list of current and past analog video customers into prospects for IP-based systems in the future. The impact of networks to transform businesses of all kinds is a common belief with most end users, so many will be looking to make the change over time.
When a customer looks to expand their system, it’s an opportunity for the integrator to become that client’s true partner. Case in point: The ongoing success, dependability and longevity of analog-based systems can create an opening to incorporate existing systems into new networked systems using a hybrid approach.
New server solutions and digital converters can be used to translate analog video signals to be incorporated on the network. Hybrid systems enable customers to start small in their embrace of IP and to expand the system by adding networked products over time as they see the benefits.
When does it make sense to use a hybrid approach versus a complete system change? Integrators should be able to take customers step-by-step through the possible paths and explain the costs, advantages, disadvantages and long-term impact associated with each methodology. That’s how you turn a possible one-time sale into an ongoing and continuously lucrative partnership.
Developing an after-sales strategy is also vital to creating additional revenue streams. For example, service and maintenance agreements can be profitable for the integrator, especially if the company lacks IT-knowledgeable staff. Because a lot of IP-based system functionality depends on firmware and software updates, an important function of a service and maintenance agreement is to ensure the latest versions are deployed.
For the user, a service contract enables a set dollar amount in costs to be budgeted per month, as opposed to facing uncertain costs related to needed or unexpected repairs or maintenance. The integrator can be that valuable go-to source in ensuring continuing system performance. What’s more, you never know when they might start looking for a new system.
Let’s also take a moment to briefly examine how IP-based video can be integrated with other networked systems in the enterprise, thereby opening up new opportunities for an IP-savvy integrator.
How interested would a retail customer be to learn their video system could be integrated with a point-of-sale (POS) system? Similarly, would they be interested in integrating a video surveillance camera with a business telephone system that could also provide video monitoring capabilities?
Considering new and additional opportunities could help a security-focused integrator enter new markets and offer a broader-based menu of solutions to current and future customers. For end users, such integration can make their businesses more cost-effective and efficient in the long run.
Expand Your List of Suppliers
A consequence of a changing market is a shifting mix of supplier companies an integrator can align with. New providers of physical security information management (PSIM) systems and IP-based access control systems enter the market all the time and should be evaluated, accordingly.
A key variable to consider is how easily these new systems integrate with third-party suppliers. Oftentimes, integrators looking to simplify the integration process may find the easiest route is to use various technologies from a single supplier that offers a broad product line. These “pre-engineered” systems work right out of the box, plus there is the added advantage of one supplier taking responsibility for the system’s success. Whatever the scenario, shrewd integrators stay abreast of what the market offers and adjust their strategies to leverage best-of-class solutions for the benefit of their customers. This has historically been a good approach for integrators and it applies more than ever to the changing IP-based market.
The Time Is Now to Take Action
To summarize, IP-based systems offer an unprecedented opportunity for security integrators to generate new business opportunities. To take advantage of new technology trends, integrators need to make an investment in training personnel on emerging IP technologies, and/or by hiring professionals with the required expertise.
It’s more than an investment in new sales development; it’s an investment that will help integrators ensure the future health of their overall businesses. The role of integrators continues to evolve in the security industry, and the most successful integrators in the next decade will likely be those who incorporated these changes and transformed their businesses today.
Building an IP-based integrator business is a challenge, but those with a history of service and customer satisfaction are well-positioned to make it happen, assuming they take the necessary steps. Think long-term rather than short-term while recreating your business in the image of a new industry.
Bill Taylor is President of Panasonic System Networks Company of America. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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