Expect to Encounter Difficulties
Security integrators can face multiple challenges when making the move to a managed services model. Service providers and customers alike are often accustomed to the aforementioned “break/fix” model of maintenance services, which can lead to both operational challenges and sales challenges.
Integrators are frequently only organized to react when a customer calls for service or a scheduled appointment is due, as opposed to proactively working with customers on an ongoing basis. Also, the client representative tasked with working with the security provider may view managed services as a threat to “their job,” as systems management is often an internal role.
Moving to a managed services model can also present capital and resource challenges. Service providers must invest in and deploy the infrastructure to monitor multiple customers’ surveillance systems simultaneously, including every component in the security path. This includes typical security components such as cameras and storage, but can also consist of routers, switches, servers and applications, and Internet circuits.
Successful service providers also have a trouble ticketing system that enables technicians to track incidents as well as contract performance, particularly conformance to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). More advanced systems can also interact with the monitoring system to automatically open and close service tickets or adjust them based upon changes in system performance.
In fact, one of the most crucial aspects to a successful managed services practice is the development of a SLA that explains the services that will be provided to the client and the level of response that will be assured for each area of service. SLAs also typically have a method for tracking service performance, and include procedures for problem management and resolution of disputes. A well-written SLA is the cornerstone of setting clear expectations for both the service provider and the client.
Developing a high-performing response system can be the most difficult part of the managed services transition. Many security integrators have well-established installation and maintenance practices, yet lack a robust help desk structure that assures the availability of qualified technicians to address customer questions and technical support issues during business hours or afterhours.
Still another challenge for security integrators is revising commission strategies for managed services. Realistically, a managed service contract can add on 10% to 20% of the value of a new system implementation in RMR. While the value of a high-margin recurring service is of strong interest to the company, that focus frequently does not translate to a new quota or revenue model for the sales representative. The rep may find selling managed services a lower priority than seeking new project opportunities.
Salespeople who are effective at promoting managed services, however, can expect in two to three years the proportion of their RMR can grow to the point where on Jan. 1 of each year they have 10% to 20% of their annual quota signed, sealed and delivered. In addition, managed services provide the sales reps with scheduled opportunities to review the usage of current systems, and enhance the value of the integrator’s brand with additional products and services.
Tools, Resources to Get Started
The development of a robust managed services practice should begin with gaining a deeper understanding of how current customers interact with the security systems they use, and their operational and management challenges. Based upon the security expertise of the systems integrator, customized management services can be tailored to each client’s business needs.
Once management needs are identified, there are many resources available to help even very small security integrators get started in packaging managed services solutions. As more and more IT VARs have shifted to managed service models during the past few years, a number of companies have developed subscription-based tools to provide the means to get started with very little capital outlay.
While some tools tend to be IT-centric, many can be easily adopted to support security managed services providers. Examples of subscription-based tools that can be adopted for relatively low cost include:
Professional services automation (PSA) software — Typically designed to track service functions, including ticket management, service labor, invoicing and SLA conformance.
Remote monitoring software — Typically provides monitoring via Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Microsoft Windows Management Interface (WMI) or other common management protocols.
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