What are the top two or three operation-al challenges you’re looking at, and what are some strategies to combat them?
Eckersley: There are still challenges in becoming a brand-new public company; understanding and putting in place the pieces we need in a business to manage a public entity like this. We’re adding a number of roles in the corporate entity in Carmel, Ind., and stimulating and developing those I think is a key issue to our current activities and what we’re focused on. Continuing to deliver and meet or exceed expectations of our customers is another key area we are focused on.
The market and ourselves expect us to be a growth-based company, so putting in place the necessary elements of our strategy to help drive and support that growth story are what has a lot of us focused on right now. As we get deeper into the first quarter we’ll be laying out that growth plan for the marketplace to see where we intend to put our investments and drive the growth of the business.
Those are the things that are top of mind. In terms of the day-to-day tactical management of the business, I don’t really see many challenges at all. We’ve gotten through the transition. We’ve effectively separated ourselves from Ingersoll Rand and we’re executing aggressively against our plan.
In what ways did IR and will Allegion assure premium customer care and tech support?
Eckersley: We’ve put an enormous amount of investment into what we call customer experience in Allegion; prior to that, in IR. Customer experience for us represents an expertise in delivering top-quality support in four key touch points of the customer interaction with Allegion.
That’s in the sales experience, so the kind of experience they are getting with our salespeople. It’s on the product, the product quality and capabilities, and how well they meet customers’ needs. In the service, the aftermarket service and sup-port of the product on a going-forward basis. And it’s in the delivery quality. We have spent a lot of time putting metrics in place to manage the relationship and expectations of those customers on that experience. We’ll continue to focus ourselves on becoming a premier support and provider for products and services.
Let’s talk about the technology and products. What do you see is the top access control-based technology opportunities out there today?
Eckersley: Broadly speaking, we see enormous opportunity in the traditional, mechanical security space. There is a lot of opportunity for growth both in adjacent categories as well as in continuing to evolve the delivery model that exists in the business.
The other area of significant interest is in the area of electronics, both in the consumer and B2B side in the commercial space. We see a number of opportunities to grow the development of electronic access control products and portfolio of activities for our business, whether that is electronic locking plat-forms, virtual electronic credentials or reader platforms we’ve announced in the marketplace. We see tremendous growth in the market evolving from what had been predominantly mechanically orient-ed to a more connected electronic marketplace.
We also see opportunities for us to make moves in acquisitions, adjacent markets that are not currently part of our portfolio but would fit seamlessly into our channels, in our existing capabilities and skillsets in our channels.
How do you differentiate your technology from competitors?
Eckersley: First and foremost, and it goes a bit to the name Allegion, one of the things that differentiates us from our competitors are our people. I know many companies say that but we repre-sent in our organization a set of experts who have been in this industry for many years. We believe we have the preeminent set of experts who understand how these technical solutions come together in a way that adds value to both commercial and residential customers in a way that other people don’t.
We see an enormous opportunity for continued development in demand creation of our business based on the combination of taking the expertise of our people and applying them in unique and differentiated ways to solving solutions to customers’ problems. Allegion is a legion of experts who can help support the needs and challenges of our customers.
How will Allegion balance leading- versus bleeding-edge offerings? What is the vetting process and how do you balance innovation and reliability?
Eckersley: The interesting thing about this space we’re in is I don’t actually think you can balance either of those two things, whether it’s cutting edge or prov-en technologies. The space we operate in requires we provide almost bulletproof solutions to our customers’ requirements. The beauty is if you look at some innovations coming in our industry that we’re leading, many of them are applications of what was bleeding-edge technology maybe two or three years ago that has proven itself in other industries but can now become what is called innovative technology in our space.
A perfect example is the concept of virtual credentials, where using some-thing other than a plastic card or mechanical key in gaining access to an office building or your home seems and is purported as a bleeding-edge technology for our industry. Yet mobile devices have been used for similar technology, using either NFC or Bluetooth connectivity, with other applications and other industries. That’s handsets or headsets people are using through Bluetooth or credit card transactions in the case of NFC.
In a lot of cases, the bleeding-edge cases are sort of vetting in other industries. We’re taking those technologies, once proven, and integrating them in more robust ways for our industry where we require a more proven or solid foundation.
What about specific verticals? Which markets are particularly attractive or prime for strong growth now?
Eckersley: When you look at this from a global end, there are growth opportunities in almost every vertical. In the United States, we see enormous growth opportunities in multifamily. It’s been well into the double-digits the past year-and-a-half to two years and we see that continuing. We see resurgence in the commercial vertical market, particularly in building or build-out activities within commercial facilities. We’re seeing retrenchment inside existing building facilities that were launched in the early phases of the downturn and now people are focused on new tenants coming in.
There are also markets around the country that haven’t seen any recessionary activities, in New York City for ex-ample where construction continues at a pretty aggressive pace. The higher-education space continues to be a really good opportunity for growth in the Americas market. Even some of the slower-growth institutional spaces like health care, K-12 education and government are showing signs of at least stabilization and, in some cases, low- to mid-single-digit growth opportunities for us.
Coming to you as a security dealer or integrator, what would be your case to make Allegion my primary supplier?
Eckerlsey: First and foremost we hope to be the provider of what we believe are world-class solutions to the problems you’re trying to solve for your customers. That includes things all the way from our mechanical locking and safety products through access control and the seamless integration of those activities over the portfolio products.
We expect to bring more connectivity to our integration partners, so more products that are easier to install and easier to connect to access control systems. We believe the move to cloud-based access control systems is another pretty significant shift coming in the industry. Some of the limitations that exist in the industry now around access control panels and things like that are a big opportunity for us to bring more valuable, connective solutions to our end-user customers, and use the support of the integrators to bring those to the marketplace in a more seamless way.
With our help, integrators can move from largely installation- and maintenance-based to a higher value-add to their end-user customers by bringing more connected, more intelligent solutions to the table.
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· Systems Integration