Hot Seat: Siemens’ Bob Suermann Discusses Tapping Into Customer Needs, Demands

Siemens recently launched a new Fire Safety and Security (FSS) unit following the merger of its fire and security businesses. In creating the new unit, Siemens said the move came at the request of its customers for more integrated and intelligent solutions. Bob Suermann, who was appointed business unit head, discusses FSS and other industry matters.

How does the company solicit and gather voice of the customer feedback?

To gather this valuable feedback, we have a Customer Voice team that conducts monthly surveys of our customers. This process gives us a deep understanding of customers’ challenges and concerns. It also serves as a litmus test of how well we are doing in regards to addressing those needs. In essence, it’s a monthly report card that provides tremendous clarity on the direction of our business and helps to uncover unaddressed needs within our served markets.

In addition to this process, earlier this year we engaged a third-party research firm to provide a more extensive perspective on the voice of the customer in the areas of security and life-safety technologies, solutions and services. An unexpected outcome of this research was that it helped validate our previous research along with our strategic direction in merging fire and security.

What are the synergies that exist between the fire market and the security market?

Both fire and security are driven toward a basic value or benefit that the customer might define as protection. From that customer’s perspective, protection, as it relates to fire and security, centers around two general categories: people and assets.

Now, consider the National Incident Management System [NIMS] as a proxy for the way customers see their world and responsibility for providing protection to the people and assets in their charge. Whether they are even aware of NIMS or what it stands for is irrelevant. But those customers responsible for safeguarding a hospital, an office tower, a campus, or a pharmaceutical facility all have one thing in common — they understand the imperative nature of their role to protect, detect, respond and recover from the threats their organizations might face. 

And while code will often be the driving force for much of what traditional fire is comprised of, so many of our customers have expressed a need for a single point of contact when it comes to both fire and security. They are also expressing a need for integration of fire, security, building controls and automation.

This set of customer views and needs, along with Siemens’ ability to offer such complete integration under our Intelligent Response segment, compelled us to create FSS.

In what ways is IT-physical security impacting your operations today, and where do you see convergence leading the industry’s future?

Its impact can be seen in our operational readiness, a measure we use to ensure our operations teams are trained and certified on the latest technologies. Before convergence hit our industry, our operational readiness metrics were comprised almost exclusively of OEM certifications from our technology partners in access control, CCTV and intrusion detection. Today, our operational readiness reflects an organization with a far broader range of professional qualifications, including an enormous number of our technicians holding networking certifications from Microsoft and Cisco.

Convergence is a game-changer that is perhaps slower to make its impact felt in security than many in the industry would have predicted five or 10 years ago. Nevertheless, we’re now beginning to see acceleration in convergence take place and believe that it portends a very rough road for those integrators not working to ensure their teams are equipped with the latest training and certifications to address the customer’s needs in a rapidly changing environment.

What makes you optimistic about 2012 and what concerns you?

[In early December] we brought our area management teams that run our field organization together to discuss strategy and the direction for Siemens Fire Safety and Security. Coming out of these two days of meetings, I was thrilled to find that our field organization sees so many of the same opportunities that we do, that our assessment of our customer needs is correct, and that they are already so well aligned around our strategy. So, what makes me optimistic about 2012? It’s opportunity that we see – an abundance of opportunity. And, as a result of bringing these two businesses together, we have a larger team of professional sales executives to engage these opportunities and deliver greater customer value.

I’m not prone to be pessimistic, and I tend not to worry about things that are out of my control. The economic recovery is still an unknown and will certainly continue to pose its challenges in 2012. What will differentiate success from failure will be how any organization addresses the challenges that will be thrown their way. Those organizations that are willing and capable of meeting the challenges head-on with innovation and high performing teams, and that consider every facet of their business to ensure their delivery models focus on the customer, will be successful.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for security integrators right now? How can they overcome them?

The biggest challenge faced by security integrators is the extent to which they are capable of delivering value to a customer base far less able to pay for solutions and services than they were 10 years ago. Those integrators that lack a diverse portfolio of products, solutions, and services — all under one roof — are those that are suffering the most today. If an integrator is not able to adapt their product mix to capture value from RMR driven by service offerings, such as managed or hosted video, then they’re likely failing to deliver profit.



If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters