How 4 Integrators Keep Up With Constantly-Changing Security Space
Need a few pointers on how to stay above water in the changing security landscape? These four security integrators are here to help you navigate through your challenges.
Conversely, what is adding gray hairs or causing loss of hair to your head at night?
FERRIAN: Technology is developing so fast, it’s very difficult to stay up to speed. It almost comes out so fast that you don’t know which horse to pick, so that is one challenge. Another is how companies are starting to be consolidated into full solutions.
Sometimes acquisitions aren’t ones we prefer to have happen. The VMS platform that we carry, that we’re the strongest in as a company, acquired a camera manufacturer that we never thought we’d touch. It’s presenting challenges to us as an integrator who wants to present the best solution possible. It’s a big undertaking to pick up another line, in terms of training and certifications and the dollars you invest. So I don’t like how that can make us consider decisions we normally wouldn’t have made had those consolidations not happened.
PATTERSON: One challenge is some of the larger clients buying [direct] from distribution, and that Internet of Things customers have all the information at their fingertips. Often we must blend the research they’ve done with the expertise we have and strike a mutually beneficial balance.
Another challenge is maintaining and hiring qualified engineers to keep up with technology. As soon as you have someone figure it out, there’s something else they need to do.
KRISTENSEN: The hardest thing for us is as the industry has been rapidly changing, so too has the workforce. Years ago the same guy has the skillset to perform most field installation and service needs. Today, the guy touching large clients’ networks is not the same guy mounting a panel and powering up the power supply. The guys in the industry for years are making quite a lot of money, and they don’t have the skills we need today in the marketplace. So we’re developing them into more of a project management role because they understand the construction process. They’re not programming anymore. They’re not training. We are bringing in people with IT skills for that.
Another thing is making sure when we land a big account we fulfill everything we promised. They don’t want to deal with just everybody. You have to have a team of people on that customer so you can truly say you’re servicing them. So when they call accounts receivable with a billing issue, I know Susan in AR is out today and if I’m the PM I can step in to handle it. Or our sales support group can help facilitate.
FERRIAN: We use a term in our office, “Leading the client at their pace.” We always talk about this role of who’s the teacher, who’s the student. Five or 10 years ago when IP technology came out, a lot of clients’ IT teams were between 40 and 60 years old. For us, as a fairly younger group, we came in and talked about IP as a new technology. There was believability. You’re young, you’re a computer whiz, so it was much easier to have that conversation. We were trusted because of implied knowledge we had.
As the years have gone on, those people we first sold to are being replaced with those who went to school for IT or network security. They have a much deeper understanding, sometimes more so than we do. When that relationship gets inversed – when they think they’re the teacher and you’re a student – it’s a very bad position to be in.
For us, it’s trying to keep up not just on the technical si
de but also on the sales side. A lot of times if you’re working with the director of security and things like that, you have to make sure you know just a bit more than they do. We’re going to see customer and technology influences within organizations continue to get smarter. We need to continue to push to make sure we keep the relationship of student/teacher intact, so we maintain that trusted advisor position.
KRISTENSEN: To add to that, when you sell to these large clients they have guys that were in our industry and so they know what the markups and margins are. If you get into a situation like that with procurement, be prepared to share why your sales price is your sales price. When they finally see the percentages, I’ve never had procurement say that’s too much money. In this industry we’ve been very scared of our costs, but I don’t think it has to be that way, especially when you get a good relationship and can explain the markup. We’re not making it up. We have margins because we need those margins to provide the services we provide.
PATTERSON: We’ve never had a customer complain about price when we were servicing them well. If you’re not taking care of them it doesn’t matter what you charge them, they’re going to go somewhere else. They want you to succeed because they’ve invested in you as their integrator, and put their trust in you. They want to make sure you’re going to be there to take care of them.
LYNCH: Attracting and hiring good talent in order for us to continue the growth rate, that’s the biggest problem for our industry. It’s about finding good quality people because they are the ones who actually build your organization. That challenge goes hand in hand with margin erosion from products being commoditized.
You can’t afford to continue to operate as a company when you’ve paid all this money to these good people. It’s almost where we’re constantly aspiring to provide high technology and services that are unique and different, that a very select group of talented people can provide and maintain, which keeps us competitive. Once you’re on that treadmill, you’re paying people a lot of money and going down that technology road and constantly on the leading, and perhaps sometimes bleeding, edge of technology. It’s nerve-racking because there’s no getting off that treadmill once you start.
Products are products, but at the end of the day payroll is the biggest concern, especially if you have a lot of talent and an expensive headcount.
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