Rethinking the Ramifications of ‘At Your Service”

SSI’s ‘Tech Talk’ columnist Bob Dolph discusees why security systems integrators need to move beyond the ‘break/fix’ service RMR model.

Back when I started my alarm company, a key feature that attracted my attention was the concept of recurring monthly revenue (RMR). From an operational standpoint, the service of responding to alarms was someone else’s responsibility and was provided by the local authorities. From a financial standpoint, the alarm monitoring RMR smoothed out my cash flow. If I had a slow month installing new systems I still could pay my bills with the RMR income.

At that time, the introduction of the digital dialer and third-party monitoring services was new and exciting for young alarm dealers. Before this monitoring technology was introduced, only a handful of national alarm companies, such as ADT, controlled everything. Now another era in the alarm industry has emerged with systems being integrated with IP networks and cellular communications. This month, let’s look at some operational, sales and technical strategies to help you generate new and creative opportunities for more service contracts and RMR.

Improve Efficiencies Through Automated Services

Did you know that service and maintenance contracts are often the most profitable part of most projects? I am sure we can all agree that the business climate for today’s alarm dealers and integrators is changing rapidly and not always for the better. More RMR measures are needed both to maintain existing business income levels and to expand with new high-quality accounts. We need to get away from the “break/ fix” maintenance service model and become more proactive and creative with services that fit the needs and technologies of today’s customers.

IMS Research (now part of IHS) predicts that this year service and maintenance will account for 33.4% of America’s security integration market. “Companies offering a value-added service contract are seeing strong growth and greater resistance to the economic downturn,” says IMS’ Ewan Lamont. “Companies with high levels of RMR are also more attractive to investors and acquirers.”

So how do you take your firm to the next level and be-come a true managed services provider (MSP)? You must first gain a deeper understanding of the MSP programs, both hardware as a service (HaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). This is where traditional security companies can learn much from the evolution of MSP offerings in the IT industry. In an effort to give you a start, below are some suggested vendors.

Professional services automation (PSA) software is typically designed to improve the efficiency of your company through automated tasks. Potential uses might include tracking service functions, service ticket management, service labor and invoicing. Two companies in this arena are ConnectWise and Tigerpaw Software. To help navigate these new programs ConnectWise has put together a nice free eBook called The Ultimate Guide to As-A-Service. You can find a link to download this eBook on SSI‘s Web site.

If you are using third-party national monitoring organizations you may want to check to see what PSA options they are offering through their central station automation software. A good example of this is Microkey Solutions, which provides dealers with many back-office automation applications such as accounting, service records and operations, and mobile documentation. These can help increase your competitive advantage by enabling you to deliver faster and more efficient services.

We need to get away from the “break/fix” maintenance service model and become more proactive and creative with services that fit the needs and technologies of today’s customers.

Network Security Is a No-Brainer Service Offering

Remote network monitoring and notification software is a very popular MSP area for increasing RMR. The IT industry has been providing these services for years, but it has been typically in the commercial sector. Now that many residential homes have elaborate network connectivity setups, offering these could be a perfect fit for your MSP portfolio. These services usually provide Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Microsoft Windows Management Interface (WMI) or other common management protocols. This also includes the monitoring of mobile devices on the network.

One popular area of services for customers is network security, something that most residential and small business customers have difficulty and concern with every day. A few MSP companies that work with security integrators and might help you launch or expand such services include Spiceworks, Pager Duty, Zendesk and ihiji.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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