Quizzing Customers for a Winning VMS Strategy

Here are tips to help security systems integrators create a successful video management software (VMS) solution for clients.

The premise of the popular 1950s and ’60s game show “What’s My Line?” with its famous “will the real so-and-so please stand up” tagline at the end was simple. Four celebrity panelists quizzed three guests with questions that could only be answered with a “yes” or “no” to try and narrow down and determine their occupation or, in some cases, identity. Their “line” of work was always a bit unconventional. I know, an ancient reference, but did you know it was the longest-running game show of its era and even went international? It got me thinking about today’s popularity and international trending of IP video and video management software (VMS) products … and trying to determine what’s your line regarding them.

The video management strategy of the VMS segment provides a balance between pure technology sophistication and business application acumen. That is where real business value is created by systems integrators for their end users of these solutions. Let’s venture deeper. 

Overcoming Customers’ Video Preconceptions

The real impact of this strategy is enabling systems integrators to help their customers migrate more fluidly as platforms, software and communications evolve. Helping customers plan, execute and manage their migration from legacy video proprietary jail to such a wide variety of technology solutions can be a real challenge for security system integrators. So where is a good place to get started?

Start by being a bit nosey – a real buttinsky, actually – regarding how your customers currently use video in their business. Ask them to share who, what, when, where and how they use their video systems. The nontraditional uses of video systems are endless with new technology. You are only limited by your imagination and the questions you ask. I find that most business owners bought video systems, had them installed, and promptly forgot about them. They always considered these systems to have a one-dimensional “security” role of deterrence and capturing events for after-the-fact investigating. The challenge in this scenario is that the video system may not have been well maintained, resulting in useless or poor-quality recorded video data when it is needed most. What happens next?

Unfortunately, business owners or senior management at larger companies can lose confidence in video as a security tool … and now you’re trying to talk them into using video as a “business” tool? You get the general idea of why selling the business value of video solutions can be so challenging for a systems integrator’s sales team. Ah, but there is something you can do about that starting tomorrow!

Finding the Right VMS Approach

First, you must deploy your own version of video management, which means you need to understand the new VMS options available to you and your customers, as well as those options’ strengths and weaknesses. Once you have a better idea of these video categories, you can choose which ones make the most sense for your company and customers. OK, ready to explore options?

The Traditional “VMS-like”: This is a simple hardware-focused approach with analog cameras connected to a DVR via coax and power. Nothing too cute, simple to sell, simple to install and simple to maintain. Yes, it does have some fancy-schmancy features like smart phone remote monitoring or basic analytics, such as motion detection. Strategy is low cost and can use existing, older analog cameras. Go for volume and keep installers busy with “comfort zone” installations. Your customers look at video as primarily a security product. You may not be interested in risky new technologies that stretch your team’s skillsets or even desire to learn new technologies. Don’t feel guilty or bad, but realize your biggest competitor is price, which is a mighty fickle and unpredictable opponent.

New Age Enlightenment (Zen): Your past strategies resemble our first model; however, you may recognize that strategy won’t deliver the growth potential you desire for your business and employees. While it may still serve a portion of your market, there must be something more to life, right? New IP video requires some careful considerations. Will your IP video solutions be customer (facility) or cloud based? What are the advantages and disadvantages from cost, vulnerability and feature set requirements? Will this choice best serve your customer today or well into the future? Is obsolescence going to be an issue? What direction is their IT department heading and will you be aligned with them? You get the idea. The Zen model is based on enlightenment – your enlightenment by asking the right questions.

Everything Is a Service Model (ESM): Don’t you love it when I just make up abbreviations? This strategy recognizes that recurring monthly revenue (RMR) is the sustaining blood flow of cash for successful security businesses. While alarm dealers have known this for many decades, the systems integration community was a little slow on the uptake on this crucial element. This model leverages delivering video, access control and intrusion detection services through a public or private cloud. This model is really scalable for both growth and slow periods, as throttling up or down is relatively easy and fast. This model also allows for nimble marketing and product offering subsets when niche markets are identified. If you pride yourself as an agile company that responds quickly to opportunities and have smart, aggressive technicians and salespeople, this is the strategy for you.

The key thing to understand is that if you don’t think through your strategies now you could be victimized by market conditions, competitors and, most importantly, your customers when they leave you for greener tech pastures. In an industry that is constantly evolving and changing, it is wise to be mentally flexible.

Playing the part of your celebrity panelists on our quiz show today, I have some questions and you must answer “Yes” or “No.”

1) Does your work require you to understand your customer’s business before recommending products?
2) Does your work require a deep understanding of IT networking and computer technologies?
3) Does your work require you to be more conscious about price or the right technology solution?

Now, will the systems integrator with a real video management strategy please stand up!

About the Author

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Paul C. Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is Security Sales & Integration’s “Business Fitness” columnist. A principal of Matterhorn Consulting, he has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience including UL central station operations, risk-vulnerability assessments, strategic security program design and management of industry convergence challenges. Boucherle has successfully guided top-tier companies in achieving enhanced ROI resulting from improved sales and operational management techniques. He is a charismatic speaker and educator on a wide range of critical topics relating to the security industry of today and an accomplished corporate strategist and marketer whose vision and expertise in business performance have driven notable enterprise growth in the security industry sector.

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