Expectations are changing…in the security industry, that is. The solutions now demanded by end-users are vastly different than those when I began working in the industry. What’s more, they are poised to continue for the foreseeable future. From the way users interact with their security systems to the processes by which data is collected and used, the industry is undergoing rapid change. To stay competitive, security integrators must take notice and adapt their traditional business models; this means not only delivering the desired products but servicing and supporting them after each project.
Changing Technology and How You Must Adjust
One significant trend occurring over the past several years is the rapid transition to cloud-based access control and security management. The transformational trend is impactful to the industry for several reasons. Historically, the end-user would buy on-prem technology that they would have to maintain on their own. This translated to a high price tag for security infrastructure, with limited scalability. The cloud has changed this.
There’s an understanding that cloud systems are more secure than ever. As adoption of the cloud increases, end users are not having to buy heavy-lift infrastructure equipment (e.g., controllers, housing servers). Additionally, security management is being delivered with open architecture sensors and components. The result? End users are increasingly agile in their operations. They can obtain new security management platforms, which require less maintenance and enable easier scalability. As end-user needs change and they outgrow a particular vendor platform, they can often move a large piece of their investment to another, more scalable platform. Most significantly, this can be done cost-effectively and without having to rebuild the entire system.
Demand for mobility is another important trend in the security industry. Secure, mobile credentials coupled with the advent of “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) convenience raises the demand for mobility to entirely new level.
Know the Customer
Traditionally, when manufacturers have been asked to identify who they see as their customers, they would often say “My customer is this product distributor or that wholesaler.” Although the statement remains true today, manufacturers were often removed from engaging with the end user, and they let the channel partners do the work. Today, the customer experience is frequently measured by the user’s experience on a smartphone or smart device for video, access and security. Consequently, manufacturers need to make the user experience a unique and valuable experience or they find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
So, what’s bringing about these changes? The answer is smart technology. Highly secure open architecture platforms, encryption technology, secure sensor devices and wireless network infrastructure have all made mobile and cloud-based technology more palatable for end users. Technology has simplified the end-user experience, and the change pushes security integrators to adapt.
Survival of the Savviest
When doing a large retrofit or new construction, general contractors and end users often ask: If access control and secure openings represent about 5% of the total cost of building, why do they make up 90% percent of the headaches?
In the years I’ve been working in the security industry, I’ve experienced incredible advancements in security technology and management practices. However, prior to my time at the Cook & Boardman Group and ASSA ABLOY, I had limited opening hardware experience. This changed dramatically for me over the past decade-plus, and I’m glad it did.
I received a firsthand education about the two industries running in parallel to one another. After all, you can’t have a secure opening for access control without a secure door. Up until recently, when I joined the Cook & Boardman Group, there’s been virtually no early-stage communication among the manufacturers, security integrators, end users and hardware distributors. The lack of coordination between has candidly been a recipe for failure.
Most security integrators, even today, do not generally possess the skills to deliver the mechanical and electro-mechanical requirements of a sophisticated access control opening. Consequently, it’s often perceived as being cheaper to subcontract the work to a local locksmith. But this model presents several problems. In an increasingly competitive and race-to-the-bottom market, security integrators are losing out on margin opportunity and aftermarket-services revenue. These sophisticated skills are in demand more than ever before. It’s wise for integrators to consider investments that enable them to deliver turnkey opening solutions, as Cook and Boardman Group does across the country.
Door, frame and hardware expertise coupled with systems integration is the core philosophy of the Cook & Boardman Group. Our portfolio of businesses is transforming the security, life safety, and architectural distribution industries by bringing all these elements together for the contractor and the end customer.
Finding the Right Manufacturer and Building Recurring Revenue
As mentioned above, integrators tend to be risk averse. This is understandable, but they are likely missing an excellent opportunity to develop unique recurring revenue streams and business annuities. Intelligent integration businesses realize they won’t get the market reach or scale by doing the same old thing, the same old way. Many realize they must earn their customers’ confidence through strategic alignment with a select group of manufacturing partners. Integrators can retrieve a portion of the end-user monthly or yearly spend at a fraction of the cost. These added revenue streams help integrators save time they’d otherwise be spending on resource dollars. In turn, the incremental time saved drives new business.
What makes one manufacturer a logical partner over another? There must be a good philosophical balance of shared value.
Unfortunately, system integrators often make the mistake of trying to take on too much. They may try to be too many things to too many people. That approach typically dilutes the integrator’s ability to serve selected partners in a high value way. Balance is vital: it’s important not to take on too many partners or be so exclusive that you can’t serve the broader market needs. Selected vertical market focus can also be valuable in understanding the uniqueness of a customer’s needs.
What Vertical Markets Can Your Business Serve Well?
Successful businesses emerge by cultivating a deep understanding of the end user’s security challenges and unique requirements. Integrators must not only learn the end user’s challenges and pain points but be capable of communicating in terms which the end user understands.
By example, the Cook and Boardman Group’s A3 Communications integration business serves K-12 schools and higher education markets extremely well. A3 Communications delivers network infrastructure, secure communications, and intelligent learning solutions which we can package alongside our life safety and security expertise alongside our architectural distribution capabilities. From the education vertical market end user’s purview, we speak their language, and we have the contract vehicles to simplify the transactions. A strong capability in strategic vertical markets separates us from the competition and makes it easier to do business in the segment.
There’s so much innovation happening so fast, it’s impossible to stay up to date with every widget or device. You must leverage the manufacturers in the channel to help. They are the experts in what they have to offer. If they have confidence in your business, then you’ll be positioned to be a preferred partner. The question is: how do you get there?
As industries evolve, integrators must find new ways of remaining competitive. The more specialized services you can deliver to a customer the better. At the Cook and Boardman Group, we refer to this as “cross-serving” our customers. Cross-severing is unique for each customer and need. The more you can bundle, the greater the opportunity is to solidify your relationship with the end user.
Undoubtedly, the security industry is going through transformational changes. Whether it is the installation of cloud and mobile technology or cross serving customers, the role of integrators is changing. They must find reliable manufacturers, like Genea to partner with. Together they will drive demand and education at the end-user level. Only through this kind of symbiosis will integrators find success and stay ahead of the changing industry.
Learn more about partnering with Genea or about Genea’s cloud-based software suite, here.