The acquisition of GE Security by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) as part of its UTC Fire & Security business was an industry-defining acquisition. It combined the security and fire aspects of two of the world's top industrial companies, bringing together what had once been competing product lines sold by two distinctive organizations. Together, company leaders say, the two companies have the number one market share in the otherwise fragmented access control/security management market sector.
PODCAST: SIW Radio Episode 54 - UTC Fire & Security executives discuss the Global Security Product business
Now, having closed the acquisition and having had the time to put together a strategic plan that was approved by senior management, UTC Fire and Security executives within the global security products group explained the product vision for the company's flagship enterprise security management products. This probably wasn’t the easiest merger; the two companies had been competitors in the past, and that former competition meant that UTC Fire & Security had serious work to do. The executives had to define a method whereby the products that remained wouldn't continue to compete with each other, but could be clearly defined and marketed toward specific user needs. This product roadmap is being unveiled here at the ASIS 2010 show in Dallas, Texas, and one of the key elements is that global, enterprise security management products will be grouped together under the Lenel business unit inside UTC Fire & Security’s Global Security Products division.
Along with this refocus of enterprise security management, the company also recently announced its plan to group most of its channel-focused intrusion, video and fire products under the Interlogix brand, a brand which was revived in time to herald the product families at the ASIS 2010 tradeshow.
Besides the Lenel and Interlogix business units, UTC Fire & Security’s Global Security Products group also is operating the Supra business unit and the Onity business unit.
The plan for enterprise security management systems
According to company executives, the plan is to focus the offerings inside the Lenel business unit on a few distinctive offerings for enterprise security management. The largest and most scalable of t he offerings is OnGuard, which has always been the flagship product of Lenel. It’s being billed solution as the solution of choice for very large installations that needs a high level of openness to integrate a variety of disparate security and life-safety systems. Customization is the name of the game for the OnGuard product, explained Peter Boriskin, director of product management at UTC Fire & Security.
“That focus of OnGuard on openness isn’t changing,” Boriskin said. “We’re adding even more support for third party hardware and third party applications.”
Also now in the Lenel group is the Facility Commander solution, a product which comes from the GE acquisition. Though somewhat similar to OnGuard in its ability to scale, Boriskin said that Facility Commander (aka FC Wnx) does not have quite the level of openness and customization. It is positioned more toward the mid-market of the enterprise access control space, and the company says the solution is most appropriate for the kind of customer that is more interested in ease-of-use and a “one throat to choke” type of technology implementation, rather than a system designed primarily to be able to integrate a wide variety of related systems. Like OnGuard, however, FC Wnx is designed to scale up to the requirements of very large customers, with a virtually unrestricted limit on the number of readers and direct integration with video surveillance.
Similar to FC Wnx and OnGuard in that it can serve very large customers if needed is the Picture Perfect platform, which is a solution that came over with GE. Picture Perfect integrates security management, access and video in one platform, much like FC Wnx and OnGuard, but it was unlike anything in the UTC/Lenel line-up, chiefly because it was available in two versions: one to run on UNIX servers and another to run on Linux servers. The company says Picture Perfect is poised to serve both mid-market and top-market customers who use Linux or UNIX.
While Windows server clearly dominate the computing industry, Boriskin noted that 21 percent of new server sales are Linux servers and that some businesses and industries use IT infrastructure that is almost exclusively Linux. That sort of environment, he said, is often found in banking and telecommunications industries, and having a Linux/UNIX offering now allows UTC to court those customers without having to suggest that they maintain a Windows server environment just to run their security platform.
Also in the mix is Director, which Boriskin describes as an intrusion-oriented access control solution that can scale up to about 512 reader points. Director links products that were primarily being used in GE’s overseas markets.
At the lower level of the enterprise type of customer, Boriskin notes they’re working on a new solution. He added that while the forthcoming product will fit a key part of the enterprise market, the company was not ready to announce it just yet.
Giving clear focus to the different offerings in their quiver of enterprise security management products will help sales, said Boriskin. Customers have specific needs, so the company needed this full product grouping to serve them all. “Some customers want customization and openness. Some are very much just looking for a single vendor and will use a single product line. Others are anti-Windows which is why we have a Linux product.”
Matching GE efforts with UTC goals
According to Ken Francis, the former general manager at GE Security and now the head of marketing for UTC Fire & Security’s global security products unit, the strategy for enterprise security management products at UTC Fire & Security matches well with the efforts that had already begun inside GE Security before the acquisition. A streamlining, he said, had largely occurred before the acquisition. Francis and Boriskin noted that the company had created transition strategies for many security management/access control products that the industry knew well, including Diamond and Sapphire (which both had been transitioned into FC Wnx).
Over the years, they said, GE had developed a high number of similar but different security management programs. The development of those product lines, some of which were almost entirely unknown in the United States, had occurred because of the global nature of GE's security business. While the upside was that the company had specialized product versions specific to niche markets and niche regions of the world, the downside was that the company had effectively created more product lines than could be reasonably supported, especially more than could be supported in a post-acquisition company.
Planning ahead to avoid the support challenge, the company had quietly created transitions from a number of the legacy systems to other systems (like FC Wnx and Director) that would continue to be developed in the future.
Today, says Ken Francis, the company has roughly 10 different access control products in its offering. Two years ago, he noted, there would have been another seven products – and each would have had a different product roadmap. Going forward, Boriskin noted, there may be further product transitions.
Aligning R&D and the Channel
That effort to slim the product line, said Francis, fit extremely well when GE Security was acquired by UTC for its Fire & Security division. Along with the merger of sales organizations and the channel, R&D departments had to be integrated. Surprisingly, said Mike Regelski, the UTC Fire & Security CTO who oversees engineering for the global security products, there wasn't a great deal of overlap in the two R&D departments that had to be merged, which meant easier integration. And with the plan to streamline the key security management systems, the converged R&D team was focused on supporting and designing the next generation platforms only, rather than being tied down to niche legacy systems that had little future.
Today, the R&D teams share code and processes across the different platforms. What works for one platform can be shared among others. Code can be adapted for different platforms. Regelski says it creates efficiency in the R&D team, rather than having everyone working on entirely different projects with extremely separate roadmaps and little interaction with their coworkers. The model for the future, says Ken Francis, is to create key products that “share common DNA” in the development code while still offering separate and unique products and user interfaces.
Out of the R&D department is coming innovations, not just transitions. At ASIS, the company is unveiling a new combined intrusion detection and access control panel. It was born out of the desire from a number of customers who wanted systems that were primarily built around intrusion detection but which needed an access control component. That sort of solution wasn't in the product roadmap of their technology partner Mercury Security, so with a customer need and a technology gap, the UTC Fire & Security team created this new panel.
While there have been notable changes among the product groups to align the UTC and former GE products, what's not changing is the channel. One of the things that UTC said it liked about GE's security division was the strong channel and global reach, and Francis said that that UTC doesn't see a need to change what's working. Indeed, in a recent UTC press release announcing the Interlogix line, the company reiterated that it would continue to support the existing channel promotion programs already in place. Boriskin and Francis said the Lenel reseller channel and the GE reseller channel complemented each other well without overlapping. Lenel’s channel, they said, was primarily VARs, while the GE channel was more of a traditional security integrator channel.
“While our focus on the product is to condense down to a sensible number of products, we don’t want to change our channel strategy” Boriskin said. “They have been there to support us and we want to keep them whole.”
At least at enterprise/global security products level, the merger of GE Security into UTC Fire & Security is a major tipping point for the industry in that it creates a single company with leading market share. With the addition of this new product roadmap that focuses the number of enterprise security management solutions on a manageable number of products, the R&D is able to focus on innovations, rather than maintaining older systems. And with a strong commitment to a channel that works, the leadership team at UTC Fire & Security’s Global Security Products business seems to be attuned to keeping what works, and changing what needs to be changed.