Time for a Change

Improving the integrator business model


If you haven't noticed, IT integrators and Value Added Resellers (VARs) don't just have their eyes on the security space-they're in it already. I understand the need to continue sounding the sirens and the warning buzzers as us integrators are already competing with IT. And I understand that most people don't like change. But wouldn't security integrators be better off considering how IT and security convergence can improve their business? After all, is it not our goal to build strong sustainable businesses? With product margins already squeezed due to a multitude of sources, it's no surprise that higher margin sales from services are more attractive to security integrators. Instead of fighting the IT guy for projects, why not just learn from them and adopt their processes to provide the ultimate integration package to our customers?

To better your business

The IT industry largely believes in service level agreements and managed services, both of which the traditional security integrator has significantly ignored. It is time for a convergence in business models-one in which a business provides the same level of installation capabilities and field service responses, but bolts on a component of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) through service level agreements and managed security services.

So how do security integrators make this move if they haven't already? The first and easiest order of business is to prioritize the sales of service agreements. Spend as much time and money preparing marketing collateral for service agreements as you do for your other company offerings and ensure your sales team is on board with this strategy. Too often I hear integrators' wishful thinking for more customer service agreements but they don't stress to their staff that this is priority No. 1.

Step two is to take advantage of industry technologies available to offer hosted and/or managed security solutions to your clients. Let's face it, the buzz is out there about hosted and managed access control solutions and manufacturers have brought the platforms to market that are ideal for use with managed security services. But not all security integrators have the extra hands available to run reports and add access levels to badges for their customers all day. Outsourcing the work in setting up a managed service platform may be a good direction if you intend to provide fully managed options to your customers.

To be successful at selling these services you have to train your employees. There is an IT networking skill set to providing managed security services that security integrators need to acquire. This can be done by retraining existing employees or hiring on those that have these skills already.

You also have to educate your customer on the value of these services if you expect them to accept your proposal. Focus on what benefits your client's cash flow and how these services allow them to do what they do best-focus on their core business. Maintaining and administering these security systems is what security integrators do best as we are logically better suited to handle these responsibilities.

Know what's good for you

The traditional integrator model of focusing solely on big-money products and jobs is a troublesome one when you consider the latest competitors. A shift in the model to focus on bundling products and services with a recurring revenue stream will power growth and profitability in the security integration business.

In the end, platforms that enable integrators to offer managed access control services allow them to shift their business from a one-and-done construction-based model to one based on recurring revenue streams. This model is good for you and your clients but it will take a strong effort to get your business there. Ask yourself: Are you ready to cross that bridge? The choice is yours.

Ron Oetjen CPP, is president and co-founder of Intelligent Access Systems, Garner, N.C.