The IP takeover

Integrators need to speak computer-ese


Preston Quick, chief information officer, MicroTech: Those integrators who were heavily involved with just security have to learn the IP space: firewalls, servers, storage for images. Things are far different than the analog ways of the past.
Rogers: Most of the access control systems are touted as a turnkey solution when in fact 98 percent are not. The knowledge base of the integrator has really changed over the past few years. Integrators are now required to have extensive knowledge of IT systems and architecture and must be able to hold an intelligent conversation with the IT manager. End-users have become more IT-focused and require a higher level of access and control via VLAN or Web-based applications. They want smarter and greener systems as well.

Q. Does your budget often come from the IT department? Does that help or hinder the specification or the bidding of a job?

Clancy: Yes, we see more budgeting for our technologies owned and managed by IT; they own the networks. There are pros and cons-benefits include often smoother installations with network trained IT professionals. IT departments are accustomed to larger budgets than facilities managers or security teams, therefore we spend less time on the issue of price. The detractors include increased education for the IT folks who have never designed or supported an access control or CCTV application. There are product vendors and integrators coming from IT who have great relationships with the IT folks but have never designed or installed a complex access control or CCTV system. In those situations we must prove our value by having expertise in both domains.

Citron: The budget is definitely moving into IT departments because of the close association between access control and the actual network. IT managers are gravitating to access solutions like self-contained network appliances that do not rely on a Windows operating system to be operational. This includes our Linux-based eMerge products. Since these products are browser-based, you can connect to the system through the Internet. The products where we typically see IT department activity are primarily with our software-based access control systems. We've responded by increasing our technical support capabilities, as it relates to IP addressing and networking.

Staehly: It depends. We do a lot of federal, state and local government work. There definitely is a move to a big roll-out of budgets under IT. Security and AV used to be under telecom or security. Now they are IT services. From our perspective as an IT company, it helps us.

Bradley: It's rare for us to see the security budget under the IT department but I have no doubt we will experience this more as time goes on. When it does happen, integrators are in a unique position to be the experts on the issues that IT has no clue about, including camera placement, lighting, lenses, transmission and storage. For access issues like codes, locking devices, cards and badges we have the answers.

Rogers: No, unfortunately most organizations have not connected the dots when it comes to budgeting for access control. Most budgets are still locked up somewhere in facilities or administration. We are constantly trying to get customers to focus on an IT budget solution. Access control systems within IT budgets usually get the best results.

How are you preparing your company by taking on a more IT-centric role at the jobs you bid?

Clancy: We typically seek out the involvement of IT early on. We have trained our sales and project management team to do so, and through all of our Strategic Planning Iterations with our large clients, we preach joint ownership and multiple stakeholders to the executive teams. We invest heavily in training for our employees so that we can advise our clients appropriately and deliver very high quality. We have been preparing for this transition for several years now and feel well prepared, but always vigilant and always listening to our clients.

Bradley: For some time now we have been hiring and training our staff to be IT-conversant. We have decided to emphasize our vendor certifications rather than go after IT certifications and so far that strategy is working. We now lead with IP solutions for access control and cameras, with the assumption that progressive customers expect nothing less.

Curt Harler is a freelance writer specializing in technology, security and telecommunications. He can be reached at curt@curtharler.com.