Publisher's Viewpoint: Nomenclature Doesn’t Matter—What You Do Does

What’s the difference between a security dealer and a systems integrator – really?

A dealer installs only home systems and integrators install commercial systems? Some 97 percent of you tell us you serve commercial customers. So that means that only three percent of our reading community sells just home systems. So three percent are dealers? I doubt that. Is an integrator someone who only installs commercial systems? There are 41 percent of you who say you serve only commercial customers.

There are light commercial and heavy commercial systems. Do dealers do light and integrators heavy? How do you draw this line and where? A single school is light and multiple schools are heavy? But a single school could house 8,000 children and two schools could house 600!

OK, integrators sell and install systems in national accounts. Everybody calls these companies systems that’s it for sure. That leaves 90 percent of the community as dealers, because there just aren’t that many companies with the reach needed to serve national accounts. And if you go to the lists of top integrators and add up the volume of business purportedly done by these companies serving national customers, you will see that about eight billion dollars of a supposed 40 billion dollar industry come from these top ten integrators. I am no mathematician but if you add up the volume of business from this list of “top integrators” with the list of “top companies” in the industry, you come out with, well, 70 percent or more of this market’s revenue arising from local and regional resellers doing less than one million dollars in revenue per year.

But I digress, because we were talking about companies who service national accounts as being the integrators. Honestly, don’t these organizations make much of their money serving local businesses in the areas surrounding their offices? So does this mean that systems integrators who serve national accounts and anyone who competes with these national companies in a local area are also an integrator? Or are these top integrators also dealers?

There is no clear line here. Some 73 percent of you tell us --”We integrate many products from many manufacturers together to make them work effectively in my customer’s sites.” Are 73 percent of you really integrators and 27 percent dealers? When I asked you what you call yourselves, 44 percent say you are integrators and 33 percent say you are dealers and the rest claim to be fire systems engineers, electricians, central station managers and others.

At the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Baltimore recently, one of the larger alarm companies told me that dealers have recurring monthly revenue and systems integrators don’t. Interesting thought. Certainly in these economic times having RMR is the life blood for many.

I don’t think it much matters what you call yourself. What matters is what you are doing and 73 percent of you are integrating products together, accordingly 70 percent are designing, engineering and integrating technologies and 88 percent plan to grow their networked and Web-based product sales and installations. If that’s what you are doing, then that’s definitely where this industry’s successes lie.

Carol Enman