Integrator Connection: Commitment to Innovation Raises the Business ‘Bar’

While economics remains a major influence in today’s integrator market, systems integration company Advance Technology remains top of its game. Although the need for upgraded technology and solutions coupled with tight budget restraints remains Advance Technology’s greatest hurdle, it continues to bring the latest technological advancements and offer unique solutions to customers.

Headquartered in Scarborough, Maine, Advance Technology has grown from a small, two-person business consisting of owner, founder and CEO Jesse Abbott and one technician to a midsized company serving several states across New England. Established in 1994, the company operates throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and has expanded internally to more than 40 employees, offering highly experienced technicians and a variety of solutions in critical infrastructure, financial, healthcare and higher education markets, among others.

 

Shift to cloud hosted services

Advance Technology offers a range of solutions including access control, audio/video, video surveillance, intrusion alarms, RFID infant abduction and patient wandering systems, and recently shifted its focus to cloud-based technologies and proactive service and maintenance.

“Many of the systems we’re installing today focus on cloud-based solutions,” explains Rob Simopoulos, president of Advance Technology. “Rather than the customer making an investment in servers and software, we’re moving those types of systems into a redundant data center where the customer is basically renting the solution.”

The customer pays a monthly fee and the software and server in the data center can be accessed remotely through the cloud. He adds that these cloud-based solutions provide the customer with cost-savings because they don’t mandate the large capital investment in server or software maintenance and also eliminate the need for extra IT support. Cloud technologies and hosted solutions are the leading trends in the industry, and Simopoulos says that system integrators are realizing they can bring additional recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunities to the table.

The concept of simplification has carried over into other aspects of Advance Technology’s business as well. “A new part of our business that we’re growing tremendously is where we allow the customer to do their job, i.e., what they do well while our engineers support their systems for them,” he says.

Simopoulos adds that the company’s philosophy and key to success is not in selling product, but in providing unique solutions to the customers to meet their needs, offering affordability and lending expertise.

“A unique thing we’re doing is proactive managed services where our remote engineers are going in on a regular basis into customer sites and doing health checks on customer systems,” he says.

Technicians routinely check the status of all the equipment, making sure everything functions properly and checking reports for anomalies, providing this service to their customers to ensure that their systems are running properly as expected.

Advance Technology’s philosophy is about “asking a lot of questions, finding out what the customer’s challenges are and solving the problem with solutions,” Simopoulos explains. “It’s not about selling parts and pieces, but providing a level of solutions that solve their issues.”

Simopoulos emphasizes that any dealer could give the customer some off-the-shelf products, but it’s another thing to customize solutions. “One thing that separates Advance Technology from other dealers is the fact that we are providing remote and proactive services and cloud-based solutions that are unique in the marketplace.”

Cloud-based, wireless and managed services are becoming more popular among dealers, yet Simopoulos says that many dealers are lagging behind the current trend, still relying on old-fashioned servers and software solutions.

Just as Simopoulos takes pride in the company’s commitment to providing unique solutions, he also emphasizes the company’s promise to deliver top-notch customer service. Simopoulos says that customer satisfaction has greatly influenced the success of the company. A system of checks and balances, in the form of evaluations and survey processes by the customer, keeps up the high standards — after all, referrals from satisfied customers are what keep the company going strong.

“Our level of customer service,” he says, “we take that seriously. We have a strong process put in place from the first customer meeting to the end of the installation, all the way through to how our service department runs and we’re always doing checks and balances.”

As a result of Advance Technology’s commitment to quality services, the company continues to rack up awards, recently placing number 27 on SD&I’s Fast50 ranking and best practices program and winning other high-level industry awards as well.

Simopoulos says finding, hiring and retaining new employees is definitely a challenge, and unfortunately, careers in security systems and electronics don’t seem to be garnering as much attention in the academic community as they should be. “One of the challenges is that we have really good people going to school looking at career paths and not recognizing that studying IT is a stepping stone for them to become security technicians or to go into the security or systems integration industry,” he says, adding “we’ve been trying to meet with colleges to educate them that there is a path to security from those courses and that when they graduate, students should take a look at the security industry because it is a promising career path.”

When it comes to the future of his company, Simopoulos says, “we want to continue to grow throughout the New England area, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and we want to be a leader in cloud and managed services solutions in the marketplace.”

 

 

Ariel A. Cohen was a 2013 summer intern for Cygnus Security Media and is currently a student at Georgia Tech studying science, technology and culture.

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