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IT-savvy integrators will cash in

Security service providers are expected to be more knowledgeable about IT and offer a broader range of services to their customers, according to a panel of integrators. And those that do will reap the rewards.

October 27, 2010  By Neil Sutton

The panel was convened in October as part of CANASA’s Security Canada Central conference, held in Mississauga, and chaired by SP&T News editorial director Jennifer Brown.

“Five years ago, we didn’t hear the word ‘IT’,” said Dan Marston, national sales manager at Diebold Canada. “Now it’s all we hear.”

The growth of IP-based products — both video and access control — is driving the need for greater technical expertise in the security business, said Carlo DiLeo, general manager of Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Double Vision Group Inc.

DiLeo, a relative newcomer to the industry, said the turn towards IT integration is what attracted him to security. His company provides access control and video solutions to property management companies, colleges and other clients. He says he tends to hire installers who have backgrounds in telecommunications and IT.


“It’s more how Windows works than focusing a camera, because anyone can do that,” he said.

Marston agreed that a familiarity with network systems is preferable in installers these days. “They need to be more IP savvy. They need to know how switches and routers and nodes and all that stuff now.”

As the influence of IT has grown, so has customer sophistication, said DiLeo. But rather than cherry-pick particular products or brand names, they shop for solutions and rely on integrators to make informed recommendations.

Often what the customer wants is to take complexity out of their place of business and have the provider manage it off site.

“They understand cloud computing and hosted systems. They don’t want to put another server on their rack,” said DiLeo. They would rather have the integrator install an access control system and handle it remotely.

This has created new revenue opportunities, said Peter Dyk, director of solutions design management at ADT/Intercon Advanced Integration, like helpdesk support to handle troubleshooting issues with, for example, access control systems. In fact, the broader the portfolio of products and services a company can offer a client, the happier they seem to be. Customers are looking for a provider “that can help take headaches away from them,” he said.

Marston agreed that helpdesk can provide a significant source of Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR). “If you’re an alarm dealer and you’re not doing that, you should be,” he said. Service contracts like helpdesk can be a “gold mine.”

These types of services were once the domain of large IT providers, but the availability of affordable bandwidth and cheaper equipment has meant that smaller companies can also compete. Joe McCann, business development and systems design manager at Kitchener, Ont.-based Bulldog Fire & Security, said providers like his can find “opportunities between the cracks left behind by larger companies.”

Bulldog won SP&T’s annual integrator of the year award in 2009 for a surveillance and access control project they completed for Guelph, Ont.-based Sleeman Breweries. McCann said he’s seen a big increase in the access control portion of his business — providing remote hosting for access control databases. Bulldog will provide cards and ID management for small companies with five to 20 employees, he said.

Providing a suite of services can help foster customer relationships, said Dyk. The “one throat to choke” approach frequently espoused by large IT companies in the last decade is finding favour in the security market.

They want to deal with one person who will handle the project from start to finish — someone who will handle the bulk of a project and outsource the rest, said Virgil Reed, owner of Reed Security, based in Saskatoon. He said that smaller markets like Saskatoon are a moving target and he has to be ready to adapt in order to provide services that are sought after by clientele. Reed’s current focus is HD video — even referring to it as “Reed HD” for the benefit of his customers.

“We’re going to put most of our resources in high definition video,” he said.

The panel agreed that HD video is the way the security industry is headed, which will create even greater opportunities for companies that are able to offer long-term video storage or “video vaulting.”

“The video storage companies are going to have some fun in the next few years,” said DiLeo.

According to the panel, the tough times faced by the security industry in 2009 due to the recession and felt most deeply in the U.S., are all but over.

Marston said his company missed revenue targets by 20 per cent in 2009, but has been operating 20 per cent over target in 2010.

DiLeo agreed that he has seen a shift back to normal this year. Potential clients that had frozen their security budgets in 2009 were suddenly willing to spend in April 2010. At that point “everybody was calling at the same time and wanting it done tomorrow.”

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