Business & Marketing
There’s always time for education
Regular readers of SP&T News have been treated to a hearty debate in recent issues about whether the industry offers enough educational opportunities and resources for its integrators. It’s an age-old debate in all critical and fast-paced industries like our own. In reality, there are hoards of educational opportunities available for those who crave information about physical security — you just need to know where to look.
Staying on top of the latest products, technologies and best practices is no doubt challenging, especially while we’re in the midst of a shift to IP-based technology where innovation is constant. Security professionals must learn a new set of skills as well as contend with shorter technology lifecycles that constantly improve and replace existing products. Continuing education has become more than just a competitive advantage — it’s a survival strategy.
But let’s acknowledge the biggest obstacle for training installer and technical teams: time. When the economy is in a downturn, integrators can often invest in their business by aggressively training personnel. They can often afford this luxury thanks to a lull in installs, which means they aren’t missing billable hours. Today, the economy across Canada is mixed, and in areas with high economic growth as seen in Western Canada, it is often difficult to have technicians at training during the hours that could be spent driving the business.
Fortunately, while the core aspects of the integrator skill sets have remained the same, the platforms used to deploy those solutions have evolved. So what are some of the new and novel ways of putting training material in the hands of your people during both off and billable hours?
Non-traditional education: Social learning
Let’s start with social media since it is the most popular. Many security professionals are still wondering what social media can do for business and may have misperceptions that the technology is only used only by younger generations or for personal amusement. However, YouTube is becoming an excellent avenue for new training. I have seen clips that show how to install a network camera, and another on how to configure video analytics. With smartphones today, YouTube is a great anytime, anywhere tool that can help installers get out of a tough spot when in the field by themselves.
Even at 140 characters at a time, Twitter is also providing training and information-sharing. Manufacturers have started Tweeting tips like dates for training seminars as well as useful real-time info like major firmware upgrades. It’s also a way to connect with a person on the other side if you have questions or need to find the online help desk.
Then, of course, there is computer-based training via the Internet, which is gaining popularity for many reasons. The primary reason is that it can be done at an installer’s leisure and without losing billable hours. These have very high flexibility; they allow you to can stop anywhere during the training and resume where you left off. The downside? What you see is what you get. I’d recommend contacting manufacturer and association contacts to request online training that would be a benefit to your team.
Work with associations, not against them
Associations throughout North America offer a wealth of training material, from tradeshows to seminars to lunch and learns to certification prep courses. As a matter of opinion, I think that Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) does a fantastic job of providing information to their members. Other associations like ASIS, SIA, CSAA, PSA, RILA and more all offer regular seminars, interoperability demonstrations and local chapter meetings — and there are plenty of event calendars out there to help you keep track of them all.
While associations may heavily utilize manufacturer content, they filter this content to be non-brand specific and provide general information. After all, while some may cry conflict of interest, who best to discuss the leading innovations and processes than the knowledge experts responsible for developing the products you’ll be using every day?
Manufacturers have been working with associations for decades now and the good ones know about vendor neutrality. Besides, the audience is savvy enough today to know when to take direction with a grain of salt.
On the job learning with virtual assistance
Of course, learning in the field is the No. 1 area where we gather the best information to stay ahead. Also, there are new developments here too for on-the-job training and technical support. While the phone is a tried-and-true way to walk you through an install, many manufacturers now offer chat features for the installer who can’t afford to make frequent calls. Chat is becoming wildly popular for both install or pre-configuration setup and it’s like having a subject matter expert alongside with you during installation. As a bonus, if you save the chat transcript, it can even serve as an impromptu install guide onsite — one that’s been tailored to your specific needs.
Training really is everywhere you look these days but it’s up to the installer to take an active role in finding the programs that work for them. Hands-on experience is the best way to keep those skills sharp, but time spent off the job site and in the classroom is important to maintaining the edge in the innovative IP surveillance world.
Robert Moore is Canadian country manager, Axis Communications Robert.Moore@axis.com