Honeywell Security and Communications president JoAnna Sohovich settles in

Honeywell vet talks to Security Systems News about priorities, goals and how to get there
 - 
Thursday, September 9, 2010

MELVILLE, N.Y.—Since being named president of Honeywell Security & Communications for Americas three weeks ago, JoAnna Sohovich has been spending her time relocating from Minneapolis to Long Island, meeting all of her new employees and attending key industry events. That process is ongoing, but once the dust settles a bit, Sohovich says she’s eager to hit the road again.

“I spent about 50 percent of my time on the road meeting with customers in my last role,”  [running Honeywell’s Commercial Control Systems, a business within Honeywell’s Environmental and Combustion Controls (ECC) unit],” she told Security Systems News on Sept. 8.

Getting out and talking to customers—dealers, representatives in the marketplace, as well as homeowners and commercial building owners and occupants—is a great way to make sound decisions about bringing new products to market, she said.

Sohovich is a Honeywell veteran who’s held leadership positions within several of Honeywell’s business divisions over the past several years. A former Naval officer, she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MBA from Santa Clara University.

Sohovich identified five overall goals in her new job with the intrusion business. “We still want to help our dealers close more business; help them improve the average selling price; increase RMR, reduce labor or labor costs; and, reduce attrition.”

And the key to achieving those goals? “Develop and launch groundbreaking new products built on Honeywell Security’s innovations and technology and keep improving the technology we bring to market and the speed with which we bring it to market,” she explained.

As important as speed-to-market, however, is what Sohovich calls the “say-do ratio.” That means “you deliver the product at the time that you say you’re going to do it.” And the result is dealers are comfortable building their business around your offerings.

Honeywell’s R &D resources and the work being done in tech labs around the world is “one of the things I love about working here,” she said. “The technical folks are working on stuff that’s ten years out.” And, she’s eager to see what those resources will bring to bear for the Security and Communications business.

What’s she most looking forward to? “Addressing the key trends of integration and convergence. I have experience on the environmental controls and commercial building side [at ECC] and here I’ll have more exposure to the homeowners and residential side as well as security.”

She points out that while the convergence of technologies built on one IT system in homes and in commercial buildings has been possible for many years, there were barriers to convergence. Those barriers are now evaporating. With “technology enablers” such as wifi and apps on PDAs, for example, technology’s more accessible than ever. Costs have come down, and both consumers and security dealers have grown more IT savvy, which means that everyone has “more appetite” for this technology, she says, and Honeywell “is in a unique position to address these needs.”

Continuing to introduce innovative products is the top priority for Sohovich, and Ron Rothman, Honeywell Security Group president, to whom Sohovich reports. And for Sohovich, that’s where time on the road with customers comes in.

Companywide, Honeywell uses its Voice of the Customer (VOC) program to understand and respond to market needs. Sohovich can attest that bringing “groundbreaking [thermostat] technology to the market” in her former business involved 18 months of research and observation on the road. For example, in advance of launching new touch screen technology, Honeywell ECC’s residential team spent a great deal of time “talking to homeowners about how they use the product ... [and] going out with the installers to see the challenges they face”

“There’s no substitute for putting yourself in the same situations your customers are in,” she said.

“Ultimately, I’m accountable,” Sohovich said, “If I only spend time in conference rooms, I only know what I hear secondhand.” Spending time with customers helps me lead our team more effectively. That doesn’t mean I’ll second-guess anyone, it just means I’ll make decisions from a more informed position when we’re sitting around the conference table.”

Going back to the residential thermostat example, that process meant understanding and delivering on the idea that “homeowners wanted a bigger screen and a thermostat that they could actually program without having a PhD.”

The same VOC process in the security space will ensure homeowners and commercial building occupants embrace new products, she said. “And in the end, that’s what makes our dealers successful.”