With managed services and the cloud: The integrator needs to be focused on the ground

Guest Commentary: Feenics' Sam Shalaby on SaaS
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Software as a Service (SaaS) is becoming an increasingly prevalent delivery model, as technologies that support these services mature. Yet, getting security system integrators to adopt this business model has proven to be challenging.

As a rule, the security industry has been very slow to adapt to new technology and thus, integrators have been inclined to follow and never lead. New technology creates new responsibilities and these responsibilities may seem to outweigh the benefits. However, I believe it is our responsibility as security professionals to always be on the lookout for the best and most innovative solutions for our clients.

Some integrators have been successful in providing cloud service and are now realizing the benefits. These integrators succeeded because they were committed to the concept and followed through. What is interesting is that most integrators were already providing part of these services through their preventative maintenance and support; i.e. assisting clients in creating access levels, or troubleshooting a configuration that is creating havoc.

Integrators are constantly responding to trouble calls that are not necessarily the fault of the system or the installation, leaving the integrator always defending the integrity of the system they installed. However, 50 percent of all trouble calls are either system configuration issues or user error.  SaaS, or managed services, as the industry likes to call it, helps to eliminate most of these issues and allows the integrator to work smarter and more efficiently, providing faster service and resulting in a satisfied customer.

Is it possible for an integrator to succeed with a SaaS business model?  Short answer: Absolutely! Will it be easy? Short answer: Certainly not! Will it be worth it? Short answer: Yes!

A quick Google search will find a wealth of SaaS success stories. There are the obvious titans such as Salesforce and Office365, but as an integrator, the focus needs to be on the ground as much as in the cloud. Then work begins at the office. Decisions need to be made about realigning human capital and responding to the demands of an increasingly sophisticated suite of technologies.

The work at home continues as management decides who is equipped to sell within this new paradigm. In some cases, there is simply no substitute for new sales blood, who come to the organization without the preconceived notions that comes from selling boxes. This means that team leaders will have to put effort into future-proofing their technical and sales staff.

The same amount of energy that went into choosing the software that will be sold as a service, needs to be spent on properly engineering the business plan.

And while it should go without saying, it bears repeating. Not all software can be repurposed for delivery as a service. Selecting the best platform and hosting partner to deliver on the SaaS aspirations deserves careful consideration. If nothing else, remember these simple facts: Just because it’s IP does not mean it’s cloud. And, just because its UI (user interface) is in a browser does not mean it’s a great SaaS platform.

When the integrator can rise above mundane appliances pushing to the rarified air of true cloud offerings, the organization by definition will be a cut above the competition, and the rewards will surely follow.

Here are some tips to consider when deciding to adopt the SaaS model and/or managed services:

•Change integrators’ mindset: Integrators must continue to adapt to changing technologies that are useful and increase efficiency.

•Managers need to provide incentives for sales team to encourage the sale of SaaS (commission on recurring revenue).

•Thorough and well-developed training is essential to ensure that your sales team is well versed.

•Remember, implementing SaaS is a process and should not be treated as purely adding a new product.

•Pick the right technology that is flexible and allows you to get in to the business model you are comfortable in, i.e. hosted services, shared services and/or full management.

Sam Shalaby is CEO of Feenics.