That J.M. Allain interview

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08/07/2008
So, I have to admit that the J.M. Allain (you know, the new head cheese at Panasonic security) interview is not my best work. Go ahead and read it here before we go forward. What's that you say? It's pretty dang boring? Well, yeah. I'm not totally at fault, though. Panasonic just doesn't do over-the-phone interviews (or in-person interviews either, really). So you've got to submit questions and then hope you get something useful back. Sometimes, the responses are fairly interesting. Sometimes not so much. But let me tell you: It's pretty hard to make an email interview - where you don't even go back and forth, just submit questions and get responses - at all interesting. For one thing, no one's personality shines through particularly well through the written word unless they're actually a professional writer, or someone who enjoys writing. If you're just someone who writes for business purposes, your written copy is likely to be pretty bland and straight to the point, even if you're a fairly entertaining person normally. Secondly, you know the person is going to be hyper-attentive to making sure the answers mesh with whatever "messaging" the PR office deems important, so you're going to get a bunch of gobbeldy-gook that no one cares about. Third, I'm actually pretty good at interviewing someone, and I think anybody who's done it often knows that they can get people to think about things they wouldn't normally have thought about and actually get someone to come to conclusions they've never come to before. A good interview is a win-win-win: The interviewer gets good copy. The reader learns something. The interviewee learns something about himself, and is able to broadcast his/her intelligence and personality out to the readership at large. Let's just say that didn't really happen with the Q&A with Allain. Should I go through it? I think I should: SSN: How has your most recent position at Duos, or other work in the industry, prepared you for running a much larger operation with Panasonic? Do you feel your integration background, also including your time at NetVersant and Adesta, will give you a unique perspective for a manufacturer? See how my first question is overly wordy? I had to kind of show him that I'd done some research and knew where he'd been. Nothing but Duos was in the release about his hire. Also, it's kind of suck-uppy, I think. J.M. Allain: It is not coincidental that Panasonic Corporation of North America sought integration industry expertise when evaluating candidates for the new President of Panasonic System Solutions Company (of America) - PSSA. And right off the bat, we get a bunch of ridiculousness that doesn't sound like anyone would talk. Sure, this is accurate and all, but who wants to read that? I'm bored after the first sentence. Panasonic has a broad and deep product portfolio that spans many different applications for business products. PSSA's ability to tie them together is a considerable advantage we offer across numerous business categories that allows us to be more competitive in the overall marketplace. In addition to traditional video surveillance system solutions, PSSA is in a unique position to provide customer-driven business solutions and services that add value above and beyond what traditional security industry-centric manufacturers have to offer. My personal experience with systems integrators in the security industry as well as the IT and telecom industries, provides the basis for an enhanced business model for PSSA. My vision is to capitalize on Panasonic's proven reputation for technology innovation as a manufacturer by offering enhanced integrated solutions and services that cross-cultivate our core areas of expertise. By working more closely with current and new channel partners and end-users alike, we plan to further expand our presence in the market. So, nothing about that "much-larger" part? Alrighty. SSN: What do you feel an integrator wants most from a manufacturing partner and how do you hope to help Panasonic deliver that? Allain: As technologies continue to converge and the demand for truly integrated systems increases, PSSA's goal is to provide top tier integrators with solutions that meet end user requirements while delivering improved ROI and lower total cost of ownership. Consistent and open communications with integrators is one of the most important criterion to reach this goal. We must continuously listen to them and end-users to determine their collective needs. And since communications is a two-way street, systems integrators need to understand that it is beneficial for them to work closely with us to ensure that PSSA's product and technology roadmap will help them build their businesses. PSSA has the ability to offer more than best-in-breed systems products--we can offer comprehensive solutions. So, integrators want "solutions that meet end user requirements while delivering improved ROI and lower total cost of ownership"? What about training, technical support, input into the product roadmap, etc.? That's what I would have followed up with if we had actually been talking. I guess it's true that I could have followed up with that via email and gotten another response back, but I'm a journalist, and, you know, kind of lazy. SSN: At Duos you worked with a number of IT-focused partners, from Microsoft to Cisco, and you have a background in the IT industry with Alcatel. Panasonic has recently invested heavily in IP-based products. What impact will IT and IP continue to have on the security marketplace and how will Panasonic work to take advantage of that? Allain: This is really my second involvement with an IP evolution. During the mid-'90s the data and telecom industries converged on a network platform resulting in integrated IP voice, video and data services. Given the inherent benefits that digital networks provide versus legacy analog systems, these integrated systems quickly became a business infrastructure mainstay. The same analog-to-network migration path will continue to transform the security industry for all the same reasons. Networked systems have proven to reduce overall costs while improving functionality. One of the attributes that attracted me to PSSA is the company's clear commitment to IP-based solutions, which is evident in our leading lines of i-Pro network video surveillance products, point of sale solutions and digital signage solutions - all of which deliver the best in performance whether deployed as standalone systems or when integrated on the enterprise level. However, we cannot overlook the billions of dollars invested in existing analog-based systems and infrastructure--specifically in the security industry. Panasonic Security Systems continues to service legacy system customers with new products and technologies that improve the performance of their existing systems yet provide a migration path to a networked platform. These technologies will co-exist for many years, and PSSA is well-positioned to fulfill the needs of customers on both IP and analog technology platforms, and any hybrid configuration they elect to build upon. This is a good answer, but I think you'd be more likely to get to the end of it if he was actually talking because he would have been much more to the point. SSN: How should Panasonic partners expect your personality or business philosophy to manifest itself on the company over the coming years? Allain: The new business philosophy of providing solutions versus products will drive Panasonic System Solutions Company forward. Our management team has brought together our internal business groups with the common goal of being more than simply a manufacturer, but rather a provider of customer-driven integrated solutions. From a personal perspective, I believe the success of PSSA's enhanced business model requires a great deal of cooperation and communications involving our entire staff, reseller partners and end-users. It is a collaborative team effort that all involved parties will benefit from. I plan to personally spend a great amount of time with our reseller partners and our customers to help further secure these relationships. The first paragraph of the answer is pretty clearly totally irrelevant to the question. Could I have just cut it? I guess so. But that seems like a dick move. I think the message here is that Allain is going to be more personally involved and hands-on than the industry has come to expect from Panasonic. That's a good message to get out there. An anecdote here would follow that up nicely, and he probably would have told one in person. At this point, I've belabored this whole post and it's gotten a little out of hand and long, but I think you get my point. CEOs and presidents are more than just business managers. They're the faces of their organizations, and their personalities. Customers and the rest of the channel look to them for a clue as to where a company is going. Dynamic leaders are people that gain followers just through their charisma and talent, not because of their well articulated business plans. I wish more companies would let those leaders shine through, whether through our paper or elsewhere. Frank DeFina used to have a blog. It's now been taken down. Maybe Allain and other company heads will start more often communicating directly with the outside world in such a way. I can't see how it would hurt.