The subtitle for this year’s “State of the Integrator” panel discussion at PSA-TEC was “Adapt or Die.”
Despite the foreboding subtitle, the panelists' outlook was decidedly optimistic ... for some integrators anyway.
Panelists agreed that independent integrators who do not embrace changing technology and update to service-centric business models will not survive, but Jorge Lozano, president of systems integration firm Condortech, pointed out why independent integrators are ideally suited to adapt and thrive.
“We’re nimble … and this is the time for nimble companies,” he said. If you look at government regulations, the threat of cyberhacks and new technology as opportunities, Lozano said, “the horizon looks good.”
The panel discussion was moderated by Bill Bozeman, PSA Security CEO, and included Brent Franklin, president of Unlimited Technology, Ron Oetjen, SVP of Securadyne, and Christine Lanning, president of IST. It took place May 5 here in Westminster, Colo., where PSA-TEC is ongoing this week. The event is attended by independent integrators of all sizes, and includes more than 100 classes and panel discussions.
Other speakers agreed with Lozano. Ron Oetjen said Securadyne’s growth strategy involved acquisitions, organic growth and this year the company has invested in a consulting division. However, the company’s growth strategy is not etched in stone: “Leadership is willing to talk about it [the best ways to grow and overcome obstacles] and re-write the book if we need to," Oetjen said.
Christine Lanning said it’s important to realize that top company executives “don’t know it all.” Lanning uses “the collective knowledge base” of information she gathers from a number of sources such as PSA Security, ASIS as well as from groups outside the security industry. She also seeks mentors “who I want to mimic or emulate … that has been extremely helpful to us.”
Bozeman asked the panelists which vertical markets the companies work in and which are the most profitable.
Subject matter experts are important said Brent Franklin, especially when you’re working in regulated industries. Unlimited Technology “takes a team approach in attacking new business opportunities,” sending out staff members who best understand the particular vertical. Those staff members need to know more than the particular regulations, he said. “They need to understand who they are, how the business works, what the challenges are.”
Oetjen said Securadyne “encourages sales teams to become experts in one of the six vertical market’s we’ve identified.” In terms of profit margins, Oetjen said the “data center market is the strongest margin-wise” and they have to follow a number of regulations. “Number two is easily power and utility companies. Number three is the oil and gas guys … but that market is the most volatile,” he said. “Everything is tied to the gas price,” he said.
IST works in a lot of verticals including local, county and state government; DOD work; and, top commercial companies in Hawaii.
As a small company, IST relies heavily on manufacturers for required training and certifications, she said. The company has also started to do “lunch-and-learns and user-group meetings [for customers and potential customers]…. where we bring the technology to them.” This gives IST an opportunity to talk to end users and the end users in turn “get invested in the technology and nine times out of ten, they stick with you,” she said.
The most profitable vertical for IST tends to be the large commercial businesses IST works with because they tend to chose an integrator based on expertise rather than price.
Lozano said Condortech’s is really only in one major vertical, government, but that also involves hospitals, education and border security.
Bozeman asked Franklin and Oetjen to talk about the key is to delivering novel and unique technology?
Franklin said his team is constantly scouting technology, but it’s important to stay connected to the customer so you “realize what the next steps are with that customer.” Also, “getting the manufacturer involved with the customer is not a bad thing,” he said.
Confronting novel technology is something to think about Oetjen said. “What are we going to do when there’s only one smart camera out there [instead of many]? When one smart camera replaces fire systems because the camera [can detect fire]?” In order to get a customer to “rely on you to deliver a novel solution and trust you to deploy and execute the solution, [the relationship] starts way back … you educate and consult with the customer over time,” he said.
“You prove your thought-leadership,” Oetjen said. “You need to talk to and educate your customer at the same time, not just send invoices and ask, ‘What other camera or door can I do?’”
What about developing a culture of innovation in a company? How should systems integrators go about doing that?
A culture of innovation starts with company leadership, Lanning said. “Are you showing passion, curiosity, adaptability?” It’s important to “evaluate yourself and how you come across to your employees.”
Lanning said IST has an all-company meeting every Monday and every third Monday they do a team building or other educational exercise. She also send weekly emails focused on innovation and inspiration to all employees.
Lozano concurred with Lanning saying that we’re on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Company leaders need to be doers. “Leadership is an action, not a position,” he said.