Hayden Hsu | Date:
With more standardized products and thinning profits, solution providers are hard pressed to either offer something unique or make themselves unique. Desperate times also call for desperate measures, on channel partners' part, in training and collaboration.
The world is flat, and so is growth in recent times. No stranger to slight slumps in economy, security solution providers seem to be better prepared this time around. With more comprehensive and mature IP and HD solutions, solution providers in the supply chain and channel have been focusing on bringing distinct solution and service offerings to fruition to stay in the game. “Take the U.K. for example; the overall market is going to be flat, at best, for the following year,” said Barry Shakespeare, MD for Norbain. “Last year, there was a one-time sales boost because of the Olympics. We already saw some challenges, and we're trying to turn them into opportunities.” For the company and its integrator/installer partners, training, service and cloud initiatives ensued.
Via a flexible, modular approach, Norbain offers a range of training programs that would enhance installers' knowledge of IP-based technology for video surveillance, access control and intrusion detection. “What struck me the most when I first entered physical security from IT was the lack of both technical and commercial training,” Shakespeare said. “This academy is our internal center of IP excellence where we professionalize and deliver the type of training required out in the field.” For immediate project needs, the distributor also offers a pay-per-use consultation service that encompasses site survey and system design/configuration, commissioning and troubleshooting; reduces the risk of installations; minimizes time spent on site by engineers; and makes new products more accessible and deployable. “We believe that this new service offering will help our customers tackle new technologies and break into profitable emerging markets,” said Keith Purvis, Operations Director.
This new approach significantly trims down finger pointing when an installer uses IP cameras from A, switches from B, routers from C and software from D for a project and something does not work or breaks down. “Essentially, it's a high-level, tailored service that makes Norbain our customers' employee and ensures maximum system uptime,” Shakespeare added. Still too complicated? Norbain's answer to that would be the cloud. “With plug-and-play cameras, cloud storage and management software, and different service packages, we give our customers more options to provide to their customers, without them having to worry about maintenance and service,” Shakespeare said.
And Norbain is definitely not alone. “We had a patchy start this year, but now we have some really good leads,” said Gary Harmer, Sales Director for Electronic Security, Mayflex. “Full IP is where our skill set is, and we will leverage our expertise to support the estimated CAGR of 35 percent in the next four years.” In selling true benefits of IP to key verticals like retail, education, transportation, financial and data centers, Mayflex focuses on ease of use and scalability. “We also offer our partners one-day, free-of-charge training courses covering engineering and sales techniques,” Harmer said. “We want them to be able to future-proof their clients' investments and provide the best value for money, especially in a financially difficult time like this.”
Spread the Word
But, is IP really required and ready for prime time? If one of the world's largest surveillance markets with a humongous analog install base is seeing tremendous demand, the answer should be clear. “We Brits are conservative,” said Phil Doyle, Regional Director of Northern Europe, Axis Communications. “We've been quite slow in switching over to IP, but 2011 was really a ‘lightbulb' moment as people started to see the benefits that IP has brought to other parts of the world. Last year, we trained more than 500 partners in the U.K. alone. Across the globe, we have eight regional divisions that know the local people, cultures and business practices really well and deliver the kinds of solutions, education and support that are truly needed.”
Another example would be Avigilon; the company is ONVIF-compliant, offering complete solutions from 1 to 29 megapixels, hardware to software, and front to back. “We are not just a surveillance company; we are an innovation company,” said Keith Marett, VP of Marketing and Communications. This spirit of innovation helped the company secure a 77-percent revenue jump in Q1 of 2012, compared to the same period last year. The biggest challenges for Avigilon right now are getting the required talent to meet the exponential growth in sales and clientele and fortifying partner networks across the globe. “Building relationships does take time.”
Keeping momentum up, while making everything easy to salespeople and partners, is also one of IndigoVision's challenges. “Our promotional activities will be more targeted, and the foot work in finding more partners and end users will accelerate,” said Jurgen Klijn, Senior VP of EMEA. “At the end of the today, it's about the will to succeed and trust in everyone to do their part.”
For specialty equipment like thermal imaging, the road is even bumpier. “Thermal cameras are not security cameras,” said Yair Sakov, VP of Security Business, Opgal. “Helping our partners understand the technology — the breadth of our offerings, picture quality, innovation — and transforming them into our extensions in the field do take a lot of resources. A lot of security solution providers sell on fear, uncertainty and doubt; we sell on the value of being able to see clearly what's going on at critical locations like airports, seaports, railways and energy plants in challenging environmental and lighting conditions.” Five years of market education and evangelization are paying off: the company was ranked No. 2 in market share by the latest IMS Research report on thermal cameras. “Although there's a lot of cautiousness in the market at the moment, the private sector and emerging markets in Asia and Latin America are luckily still buying,” Sakov said. Examples include interesting flame detection applications for garbage disposal sites and commercial buildings.
Recent press releases indicate that more investments — including human capital — are being poured into training and education programs, such as US system integrator collective PSA Security Network working with hardware manufacturers and software developers to deliver technology and business seminars virtually and physically, and network infrastructure distributor Anixter working with vendors to bring IT and IP fundamentals to “traditional” security dealers and installers.
Knowledge is paramount, especially in increasingly connected, integrated building and security environments. “For the last 2.5 years, we've been trying to get closer to consultants and specifiers, to help them gain the necessary knowledge in a structured way,” said Daniel Wan, UK Channel Marketing Leader, Honeywell Security. “IP is great and is the future, but we are not abandoning our analog install base and installers. They are nervous, but we help them avoid pitfalls and give them the foundation to speak to IT managers confidently.”
There will never be enough time and money, so focus is pivotal. “Take the necessary steps to vet and find the right partners, and provide them training on an ongoing basis so things don't get out of control when economic conditions or technologies shift,” advised John Davies, MD for Time and Data Systems International.