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‘The lockdown was a semi-prison on its own’: SIs, consultants share their pandemic stories

‘The lockdown was a semi-prison on its own’: SIs, consultants share their pandemic stories
Amid lockdowns, closures and stay-from-home practices, how security players stay afloat and sustain their operations during the downturn is something we’re interested in finding out.
The impact of covid-19 on security has been devastating. Amid lockdowns, closures and stay-from-home practices, how security players stay afloat and sustain their operations during the downturn is something we’re interested in finding out.
Indeed, covid-19 has taken a toll on the security industry, with a lot of systems integrators and consultants originally expecting a good 2020, only to see it crushed by the coronavirus, leaving them with muted first half growth, if not a decline.
“Prior to the pandemic, the security and technology division of Guidepost Solutions was on pace for a record year. Revenues for the first quarter were at a 7-year high. Once the pandemic set in and businesses shuddered, several major security design and assessment projects were cancelled or delayed,” said John Torres, President of Guidepost Solutions.
“We had plans to secure overseas original equipment manufacturers contracts and invitation in the first quarter of the year, to get our traveling visas and bring in samples of secured items for shooting range test and hopefully to get confirmed orders by the second quarter of the year. Here we are in the fourth quarter, having not achieved anything yet,” said Philip Babajide Edu, Director of Corporate Warders.

Work from home

The pandemic also sent staff and employees to telework or work from home, where they relied on technology to stay in touch. “Yes, I’ve been working from home and continue to do so – quite effectively. I attribute this to the dedicated office space within my home and supportive technological systems as keys to this success,” said Sean Ahrens, Security Market Group Leader at Affiliated Engineers.
"In March, we all went home. We set up our home office space and changed our phone system to accommodate the remote office model. Only one person at a time was back in the office handling shipping and receiving. We found that working from home was not so bad,” said Bob Mesnik, President of Kintronics. “One effect of working from home is the feeling that time has passed quickly. It was March, and suddenly, many months have passed.”

"We practiced work from home even before the pandemic; therefore, we adapted our daily business very quickly to new conditions. Currently we monitor the situation and combine work from office and home when necessary. Our efficiency and productivity have not declined while we were working from home, but social distance reduces the quality of life of our employees, and we are trying to ensure adequate working conditions in the office as much as possible,” said Dean Klobucar, Export Director at Alarm Automatika.
“Our colleagues across India, Greater China, Southeast Asia, Japan and Oceania have all worked at home at some stage in 2020, and teams in India, Oceania and SEA continue to do so. However, with the necessary permits in place in each region, our engineers have been able to continue project and maintenance work on site throughout this period,” said Nicholas Yap, COO of ICD Security Solutions. “Working from home is challenging for both internal and external work, but we have the technology and tools in place to ensure effective collaboration and communication remotely.”
To some security players, the lockdown was a traumatic experience. “The lockdown was a semi-prison on its own. We have days to come out for shopping at markets to restock our homes for foods only,” Edu said, adding things were even worse for security guards. “For physical guards it was hell. You remained at workplace for weeks and months, or at your homes without pay. Guards on duty cannot find open restaurants or local eating outfits for the period, and bread/sardines became daily and regular foods. Their duty posts are gone; not even a security gate house is in place.”

Coping and staying afloat

Despite the devastation that the pandemic has caused on security, SIs and consultants still need to keep their operations moving and maintain some kind of business sustainability. The following are what they have done to stay afloat.

Fulfilling customers’ lockdown security needs

The lockdown orders, closures and suspension of business activities did not stop some end users from getting security that’s need to protect their entities during the closure. Security companies, then, do their best to fulfill this demand.
“Our clients continue to experience problems with crime and reach out to us for solutions,” said Michael A. Silva, Principal of Silva Consultants.
“Several clients asked us to increase security of their facilities in the absence of employees. Locations included warehouses, corporate offices and restaurants as these locations temporarily closed,” Torres said. “Coupled with civil unrest in many cities, some business were hit with a loss of revenue because of the covid shut down only to find their businesses damaged when protests became violent. Several clients asked us to improve security measures in the interim.”
Meanwhile, according to security players, lockdowns and closures are times when end users enhance or upgrade their existing security systems. “Some clients see the lockdown as an opportunity to complete construction projects while employees are away and many of these projects include security improvements,” Silva said.

Meeting demand for covid-related solutions

Meanwhile, a lot of SIs and consultants we spoke to have rolled out covid-related solutions or added covid-prevention components to existing products to fulfill customers’ pandemic needs.
“We have three temperature and mask detection panel solutions. The face recognition panels with temperature screening have been very popular, but they also have to be integrated with customers who have existing door access systems. We provide solutions for various wiring situations,” said Bob Mesnik, President of Kintronics. “Touchless door entry and automated contact tracing have also seen request. Our tag solution provides contact tracing for all people inside the organization. Each tag collects the contact information and sends it to the gateway. The gateway transmits the information to the central cloud database. If someone in the organization gets sick, the database can be used to instantly find all the other people they were in contact with thus reducing the spread of disease."

Also, during the pandemic, demands for DIY home security systems have picked up, and solutions providers have stepped up efforts to meet those demands. “What we have noticed is that people are investing more resources into their homes and their safety. Simple and fast solutions for DIY systems are increasingly being sought in the area of protection and security. Furthermore, we are witnessing that more and more sales are taking place online,” Klobucar said. “Due to this fact, we have started this autumn the new sales channel and launched B2C platform which offers exactly such DIY solutions. Our Alex webshop brings fast and simple security systems to customers in their own homes.”

Offering needed service

Finally, security players are offering needed services to customers during the period. “We continue to provide system implementation services, maintenance services, professional embedded services, consulting services and advanced solutions across the APAC region,” Yap said.
“The demand for following services is up: Online training, datacenter audits/assessments, cybersecurity, due diligence and covid-tracker and mobile safety apps,” said Pawan Desai, Co-Founder and CEO of MitKat Advisory Services. “The main reason for our continued growth has been resilient service lines, our investment in technology, eco-systems and agility (we shifted a number of activities on-line very early). It has also been a good opportunity for strengthening the bond of trust with the customers. I told my team, ‘this is not the time to sell, but to serve.’”

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