In today's challenging business environment, remotely managed access control solutions give forward-thinking installers and integrators much to consider.
Finding new customers is a challenge, and installers and integrators are looking to secure more business from their current customer base. New business opportunities in new markets such as SMBs are also top on a list of priorities. Additionally, installers and integrators are experiencing pressure to show their customers a clear ROI rationale for investment.
The key, therefore, lies with the installer's ability to create solutions that not only secure a facility, but also streamline overall business practices in the process, therefore saving money for both installers and users. This can be done with remotely managed access control solutions (RMAC).
Defining Remotely Managed Access Control
There are a few key points to RMAC: first, access control hardware must be installed at the client's site and, via TCP/IP or modems, communicate back to the central software. The software should run on a server at the installer's office or central monitoring station (CMS). Finally, the software should have a partitioned database, allowing multiple account management without corruption of data.
RMAC enables an installer to add and delete access cards; create customized reports on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis; receive detailed reports via e-mail and Web-enabled devices; and grant clients access to the system through a Web browser interface, allowing them to manage cards and create their own reports.
As is the case with most value-added services, the key selling point is convenience. For instance, customers can save time by making a phone call and immediately have a new employee added to their company badge list. The technology is especially appealing to customers who do not have a full-time operator to manage their access control system. With RMAC, customers can leave system management to the installer and just phone or e-mail their requirements.
For a service provider, additional services such as ID badge management and enhanced reporting can increase the value of a new or existing account.
Dispelling Inaccurate Assumptions
Because RMAC is naturally a good fit for CMSs, installers worry that adding it to their portfolios would mean turning their offices into a CMS. This could add burdens and expenses, such as around the clock commitment of personnel and budgets to monitor customers' installations. This assumption, however, is incorrect.
RMAC can be offered at two levels, with different service standards and charge-out rates — remote management and remote management and monitoring.
This is often the type of support provided when an installer has targeted the entry-level market, where users are looking for a small access system (one-to-20 doors) and prefer the installer managing the system for them. Here, the features offered are not the same as that which is offered by a CMS. It is not the installer's responsibility to handle critical situations or coordinate with first responders during emergencies. Installers are typically asked to add or delete credentials, run reports and occasionally, remotely open a door. Overall, these services are not considered high priorities, but have great value for customers who do not have the resources to do it themselves.
Remote Management and Monitoring
At this level, support provided increases dramatically when an installer has targeted the enterprise-level market or where the system is being used to augment or replace manned guarding services. On top of the administrative services provided in remote management, the installer is now providing full-time monitoring services as well.
RMAC can offer different operators the ability to manage specific accounts with features such as e-mail alerts to highlight immediate concerns. For larger CMSs, the software can also be integrated into third-party platforms, so that operators can continue to use the existing GUI and enjoy the added benefit of being able to monitor, manage and control the access control hardware as well as intrusion and video equipment at remote sites.
The Web browser functionality can be charged as an optional extra. Installers can offer Web access to customers who desire round-the-clock access. Through standard Web browsers, users can log onto a secure Web site and perform basic functions, such as adding/deleting cards and running basic reports. These functions are all optional, and can be released or retained by the installer depending on the user's requirements. This service does not eliminate the installer's role in the remote management solution, since they remain the only party that has the full range of administrative rights. Users only have enough functionality to perform basic tasks without compromising the system.
RMAC helps installers grow their business and build on their current customer base. Selling to existing customers is much easier and cheaper than trying to find new ones. Today, there is an immediate opportunity to revisit these customers and extend services to include RMAC. If customers do not already have access control systems, RMAC offers them an easy, low-cost and risk-free way to build their solutions, since the entire load of management can be removed from them.
In terms of new business opportunities across new markets, small installations are rising to the fore. Across Europe, roughly 75 percent of the access control market comprises small installations, which have less than 20 doors and 200 card holders. This market was previously out of bounds for countless installers, as their cost base did not allow them to effectively target or service the market against smaller competitors. RMAC now opens up this huge new market opportunity. The cost to install an RMAC solution is significantly less than a small-scaled access control installation. Since the server can be managed at the installer's facility via a secured encrypted network line, no onsite server or software is needed at the customer location. Not only does this save on equipment costs, it also saves on installation time, which means installers can price more competitively by hiring less experienced engineering staff for the installation. Furthermore, installers need not account for or spend time training customers on proper system operation, troubleshoot software issues or virus protection measures. The time and money saved in hardware and labor hours can be massive, enabling installers to price competitively and land new business opportunities in this growing market segment.
In today's business environment, companies are seeking ways to reduce costs. Greater numbers of installers are using RMAC to help their clients save money on manned guarding. Integrated with remote surveillance, RMAC can allow companies to reduce or eliminate guards completely. In the latter scenario, the ROI is very clear. Users see improved security and service provisions, and simultaneously achieve payback periods on the installation with annual management fees that are less than three months of guard wages. This type of financial return is hard for any business to walk away from.
Adjusting to the RMAC Model
Those new to RMAC are naturally wary of the question, "How much do I charge for this?" They do not want to scare away customers by overcharging; on the other hand, they do not want to undercharge and essentially give away the offering either. Listed below are a number of potential approaches to determining how to charge customers.
1) The "a la carte" menu: This option presents a basic list of services with corresponding monthly fees.
2) The "package" option: This option packages certain services together, for example, set monthly fees for managed services per site, covering everything up to a maximum number of changes, number of doors, and number of cardholders.
3) The "numbers" option: This option simply charges by number of users, doors installed, cards issued and so on.
A New Business Opportunity
For installers and integrators, though RMAC represents a departure from traditional access control sales, it also provides features that can make it difficult for a customer to do without. Signing up users to contracts which generate long-term recurring revenues for installers, and improved services and significant savings for users can be a real win-win situation. No major installer or integrator can afford to not consider this new business model.