Smart Companies Partner First … and Early

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

One of the interesting things I notice about my presentations and meetings with professionals in the physical security industry is the lack of understanding regarding what they think IT technical professionals are paid. This is understandable since it is a different market. The fact is that a Senior SE (systems engineer) with IT experience, which includes an understanding of technologies like enterprise software and operating systems, IP networks and storage and server architectures, are always in demand. Talking to IT recruiters (and having experience hiring these individuals over many years) reveals that the going rate for a salary is approximately $120,000 per year, depending on experience. This does not include quarterly bonus, typically based on sales revenues. If you are looking to hire someone for your organization, budget about $160,000 and figure on stock options. By the way, the base salary for sales professionals in the IT industry runs between $90,000 to $130,000 depending on experience and does not include commissions, bonus or stock options. In both examples, these are not management positions.

Before you reach for the smelling salts, understand the underlying value of establishing partnerships around the security convergence market opportunity. You can eliminate this operational expense. The fact is that this IT expertise is required to win business at the enterprise level. Before you say, “Fine, I’ll stay at the low end of the market,” understand that commodity products and standards are a bleak future for integrators without a cost effective value add model. Frankly, at the low end of the market, I am at a loss to understand what that value proposition will be in the digital/IP future. Especially considering the days of pulling coaxial cable are giving way to wireless technologies.

The good news is that the IT integrator who has this current investment in his existing IT technical and sales staff is not interested in going out and hiring expertise in the areas of video surveillance and access control. The IT integrator is looking to partner for those “expertise” capabilities, just as you are interested in leveraging their IT resources. This is the proverbial win-win situation, and yet few physical security integrators are stepping up to establish these relationships and get a jump on their competitors? Too early is actually good in this scenario; too late means no chairs left for you at the table. Remember one rule of business in high technology: Most of the great companies were early.

Many physical security integrators are slow based on the fact that they do not understand how to position themselves as a partner with IT integrators. Having spent many years recruiting partners, I wanted to list a few questions and items to consider while looking at these opportunities. Intelligent physical security integrators will target and then educate potential IT partners about the value that video surveillance (as an example) can provide toward upgrading infrastructure and leveraging consulting services. The next step will be integrating physical security applications like access control and command centers from various vendors across the IT network. First thing’s first, these questions might help:

  • What unshakable facts (trends) exist? (Wireless, video over IP, digital, Linux)
  • Where is the market going to be in 2 years? (IT vendors, new decision cycles)
  • What partners leverage these trends?
  • How can we partner to lead in a new market or segment? (IP video storage)
  • What new skill sets are required? (Who can I partner with to get them?)
  • Where are new competitors coming from? (IT vendors, security integrators?)
  • What is the risk of doing nothing?
  • Do both parties share executive sponsorship? (Critical issue - needs a Yes)
  • Consider partners who have specific knowledge in the following areas:
  • Geographic locations, technology applications, major accounts/specific markets.
  • What new technologies offer innovations to complement our traditional security products and/or services?
  • Will partnering increase the size of the market? (Larger deals)
  • Will partnering allow us to sell and support security solutions aligned with the IT infrastructure?
  • Will partnering get us involved in the IT buying cycle? (Major trend)
  • By partnering can we eliminate technology duplication costs and generate a positive R.O.I.?
  • Will our Customers get better Security?

What IT vendors/integrators look for in physical security integrator partners:

  • Physical security market expertise and installation knowledge
  • Sales opportunity: Use video/access for infrastructure upgrades
  • Channel training: Bring new business opportunities to their integrators
  • New revenue streams (in customer base and new market opportunities)
  • Credibility through association; physical integrator partner expertise.
  • Total solutions: Complementary messaging at the executive level.
  • Increase the revenues of their IT consulting services practice.
  • Substance and executive commitment, not marketing hype.
  • Sales and business development experience.

You need new skill sets to compete effectively in the security convergence market. This does not mean you have to hire direct employees. However, you have to do something or you are vulnerable! Partner up: The market is already here.