Articles by Jason Oakley
Project productivity improves when systems integrator and client personalities “integrate” Long-term business relationships can be a win-win proposition for integrators and customers alike. In this article, Jason Oakley, CEO of North American Video (NAV), explains that compared to simply transactional relationships that are typically short-term projects, long-term relationships generally provide better working relationships, increased satisfaction, reduced costs, added value and numerous other intangibles that benefit all involved parties. It’s a smart way to do business that typically delivers long-term benefits. Better Working Relationships One doesn’t need an MBA to know that people who get along well also perform better as a collective group. It’s important that integrators not only know their clients’ business needs, but that they also know their clients. When integrator and client personalities “integrate,” project throughput generally improves, and what may have been termed a “problem” becomes a “challenge.” This generally indicates there’s a good mix of people working together whose goals and objectives are in alignment.Increased Satisfaction Establishing long-term relationships (preferably through execution of a long term contract) enables integrators to better understand their customers’ complete needs, which allows integrators to ultimately provide better solutions. In-depth knowledge of a client’s specific needs and objectives can also help integrators identify troubleshooting policies that ensure consistent system operation for each client’s mission critical operations. This not only bolsters confidence in the integrator’s commitment and capabilities, but may also lead to faster diagnosis and resolution of problems. Most importantly, it allows integrators to provide clients with a high level of service based on proactive behavior, which clearly results in a higher level of customer satisfaction. Maximized Cost Efficiencies with Managed Services Establishing long-term relationships enables integrators to better understand their customers’ complete needs, which allows integrators to ultimately provide better solutions Long-term contracts can reduce costs associated with transitioning multiple project based integrators. Long-term contracts also allow integrators to provide optimum pricing based on a body of work rather than a specific project. In addition to providing a recurring revenue stream for integrators, this helps customers to best allocate available budgets and plan for future system enhancements. Another advantage is that customers can better manage system upgrades and maintenance to help avert system downtime by employing on-going managed services from an established system integrator. Unlike traditional maintenance or service agreements, managed services for physical security systems can be more flexible to address customers’ changing needs and specifically tailored to a customer’s requirements. Continual support and additional or new services on demand are available at fractional in-house costs. Managed services from system integrators allow customers to best manage budgets and expenses, reduce risks and liabilities and best maintain overall control. Added Value Beyond the design and implementation of a system, integrators can offer expert guidance on decisions about repair or replacement, assist security and IT staff with budgeting, provide predictable costs for support and maintenance through a single contract and work toward the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) and best return on investment (ROI) Integrators working with customers consistently form a mutual commitment to ensure excellence Technologies also continue to evolve quickly and a good integrator will stay on top of new developments so long-term customers don’t have to. The experienced system integrator can better determine the benefits of newer technologies and can recommend solutions that best meet the financial and technical needs of the organization. Integrators can help direct the customer's efforts to implement new technologies over time because of their experience and knowledge.Efficient systems are also built on the technical expertise, experience, reliability and efficiency of the system integrator. Long-term relationships can enable integrators to afford greater levels of investment in resources and personnel with expertise above and beyond existing capabilities. This expertise can then be directed to augment a customer’s technical resources and free up in-house personnel to focus on primary business functions. For example, in an enterprise environment with remote branch locations, the services of a system integrator can be deployed to ensure consistency across the entire network. This level of service and support from a single integrator ensures that predefined levels of performance and expense are maintained to keep customers’ systems running and on budget. Customers who are open to new ideas and technologies and who trust their integrator partners can also help generate better overall value for their investment.Both systems integrators and customers have much to gain when it comes to establishing long-term relationships. Most importantly, long-term relationships can make a significant contribution in ensuring the safety and security of the organization’s people and assets.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a double challenge to physical security systems integrators. For one thing, they have had to adapt their own businesses to survive and thrive during the pandemic. On the other hand, they have also been faced with new challenges to serve their customer’s changing needs. Global pandemic effects One integrator company, North American Video (NAV) took the now-familiar steps most companies confronted to adapt their business model to operations in a global pandemic – they suspended all non-essential travel and face-to-face meetings. At one point, NAV had a single employee in the New Jersey headquarters and another one in the Las Vegas office. The rest worked from home, with other offices opening as needed over the following weeks. Another integrator, Convergint Technologies, was able to adapt its approach to the pandemic, location by location, across the United States. The integrator benefitted from its leadership structure, with local managers in various regions who are autonomous and could react to what was happening in each region. Virtual workforce “We saw a dip in April and May, but since then, we have seen business pick back up,” said Mike Mathes, Executive Vice President, Convergint Technologies. The Business of Integration virtual conference sponsored by the Security Industry Association (SIA) “We already had tools and infrastructure deployed to support a virtual workforce. We had the software and the right equipment, and that has allowed us some flexibility to approach the repopulation of our offices in a gradual way.” The impact of COVID-19 on integrators and their customers was the main topic of discussion at a session on The Business of Integration at the Securing New Ground virtual conference sponsored by the Security Industry Association (SIA). Remote monitoring North American Video also benefitted from having technical personnel spread across the United States. By assigning work duties on the basis of geography, they could travel by car with less risk than air travel. They also increased their use of remote monitoring and support to avoid extra visits to customer sites. With 80% of the business in the gaming industry, North American Video saw a profound impact on their customers with the almost complete shutdown of casinos during the early days of the pandemic. Even though gaming was impacted particularly badly by the virus, NAV stayed engaged working on four or five large casino construction projects that continued throughout the shutdown. Revenue shortfalls State legislatures will approve more casinos to help plug the holes in their budgets Other casinos took advantage of empty facilities to make needed upgrades without worrying about disrupting casino operations. “A lot of our strong, long-term clients have sought to perform upgrades during the downtime, including needed service and maintenance,” said Jason Oakley, President and CEO, North American Video (NAV). “When gaming was closed, you were allowed in the facilities to work.” Oakley also sees long-term optimism for the casino business, which will offer a means for state and local governments to make up revenue shortfalls. “State legislatures will approve more casinos to help plug the holes in their budgets,” Oakley predicted. Demands for technology Oakley and NAV have seen an evolution in customer demands for technology in light of the pandemic. The trick is to differentiate between demand that is an immediate reaction versus technology trends that have more staying power. Although customers were keen on purchasing thermal cameras, for example, NAV did the research and recommended against the use of the technology to some of their customers. Artificial Intelligence for social distancing The use of artificial intelligence (AI) for a variety of applications seems to have more staying power. “One area of interest at a high level is modification and repurposing of AI for face mask detection, social distancing and people tracing, including integration into existing cameras,” said Oakley. “If the hospitality industry comes to terms with the new normal with smaller restaurant capacities, there may be an opportunity to use AI for social distancing.” Contact tracing and visitor management technology Mathes of Convergint sees a massive change as customers move toward managed services, accelerating the change with new use cases. We have an entire group that focuses on new solutions and what customers are looking for" As offices seek to repopulate when the pandemic subsides, customers are looking for new uses of existing technologies, added Mathes. “We have an entire group that focuses on new solutions and what customers are looking for,” he said. “They need to understand who is in the building and where they go in the building. If we know someone was only in the cafeteria from 10 to 11 a.m., we can know who was in the cafeteria at that time.” Opportunity for vertical markets to move forward He predicts technologies for contact tracing and visitor management tracking who’s in the building and where will be around for a long time to come. "Various customers and vertical markets are looking at the slowdown differently," said Mathes. "For example, while airlines have slowed down, the view from the airport market is more long-term." “They have 15-year plans, and [the slowdown] is an opportunity to move forward. In the technology space, data centers are expanding. “We try to focus our resources on areas where the money is being spent,” said Mathes. “Our K-12 group has seen an 80% growth over 2019. The money is tied to bonds, so there hasn’t been a slowdown relative to revenue.” He said Convergint is cautiously optimist about 2021.”
SNGTM takes a broad look the latest research, and commercial and industrial market trends in the security industry The Security Industry Association (SIA) has announced the agenda for Securing New Ground® (SNGTM), the security industry’s top executive conference, scheduled for Oct. 28-29, 2015, at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City. The SNGTM 2015 This executive forum takes a comprehensive look at the state of the security industry, the latest research, and commercial and industrial market trends impacting business strategies. Over a day-and-a-half of sessions tailored for suppliers, integrators and practitioners, conferees will experience a focused, unbiased event where game-changing information is exchanged, and business gets done. “In the last several years of SNGTM, we have mapped incredible change in the security industry to the benefit of our members and conferees,” said V. John Stroia, Chief Operating Officer of The Will-Burt Company and SIA Chairman. “I’ve seen firsthand how businesses have been bought and sold and lucrative new deals have been made because of contacts initiated at the SNGTM conference. It is the best place for security industry executives to make things happen.” Some of the top presenters confirmed to date include influential suppliers, integrators and practitioners in the security industry: Suppliers Steven Van Till, President & CEO, Brivo Systems Thanasis Molokotos, President & CEO, ASSA ABLOY Americas Division Ron Virden, President & General Manager, Lenel, Supra and Onity Integrators And Dealers Tim Whall, Chairman & CEO, Protection 1 Jason Oakley, President, North American Video, Inc. Pamela Petrow, President & CEO, Vector Security Inc. Practitioners Bonnie Michelman, Director of Police, Security and Outside Services, Massachusetts General Hospital Brian Allen, Chief Security Officer, Time Warner Dave Cullinane, Founder, TruSTAR Technology LLC New SNGTM Opportunities For the first time, SIA is teaming up with the Global Security Risk Management Alliance (GSRMA) to expand SNGTM opportunities for security practitioners. A half-day practitioners’ session will provide a plain English translation of IT security concepts and actions so any physical security leader can effectively engage in a discussion of cyber security. “As cofounder and president of GSRMA, I have alerted my fellow security practitioners to beware of the blurring distinctions between traditional and logical security. As we work toward an umbrella Enterprise Security Risk Management framework, SNGTM is an excellent venue for practitioners to identify the challenges of a unified security alignment side-by-side with suppliers and security integrators,” said Ray O'Hara, CPP, Executive Vice President of AS Solution. The security sector is evolving at a rapid pace, and SNGTM is essential to properly evaluate new partnerships and key factors that will influence the decisions and investments visitors make in the future.
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