Convergint Technologies’ rapid growth has come through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions — they have acquired 35 companies since 2014. Growth has been a focus since day one when the founders started the systems integration company with 10 colleagues in a basement. Today, the diverse company includes more than 5,000 employees globally. As technology has advanced and business practices have evolved, Convergint’s core values and beliefs have guided their path forward. Customer-centric approach Convergint’s culture is a critical aspect of the company, from the executive level to frontline colleagues. “It is essential that the companies we look to acquire and develop partnerships with directly align with our people-first, customer-centric, inclusive culture centered on colleagues and customers,” says Mike Mathes, Executive Vice President, Convergint Technologies. “This approach has allowed us to maintain and grow our number of colleagues across our acquisitions and enables us to continue being our customers’ best service provider.” Integration practices Many practices have to be form-fitted to each individual acquisition A simple but important consideration as Convergint grows through acquisitions is: No two companies are the same. While some integration practices can be standardized across the company, many practices have to be form-fitted to each individual acquisition, says Mathes. “Our objective is not to come in and immediately implement change. We want to build on what has already been successful within the local market and share our learned experiences. There is plenty we can learn from each other and create a much better organization.” Mathes says that Convergint’s view of a successful acquisition is that 1+1=3. “The end result is always much more impactful than what we anticipated,” he says. “Every acquisition brings with it an experienced leadership team, dedicated and skilled colleagues, vertical market and technological expertise. Most acquisitions are in geographies where we do not already operate, so with every acquisition, we increase our capability to serve our customers much better.” Also, the network of Global Convergint Technology Centers (CTCs) helps expand clientele, and the Convergint Development Center (CDC) offers new support capabilities allowing acquisitions to grow at a very high rate. Expanding service Are there more acquisitions to come? Mathes says Convergint is always open to further expanding its footprint across the globe, improving its ability to service customers, deepening their technical expertise, and continuing to expand service offerings across the current and new vertical markets. However, the current focus remains on several key factors: service to colleagues, customers, and communities. “While obviously, acquisitions fuel our growth, the addition of these organizations to Convergint has really improved our ability to service clients on a global basis,” says Mathes. Acquiring ICD Security Solutions in Asia, for example, made Convergint a pioneer in that market for U.S.-based multi-national companies. Meeting customers demand “Convergint does not weigh market conditions when making an acquisition decision,” says Mathes. Rather, they are primarily focused on meeting or exceeding their customer’s needs on a local to a global level. They see acquisitions as a potential way to extend their geographic reach so they can be closer to customers. An acquisition might also expand technological or vertical market expertise. “The end goal is for us to enhance our service capabilities by attracting and retaining talented colleagues and leaders to better service our customers,” says Mathes. Enhancing and expanding services Convergint identifies how to leverage the expertise to further enhance and expand current service options“Economies of scale” have not been a consideration. They have never sought to acquire companies and restructure them in the process, for example. Rather, each company brings forth a unique skillset, is carefully vetted by the executive team and provides purpose in the company's mission and vision for the future.” “Frontline colleagues are Convergint’s most valuable assets,” says Mathes. Rather than restructuring and eliminating skilled, knowledgeable colleagues, Convergint identifies how they can leverage the expertise to further enhance and expand current service options for customers. “Our colleagues and their skill sets are our competitive advantage—they remain an essential element to our success,” says Mathes. Demand for integrator services “We continue to experience a growing demand for innovative solutions across electronic security, fire alarm, and life safety,” says Mathes. “As companies innovate further and rely on technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, IoT, and cloud solutions, we expect to see an increased demand for integrator services. Our customers demand a local service provider who is responsive and can meet their needs, which is why Convergint aims to be its customers’ best service provider.” This year, Convergint is celebrating its 20th anniversary. In 2021, they will continue to focus on the same critical components that have dominated since day one taking care of colleagues, customers, and the communities where they operate.
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.”
The Security Industry Association (SIA) welcomed a new chairman, announced its 2020 executive committee and welcomed five new members to the SIA Board of Directors at The Advance, SIA’s annual membership meeting, held virtually on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. SIA’s The Advance SIA ratified the selection of Pierre Trapanese, CEO of Northland Controls, as SIA’s chairman of the board. Trapanese has 33 years of international project and financial management experience in the security industry. He has been the sole owner of Northland Controls since 2005 and has transformed it into a global service provider with 250 Northlanders spread across offices in 5 countries. During The Advance, SIA also announced the addition of five new voting members to the SIA Board of Directors to serve terms from 2020 to 2022: Jonathan Aguila, director – systems and technology, Facebook – Global Security Stacy Deveraux, president, Electromechanical Solutions Group, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Mike Mathes, executive vice president, Convergint Technologies Erica McBride-Rapp, logistics manager, Allegion Tim Palmquist, vice president, Americas, Milestone Systems Following the ratification, the SIA Executive Committee for 2020 includes: Chairman: Pierre Trapanese, CEO, Northland Controls Director of Technology: Kim Loy, Vandebilt Treasurer: Scott Dunn, director, business development, Axis Communications Secretary: Lynn de Séve, president, GSA Schedules Inc. Immediate Past Chairman: Scott Schafer, principal, SMS Advisors New additions to SIA Board I am thankful to SIA for welcoming me as SIA chairman and entrusting me with the responsibilities of this role" Additionally, three existing SIA board members – Janet Fenner, chief marketing officer at Intelligent Security Systems; John E. Mack III, executive vice president, co-head of investment banking and head of mergers and acquisitions at Imperial Capital; and Tom Nakatani, vice president of customer monitoring technology and product development at ADT – renewed their involvement in the SIA Board of Directors for an additional term. “I am thankful to SIA for welcoming me as SIA chairman and entrusting me with the responsibilities of this role,” said Trapanese. “We congratulate the new and returning members to the SIA Board of Directors and the SIA Executive Committee – this is a remarkable group of security leaders poised to guide the association and industry forward.” SIA Board of Directors The SIA Board of Directors is comprised of industry professionals representing a broad spectrum of interests in the security industry. The full list of current board members can be found here. During The Advance, in addition to announcing the new board chairman, new and returning board members and executive committee, SIA shared market intelligence for the year ahead and presented its annual membership awards – the SIA Chairman’s Award, Sandy Jones Volunteer of the Year Award, Committee Chair of the Year Award and Member of the Year Award.
A critical issue for security officers today is how to make sure temporary or permanent employees are removed from the employee directory system when they are no longer working for the company. This situation arises especially in large enterprises, which may have different Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) supporting different offices or company operations. It is not uncommon for a company to make an acquisition and have two or more incompatible PACS systems. The simple way to address this is to issue a separate card to the employee to support a different PACS system. While this might be slightly inconvenient for the worker, it is often a simple solution that many companies use. Updating employee information, must be done on each system separately and often manually There are several problems with this solution. There is no central control of identities and they can exist in multiple locations of a company. Updating employee information, for example increasing access to reflect an employee’s new responsibilities, must be done on each system separately and often manually. Unless the company has a strong procedure to support this, the records outside of the main system, may not be updated and errors can occur. This may not be a significant problem if an employee is working for the company, but, if the employee is terminated, he or she may continue to have access to company facilities and systems, potentially compromising security. Physical Logical Access Interoperability - PLAI The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance has addressed this with its Physical Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI) specification. PLAI allows disparate PACS systems to normalize employee identity information and relies on a single trusted source to make changes to employee access and then synchronizes it across disparate PACS systems. The same holds true for a terminated employee. A central trusted source eliminates access, and this is instantaneously reflected in all PACS systems. PLAI offers a simple and cost-effective way to enhance a company’s access control system, providing a more robust security environment. Having a commercial PLAI Agent, available to any company, is an important milestone for PLAI” PLAI Demo at ISC West 2018 A commercial version of the PLAI Agent will be demonstrated by the PSIA at ISC West 2018 on April 12 in Las Vegas. Johnson Controls (Software House), Kastle Systems, and Princeton Identity will show the interoperability and exchange of identity information between disparate systems. “Having a commercial PLAI Agent, available to any company, is an important milestone for PLAI,” said David Bunzel, Executive Director of the PSIA. “It will enable Physical Access Control System (PACS) vendors to have an effective solution for bridging otherwise incompatible systems, saving considerable time in integration, and costs to enterprise customers.” The PLAI Agent was developed jointly by Johnson Controls and Dublin, Ireland-based Cruatech, a new member of the PSIA. It will be available to vendors from either company prior to ISC West. “As an integrator, we are often challenged with client acquisitions and the need to quickly establish a unified security ecosystem.” said Mike Mathes, Executive Vice President of Convergint Technologies and Chairman of the PSIA. “PLAI offers a means to quickly support disparate systems in a robust and reliable manner.” The PSIA has seen growing momentum for commercial implementations of PLAI Identity Management As identity becomes a more critical feature of security systems, finding ways to manage credentials, permissions, limit duplication of records, and eliminating “orphans” left over when an employee leaves a company is essential. PLAI is an elegant means to address many of these issues. “PLAI provides an effective option to reduce problems related to integration compatibility, upgrades, and synchronization which plague the industry today. This is good for both the customer as well as the manufacturers,” notes Jason Ouellette, General Manager of Access Control for Johnson Controls. “Further, PLAI reduces the impact of conflict inherent to the replication of personnel and credential data, while giving an authoritative control of records which can span PACS systems and other integrations to reduce risks in activities such as off boarding.” The PSIA has seen growing momentum for commercial implementations of PLAI. Already the U.S. Department of Justice, The Washington Post, and Corporate Executive Board (CEB) have utilized PLAI. In addition, Microsoft is planning to incorporate PLAI into their security ecosystem. There is a growing list of other organizations which are planning PLAI implementations in the government, financial services, electronics, industrial, and bottling industries.
A commercial version of the PLAI Agent will be demonstrated by the PSIA at ISC West 2018 in Las Vegas. Johnson Controls (Software House), Kastle Systems, and Princeton Identity will show the interoperability and exchange of identity information between disparate systems. “Having a commercial PLAI Agent, available to any company, is an important milestone for PLAI,” said David Bunzel, Executive Director of the PSIA. “It will enable Physical Access Control System (PACS) vendors to have an effective solution for bridging otherwise incompatible systems, saving considerable time in integration, and costs to enterprise customers.” The PLAI Agent was developed jointly by Johnson Controls and Dublin, Ireland-based Cruatech, a new member of the PSIA. It will be available to vendors from either company prior to ISC West. “As an integrator, we are often challenged with client acquisitions and the need to quickly establish a unified security ecosystem.” said Mike Mathes, Executive Vice President of Convergint Technologies and Chairman of the PSIA. “PLAI offers a means to quickly support disparate systems in a robust and reliable manner.” Effective Identity Management As identity becomes a more critical feature of security systems, finding ways to manage credentials, permissions, limit duplication of records, and eliminating ‘orphans’ left over when an employee leaves a company is essential. PLAI is an elegant means to address many of these issues. “PLAI provides an effective option to reduce problems related to integration compatibility, upgrades, and synchronization which plague the industry today. This is good for both the customer as well as the manufacturers,” notes Jason Ouellette, General Manager of Access Control for Johnson Controls. “Further, PLAI reduces the impact of conflict inherent to the replication of personnel and credential data, while giving an authoritative control of records which can span PACS systems and other integrations to reduce risks in activities such as off boarding.” The PSIA has seen growing momentum for commercial implementations of PLAI. Already the U.S. Department of Justice, The Washington Post, and Corporate Executive Board (CEB) have utilized PLAI. In addition, Microsoft is planning to incorporate PLAI into their security ecosystem. There is a growing list of other organizations which are planning PLAI implementations in the government, financial services, electronics, industrial, and bottling industries.
The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) has announced it has elected Mike Mathes, Executive Vice President of Convergint Technologies, as its Chairman, and Jason Ouellette, Product General Manager–Access Control for Johnson Controls, as its Vice Chairman. The PSIA membership develops specifications for enabling standards-based sharing of digital data and intelligence throughout the physical security and enterprise ecosystems. “Mike and Jason bring us strong technology, commercial and industry leadership skills,” said David Bunzel, executive director, the PSIA. “They will be powerful evangelists for how standards-based physical security systems can help the industry create new opportunities for systems integration and data sharing while solving cost and complexity challenges.” Promoting PSIA Open Standards As PSIA Chairman, Mathes will work closely with the PSIA board to identify industry needs for new and enhanced PSIA specifications. “Mike has been a strong advocate for open standards and his relations with leaders in the industry will be very valuable as PLAI, the PSIA’s identity management initiative, gains momentum.” He will be responsible for expanding the member base and help companies determine migration strategies needed to specify and/or adopt and implement PSIA specifications. “With an expanded membership base, we’ll see further adoption of open standards, which will drive down the cost of system integration for the end user,” said Mathes. Reducing Integration Time And Cost Ouellette’s role as PSIA Vice Chairman will include defining the technical aspects of PLAI necessary to make this an effective commercial standard. This will include enhancing and promoting a robust set of test tools to assure industry compliance and interoperability for PLAI. “The PSIA specifications make it easier for integrators to offer high-quality solutions with less integration time and lower total cost of ownership,” said Ouellette. “PSIA open standards can solve real enterprise problems for customers in a way that is not possible through standard integrations. I am looking forward to working with Mike, David and the rest of board to help the industry understand our use cases and encourage rapid adoption of PSIA specifications, in particular through the development of PLIA adaptors by manufacturers.” At Convergint, Mathes leads the Advanced Solutions Group. He obtained his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at University of Manitoba. At Johnson Controls, Ouellette is responsible for the global access control businesses, specific to program management, product management, and engineering functions. Peter Boriskin, Vice President Product Management at ASSA ABLOY Americas, will continue as the PSIA’s treasurer.
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