Successful Integration: What Does It Take?
As the Managing Director of one of Australia’s most successful security system integration companies, Darren Taylor, like many in the industry, has seen a great deal of change over the last few decades. Founded by his father back in 1979, PMT has grown from a small domestic alarm installation business into a national company with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
“I began with the company back in 1997,” explains Darren. “I started in the field as a technician and continued in that role for two years before taking on a role in the office managing operations. After 10 years of running operations, I eventually took over as Director of PMT in 2009.”
Continuing the well-established tradition of growth within the organisation, in 2014, Darren launched a commercial division with its own dedicated, full time sales team. Darren explains, “This has enabled us to identify key state-based verticals whilst managing and supporting our major national accounts. We now manage over 5000 sites nationally, offering a range of services that differ significantly from those that we offered just 10 years ago.”
According to Darren, he believes possibly the last five years have been the greatest period of change he has experienced in the integration industry.
“The Introduction of managed services, pro-active and forensic reporting, remote services, applications for analytics and integration have all been game changers. Looking back to 1997, we spent our days installing dummy domes and putting video tapes into Video Cassette Recorders (VCR’s). During that time, I think the industry had a very narrow focus, largely on the prevention of theft or ‘security’ as we refer to it. Now, the focus has shifted to surveillance, which is extremely broad in its applications.”
When asked about the short-term future of the industry, Darren states “I think we will see much more integration between differing brands and types of systems, along with advances in how we are capturing and using information.”
He believes that we are already seeing huge changes in how information is being managed, and how that information is being used to provide useful, actionable business intelligence. “As our ability to use data and analytics grows in more meaningful ways, our customer’s needs will lead us in new and interesting directions.”
Of course, the success of any organisation turns on more than just its ability to innovate. When asked what he feels it takes for an integration business to succeed in today’s environment, Darren explains it is about investing in a team with the broadest skillset.
“The support from your back-of-house, technical support team, especially when servicing multi-site national clients, is imperative. You need to be able to provide customers with meaningful reporting, as well as both onsite and remote support, which requires investment in both time and resources. Furthermore, if your customers are prepared to commit to your business, then it is up to your organisation to show you are worth investing in by providing the customer with new and innovative solutions. It is important to do your best to maintain your relationships with those clients and demonstrate value.”
When asked about the most pressing challenges facing system integrators today, Darren explains, “I think people are the biggest challenge right now. Finding good people who know what they are doing is always a challenge, but it can be more challenging in some states than others for a range of reasons.
“I am not entirely sure how we might overcome that challenge. If you can be the kind of employer people want to work for, that makes a big difference. When we are trying to find new people, I personally prefer to take references before CV’s. When an employee recommends another person outside of our business, that carries a lot of weight.
“Of course, the other major challenge we find is helping customers, both new and existing, understand why they need to invest in their security infrastructure and resources beyond their current commitment. It can often be the case in the building industry for example, that you are not dealing with the ultimate decision maker and so, where possible, that needs to be addressed.
“The other challenge when discussing future needs, is that we sometimes find the hidden costs arising from a lack of existing infrastructure, which can be an impediment to future installations. There are a lot of analogue systems still in operation and to bring the infrastructure to a point where it can support more modern technologies, such as facial or number plate recognition, can require significant investment. That all has to be factored into the project. Obviously, there are always workarounds, but it is important to help the customer understand the real cost of the project as early as possible, rather than let it get derailed later by unrealised costs.
“Interestingly, in situations where we are able to build a strong business case for our solutions based on the benefits they might provide to a range of different departments within a company, it actually slows the decision-making process down, and can even derail the project. It might seem counterintuitive to think that the more value you can offer, the harder the decision becomes. However, when you are talking across multiple departments, you involve multiple decision makers which can sometimes make achieving consensus too difficult. I think the only way around this is to be mindful of the needs of your audience. Build a strong case for that one department. Don’t overcomplicate the solution. Just try to create a system that will facilitate expansion as and when future needs arise.”
For anyone starting in the integration space, Darren offers a final piece of advice. “Target a specific market and be an expert in that space. People move between organisations. The security or facility manager at a retail centre today might become the security manager at a mining company tomorrow and if you are doing a good job, word will spread into other verticals, if that is what you ultimately want.”
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