Checklist for successful Multi-Site Deployments
One take-away message from packing for a move is that a checklist comes in handy. In business practice, this approach can also help you ‘pack’ exactly what you need. This puts the focus on “what you need”. It’s helpful to understand which things can make an impact, whether it’s a preferred kind of toothpaste and a sweater for cool nights or planning for the software with the features needed to manage different business issues.
Milestone Partner Giacco Catucci shares insights from his experience with national retail chains, and what they needed to pack into their solution.
Even single-location deployments of technology solutions that provide video surveillance and other security capabilities can be challenging. It’s a sensitive area, and becoming more so. But when that deployment is required across numerous and varied locations, the challenges – and the potential pitfalls – multiply in complexity.
As founder and CEO of ATG, a certified Milestone Partner and official Milestone Vertical Specialist based in Providence, R.I., Giacomo Catucci knows the challenges presented by geographically dispersed deployments: for him these are so commonplace that he has developed a kind of ‘mantra’ checklist born of success.
ATG turned 20 last year. Its 16 employees and 350 subcontractors have worked with more than 10,000 retail stores in North America, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico. ATG manufactures the hardware for servers that operate with Panasonic cameras and Milestone software. Each system is pre-configured and pre-optimized, ready to plug in and play once it reaches its location.
One of the most complex deployments ATG has conducted under that business model to date began in 2008, when installing IP video surveillance solutions in the outlets of a cross-national retailer of respected luxury brands. With more than 800 locations currently using Milestone XProtect video management software (VMS), Catucci says that this customer exemplifies the importance of knowing how to avoid pitfalls when deploying across a range of sites.
His checklist culls this expertise:
Reliability is at the top of the list. “It’s easy to reboot a server that’s 15 minutes away, but if your server is in Alaska, that can be another story,” he says.
The video management solution that ATG has designed and installed runs on Milestone XProtect Professional, technology that Catucci trusts implicitly; in fact, it’s one of the cornerstones of his business.
As an integrator, the stability of the software is one of the things that drew us to Milestone in the first place.
While reliability is a huge factor in whether a multi-location deployment succeeds or fails, it’s only the beginning of what system installers and integrators should carefully consider before choosing a technology platform.
- Scalability: Catucci reports that due to the variation in size of locations – which range from kiosks to large department stores – success would have been impossible without a highly scalable IP video solution at the core of the deployment. “It’s critical that the technology you’re working with is capable of scaling to accommodate as many servers as a location needs,” he says. “We’ve been able to accommodate every application without a problem.”
- Flexibility: Of particular importance to the success of multi-location deployments in the retail sector is the issue of flexible licensing. Catucci says that it’s essential to be able to accommodate the frequent movement of equipment to different locations across the deployment when a store shuts down or is moved. He cites VMS licensing models as a critical factor to consider. “Milestone licensing is extremely fair to customers,” he says. “We’ve been able to take a license from one location and put it to work at another – a distinct advantage.”
- Remote Support: Catucci says that one of the most obvious – yet most often overlooked – potential pitfalls of multi-location deployments is the importance of being able to provide support from a distance. “If someone accidentally or deliberately turns off the system, it’s a big disappointment to find out it’s not running later on,” he says. He says that being able to manage servers remotely has been an asset in cases where the system was shut down or, in one instance, when the server equipment was overheating in a closet. “We were able to call the store and tell them to open the closet door to cool off the hardware,” he says.
- Future Ready: It is not unusual for different locations of the same organization to embrace innovations at different times and rates. Catucci says that one of the most common – and damaging – difficulties of multi-location deployments occurs when they are based on closed platforms that are not built to accommodate new technology as it becomes available. “A software development kit (SDK) with open architecture and flexibility will allow you to support many different plug-ins,” he says. “It will enable you to grow along with the customer’s changing needs.”
- A Paradigm of Partnership: Catucci says the complexity of deploying across multiple locations also increases greatly if the technology vendor is not fully on board. “Everyone at Milestone wanted to know what they could do to contribute to the success of our implementations. In addition to making the overall experience more pleasant, working with Milestone – a software vendor who is as committed to a successful deployment as the integrator – has practical benefits, such as expediting licensing. We can license in minutes. If your clients are dealing with emergencies, that’s critical. When I’ve worked with other vendors the experience hasn’t been nearly as smooth.
- Global Reach: Finally, Catucci cites a lack of world readiness as an increasing potential snag for multi-location deployment. For implementations in Mexico, for example, the Milestone system runs in Mexican Spanish but can easily be switched to U.S. English when American managers visit the locations. “Milestone has made a big investment in making sure the use of language is correct,” Catucci says. “When you’re a multi-national company, that’s a huge expense. And when we went to sell to a global client it was a definite advantage for us.”
To summarize Catucci’s mantra for ensuring smooth multi-site deployments: be sure to choose digital technology that is remotely accessible and proven to be reliable, flexible and scalable. Open platform software future-proofs the investment, allowing new innovations to be added over time. Look for support of the needs for global growth such as foreign language capabilities, but most importantly, work with a vendor who demonstrates engagement with your long-term success.
by Courtney Dillon Pedersen, Communications Manager, Milestone Systems.