The physical security industry is not wired like the IT industry. Despite the influences of IT on security there remains a bias of belief that individual manufacturers should sell a jack-of-all-trades product portfolio. What is accepted and even expected in the IT industry – that a company should make a product family really well, which should also integrate really well with the rest of the products in the industry – is instead the anomaly in the security industry.
Perhaps it’s the lack of common integration protocols and standards, but it seems like there is a hidden gravitational pull in security to ultimately default to an end-to-end portfolio from individual manufacturers.
Why is this?
If we look back in time, the security industry is littered with numerous examples of fully end-to-end solution companies. Legendary names have built and/or acquired product after product and over time assembled an end-to-end comprehensive solution, all sold and supported under the umbrella of a singular brand. Never mind that many of these companies either made only a few things well, or covered up otherwise average products with excellent support: the fact remains that companies have been built and fortunes realized with this end-to-end approach.
As the security industry transitioned from analog to IP network technology, some of this has changed, and many of the successful end-to-end brands have ultimately failed in the transition. But even today we can see striking examples of new IP technology manufacturers beginning to creep their way towards an end-to-end portfolio.
Why is there this pull to what in the IT world is so unnatural? Why do companies seem so insistent on polluting their one or two really good product lines with otherwise lower quality companion solutions? What has happened to the notion of best in class?
Clearly, one of the appealing attributes for an end-to-end portfolio is control. The manufacturer has more control over the customers – and locked-in revenue from them – by delivering a broad technology set of offerings. This reduces the risk of other manufacturers’ products gaining a foothold in their client base. This also allows the manufacturer to offer a more comprehensive product support service, bridging the various products and technologies. And for the systems integrator, this makes quoting, procurement and commissioning easier because all roads lead back to a single manufacturer.
This is that “one throat to choke” mentality.
But what is ultimately better for the end user? Do they get the best technology solutions from an end-to-end solution? Do they get the best innovation from the combined creative expertise in the marketplace? Is the return on investment maximized, and do they have an open road to adjusting their technology suite to meet their evolving business needs easily and economically over the long run?
Are end-to-end solutions really the best thing for customers or are they really just the easiest things for the manufacturers and system integrators?
On the other hand, if an open platform approach is better, then what about the question of quoting, procurement, commissioning and support? If the best technology, access to innovation and return on investment is rooted in open platform solutions, how can these solutions defy the gravitational pull of the security industry’s fascination with the ease and convenience of end-to-end portfolios?
If open is better, then the companies that focus on delivering best-of-breed products have a responsibility to make quoting, procurement, commissioning and support more seamless and approachable across various technology manufacturers. Whether its common industry standards, easier integrations, coordinated marketing or cross-product support, open platform providers have the responsibility to make working with open solutions an easier and less complex experience for systems integrators and end users alike.
If we agree that end customers are best served by open solutions, best-in-class and freedom of choice, then we must focus on the ease of use and experience related to the combined multi-manufacturer solution. Those of us committed to open solutions are responsible for making them easier and more approachable. This is the key to helping the marketplace realize the full potential of the open platform – and defying the gravitational pull of the industry bias.
It’s time to join together and help the security industry realize its full potential and deliver on the exceptional value proposition of the open platform with integrated best-in-class solutions. Are you ready to defy gravity together?
by Tim Palmquist, VP Americas, Milestone Systems
Look for this article on pg 56 in the September 2017 issue of Security Technology Executive!