In order to work successfully with network video management software (VMS), there are three primary areas of focus for integrators. These are role and expertise-based: project management, technical skill level requirements for implementing the software, and integrator-specific best practices and tools. Below is a quick description of each.
We are consistently seeing two factors that are contributing to the need for tighter project management:
- Increasing complexity of projects which extends installation lifecycles and skews customer expectations (which need to be managed) and
- Increasing margin pressures (i.e. lower profitability margins) which drive a requirement to be more efficient in deployments and customer expectation management. The issue is that project management is often viewed as an additional cost that negatively impacts margin where the opposite is actually true – especially for large or complex projects – because the scope is kept in check with the investment in better project management resources and skills.
Technical Skill Level
Like the project management side, due to price and margin pressures the investment in a higher-end, IT-savvy engineer is often overlooked in favor of sending an existing technician to technical training on the VMS. As the project complexity increases with more sophisticated storage or networking requirements – and as additional products are added to the mix that require integration – the skill set needed for both successful implementation and on-going end user support is much higher than can be taught in a class (as opposed to on-the-job training).
There is an IT experience element that is the best fit. Although these are costly positions to fill in an integrator’s company, it is well worth it because it will reduce the overall engineering time required to reach a successful outcome. If this is not addressed, the ensuing problematic installations have the potential to degrade the overall customer experience, and to reduce long-term business for the integrators.
Manufacturers are seeing heavy increases from the demands of complex support cases due to this situation, which puts further pressure on manufacturer resources. There are some ways to mitigate this, such as utilizing the manufacturer’s professional services offerings as a tool to ensure a successful deployment, or to provide on-the-job training – which is the most effective because you bring the expertise in-house as your own asset for future services to bolster your business.
Best Practices and Tools
Best practices for VMS deployments that are specific to both the product and to the integration partner seem to be missing in general throughout the security industry. Instead, it is the skills of the individual that are relied upon to know the best way to implement a system.
I advocate that our partners need to implement a standard core of best practices as it relates to the VMS they are implementing, aligned with their skill set. Implementing tools that will help with the success and speed of installation or the application of best practices will help to reduce delays and errors in deployments.
Often our partners are looking to the manufacturers to provide these tools, but it is actually better for the partner to develop them internally, as it will give them a distinct competitive advantage. To accomplish this, the partner should settle on a core set of offerings that they intend to get really good at. Instead of selling four different VMS products that they are mediocre at implementing, they should narrow down to one primary solution to focus and hone their expertise and specialty. This in turn has a positive impact on project and service contract profit margins.
(See also SDM magazine’s June issue with these and other industry leader quotes on the subject ‘Success is Simple for Integrators Using Today’s VMS’.)
by Mike Sherwood, Director of Technical Services at Milestone Systems Americas. In 2016 Mike was promoted from his previous role as Director, Professional Services. He continues his management and overview of the pre-sales Solutions Engineers and the Technical Services Engineers who provide professional services and partner certification training, and his role has added responsibility for the post-sales Technical Support and IT teams, as well as the Strategic Alliances team. Mike was initially a Milestone Partner at ISG Technology for 9 years in the Midwest, a VMware and Cisco-certified systems integrator company that expanded into IP video surveillance with the Milestone open platform.