With mid-size systems, there are often several ways to approach a requirement and accomplish the same goal — at least in the short term. My focus at Milestone Systems is on mid-market video surveillance solutions in the 33- to 250-camera range. As you can imagine, this is a hyper-competitive space with a huge variety of options today.
Because of this, there’s a lot of noise in the marketplace with many vendors competing for sales and mindshare. There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD!) as end-users, installers and integrators approach project requirements and try to figure out what’s best. How do installers and integrators make the right decisions? The answer is fairly simple: Keep focused on what’s important for the end-user, now and for their future.
To cut through the information overload, just ask what’s important for the customer.
It’s Easier Than You Think
When Milestone works with our technology partners for fully integrated solutions, we provide a detailed software development kit (SDK) with information on our Application Programming Interface (API) so the partners can tie their solutions into ours. This means that the Milestone open architecture, video management software (VMS) can deliver to end users unique, optimal systems that look and feel like end-to-end solutions – yet offer way more flexibility to change and expand in future.
With many technology partners writing plug-ins directly into our XProtect Smart Client, the customer gets a single graphical user interface (GUI) as just one simple piece of software to learn, while leveraging key competencies from multiple providers in the background.
Some customers express doubt about trying such a customized, integrated solution. They’re afraid of components not working together properly or not receiving necessary support — but they shouldn’t be. The Milestone open platform provides a seamless, easy-to-use, reliable, and safe video management solution, while still providing flexibility and freedom of choice. In short, we make it easy for all involved.
Many Milestone Solution Partners also choose to get their integrations certified. This involves testing the solution to document the results, including best practice guidelines on the set up and configuration of the solutions, which helps to ensure optimal operation.
One Solution Does Not Fit All
Vendors who pitch end-to-end solutions – selling their own brand of cameras, management software, servers, and storage — are telling the customer that this is the best way to go. In my view, this is a retreat back to the old ways of analog systems when companies sold closed, proprietary systems, thereby locking customers into a single brand for the life of their system.
At Milestone, we know this is not a good approach for the customer. This may seem good for resellers who care more about simplifying their own sales process, and obviously, it’s a good setup for the manufacturers because they lock in their customers (at least in the near-term) – but where does this leave the customer? A single-provider, closed, proprietary system does not offer the most viable path for system upgrades, feature expansions, or the integration of new technologies and capabilities that come from many providers in the marketplace.
Deliver End-User Value
Let’s face it, customers can buy an all-in-one system at a seemingly low price, from a single manufacturer. But over time, the user will discover the frustrations and costs of a closed system; that what they have is not going to meet their long-term needs. As the customer’s requirements change, when they want to add cameras, increase storage, or leverage newly-available technologies, the closed, end-to-end systems don’t offer good options. At some point, that system will need to be completely ripped out and replaced just to expand capabilities. Whereas with an open platform, customers can always adapt and change as technology evolves. Our software doesn’t stay static.
Milestone software excels for customers as their foundation for the future.
Leverage Partner Expertise
Often an installer or integrator is an expert with a specific access control system, or a real pro with a particular brand of cameras. With an open platform approach, the integrator can leverage multiple skills to deliver a custom solution that meets the end user’s real-world, current and long-term needs. With an open platform, the installer has less risk of losing the business because the system can be supported and expanded over many more years. If for any reason the customer becomes less than satisfied with any of the deployed technologies, components can easily be removed and replaced with a more applicable solution.
In contrast, if an end-to-end, single-manufacturer solution brings dissatisfaction with a single component, the entire system needs to be removed and replaced just to achieve upgraded capabilities. What if the customer opens a second facility and needs some centralized management between sites? A “forklift” upgrade of an entire system is a very expensive alternative.
The Power of Partnerships
Milestone partners with all leading video security and surveillance manufacturers to deliver the most choice to our integrators and end-users. Customers deserve the freedom to choose. The IT sector understands this concept and has enabled IT professionals to mix and match components to build relevant, optimum-performing systems for their customers for decades.
As new technologies emerge in the market — innovations in business and video analytics, metadata management, camera capabilities, access control modes, storage breakthroughs — the companies bringing those solutions to market are partnering with Milestone to deliver value-adding integrations. Our partners and customers count on Milestone to be a leader in supporting and delivering new technologies.
For example, Milestone was one of the first VMS companies to support the new compression codec H.265. We were also the first VMS company to bring seamless video and Access Control integration without delivering our own competing AC product. There are many examples of supporting leading-edge capabilities.
A current example of this is in the trend of mid-size systems leveraging video analytics that are built into cameras. With in-camera (network edge-device) analytics, the customer doesn’t need a separate analytics license and they don’t need a separate server because the analytics run within the camera are then monitored and controlled through the VMS. Milestone makes it simple to leverage the technology that’s housed in the camera. This is a cost-effective option for small- and mid-sized systems to increase their video system’s effectiveness and value.
Along the same idea, XProtect Access is another huge differentiator in the market. If a customer wants to visually monitor a modest number of doors and openings at their facility, they don’t have to use two separate pieces of software (video and access control). With an integration via XProtect Access, they can visually verify access control events directly within the XProtect Smart Client. XProtect Access works with a variety of leading access control manufacturers that deliver on-site as well as cloud-based packages. This is very attractive to businesses that don’t want to lock themselves into paying for expensive hardware and servers on site.
TMI? — Just Stay Focused
Changing the security installation goal from price to value requires a shift in thinking. Instead of talking about cost and product features, the discussion needs to be about open platform benefits and the community of applications that map into a more flexible, comprehensive and long-lasting solution that realize return on investment well into the future.
The value proposition requires discovering and understanding a customer’s short- and long-term goals. Through knowledge of the applications needed, it is readily apparent that no single provider can deliver the total solution. With this point of view, it becomes obvious that the open platform partner community working together becomes the best path for fulfilling customers’ needs.
So stop listening to all the noise in the marketplace. Listen to your customers and stay focused on what they need from a system — they’ll tell you what’s important, and that makes it all very easy.
by Paul Messenger, Manager of Partner Development & Inside Channel Management (ICM) – Americas, Milestone Systems