Selecting electronic security integrators has never been more challenging yet more vital as security solutions become intensely integrated and capable of proactive responses.
FOR end users seeking quality installers the choice is never been more fraught. The traditional electronic security space rubs shoulders with a wide range of technical services providers – the more profound the integration, the greater the spread of players. And there are some installers and integrators now operating in the industry who reside on the fringes. They are unlicensed and unschooled in the challenges of electronic security applications.
For serious users of electronic security, finding an integrator which is customer-focused, technically adept, dedicated, capable of deep planning and possessed of real integrity, can be challenging. Any quality installer or integrator should have a stable history and exhibit strong retention of key staff. Attaining and maintaining these characteristics is challenging for integrators, which must establish themselves and then survive in a competitive market that is too often governed by the lowest quote.
According to Mike Margrain, national technical manager at Gallagher Australia, there are qualities that should be sought in security installers and integrators.
“It’s important for end users to look for trained installers and integrators with extensive knowledge of the products they are recommending and a thorough understanding of the latest standards and trends,” Margain says.
“Similarly, it’s important to check that you are working with a company which is insured and compliant with the relevant safety standards.
“When it comes to the size of the installation company there are pros and cons to small and large. A large national company is often well recognised and usually has better training policies in place, whereas a smaller company can often deliver a more personalised service and delivery process.”
Margrain argues that being aware of training requirements for solutions is vital when it comes to selecting installation companies.
“Installation companies must have training on all of the products they install,” he says. “With the rate of change with new products and features, it’s vital that they keep up to date with training and trends. It’s also extremely important installers stay on top of the latest standards. Installers are responsible for delivering safe, secure solutions on a site. To do this, they must stay current with standards and technology.”
Something that can be a thorny for some end users is whether installers and integrators should be hardware and software agnostic. The challenge with complex solutions is that techs are unlikely to be right up to the minute with the systems they are working with. It’s tough to stay on top of one major system, let alone cover the entire market.
“Product agnosticism is an interesting question,” says Margrain. “On one hand, integrators being hardware and software agnostic allows them to service a larger customer base. On the other hand, by doing this they are unable to specialise in products and understand them as deeply as is sometimes required.”
Something Margrain believes is vital is that installers and integrators listen to the needs of their customers rather than tell customers what they need.
“Listening to customers is paramount,” Margrain says. “If you don’t understand the customers’ situation then it is impossible to deliver a solution that fully meets their requirements. It’s important for the integrator to ask questions, and then take the information they are supplied and ensure they are giving the customer the best advice possible.”
Rob Rosa from integrator Innotec Security believes that some of the other integration companies take too many short cuts which place customers at risk and also can sometime leave clients without proper warranty and service issues after the initial project is delivered.
“The reality is that I have witnessed many clients that have opted for the cheapest quote only to be left with no support going forward,” Rosa explains. “It’s so important to do your due diligence on a company so that you know you can trust service providers them after the initial work is completed.
“As a growing integration company, the one thing which we commonly see is the after sales support is overlooked at the initial evaluation stage by clients. Of course, it goes without saying that any company you choose should be able to install the initial project with minimal disruption to the end user, but once the initial project is in, it is equally important from a DLP (defects and liability period) perspective that the chosen company is around for this period.
“The key things to look for is the integrator’s current client base, quality and proficiency of staff and sub-contractors that the company uses, 24/7 support and don’t hesitate to get some reference sites and actually call up their client base to see how they have and are performing. A quality integration company doesn’t have anything to hide and therefore should be happy to provide you with these details.
“Adherence to objective standards is a vital tool for end users looking to be assured of a security integrator’s technical capabilities and internal culture of quality. For instance, Innotec is currently going through the accreditation process for ISO 9001 and AS/NZS 4801 for this very reason – we want our customers to have no doubt of our capabilities.”
Rosa argues installers and integrators should be hardware and software agnostic as far as it is possible to be without impacting on product knowledge and training.
“Absolutely, the hardware and software solutions supported by an integrator need to be dictated by the client’s requirements, not by the solutions the integrator happens to be most familiar with,” he says. “I always like to say that product needs to be site specific.
“And offering open solutions feeds into a culture of listening to the needs of the client. It’s paramount that you fully understand client requirements and tailor a solution to a client’s needs. It is very important on sites that are multi-tenanted as the requirements from a base building perspective may not mesh with the one size fits all methodology we see too often in our industry.”
Rosa believes the question of whether local installers offer a better service that large national companies must be addressed on a company by company basis.
“It comes down to the level of service they provide,” he explains. “There are some good large companies and there are some average ones and size doesn’t necessarily mean they are better or worse. It comes back to checking reference sites and not hesitating to contact other customers and ask what their experience with the installer/integrator was like. It bears repeating that a reputable installer/integrator has nothing to hide and should be eager to help prospective customers make that assessment.”
For Rosa, training is a core aspect of assessing the capabilities of security integrators.
“Training is absolutely critical and end users should dig deep to find evidence of it,” Rosa says. “At Innotec all our staff are fully trained, accredited, licenced, have all their site induction and SWMS documentation prepared, etc. At the same time, inhouse and sub-contract staff we utilise cannot work on any of our sites if they don’t have the proper accreditation and licences. This is one of the issues that can arise and provide a huge risk for end users – anyone can say they have training and licences. Remember, make sure you check to see if all these are valid and relevant to the works that are being undertaken.”
Rosa argues that sticking with quality manufacturers and distributors contributes to the reliability and performance of solutions. If customisation is needed, it will be provided. Any support will be taken care of and service is always to hand.
“We have a simple philosophy on this, deal with reputable distribution companies and products that are AS compliant,” Rosa argues. “Check the packaging, the spec sheets and make sure the integrator you choose does not deal with any grey channel products. Using unsupported technology puts a client at risk – not only in terms of system performance but if the solution is later found to have failed to offer the security and safety expected of it.
“We have all heard the stories of grey market equipment catching fire, of UPS solutions and monitors exploding. If saving $A100 is that important to a client, then perhaps as a quality installer/integrator that client is not an organisation you want to be partnered with.”