PSA-TEC State of the Industry: The ‘brave and bold’ who invest in IT will thrive
WESTMINSTER, Colo.—Invest big in IT smarts and do it now. That is what executives from some leading systems integration firms—Securadyne, Advance Technology and Safeguard Security—say they’re working on at their own companies today.
Securadyne Systems CEO Carey Boethel, Safeguard Security president Mike Bradley, and Advance Technology President Rob Simopoulos shared details of their IT investment strategies during PSA-TEC’s May 6 “State of the Industry” panel discussion.
“Do not be afraid to reinvent your business, be brave and bold,” advised Safeguard’s Bradley.
Safeguard, a 53-year-old full service security company, made some major changes in the past year. It spent close to $500,000 updating a proprietary visitor management software for gated communities and tripled its commercial sales force, but the “most significant” investment, Bradley said, was the February 2013 hiring of a VP of Technology, Scott Thompson. An IT expert, Thompson previously worked for one of Safeguard’s largest customers, a school district in Arizona.
This district is heavily into IT, “writing their own software, doing their own programming,” Bradley said. As soon as he joined Safeguard, Thompson “spent a lot of money fixing things we thought were OK,” Bradley said. “You don’t know how far behind you are until you bring someone in from the outside.”
Thompson is working with all facets of the Safeguard business, from the executive team to sales, accounting and administrative. After a year, Bradley said, the result is a “technology platform we can be proud of.” Safeguard is now doing internally what it has been advising customers to do for a while, he said. “It’s made a huge difference for us.”
Securadyne’s Boethel is also hiring IT experts “with no experience in [physical] security whatsoever” to bring dedicated IT talent into his organization.
“You need all three: people, processes and technology to fulfill the [IT smarts] value proposition,” he said.
Noting that his 2-year-old company last year “grew 105 percent, 35 percent of which was organic,” Boethel said rapid growth can bring chaos. To ensure consistency across all offices, Securadyne in Q4 2013 formed a Program Management Office. Now, “no matter where we do business, we create a consistent experience,” he said.
Boethel called the PMO “a differentiator for us …[that] creates efficiencies in operations [and] transparency that helps us [analyze our business]." Ultimately, and most importantly, the PMO “will feed the bottom line,” he said.
Simopoulos said there’s been a change in the decision makers Advance Technology is encountering. More often than not, it's a “25 or 26-year-old IT person reviewing our capabilities,” he said. The security director is still at the table, but it’s the Millenial IT expert who’s selecting the products/provider, Simopoulos said.
And these IT guys want to talk about IT on a high level, which can sometimes present a problem. “If your sales person can’t discuss IT at that level, you better have an engineer sitting next to him and that’s expensive,” Simopoulos said. The answer for Advance Technology has been “to invest in the sales force.”
Simopoulos encouraged other integrators to “embrace IT, learn it, put it into your business and make sure all your team has it.”
To recruit new IT talent, Simopoulos has gone directly to local community colleges and universities. It’s a plan that’s worked out well for his company and he challenged all of the integrators in the room to take “one hour a quarter” and go to local colleges and talk to the students about the opportunities in physical security.