Differentiating System Integration as a Service


Professional Services Role in Physical Security

I find it interesting to note that most manufacturers in the security industry call their channel partners “Security Integrators”, rather than Security Contractors. It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of system delivery business models. Does this miscalculation represent a hopeful wish to magically transform their dealers into the true Value Added Re-Sellers (VAR’s) needed to improve market share?

In my previous sales and marketing roles,  equipment sales was focused on efficient and effective applications engineering. This was appropriate in the technology landscape of the 90’s and 00’s. The need to move on from this mindset is critical in today’s world. The pervasiveness of IP Data, LAN/WAN, Edge IP Devices, PoE+ Power Distribution, Cloud Computing, Advanced Data Encryption and Certificate-Based Identity Management… have built a framework requiring a “Systems” approach to automation technology. Companies unable to bring a true “integration” focus to their client base will be left behind.

Integrator vs. Contractor

  • What is a Security Contractor? For construction projects, these companies estimate card access, intrusion alarm and video surveillance systems from specifications and bid projects. Upon award, they supply and install equipment, pull and terminate wire  and load software. For retrofits and upgrades, they follow owner’s direction to price and deploy systems strictly within the parameters of their narrow focus.
  • What is a Security Integrator? A company that looks for system installation projects with opportunities to add value through site survey, consulting, designing new, or improving poorly engineered scopes of work. For retrofits and upgrades, they focus on discovery (End-User Needs Assessment) – understanding a prospect’s priorities based on asset values, and operational concerns while helping to evaluate threats, risks, site requirements and performance of existing systems. These activities are essential to addressing vulnerabilities and tailoring solutions.

Company #1

By definition, they use old technology to deploy the same solutions being installed time and again – regardless of whether the square peg fits in the round hole.

Company #2

Discovers a partner’s pain points and customizes solutions to assist in mitigating risk, reducing operating expense and improving efficiency and effectiveness.

Why should we examine these two business models?

Company #2 must employ trained, experienced professionals in sales, design and installation roles. This requires higher operating costs and higher gross profits to fund reinvestment. Here is another example of the typical conflicting business models: lean logistics versus value added service. That is why company #2 can survive only if they deliver real, results based solutions and convey their value proposition effectively to their clients. Part of the Company #2 mission is to seek out new technologies, products and systems that allow them to offer the BEST solutions available to provide measurable results.

Company #1 does not have the skills inventory to be an integrator and will not survive over the long term. The only scenarios where logistics models are successful are when cost control and scalability are leveraged – making them excellent targets for acquisition. There will always be another company out there bigger and more efficient.

Company #2 will foster customer satisfaction and loyalty, generate higher profits and NEVER be caught unaware by industry disrupting technologies.

Defining Professional Services


Evaluating: risk, vulnerability, site conditions, system obsolescence, infrastructure

Determining Needs: improving efficiency, effectiveness and cost control, technology and investment planning


  • Increasing data bandwidth to support more robust systems
  • Leveraging new technologies to enhance functionality
  • Offering new system capabilities via improved inter-operability from integration of related systems
  • Eliminating administrative overhead via shared data across multiple databases
  • Better client decision making through education and advice
  • Network optimization
  • Providing API’s, DDE and managing identity certificate handling
  • Offering trained certified employee services: PSP, CISSP, DBA, MCSE, etc.

Burglar Alarm (Intrusion Detection) Contractors

This is another often misunderstood channel. Intrusion detection is most often tied to offsite monitoring contracts. This industry is defined by the recurring monthly contract revenue business model embraced by these companies. Burg is a reactive approach to security and is much less expensive than the proactive access control approach. Both have their place in an overall layered security plan… but don’t mistake a burg contractor for an integrator. Top-notch security integrators will be capable of deploying both types of systems *and* offer monitoring services.

Competing, Conflicting Channels

When I assess a metro market – FIRST, I discover and separate the network/structured cabling contractors, security integrators, security contractors, burg contractors and miscellaneous players (i.e. commercial locksmiths). Understanding HOW different channels deliver systems to the market:

  • Understanding the role these different types of companies play in serving the overall market is the key to manufacturers developing an effective go-to-market strategy and finding the best partners for specific technologies to minimize channel conflict

If you would like to discuss this, or other security topics, please contact him via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at his LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or his Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be my personal professional blog. The content reflects my personal opinions and observations regarding the Physical Security Systems industry and Technology Sectors. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

About Doug Levin

Doug is a certified (PSP, AHC, LEED AP), experienced business development professional with a focus on the physical security industry. With a diverse background that includes delivering products & services through multiple channels (manufacturing, distribution, specialty & general contracting), he brings a broad industry perspective that adds greater value for his clients. Having decades of experience with sales engineering and design-build of low-voltage automated systems, he also offers a strong emphasis on technical knowledge and consulting services. His career has included responsibility for: profit & loss, operations and sales management with front-line experience in estimating, sales/marketing, project management and developing security design documents & spec writing.
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