5 Common Pain Points for System Integrators and How to Solve Them

7 Minute Read

Table of Contents

  1. Pain Point #1: Inconsistent System Design Process
  2. Pain Point #2: Endless Games of Telephone
  3. Pain Point #3: Losing the Design Proposal Race (and the Contract)
  4. Pain Point #4: The Sales to Operations Handoff
  5. Pain Point #5: Managing the Customer Lifecycle

Getting from an initial site survey to a decision-ready proposal, then on to a signed contract and security system project installation can be a bumpy ride for system integrators in the physical security industry.

It takes time, effort, and often travel — all before you’re guaranteed to make any money on the sale.

There are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong along the way, and we see a consistent set of pain points that plague nearly every system integrator.

Here are five of those pain points, along with innovative and pragmatic solutions for each that you can implement quickly (in days, not months).

Pain Point #1: Inconsistent System Design Process

First up is a business-wide problem: inconsistency in the security system design process — which is often just a euphemism for not having a defined process at all.

What this means

For many system integrators, every sales rep, engineer, or integrator has their own spin on the process of designing physical security measures. The theory goes that each pro has refined their approach through years of experience, and everyone “knows what works best for me.”

One person designs their security systems in Google Slides or PowerPoint, while another uses PDF markup tools. The veterans are still mostly using pen and paper, while a younger rep takes a liking to a manufacturer-exclusive design tool.

The problem is that this leaves system integrators without a defined, repeatable process for physical security system design across all system types. When new hires come on board, they can’t look at process documentation examples because either there aren’t any, or their more experienced peers will say, “Yeah, but that’s not really how we do it.” The onboarding process becomes an apprenticeship system, while the “real knowledge” is locked away with the gatekeepers.

And with a talent pool as tight as the one we’re living in right now, this kind of gatekeeping just isn’t going to work in the long run or scale.

Solution: Systematize your processes using a better platform

The solution here is to simply standardize your business on a single defined, documented process that’s built on modern security system design software.

Companies that use a systematic approach enjoy all sorts of benefits. Hiring and training are much simpler. Processes across the board become much more efficient, both because a standardized process can cut out wasteful steps and because no one’s stuck chasing down that one weird thing Larry does with his designs. Perhaps most importantly, customers can tell a difference. Receiving designs that are as different as the designers sends a message. The question becomes, do they have a reliable, consistent process? Receiving consistent professional designs (in a collaborative platform where the customer can provide feedback in real time, no less) sends a better one.

“System Surveyor’s easy-to-use platform eliminates the cumbersome chore of carrying around pencils and notebooks by efficiently integrating everything into a single program. It’s a product that feels like it was made for us.” Joe Allen, Sonitrol

Pain Point #2: Endless Games of Telephone

Another frequent pain point is the endless series of back-and-forth exchanges between client and system integrator. It’s just like that old classroom game “telephone”, where the message inevitably gets mangled in transmission.

What this means

Here’s how this tends to go: after receiving an initial design, the client point of contact sends the design around for feedback. All that feedback filters through the point of contact, who may not always capture the precise message from various stakeholders. Then that point of contact attempts to describe the needed changes in a verbose email, maybe with some PDF markup if you’re lucky.

Eventually, someone adds another engineer or a vendor to the email thread. Then someone replies but takes out a few names. You get a private message from someone on your team who wants to solve a small issue quietly. And before you know it, there are five different communication streams, and as many or more different versions of whatever PDF floor plan is getting emailed around! Uggh!

Solution: Get off the PDF merry-go-round

The reason system integrators get into endless games of telephone is the tools they’re using. If you’re emailing around scans of paper floor plans or marked-up PDFs, then you’re playing telephone whether you want to or not. You can’t avoid this kind of back-and-forth when you’re using imprecise site assessment tools and have no version control.

Instead, find a dynamic system design platform that has dynamic collaboration built in. Invite your collaborators directly into the digital security system design rather than playing phone tag or riding the email merry-go-round. You’ll be miles ahead when everyone’s looking at the same, version-controlled digital floor plan rather than whichever PDF version they found in their inbox. This becomes a single source of truth versus hope that you found the latest and greatest.

Better still is a collaborative platform that is truly interactive and editable. Switch to one of those (we happen to know a good one!) as a best practice, and watch the efficiency, accuracy, and professionalism soar. Everyone is on the same digital page, looking at the same pictures and providing comments. As an example, if you have ever used Sharepoint or Google Docs, you no longer export and email, you invite people in to collaborate…that’s what we’re talking about but for site surveys and system design.

Pain Point #3: Losing the Design Proposal Race (and the Contract)

You never get a second chance to make a first impression — and you never get a second chance to be first, period. Every system integrator knows the pain of getting beaten to the punch and losing the job as a result.

What this means

The average system integrator needs 11-20 hours and two to three weeks to deliver a design proposal, but that’s never the last step in the process. Three or four rounds of back-and-forth is normal — but it isn’t a good normal.

This amount of upfront investment has a high cost for the system integrator. And the customer can incur all kinds of frustration during the process, feeling unheard or determining that you (the system integrator) just aren’t on top of things.

Even worse, we know in sales that time kills deals. Every extra round of back-and-forth is more time for the customer to request and consider other bids. So, you’re spending time (for free) on these drawn-out proposals even as there’s still a decent chance you won’t win the project.

Solution: Modernize and collaborate together in real time – get buy in along the way

If you could cut the proposal design process in half (or better) and cut out most of the back-and-forth rework, you would, right?

It’s a no-brainer that a system integrator that can deliver more accurate designs in half the time is going to win more bids. And it’s possible if you modernize your systems and start collaborating directly with customers.

Let’s be clear about what we don’t mean here: we’re not talking about emailing PDFs back and forth (remember pain point #2). We’re talking about reworking your site survey process so you can co-design with your customers from the very first step.

When you can invite customers into the security system design itself (not a static picture of the design), you get buy-in and confirmation early in the process. The result is a much more accurate, decision-ready proposal the first time, along with less time spent building that proposal. No one has time to request another bid, most buyers really don’t want to do that unless they have to.

Of course, to get this right you’ll need the right collaborative security system design software.

“We have gone from taking more than 3 weeks to get out a design & proposal to 5 days or less. In many cases we are able to turn something around within hours.” Travis Mitchell, Prosegur 

Pro tip: Make sure your software allows you to automate your bill of materials (e.g., has building automation estimating software functions).

Pain Point #4: The Sales to Operations Handoff

The transition of a project from sales to operations can be one of the most difficult points in the customer journey and one of the most vital for the project overall success measure. If implementation is too costly, the healthy margins you were hoping for become sick and the customer disappointed.

What this means

This issue comes up time and time again, and solving it is tough (but not impossible!).

Sales paints a picture to the customer of what the end result will look like. (Hint: using the game of telephone tag is already a red flag that there may be misunderstandings).

After selling this idea to the customer, sales personnel deliver their vision of physical security system design to operations, who must go and turn the design into reality. And far too often, there are gaps — chasms, even — between what the customer expected/what sales sold and what the operations team delivers.

Manual Process for Physical Security System Design

Why is this so difficult? Because sales and ops are playing their own version of telephone. Communicating with precision is hard to do. So is visualizing something that doesn’t yet exist.

There’s also an even earlier contributing factor: a poor site survey. Add in inconsistent gathering of physical security requirements and processes, and no wonder the ops team isn’t aligning with what sales and customers envision!

Solution: Get Ops involved early & Digitize the hand-off

Digitizing the hand-off makes sure nothing gets lost.

In a dynamic, collaborative system design platform, after sales completes their sales, ops can log in and see exactly what the customer saw (and what sales promised) in a secure environment. Every detail is there, every photo, and every piece of evidence on “what has been sold”.

In an ideal situation, ops should actually review even earlier to account for any “that just isn’t possible” style surprises. A collaborative design platform also gives ops the opportunity to close the loop and take photos and gather details from the actual installation.  Ops can also be surprised (not in a good way) when they need a lift to reach a camera install or a mount that won’t work.  This is where the right and left hand must be working together.

“System Surveyor is great for helping us translate what sales sold to the operations and installation team. They are the face to the customer, and it sets the operations team up for success.” Tom Reiber, Protex Central (Nebraska)

Pain Point #5: Managing the Customer Lifecycle

Rarely does a customer buy physical security components one time and then never again. A system evolves over time. At the same time, it’s not exactly a frequent shopper program kind of industry. Managing the customer lifecycle to keep customers well supplied, maintained (and paying) is a tricky thing.

What this means

Physical security and low-voltage systems are living, breathing things if managed properly. And the top performing system integrators are selling services more than hardware. Yet without proper documentation of security devices and systems it’s tough to make this kind of repeat business profitable.

Solution: Become your customer’s digital resource and guide

There is an enormous opportunity to digitally document a system for a customer, creating a digital as-built as a way to engage with them over time. In fact, this may be a service value-add opportunity and the key to long-term engagement.

For example, if you provide inspection and maintenance services, having a dynamic digital as-built streamlines the process of having all up-to-date detailed information in one location.

Your customer will go into a budgeting cycle again at a future date for updated video cameras and video surveillance, access control, intrusion detection systems, alarm systems and other electronic security systems. If you can provide them value in that process, you’ll be the first that they go to when they want to refresh or retrofit their existing system or when they need a site survey to add on to their campus or corporate locations.

Go even further and invite them into their dynamic digital as-built as partners and have them add on cameras when they need- you just started a self-service motion but with you as their provider.  What’s better than that?

Wrapping Up

System integrators are in the middle of an evolution from paper to digital business operations. Those who stop short of this evolution, content with PDFs and email, risk falling behind the competition.

Across all five pain points, system integrators can improve physical security projects by conducting a digital site survey based on a dynamic digital collaboration platform.

System Surveyor is physical security system design software for the next evolution of the industry. See how it can transform your work: request your free trial now. Our Starter accounts never expire, you can decide if you need more features.