Q&A with Co-Founder Maureen Carlson: Digital Collaboration, Product-Led Growth and the Importance of Community

7 Minute Read

System Surveyor is heading into our 8th year at ISC West and a lot has happened in that period of time. We’re touching base with one of our co-founders, Maureen Carlson, to learn more about the company’s major milestones, what we’ve learned by working with our physical security user community, and what we see ahead.

This is your 8th year at ISC West and during that time System Surveyor has seen significant growth. What’s the secret to the company’s success?

The biggest secret is making sure the software is not a secret!  That means it has to be easy to experience value quickly and that it is beneficial to everyone involved to share it. System Surveyor at its core is a collaboration software platform for site surveys and security system design. The way we’ve grown is not by traditional sales and marketing. Sure, we have those talents on our team but it has been truly about providing value to the people who use it daily, allowing them to invite and collaborate digitally with their stakeholders, and making it a part of their daily routine.

Every time we speak to a prospective user or company, the first thing we ask is, “How do you know about System Surveyor?” Even after 8 years, 9 times out of 10 they saw one of their colleagues using it for a low voltage, physical security or AV project design. Whether It was with their favorite system integrator, their buddy at a security device manufacturer, or a security system subcontractor; they like how it looks and they want in on the secret. Their partner invites them or they search for us, try it free and then sign up. That “flywheel” as its called develops systematically over time and so we’ve grown organically and quickly.

How has System Surveyor’s vision helped to transform the physical security industry?

The physical security industry is ahead on technology product innovation but a little behind sometimes with regard to adoption of B2B software and digital transformation. Running an integration business is very complex with a lot of moving parts. Many integrators have been forced to create their own applications or force fit a construction application.

Our role is to offer a better path with easy-to-use security system design software that helps them run the business by enabling collaboration with team members, partners and customers. Our mission is to help the physical security industry deliver on the promise of technology. What does that mean? It means that they can effectively design physical security systems that keep people and property safe. Now people can visualize those solutions together and then figure out how to make it a reality. That’s transformative. Technology without an implementation plan has little value.

What are the most important outcomes that technology can deliver in physical security?

Physical security is a serious topic and the people involved endeavor to use technology to make places safer to protect people and property. For example, if a college campus can use technology to more proactively protect students and staff, that is part of a campus safety promise. While technology is not the only way to stop bad things from happening, it certainly plays a role  when used responsibly and effectively. Potential outcomes may be to deter access to a building, to capture concerning activity on video, to use analytics to see patterns that could be problematic. There are many examples. If this group does their job well, there are fewer incidents in the first place or they can be addressed immediately. 

How is cutting-edge technology like System Surveyor bringing together the system integrator, end user and manufacturer?

“Cutting edge” sounds interesting to me because being cutting edge to us means making a difficult process much simpler. As most people know, as Steve Jobs showed us, simple is hard to deliver. What’s so novel is that now integrators, end users and manufacturers are tapping into cloud-based software and mobile tablets to visualize and co-design physical security systems.  In the past, it was highly manual and inefficient by emailing around PDF mockups, handwritten notes and spreadsheets.Moreover, they can dynamically maintain the life-cycle of a physical security system and other related technology.  Ask any global physical security director, this is a living, breathing thing to manage.

System Surveyor allows users and their guests to dynamically and securely view floor plans and security system designs together, no matter where they are located. The new physical security products that have AI and machine learning require sophisticated expertise to design and install and we make implementing those breakthroughs easier for the industry. Cutting edge helps with cutting edge, if you will.  Check out the Manufacturer Element Profiles available out of the box to design in System Surveyor..

What role does the community play in the future success of System Surveyor?

Today’s successful B2B software company grows by earning big fans, listening to users, and helping them share best practices with each other. We have more than 20,000 registered users on System Surveyor all around the globe. These system integrators, technology managers and security device manufacturers use the software to collaborate. We have an amazing support team that listens and assists, taking in both the good and the bad in order to improve the platform for their day to day use. This community of users is vital to our product development process and the future of the company. The Security Industry Association (SIA) hosts ISC West which gives us an opportunity to see a lot of our community in person and to connect them too. Most of the time people bring their business partners over to the booth to show what is possible with our security system design software.

How has the adoption of business software changed in general?

Organizations don’t buy software or adopt it like they used to 15-20 years ago. The democratization of software means that people find software tools that can be useful to them in their roles to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They often find so much benefit that they buy it on their own and invite other users. Next, it takes hold and the organization starts to see the broader value, expands its use and it becomes the operational standard. We believe in that model and try to earn the everyday user and nurture that journey. We offer our software with value for free and then people decide if they want to buy it or expand for the organization or company. It’s fun to see how much taking this kind of open, product-led growth “PLG” strategy really takes off. The next horizon for us is the integration through our open API and connecting the best-in-class software together….we’re excited for the future!

Thanks, Maureen, for the Q&A! Come and meet our team out in Las Vegas at ISC West in Booth # 26077. Not going to ISC West? No worries, create a free starter account and let us know how we can help you streamline your site survey process and security system design.