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Dakota Security Systems on what security integrators want from manufacturers

Yunag tells what he looks for from his manufacturer-partners
Manufacturers need to come to integrators with a multi-faceted approach on how a wholesale change could be made

Dakota Security Systems Inc., Sioux Falls, S.D., a security systems integration company is nearly 40 years old and started as a lock shop. Eric Yunag, president and chief executive officer, has been at the helm of the award-winning company for nearly 10 years. In an exclusive Q&A, asked Yunag what he looks for from his manufacturer-partners.

Security manufacturers with a multi-faceted approach You've dealt with various manufacturers as a business owner. What makes you stick with one over another?

Eric Yunag: This is an ongoing discussion at Dakota Security. It’s not just the technical merits of the product. There are many considerations. With 150 employees and complex services, it’s quite difficult for us to simply change from one product to another. With IP cameras for example, they are now essentially standalone operating systems. The training and investment to change platforms is quite significant and can be thousands and thousands of dollars.

We need to have a strong business case from manufacturers on how to move from one platform to another inclusive of hard and soft costs. Simply presenting a list of comparable models does not create a strong value proposition. For the larger systems integrator, incremental advances in technology do not create sufficient return on investment relative to the costs associated to make a change. The value proposition needs to be a detailed, well-thought-out approach if we are going to consider changing major products or platforms.

Manufacturers need to come to us with a multi-faceted approach on how a wholesale change could be made. In my mind, most cameras fundamentally do the same things; the same is true for access control and intrusion detection systems. It’s rare when a manufacturer who is courting us brings a comprehensive approach – “here’s how we are going to help you change to our products.”

To change means a significant investment in retraining our technicians and supporting a more diverse and complex product base in the field. Not to mention website and marketing materials. Then there are compatibility issues with existing technologies and integration with other platforms. Technology isn’t the barrier, because for the most part the companies in the industry are reputable and the platforms reliable, but we need to know the process and costs to convert in a quantifiable way. If the manufacturer comes in with a myopic approach of incremental technology differences and a line card of comparable products, that’s not going to cut it for us.

"If we support a manufacturer’s product and promote it, we’re going to expect support in bidding, specifying, etc", says Eric Yunag, President and CEO, Dakota Security Systems

Vertical security market solutions What kinds of support do you expect from manufacturers?

Eric Yunag: Training and technical support are table stakes. We expect them to do that well, no matter what. White papers and case studies on vertical markets are important, and security products manufacturers can definitely do better there. We look for vertical market solutions and how to specifically solve problems and challenges for specific client types. We need manufacturers to connect the dots between technical capabilities and how to apply them to different verticals.

It is particularly helpful to highlight features that solve unique problems with their products. Other things include their effort to work with architects and engineers to get products specified. Also, we aren’t looking for handouts, but marketing cooperative dollars are a plus, especially if we are investing in trade shows. I expect some kind of assistance when we showcase their products as a platform for marketing.

Strong integrator/manufacturer partnership What are the essential criteria you look for in the manufacturer's products you support?

Eric Yunag: On a fundamental level, loyalty and partnership. If we support a manufacturer’s product and promote it, we’re going to expect support in bidding, specifying, etc. Vertical market specific support is critical, and technology innovation is expected. It has to be there; a company we support has to be innovative from a technology point of view.

One key message I want to convey is a feeling we get from some manufacturers. Oftentimes, it seems as though they view integrators as an impediment to selling product to the end user when in fact it is a strong integrator/manufacturer partnership that best delivers value to our clients. It seems that many believe that things would be better if they could sell direct to the end user. We all need to work together, and I think that aspect could be improved. At the end of the day, someone has to be in the field installing and servicing equipment for the clients.

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