Manufacturers depend on consultants to get their technologies specified in customer projects. Consultants often depend on manufacturers to provide them current information about the technologies that are the building blocks of their projects. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but not always a perfect one. We recently gathered three consultants to discuss what they want from manufacturers, and a representative of HID Global to add a manufacturer’s perspective.
Manufacturers also look to consultants to provide insights into trends they see among clients, and our consultant forum was outspoken on those points, too.
Participating were Chris Grniet of Guidepost Solutions, Brandon Frazier of Elert & Associates, Terry Harless of Burns & McDonnell, and Harm Radstaak, HID Global’s Vice President and Managing Director, Physical Access Control.
SourceSecurity.com: What do you look for in a relationship with a vendor/manufacturer? What kind of support do you look for from partners/vendors?
Product education and communication
Terry Harless: As a consultant, we are vendor agnostic. We have to specify several different vendors, different brands, manufacturers. When we do come upon a client that wants a certain manufacturer specified, we typically like a manufacturer to have customer service that we can reach out to and get an answer back in a relatively quick amount of time, for the simple fact that our designs are fast-track and we need to get them done. And not to tout HID, but they are typically very quick in responding to issues we have had in the past. We like it when they can educate us – come into our office or invite us to a consultant event and train us, instead of giving their sales pitch. There are several manufacturers who provide good education, and there are those that will just bring you in to give you a sales pitch, and you don’t really learn anything.
"We typically like a manufacturer
Chris Grniet: As consultants, we are constantly trying to learn as much as we can about every product out there. We try to be as agnostic as possible. We need to be apprised of what the latest and greatest is, how it’s functioning. And we need to access that information in a very simple way. Sometimes I’m on the fly. I haven’t sat down in my office more than three days in the last two and a half months. But I know I can pick up the phone or shoot a quick email [to Dean Forchas, HID Global’s Consultant Relations Manager in North America], and he will get back to me. He tells me what I need to know and when I need to know it to support my clients.
We also need truth in advertising, the most critical component. There are things you can’t prove to me. You are going to give me the documentation and I will pass it along to the IT guys. I want to get the information they need to make an informed decision. It needs to be quick, and it needs to painless. I also want the truth about the release of products. I want to commit to things like frictionless access, and mobile credentialing for visitors, and the cost models. Please just tell me the truth. Too many times I hear “The release is Q3,” and in Q2 of the following year, the client is going “What are we going to do?” I also want clear and concise communication between my manufacturers for that fully integrated and unified platform.
Brandon Frazier: The most important thing for me is education. Education about products, and future product roadmaps, and about concepts. Help me understand what we can do with this new product or this product that is coming. Don’t educate me because you think there is a project coming down the pike. Just educate me and support me. And just trust that if you educate me enough, and if I understand enough about your products, they will end up in the specifications.
|If you educate me enough, and if I understand enough about your products, they will end up in the specifications|
Understanding the market competition
Grniet: I just want to add to be honest enough to know when your product is not right for an application or a client. Tell us “I don’t think that’s where we need to go.” And be educated about your competitors’ products. We’re just looking for help, and in a lot of cases we’re just looking for information, we’re constantly on the go, and we earn our living on a billable hour. My company wants me to have a lot of them. It has to be an honest relationship—and let me know if it’s not the right application.
Harless: I would say be educated on your own product, too. A lot of vendors have no clue what their product does.
Harm Radstaak: If you as a vendor say something wrong, you have to back-pedal and you lose trust. That is critical. We need to be understanding of that as a vendor and be responsible. Most professional vendors support consultants in their area. At HID, we also have an extra level in the community of consultant support around the world, in the UK, in India, in China. There is a lot of development going on all over the world. We have a role to bring all of that into the bigger mix. You are a consultant, and we consult with you in certain areas, but vice versa, too. You are the voice of the customer to us. We need for you to bring back to us what you see, which we can translate to product development.
Grniet: We can’t expect the product to progress unless we bring to you our learning experiences. We get that. For years, I wrote product specifications to push the envelope of what products are capable of doing. To an earlier point about the future of products: As these get more powerful, we will expect more and more, and communicate to you when we need it.
SourceSecurity.com: What are your priorities in terms of adding value to end-users in the realm of physical access? What trends have you been seeing among end-users when it comes to physical access control? What is at the top of your criteria list for either buying discussions or spec’ing out projects?
Frazier: I have seen a lot of desire to get to a more actively managed security system. A lot of these systems are at the 15- or 20-year mark, they have been passed on through many generations, they were never tied through active directory or auto services. They have an absolute mess of a system. So a huge trend is how do we actively manage it? We have to replace it. Looking at some cybersecurity, is the hardware going to be capable of being secured, or is it too old to handle some of the encryption that’s required? That’s driving system replacements. When you look at system replacements, you start talking about: How can we manage cards, visitors, user logins, access levels? How can we take that card and push it to other databases and non-security systems and get to that one-card solution?
|In other IT industries, there are maybe four, five or seven ways of identifying a person, none of them individually that secure, but the combination of all these elements will give you a very high security rate|
Radstaak: When you think about smart phones and iPads, we didn’t have these products nine or 10 years ago. So if we think through, our access control market is very heavily focused on card and reader and interface and software. If you talk with large corporates, they say: Explain to me how that infrastructure built up, because I am used to different network equipment, etc. They expect us to be more seamlessly integrated into their IT.
From a security perspective, what will the topology and the infrastructure look like five to seven years out. I think it’s fair to say for all of us, we don’t know yet. Will there still be a lot of what we know today because we as an industry are not fast to adopt new technology? It’s fair to say that’s true. But if we were to sit down today and specify what an access control system would look like, I think we would come up with a different structure than we face today. Then there is the element of the cloud, which is going to increase as we have said. Also, most of our biometrics solutions are currently based on fingerprint or facial recognition. I think the evolution of camera technology will have an impact on security, and biometrics will have a different definition. In other IT industries, there are maybe four, five or seven ways of identifying a person, none of them individually that secure, but the combination of all these elements will give you a very high security rate, and also seamless and fast.
"I think the evolution of camera
Harless: My struggle is getting a lot of our current clients updated to more secure readers. We have tons of them still on prox cards and prox readers. When we’re upgrading facilities, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to use multiCLASS readers just to try to step them up to at least get them to a more secure platform in the near future. Another thing the industry is going towards is integrating all these systems together in some sort of GUI or interface, including access control, video surveillance, intrusion and then also maybe rolling in some building management systems, all of that, and what platform will you use to bring all that together? Some access control systems have that ability.
Grniet: The primary factors of selection for clients are availability and support. There’s a lot of cross functionality out there, but I need local support. I need to make sure it will work for them, and continue to work for them with the support they need. The other factors, after I have narrowed the field, I look for systems that will give us the full interoperability, full unification, and seamless integration across multiple platforms of their environment. Whether it’s active directory management, identity management or human capital management, how do I do more with less because security is getting squeezed every day?
In certain industries, there are still these kingdoms or fiefdoms of security organisations. And there may have to be from a safety or protection standpoint, but in most commercial applications in big cities, whether it’s a multi-tenant building or a financial organisation, whatever it happens to be, they are looking to do more with less. Bringing in those other support organisations – HR and IT – lets us use the assets they already have and bring all of that to bear as a single process so I don’t have to hire another head to do system administration. That’s what’s important to these clients: How much can I save them on the opex (operating expense)? And they’re certainly concerned about the capex (capital expense).
If I can integrate with other systems, I can also find ways to push costs out to other departments, like IT. “Yes, I need switches,” and then I just have to pay for cameras. “Yes, go run the Cat-5 cable.” My readers are going to do more for you, my mobile readers are going to do more for you than provide access to the door. We’re going to do multi-factor authentication to applications on your network. It’s a critical component of it. Once we can prove it to them, the integration goes much more smoothly.