There are many ships that are much better than having specmanship. For instance, there is seamanship which applies the skills and abilities to sail or navigate a ship. There is internship where a mentor teaches you the skills you need for a particular trade or business. There is ownership where you have the right to take possession of property under your name. In comparison, specmanship is a much worse more useless term.
According to Wikipedia, “Specsmanship is the often inappropriate use of specifications or measurement results to establish putative superiority of one entity over another, generally when no such superiority exists. It is commonly found in high fidelity audio equipment, automobiles and other apparatus where uneducated users[who?] identify some numerical value upon which to base their pride or derision, whether or not it is relevant to the actual use of the device. Specmanship has recently been quite active in the field of digital cameras and electronic display devices.”
In the world of security device manufacturers, IoT has become a prevalent term of use within these devices and the electronic security industry as a whole. However, one thing seems to remain the same over the course of its history, specmanship! Not only is it a distasteful word but it is useless as a whole to end users who fall prey to it and its masters. Engineers, consultants and many end users all use specmanship as a way of not calling out a specific brand. Moreover, they use it to get the solution they desire using this indirect method. Specmanship has crippled our industry for at least three decades by calling out for features that some devices say they have yet are difficult if not impossible to apply to the real problem. In reality, the problem hardly, if ever, exists!
For example, some camera manufacturers say that their camera can reproduce an image at .005 LUX while others brag that their camera can illuminate an image at 100 feet with built-in IR illumination. If there were to be a test what would most likely happen is that you’d find the processor in the camera can’t respond to real-world problems at night. Products like burglary intrusion, access control, surveillance, intercom, power supply product, and media conversion all use this technique. The fire alarm life safety products may be the only exception to specmanship today. Ultimately specmanship causes the security industry to fail to provide the proper level of education to the general public.
In summary, buyer beware! Until there are standards groups that can measure the necessary issues that cause electronics not to function properly, specmanship will always play a part in successfully undermining the requirements and goals of security initiatives.
How much value is there in any particular surveillance or security product you sell or install today? The start of the new year deserves reviewing the question. The following offers to refine and categorize the value of a manufacturer and the products or systems they offer:
- Barrier to Entry
- Market or territory exclusiveness
- Training requirement
- Professional “Business to Business” program
- No threat of internet reselling
- Price protection for project specific needs
- Sales & marketing alliance
- Competitively optimized
- Product pricing & quality
- High tech design & aesthetics
- Customer Service & Support / Warranty
- Easy to sell
- Easy to install
- Easy to use
- Ease of Doing Business
- Responsiveness to business issues
- Inventory availability
- Commitment to success
- Integration capabilities
- Compliance to Regulatory Agencies
Considerations for these elements may help make a better product decision thereby reducing anxiety. Understanding how elements affect the company performance uncovers the subjective value. There is anxiety over products that are difficult to support either out of the box, or post installation. These product manufacturer issues affect your company’s profit, reputation, and support time for other important clients waiting for service.
Standardizing on a product that is guaranteed to work is the most value and it is the way to be more profitable longer. It is that simple.
I have interviewed companies who are actively using video surveillance for their security solution over the last 15 years. I use that timeline because the way video and computer-based technologies have evolved. In my experience, about 90% of companies do not watch their system live or have a person dedicated to managing the system. Most of the system interaction is post-mortem e.g. event & playback review and archive exporting. The other 10% or so of companies supporting an operations environment for live video surveillance are very actively managing their system. In my opinion, these are the primary two classes of users who own security systems. As a result, I classify most security systems including video and access control into managed and or unmanaged.
The process of deciding which system solution to buy is accomplished through the age-old process of education by asking questions to help find the most important answers. Transferring knowledge is the way of helping people make decisions for which system type to purchase, whether they buy my product offering or not, there are some systems that may have an unusual feature that helps that business more than another. For example, cash register interface, or access control integration. I approach the discussion for a system classification first by asking questions of users to whether they fit into one of the two categories. The conversation usually turns quickly to about why a managed or unmanaged system is best for their business.
Is it more difficult to work with a Windows-based system if you are the type of user that only uses the system post event? Probably, at least that is my experience. Is it easier to use embedded based solutions with LINUX OS? In my experience, yes. What are the other pros and cons? Too many to cover in this post, but the short answer typically is found by a needs list to integrate with other primary systems and subsystems. Many times a Windows OS based is comparatively more expensive. Most of the time the MS Windows-based solution has a better integration opportunity or it is already written to a particular subsystem and works out of the box.
In summary, when you don’t want to manage or touch your security systems every day or week because security isn’t your primary business, then an embedded solution may work to your advantage, both from a time and cost basis. When you want the ultimate in integration, system features and much more then go for that Windows environment.
Every day I work I find companies, whether end users or resellers, who could utilize their time and money much more effectively and efficiently if they would only collaborate with others outside their own environment. Many are so trapped in their own environment that they can’t see the trees in spite of the proverbial forest.
For every business created there is at least one hundred or one thousand more that operate in a similar or identical method. This could be education, healthcare, manufacturing, power generation, retail or any security contractor doing the work of burglary, access control or surveillance installation and service.
Are we asking the right questions to make a decision to purchase, use or lead with the right product, system or solution? As an example, the following questions are relevant to choose the right surveillance camera:
- What is the future of video surveillance and how do these features apply to my business?
- What technology and processing should be in the camera to make these feature work best?
- What manufacturers are developing technology like this and which ones are working openly with others to offer the best solution?
- What subsystems, systems, and other components work best with these type of cameras?
If you want, replace the video surveillance or camera with whatever the product is that you would want; i.e. access control, power supply, electronic locking device, card reader, building management system, PSIM, VMS, intrusion system, burglary sensor, etc.
Why risk your time and comfort zone to go and consort with others? Collaboration helps open minds for the discovery of new answers and new questions. Collaborating outside the known environment offers more risk mitigation for loss due to choosing the wrong product, system, solution and or provider. The questions might now look like the following:
- What video surveillance platform are you using and how does that better help your business future proof itself?
- What technology and features in a camera is your business using that has helped improve your business? What features are must haves?
- What other sub-systems, systems or other components have you found important to eliminating and deterring risk?
Collaboration offers the opportunity to compare notes and find new ways of accountability. Certainly reading and using industry resources will help you; however, having an expansive network of people and companies you can collaborate with is ultimately invaluable.
Joining into an industry association can more easily connect you with similar businesses. The value found by networking through professional trade associations while typical can be a good start. These relationships often become lifelong and the most important to help accomplish goals more easily. There are other ways to collaborate however the first step is committing to using this process before you set off to benefit from it.
Realizing we only know as much as we have been exposed to learning thus far is key to opening our minds to learn what we don’t know. According to several technology-centric journals, technology has outpaced the human ability to comprehend it futuristically by as much as 3 years. Electronic security continues to set a fast pace with the rest of the worlds technological advances in processing. Such change is the norm which requires continued education and collaboration to learn more now than ever.
It may be an odd question but one that is asked more often these days. This question is probably often asked because a manufacturer who has already had some experience with reps will attempt to align themselves with the right type of independent rep sales team that suits their go to market strategy. A large part of the security industry’s manufacturers contract with independent sales representatives to help accomplish the work of selling, marketing, product training and field support for pre- and post-installation issues. During the past 20 years, different types of rep firms have emerged to suit the needs of manufacturers who use different methods to bring their product to market. These methods may be best defined as dealer direct sales and distribution only sales and/or a mix of the two. Because of this there seem to be at least two different types of manufacturers representatives; 1) project-oriented rep firms that typically sell in a more dealer controlled and/or direct capacity, and 2) distribution oriented representatives who use a distributor to locate business and work indirectly to fulfill the product sale. As a manufacturer, understanding why these two types of firms exist and how they fit your product line is very important in choosing the right firm for your company to work with.
As a manufacturer you may consider answering the following questions as yes, to help pair you with a project-oriented sales team:
- Do you sell directly to the dealer or integrator providing accounting terms and warehouse logistics?
- Do you limit access to your product line be requiring contractors to be certified and trained prior to purchase?
- Do you limit access to your product line by market area or vertical niche?
- Do you allow distributors to resell your product to licensed and certified contractors or dealers?
- Is your product technical in nature requiring demonstration and help with the transfer of knowledge to dealers and integrators in order to make a sale?
- Should your product be made known to consultants and engineering firms to drive demand for solution architecture and specification in end-user opportunities?
The following questions, if answered yes, could qualify you to work best with a distribution oriented product sales team:
- Do you depend on distributors to stock and market your product in their catalog and with their sales team?
- Do you depend on distributors to get your product to market by reselling to their clients whether dealer, end user or other buyers?
- Do you compete in a commodity market where merchandising via a distributor’s shelf is the best way to get your product sold?
- Is your product available to any and all markets with no geographic consideration or pre-purchase requirement before it is sold?
- Is an online distributor presence preferred to sell your products?
Typically distributors have many competitive product brands to sell and distributors are not mutually exclusive to any product they resell. It is difficult for a distributor to be an expert on a product when they sell 10 competitive brands. It is for this reason that manufacturers have field sales teams beyond the distribution arrangement to create and drive demand for their brand and product. Manufacturers who allow their product to be sold without controls, certification requirements or biases for B2B relationships will be better suited for distributor oriented rep firms more than project-based rep firms who are mutually exclusive in the B2B relationship rather than those distribution oriented which are more lax and lenient.
Manufacturers with complex product offerings typically prefer more project based rep firms. Their clients are buying products based on specific criteria such as technology advancements, feature benefits, profitability, market protection, exclusiveness and important manufacturer product developments. In addition, the synergy provided by the other manufacturer products being sold by this type of rep firm can be helpful generating new opportunities when the products are properly aligned.
Our firm treats our security contractors with as much market protection and exclusivity as there needs to be to allow for differentiation. Many times these products have limited purchasing access through a distributor and/or the product is purchased directly from the manufacturer with no distributor in the middle. The right mix is achieved through thoughtful discussion and consideration for their business as well as accountability by both parties.
Once there is interest it is our intent to build a trusting relationship to lay the foundation for a long-term business. As a result, we work with our clients to help them build a profitable business around our product lines. It is our intent to regularly transfer knowledge to our clients in terms of how to use the product and systems we offer. We encourage a standard solution with best practices for their installation and service teams to build efficiencies. We maintain this business through ongoing sales support, post-sales field support, and marketing between the client and manufacturer.
Many of the project based representatives have manufacturers that conduct their business directly with the integrators and security contractors which bypass any need for a distributor in the buying and inventory process. However, there are other product lines that are sold partially and or completely through a distribution model. These products are usually commodity type products or are products made in a foreign country that cannot be easily delivered on time from that locale. Our firm works with both to help build a growth-oriented sustainable business through our relationships and efforts in the B2B model.