A Story About the Trojan Horse in the Lobby

April 7, 2020
Inside Visitor Management

There are a group of new companies from outside the physical access control industry starting to redefine what we know as visitor management.

When you dig into what makes them different than what has been done for the past 25 years, you start to find out that what they are doing is much more than just managing visitors.

The difference primarily comes down to the companies having larger visions on how either work gets done or the relationship companies have with people and their buildings.

In my opinion, what they are all becoming is an example of what physical access control companies will look like in the near future.

Over the past two weeks I had the opportunity to catch up with an handful of new companies tackling visitor management, such as Envoy, Traction Guest, and Proxyclick. If you are not familiar with these, I highly recommend you taking some time to get to know them. I have found each company to be very open to discussions, so if you need an introduction, just let me know.

They all vary a bit on what part of the market they are looking to disrupt and what their value proposition is, but what ties them all together is the redefinition of visitor management. Specifically:

  • Identity Management
  • User experience for all stakeholders
  • How software is developed

Now you might say “yeah, so have the legacy systems like LobbyWorks or EasyLobby.” And I would respectfully disagree.

Historically incumbent systems like these have, in my opinion, work on a specific part of the market (high security applications) and either forced it down market for which it is not intended, lacked modern user interfaces, sacrificed convenience for security, and/or are limited in features because of their lack of flexibility.  

I will give credit where credit is due. In some of the large fully integrated “old steel” access control systems, it works as needed for the specific use case. It does for those instances, but for mainstream markets who have the desire for today and tomorrow technology vs old technology, the incumbent system just do not deliver. Not even close compared to what I have seen over the past two weeks.  

The other option for customers are to home-brew a system using Smartsheet and Zapier or to use a bolt-on visitor management system that comes for free with their access control system. Sure it is an option, but that feels more like an “add-on” vs a true feature rich solution purposely built and supported to be a robust identity and fully featured user experience.

I do believe there is a need for a light weight digital clipboard system but after spending some time looking into the purpose built systems on the market, there really is no reason to shy away from incorporating one of the stand alone systems offered by these new entrants.

I will even take it a step further. I believe we will start to see more end users and customers making stand alone access control system selections based on the visitor management system the choose vs selecting a visitor management system because of the stand alone access control systems.

The new era visitor management software companies are starting to trojan horse their way into the traditional physical access control industry.

They are exactly a phase change example we have been discussing for weeks. Here are three ways how:

1. Modern, vertically specific and feature rich user experiences will start to drive the selection and specifications of physical access control systems. In new installation opportunities, if you are not integrated with them, you will not be considered. It is no longer just about how you manage access control and security. More and more enterprise companies are looking for modern and effective software platforms. The additional value, insights, and functionality these platforms deliver, including the basic functions of access control, are becoming all part of how and what gets selected by end users. In the cases where a physical access control system is already installed, they will lay their platform and interfaces on top and those access control system will be reduced to just the utility they serve. There will be an arbitrage of value and physical access control becomes commoditized (eg. credentials will have no value in the new world, etc). When the customer and their guests interact with the visitor management system, the thing on the edge is no longer yours and in return, neither is the relationship and branding opportunity with the end users (and in some cases, this might not matter anyway as you already gave that up years ago by allowing HID readers and HID cards be brand awareness). Over the long run, the user experience the visitor management companies deliver is seen as the platform of choice as it not only manages visitors but it also starts to blur the differences between all the sub systems connected to it.

2. I’ll keep this one short as its pretty straight forward - The companies that deliver both convienence and security will win in the long run. Historically our industry has made inconvience the method to delivering safety. It has also been slow to adopt new technolgy and methods.  The companies that do embrace the balance of convienence and security, as well, adopt new technologies, not just for technology sake but for real delivery of customer value, will win.  Its a culling of the herd. What side are you on? These systems are on the right side.

3. And lastly, identity is the new oil (as an example of value in data). And this includes both physical and logical identity. The credential business as we know it is dead. The race now is to focus on the importance of identity. Keep in mind, though, not just any type of identity. What will matter is (1) the ability and level of assurance and (2) what you do with that identity.  Visitor Management Systems like these are physical manifestations of identity management systems. They are the single sign on to the physical world. Soon users will either present their own identity to building systems actively or they will do it passively. Based on the assurance levels and policy of the door, the system will respond accordingly.  Just like we do with card readers but these interfaces will deliver more interaction, workflows, data, and value. Hence the arbitrage.

If I were a company that provides a physical access control system, I would take a hard look at how these companies are approaching the market and either partner deep or if in the position to acquire, I would.


Three for 2020/2021, in no particular order, on this topic:

  1. Visitor Management Systems will be renamed as it includes far more than just managing visitors. It needs a new name.
  2. There will be a flurry of start up visitor management systems brought to market.
  3. An incumbent access control manufactuerer will make an acquisition of one of the start up visitor management systems vs building it themselves. The rest will try and build it themselves but see limited success as they will not invest enough into the development.


Lee Odess

I've worked as an Entrepreneur and an Integrator (founded E+L+C), for a multinational billion dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry (Allegion), as an Executive of a start-up who pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry (UniKey), and as an Executive with the first cloud based physical access control manufacturer (Brivo). I put all those years together to form a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the CRETech, proptech and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control and IoT industry.

Labeled as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.

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