"Are they building an access control system?"

August 20, 2020
Written Insights

It is a question I get often, and it is a press release we have started to see regularly—as an example, here.

The short answer is yes. Whoever "they" are (video company, visitor management system, tenant experience app, networking company) at a minimum, they are building a light version of an access control system.

Like "you," access control manufacturer, you will (should) be building a light version of a visitor management, people counter, wayfinding, and tenant experience application.

It is what is happening right in front of our eyes. The day of controlling the entire process, everything going through you, or no cross over is over. Your partner is your competitor, and that is ok. This model exists in other markets and has lived in ours for years.

Before we get into the product, let's answer why and what is going on?

The convergence and adoption of different technologies was well underway pre-COVID crisis but was either an integration, a nice to have, or was viewed as something that will happen in the future. For example, the different technology dances were happening with video + access control, everything mobile, biometric adoption, seamless or frictionless technologies, the integration of logical systems to physical systems, and so on. During and post-COVID crisis, end-users attention, development cycles of products from incumbent manufacturers, marketing and communication messages, investment, and openness to start-ups has accelerated an appetite at hyperspeed.

We are also seeing a focus and need for solutions on existing buildings versus new construction. New construction is still relevant, but the complexity of updating existing buildings is creating an enormous opportunity and a shift or squeeze moment for our industry. Most if not all of the existing buildings that need updating technology to meet the new use cases around opening safely have the following options:

  1. Stick with the existing solution and see what they have to update or upgrade. Some do, some will, and some will not have what is needed. If you do not start moving on these features, you will become irrelevant.
  2. Use the existing solution and introduce a new company to fill in the gaps in its technology. There is a need for integration to happen, as the two systems sit side by side. Some have the integrations done already, but most do not. The two systems' ability to work seamlessly is pretty tough, as most of the legacy systems are not built for integrations and a lot of the new entrants are making up the integrations as they go. Some say they do. They list the integrations on a website, but what I am talking about are unique and value-added user benefits created versus low-value file sharing, identity, and log file mapping. That type of purposeful embeddedness is different. If you do not prioritize the features that have sizzle, you will become irrelevant.
  3. Use the existing solution and add a new company on top of the old.Same as #2, but the new system becomes the front end and lead system. The legacy system becomes the back end and bent metal part. Frankly, lowering their value. There is a need for integration to happen here as well. Some have it already, and most do not. The same issues exist, as stated in #2. Only this time, the legacy system has less incentive to be cooperative. This seems to be happening a lot and you are making yourself irrelevant in the long run.
  4. Rip and replace and install a completely new system. Cost prohibitive most of the time but is happening more now due to health concerns being part of the value proposition. It comes down to risk at this point. Risk appetite has shown to be a great incentive for opening up the pocketbook.

The need to blend systems is putting stress on everyone's processes, roadmaps, methods, and conventional thinking. No one has unlimited resources, and no one wants to lose that customer opportunity. So here are your choices:

  1. You do your development, stay away from integrations, and sell the vision that your system alone is a better option than any integrated system. This works for some but you will need to be very sharp on marketing, sales, and storytelling. You will also need a good amount of cash to spend on the burn. Most of our industry is not in a position to do this.
  2. You do the integration work, stop development on your system outside of iteration and necessary maintenance. You position yourself as the best access control platform that is wide open. This is a scary road to go down as your platform will become outdated quickly if you stop developing on it.
  3. You do both. You figure out how to do it. You get real strategic with what you work on when you work on it, and with whom. You have a business model and criteria created on how you decide. You make integrations a part of your development process and stop treating it as this "outsider." You create value elsewhere and put programs together to realize it. You do it differently than how you do it now. This one. Do this one.

The truth is, many of you are trying to do all three (making it impossible to be good at any of them, may I add) and are doing it for several reasons.

  • Things are moving fast, and you are just doing your best to keep up.
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO).
  • Lack of a new "strategy," so you play whack-a-mole and stay away from saying no.
  • Lack of internal leadership and desire to tell your teammates no.

My suggestion is to make a decision and get to either #1 or #3 fast. If you chose #3 (what I recommend), you can not do both simultaneously in the same workstream. It would help if you created spaces for the proper work to be done correctly. Reminder - you do not have unlimited resources, so this will force you to make some hard decisions elsewhere—more on those in a future article.

Being able to do #1 or #3 comes down to having a clear point of view, a strategy, and strong leadership deep into the org (not just on top). It is hard to be a platform if you are not purposefully building a platform. You and your leadership did not establish this strategy (or adequately fund one) before COVID with the concepts and use cases being thrust upon us due to the crisis right now. If you did, please share your crystal ball with the rest of us. So, assuming you did not, and if we agree that these new models were going to be prevalent anyway, you have the world's most massive excuse to grab the company by its horns and lead it in the direction it needs to be going in anyway.  

How? First, look around the room and make sure you have the leadership team to move you forward (not the one that leads you through the past).

Second, look around and make sure you have the next level of leadership needed to bring new ideas, experiences, and motivation to the rest of the organization.

Third, get crisp on your go-to-market strategy for how you are going to attack.

And lastly, while you are at it, read my 6+1 criteria on what it is going to take to lead the industry as we go mainstream and implement the ones that make sense. 😊

The game has changed.

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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