How We Make Sure We Lead the Trend Versus the Trend Leading Us
The focus of the unattended delivery and health use cases are interesting because it is an example of how trends can force an industry to change.
Unattended delivery received buzz in the consumer market but is now centered in the commercial vertical as some of the awkwardness of having a stranger enter your home, especially during and after a pandemic, does not exist for offices and other commercial enterprises.
The concept of “dark delivery” has been around for a while in restaurants and other service-oriented commercial businesses. That value proposition has existed, it will expand, and it is real. It was just a feature of the systems we built and sold but not seen as a revenue opportunity. It was a thing our systems just did...for free. Just like lockdown, logs, and the stuff our hardware made happen.
What changed? A lot, but let us summarize it as Amazon and the desire for convenience over security.
Health as a value proposition in access control is a trend that most (none?) of us saw coming outside of the physical “keep the bad person with a gun away” side of health safety. What we are talking about now is “touchless.” Not “seamless” or “frictionless” but “touchless.”
This one personally bugs me because, like a lot of us, I was right in the middle of this and did not see it. I was too focused on the cool factor and did not go deep enough to understand where the value was to the end-user.
After reflecting on how I missed the two trends above, here is what I think I need to do to make sure I get ahead of what is next.
Focusing on trends is important because as we go mainstream, become more influenced by consumerization, and become a feature of a much larger value proposition, the value creation outside of safety will start to drive selection, adoption, and ultimately whether or not you will be relevant long term. (proof)
Here is what I believe we should do:
- We need to go beyond the corner cases of high-security needs. That is where the value has been, and most of our systems are focused. There is a shift happening, and you are in a position to lead it. You just need some definite points of view and programs to extract the value.
- We focus too much on the color, finish, and safety benefits of our hardware (for example, locks) and not enough time on the new world value. Are color, finish, and safety benefits important? Yes, but when we were primarily a mechanical business. As the industry has shifted to smart (note: I didn’t say connected but smart) and going mainstream, the mechanical locks are merely a tool to support a software-centric experience. The color, finish, and safety benefits become secondary. Most of the focus groups that happen in our industry are classic “drinking your own bathwater” exercises where you get the wrong answers because you are asking the wrong questions.
- This leads me to, we need to start getting to know the end-users. Not the administrator, installer, property manager, but the actual person that has historically carried a card and use it to get into places. When it comes to the commercial business, we ignore that stakeholder. The outcome is an industry completely missing opportunities or coming up with solutions that make zero UX sense.
- This takes me back to, like the lock companies, the need to spend more time critically thinking about what value our access control systems create beyond the locking, unlocking, and credential management. The value recognition can be done by using sprints, bringing in outside points of view, empowering groups within your organization, and partnership collaborations. Especially now where all bets are off, and things are on their head. Times like this is when innovation happens. Time to get in the game. Challenge your old business models, conventional thinking, and explore. Take that circle of influence broader. For instance, think about unattended delivery. We were not looking at the costs incurred by the shippers having to do multiple deliveries to the same location. If we could have solved that for them, could you have charged for that access or service?
- We think it is a technical solution to a problem when sometimes it is a business solution. For instance, is there a leverage opportunity for accessing your existing install base? What would some of these new tech companies pay to convert your customer base to their service?
- Lastly, we need to prioritize the R&D to allow innovation to happen.
Here are three trends I believe we, as an industry, need to start critically thinking through before they happen to us.
- Data: What data is valuable to your end-users? Are you going to monetize it? How are you going to use it? How do you display it? It is not just about log files anymore. This is about rich data expressions, predictive functions, and real value. Locks, readers, and all our hardware are just nodes on a network. The data they produce is valuable. What are we as an industry going to do to lead this value creation? For instance, I applaud all of the companies showcasing the "getting back to work data" but why were we not talking about this pre-pandemic? Where are the other value stories data can bring that we are not telling?
- Operating systems: Are you going to be an operating system or are you going to participate in one? If you participate in one, are you doing it at no cost and just happy with the hardware sale? This is where all vertical markets are going. There is and will be software operating systems, like old school building management systems...just better... will you participate or lead? Where is the value creation and what is your point of view?
- Cost reduction: The overall costs associated with electrifying a door, controlling it, and installing it is high to anyone I talk to outside of the industry (and to a good number of people in the industry). The conversations tell me there is an opportunity there for someone. It is going to happen. Will you make it or have it done to you?
What other trends are out there that you are focusing on?