Part Three on Power: The Structures Continued
In part one, we defined what power is and why it is essential to name it.
In part two, we identified some power structures that exist in our industry and need to stay, those that exist and need to go away, and the new ones emerging. They were:
- The old guard power structure
- The channel power structure
- The lock company power structure
- The incumbent access control software company power structure
- The high security and then everyone else power structure
- The Associations power structure
- The project-based business model power structure
- The Big Tech power structure
- The VC backed startup power structure
This week we continue to identify more. Again, some of these power structures exist and need to stay, some need to go away, and new ones are emerging.
- The End-User power structure. Probably the most important of any of the power structures. Our industry has historically not worried about the end-user. Our relationships were with our dealer partners and the administrators of the systems. Two things have caused the emergence of the end-user as a power structure. First is mobile as a form of credential forging an interaction unseen before. The second is around awareness. End users are more aware of their uses cases and the need for what our systems do (or need to do) as they go mainstream. The introduction of the end-user power structure does not mean that the dealer partners and administrator power structures are unnecessary. They are, but companies need to prioritize and engage with end-users as a critical stakeholder.
- The Product Marketing power structure. Marketing in our industry as a whole needs a facelift. Forever the only marketing we cared about was product marketing. Our love for product marketing can be measured in the number of cut sheets created, advertisements that showcase the latest hinged door panel, and press releases announcing late to market technology. Long and sort, we need to value content, social media, and storytelling more. Step 1: Hire people that get it. Step 2: Get out of their way.
- The Specifier power structure. Coming from our high-security roots, the specifier power structure is a sturdy and healthy one. I suspect this will stay in place for the high-security industry. I am curious about what the specification market starts to look like as automation happens, more information goes online, manufacturers offer these services "for free," and our industry begins to be a feature of a much larger value proposition. Especially as the industry goes beyond high-security and to mainstream markets.
- The Industry Media power structure: This power structure includes trade publications, tradeshows, websites that function as a blog, and online influencers using podcasts, social media, and video to create content. I can speak to this one intimately 😊. It is safe to say that our industry media properties have been slow to adapt and utilize more modern storytelling methods. I am not telling you anything new: traditional media platforms are dying. COVID accelerated the inevitable death as regular ad budgets went away, in-person events moved to 2021, and more people moved online to get their information. The bar to enter the media game and influence purchasing decisions, education, and to create a voice has been lowered. But what has not changed is creating useful content that makes an impact, adds value, and drives a movement. It is a tough business to make a good living on and even harder to create a company around, but the importance of good journalism has never been needed more. In a day and age, when someone with a blog and an attitude controls an industry's hearts and minds, it is never more apparent that we need the old guard media channels to allow the real journalist to run free. Free them from bureaucracy, old business models and methods, and the burden of not having the resources to write and tell stories. Then we should hold them accountable to deliver value. We should expect them to do more than just repurposed press releases written by manufacturers or stories grounded in yesterday topics like "what is cloud?" or "is mobile a thing?" It is time to grow up. It is not that hard. The models already exist that you can emulate. You need to show some leadership and do it. You have the one thing that everyone else does not have—credibility to do real journalism. Just get out of their way.
- The Hardware power structure. The hardware power structure has deep, deep roots. Some would say that hardware is the bedrock of the industry. Organizations, business models, mindsets, everything is built off of hardware. Over the years, other power structures such as RMR have been erected to overtake the hardware power structure but have seen their growth stunted due to the inability to break through the old school mentalities. But...but... we see change happening due to COVID, and I would suspect a more extensive power structure to form challenging the conventional wisdom and practices of hardware only approaches to the market. I believe this is when an older power structure (hardware) gets eaten by a new one (software). There are plenty of examples outside of our industry where this has happened, and we are susceptible to the same digital transformations.
- The "Open System" power structure. One of the more confusing power structures in our industry. Right now, "open" is defined by two things. Open either means "I built my software on the Mercury hardware platform so you, end-user, can hypothetically switch from one software provider to another and not change out your hardware." But there is a catch - it only works if you want to switch to other Mercury supported software providers. It also hardly happens. It is not only a power structure, but it is a boogeyman power structure. The only winner here is Mercury. The other definition of "open" we have in our industry is the "I built my software with APIs that can, if I give you permission, integrate my system with other 3rd party systems." This one is moderately true and more appropriately aligned with what open means in other industries. This is more about interoperable than truly being open. I, as well as others I have talked to about how we as an industry use the term "open," believe we are confusing "open systems" (standards-based) with "open source." Both of those are power structures coming to the industry and will redefine the way the industry looks and works.
- The Way Manufacturers Go to Market power structure. This power structure is starting to change and, rightfully so, a downmarket will be excuse used for the changes forthcoming. Historically this power structure was very fragmented and value was shared amongst everyone in the food chain. This power structure has followed a very hardware focused multi-stepped process but software and market pressures are redefining how product gets to market.
There you have it. My top 16 power structures that exist, that need to stay, go away, and or form. There are more, and I'd love to hear from you on the ones I missed.
Next week: "Ok, so now what?"