Why, exactly, would a video management software vendor like Milestone Systems need to address the Architecture & Engineering (A&E) community at all? The answer becomes clear, states Gavin Archery, when you look at the influence and value of this diverse group.
The term ‘A&E’ doesn’t really do justice to the audience which includes – but isn’t restricted to – IT consultants, network architects, IT engineers, independent security consultants, mechanical & electrical contractors and architects as well as main and sub-contractors for large-scale building projects.
They’re often collectively called the ‘consultancy community’ because what is common to all of them is that they’re paid for their expertise and the number of those expert hours they dedicate to a specific project.
As today’s projects are becoming larger and more complex in scope, it follows that the demand for consultants to manage those projects is most definitely increasing.
In the UK alone there are some very significant infrastructure projects underway right now – HS2, Crossrail, multiple upgrades of rail stations, airports and road networks spring to mind. In fact, more large building projects are underway in UK cities than we’ve seen in decades. Right now, the same is true in several other parts of the world. No surprise, then, that the ‘consultancy community’ has arguably never been busier.
It’s very important to point out that most of our partners cannot expect to simply pick up the phone and sell solutions into a lead contractor for any of these major building projects. It just doesn’t work like that. You are one piece of a very large and multi-layered pie so the approach certainly needs to be different.
Consultants value their independence
The first thing to recognise is that, above all else, consultants value their independence. They want to keep vendors like us at arm’s length. They also need to be instant experts in many technical areas including video surveillance.
We see it as our job to give information to the ‘consultancy community’ in such a way that its cohort can use it to build accurate specifications. We ensure that all solutions offerings have specifications attached that are ready to download or send when we receive the vital call or e-mail from a consultant.
More than that, perhaps, it’s our job to provide a dedicated team of in-house consultants of our own who understand the pressures that consultants are operating under and can provide the reassurance needed that we can support their team as systems are being specified, configured, installed and commissioned.
An Open Platform approach assists systems designers who are increasingly looking to bring centralised control and consolidation of diverse sub-systems together for operational efficiency and ease of management.
Our own video management systems are being integrated with SCADA/HMI systems in manufacturing, ERP and CRM systems in retail and with Building Management Systems (BMS) in the construction world.
Access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance
In the physical security space, access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance systems are being brought together to provide holistic security solutions for end customers.
Now, we are often configured as the principal user interface, helping organisations react quickly and efficiently to alerts from door readers, access barriers, CCTV cameras, smoke alarms, fire suppression systems, environmental control solutions, lighting and other sub-systems.
For the specification of new buildings, having product information and specification tools ready to feed into BIM (Building Information Modelling) systems also makes good sense.
Another area to consider in terms of our outreach to A&E is an education program, recognising again that consultants are constantly looking to deepen their knowledge in new areas and accumulate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points into the bargain. In the future, CIBSE-approved courses providing impartial insights into integration areas like ‘access control and video management’ or sector-focused tracks such as ‘intelligent building solutions’ could be rolled out.
Finally, wherever possible it’s important to move away from purely technical language and focus on detailing the benefits of key functionality and configuration options. Ideally, discussion around benefits needs to include Case Study examples from other customers who have delivered business benefits from configuring their solutions in specific ways.
Complex and diverse IT and security systems
Although you’ll have gathered that there’s a great deal of work to be done in order to serve the A&E community well, we believe it’s worth the effort now that we have the capability to ‘video-enable’ the largest, most complex and diverse of IT and security systems.
Really, it’s about building a combination of tools which help consultants to help themselves while at the same time recognising that dedicated support needs to be available at the commencement of the design phase with further support during the tender process in the form of pre-qualified, certified system integrators and post-bid professional services designed to assist with project realisation.
All of that work is essential to ensure this key stakeholder group is properly supported as specifications are drawn up for video-enabling IT systems or creating more holistic security Command and Control and BMS.
Gavin Archery is A&E Program Manager at Milestone Systems