Any investment strategy that incorporates software integration has to be considered with a view that it will have a limited lifetime and this risk will need to be planned for, both operationally and commercially.
System manufacturers’ technologies are evolving faster than ever in order to stay ahead of the competition. This is shortening lifetime cycles and ‘operational lifetime of use’ of products.
Systems lifetime can be extended by manufacturer software and firmware upgrades to keep pace with new innovations before hardware eventually requires replacement.
While experience has shown that minor versions offer minimal risk (but they still present a risk), major version upgrades have the potential to severely impact on operation. And new SDKs can often mean a complete rewrite with third-party integration software solutions.
If you’re experienced within the building, safety and security industry you will probably have encountered comments from vendors like this: “The hardware you have installed is no longer supported or has been superseded by ‘system x’, which comes with a new SDK.” Was the ‘lifetime cost of ownership’ considered when the solution was purchased?
This is especially the case with CCTV manufacturers when they develop new features and benefits linked to video forensics, analytics, transmission and storage.
Recently we have witnessed customer expectations and awareness evolve as they prioritise value and a return on investment in integrated technology.
Choosing an integration partner
The choice of integration providers is expanding as manufacturers respond in turn to this demand. Procurement and integration decisions are daunting and need to be aligned to the strategic aims of the business.
Customers must define the following to achieve their goals from a systems integration:
- Operational requirements
- Risk criteria
- Risk mitigation
- How to qualify the true lifetime use of the system and cost of ownership
There are myriad criteria to consider when choosing the right integration technology partner and how the preferred solution will be supported.
BMS, video management and access control manufacturers are offering direct integration with other third party systems to enable promotion of their own hardware solutions.
This type of integrated solution can appear, on the face of it, to offer a commercial advantage by excluding the additional cost for an independent software management system. But there are a host of other factors to assess, including the level of integration and its integrity, availability and cyber resilience.
Measuring the effectiveness of the solution resilience, sustainability and support is an intangible that may only become visible with the test of time. These should be questioned and qualified at the outset because a wrong decision may later to penalise the decision-maker, operationally and commercially damaging the true lifetime cost of the investment.
The merits of independent advice
The final decision should be based on a full understanding of all criteria using a combination of trusted internal and external advisory specialists.
Wikipedia states that “an adviser or advisor is normally a person with more and deeper knowledge in a specific area and usually also includes persons with cross-functional and multidisciplinary expertise. An adviser’s role is that of a mentor or guide and differs categorically from that of a task-specific consultant.”
The trusted advisor should seek to understand the client’s pains, pinch points and objective goals while resisting the temptation to take a position too early. Engage with the client to explore each option in depth, make recommendations and provide the client with information to make an informed choice.
A manufacturer-agnostic software specialist provides freedom of choice for the integration of systems that meet with the clients’ commercial and functional requirements.
This objective differs categorically from that of a BMS, CCTV or access control manufacturer-based systems advisor.
Not selling system hardware themselves, an independent software specialist adviser can focus on the client’s operational experience and providing supporting services to maintain and sustain integration interoperability.
A software interface is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement; sustaining, enhancing and supporting that software over time is as challenging as it is vital. This is a reality check for many in the industry.