It doesn’t take a crystal ball to recognize that the integration industry will change significantly in the next five years.
The writing on the wall is clear, describing significant obstacles for integration firms to position themselves to overcome.
However, those same obstacles create powerful opportunities for firms with the wherewithal to adjust. I’m confident in these predictions and in the industry’s ability to adapt:
1. The hand-to-mouth contracting element of our businesses will remain important, but only to create the installed base required to secure a long-term managed services agreement.
Putting in the hardware and systems will become a necessary activity that leads to an opportunity for “real money” to be made through client relationships and RMR packages.
2. We will still have many successful small companies.
To survive, these companies will need to be great at one or two things (and stay focused on them). With the ability to assemble teams of experts focused on each technology sector and loyal clients that value single-point-of-contact relationships, large integrators will excel on many levels.
In both cases, however, dedicated clients that value service over price will be an absolute requirement. Being great rather than good is essential.
3. Staying in front of clients and presenting solutions that will make their businesses better will be necessary.
Being there with the best solutions — and before other integrators and product manufacturers — will be necessary. Relationships will drive projects more than products will.
4. Creating more jobs within integration firms will be account management teams and strategic account plans.
We will see fewer estimators, bid-market salespeople, etc. The shift to services will also shift the organizational structures and types of employees required for success.
5. In terms of technology, the future will be complicated and require deep pockets as we transform from project-based to services-based revenue.
The real money will be made by companies that can successfully overcome the challenges with network integration at the enterprise level. Companies without a cybersecurity emphasis will be relegated to the kids’ table: small, standalone systems using dedicated wiring schemes.
6. Enterprise solutions will be limited to those who have technology plans and clients.
Enterprise solutions will be limited to those who have technology plans and strategies for clients, and the financial wherewithal and high risk tolerance to take on hosted services, data breaches, hacking, and cybersecurity expertise. The margin for error will be zero; IT directors will put their jobs on the line for us to connect devices that could potentially create vulnerability.
The purpose of our technology has to outweigh the risk taken by enterprise clients to allow us to hang anything on even a single Wi-Fi node: IP cameras, sensors, codecs, networked audio, DSP devices, etc.
7. Innovation will become the norm, not the exception.
Successful integrators will succeed by developing relationships with a core group of very loyal clients. Clients will trust these companies and know that, if new technology were needed, their integrator partner would be there to explain why.
Innovative integrators will be able to anticipate problems and fix them prior to a crash; they will create rolling, three-year technology roadmaps for clients with end-point prices established well in advance of budgeting periods.
8. The most successful integrators won’t be asked about the capability levels needed on certain pieces of clients’ hardware.
They’ve already implemented solutions based on strategies that align with the business goals and technology offerings of the service agreements they create. The products blend in rather than drive this.
9. The integrators, consultants, and reps in our channel will remain strong.
As a result, manufacturers will continue to find the channel as their best pathway to get products to market. Integrators keep pace with technology and offer high value to clients and key vendor partners.
They will adapt to changing business models and continue to offer superior solutions — even during the shift from a project-based to a services-based world.
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