Top 5 Higher Education Market Integrators

These innovative, market-leading firms share dos and don’ts when approaching this sophisticated vertical.

Jessica Kennedy

Think of the CI Industry Leaders as power rankings.

We recognize the top integration firms serving 12 vertical markets, not purely by revenue but by a variety of factors including reputation, innovation and market approach. Put another way, these are companies that are making waves and worth watching.

CI spoke to 5 higher education market integrators about what helped them succeed (or fail!) at every step along the way. Check out what they have to say and click here to download the complete report, Meet the 2014 CI Industry Leaders.

On Success:

“Offer consistent quality and consistent personnel in the field, leaving room in your schedule to handle all [customers’] business during the summer and winter breaks, and good account management readily available to resolve problems throughout the year. [Don’t] just be there when it is time to take orders.” —David Gormley, CEO, Adtech

“One of the things we’ve done is put together a dedicated team of sales people and designers who understand higher education. They also have a customer intimacy and understand challenges, such as with BYOD, [etc.]. The projects in higher education are much larger, multi-million dollar projects, and I think one of the key capabilities is project management and organization.” —Scott Birdsall, CEO, CompView

“We specialize in part of the market that is very focused on research universities. Our original focus is in 3-D engineering display for research purposes. Our success came from meeting specific needs that our customers had. This is exactly what good integrators do: find what customers are looking for and doing it very well.” —Mike Hancock, VP, Mechdyne

“You need to be forward-thinking. The higher ed market is always looking for what the greatest and the newest technologies are, and you need to be on the bleeding edge to be able to deliver that effectively to them … and I think that in order to earn [customers’] business, earn their trust, they have to see you as the leaders in that field. It’s paramount for everybody in our organization to stay on top of those technologies before we’re being told by the customer, more as we’re coaching them through that experience.” —Michael Shinn, Operations Manager, IMS Technologies

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On Failure:

“Don’t take on business at low margins that you don’t have the capacity or expertise to handle properly. We see this often — the new or small company that wants to get into education so they come in with the low price, but can’t do the job right because they don’t have the staff and they are never invited back.” —David Gormley, CEO, Adtech

“I think that past performance matters. A client needs to make sure they have references on an integrator, if they had any challenges and to be able to explain them. If [the integrator] failed, people are going to know. Think about their qualifications: do they have a capable staff, technicians to support the project timeline? A good, qualified contractor is in the same playing field.” —Scott Birdsall, CEO, CompView

“If an integrator is not willing to give a customer what they want, they are not successful. They might do business for a while, they might find new customers, but they would have a poor reputation. When someone doesn’t stand behind their work, it’s amazing how much we hear about it.” —Mike Hancock, VP, Mechdyne

“[You don’t appreciate that the point of contact] is different in higher education. Typically there [are] a couple of people that you need to really get into your corner. There’s of course the end- user manager of the technologies. There’s probably a network engineer that needs to have some sort of understanding of what you can bring to their table. But then the ultimate decision maker of course being the chief information officer [or chief technology officer]; they’re also looking in on it.

“So if you can get one or two, you can probably do some business there, you can get by, but if you can get all three of them together and work the angles with each one to be able to position your products, you’re going to have [success].” —Michael Shinn, Operations Manager, IMS Technologies

Click here to download the complete report, “Meet the 2014 CI Industry Leaders.”