Rejoining the NSCA staff nearly 11 months ago (after a 10-year stint with AtlasIED) has given me a great opportunity to reconnect with systems integrators and other leaders on the key business issues facing our industry. (At AtlasIED, I was focused on export sales. International business is based on distributor relationships in certain regions or countries, making it easy for me to lose touch with the business issues and challenges of U.S. integration firms.)
As I talk to more and more members – either in person, on the phone, or via email – I hear similar worries about these business threats:
- The role of systems integrators in the future. What will happen as IT companies move into this space?
- Members say they need techs, PMs, and designers to meet project demand. If they can’t find these qualified employees, this creates a huge threat to company growth.
- Establishing as-a-service models for projects and margins, increasing the value of the company: How do we do this?
- Our customers are smarter than ever (which is something we’ll discuss even more at the 20th annual Business & Leadership Conference, Feb. 28-March 2, 2018, in Irving, TX, with keynote Jim Blasingame.) There are more options for them to consider when sourcing technology systems. How do we pivot to match what they need?
- How can we manage and protect our companies against liability when working on clients’ networks?
Our community of integrators needs to stay connected with industry leaders (including NSCA) to stay informed about these business issues and get ready to pivot to manage the change ahead.
In my role as director of business resources at NSCA, I work with integrators like you every day to find solutions to manage and eliminate their business challenges – and investigate and create resources to do this if we don’t already have what they need. Here are a few examples …
Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR)
When it comes to setting up your own managed services program, we’ve helped integrators do this from the ground up. (Read this story on ClearTech, for example, to learn how we helped the company successfully launch its managed services program two years ago.) Here’s how we can help you:
- The annual Pivot to Profit event – scheduled for Oct. 23-24, 2018, in Atlanta – was created to give integrators exactly what they told us they needed: step-by-step instructions and points to consider when establishing an RMR program. Attendees leave this event armed with the knowledge to roll out managed services.
- We offer data in our Sales Compensation White Paper on managing commission and pay structures for people who sell RMR.
- GreatAmerica, an NSCA Business Accelerator, helps integrators offer efficient customer financing to take RMR services to the next level – without financial risk and while positively transforming cash flow.
- CharTec, part of the NSCA Member Advisory Council, helps integrators discover the right way to sell RMR – from learning how to overcome hurdles to selling faster and presenting the right responses to client objections.
There are several resources available within our Business Accelerators program to help integrators manage and improve cybersecurity:
- OneBeacon cyber insurance, available through TrueNorth, is designed specifically to safeguard integrators against risks that threaten business as they access and work on client networks. It offers protection against loss due to breaches on customer networks, as well as your own in-house networks.
- Indarra creates tailored cybersecurity employee training programs. By performing detailed security awareness assessments, integrators can secure their workforces to protect against costly data breaches. Indarra can also conduct testing to see how susceptible employees are to opening unknown attachments or providing vulnerable data to attackers.
- Launch Security helps integrators test their technology and systems to determine potential vulnerabilities, and then implement affordable, layered, ongoing cybersecurity solutions that go beyond traditional antivirus and firewalls. Launch Security can also help integrators create and enforce company-wide cybersecurity guidelines and policies.
We also cover cybersecurity in our free monthly webinars (watch a recent one here, which discusses protecting your organization and clients from a data breach) and our weekly blogs (check out this recent piece on how to select a cyber insurance partner).
Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training are all top of mind for each integrator I talk to. Almost every firm has several open positions available right now. There are many resources we offer to help you through the steps in this process:
- Recruiting is made easier through the IGNITE Career Center (which houses the NSCA Job Board, where Platinum and Gold NSCA members can post unlimited numbers of jobs at no cost). IGNITE helps integrators spread the word about opportunities in our industry – specifically to high schoolers, college students, and young professionals. We’ve created marketing materials that can be used at job fairs and recruitment events, as well as a presentation you can use when you’re speaking to students about careers in our industry. (Check out this story about how one IGNITE Ambassador spoke to a classroom full of interested students who were eager to learn more about electronic systems technology.)
- Using our online Technical Assessment Tool can help you with the next step in the process: hiring. This tool can be administered to potential employees before you hire them, allowing you to gauge technical proficiency and industry knowledge. You select which test categories you want each candidate to complete – from AV to video technology, and many other subjects in between – and get the results immediately.
- The C-SIP program (certificate as a systems integration professional) helps you onboard your new employees without taking time away from existing staff members. Get new hires started on the right foot, with general industry and job-specific training in an online, at-your-own-pace environment. There are four tracks available: marketing, operations, sales, and project management.
- Insperity, an NSCA Business Accelerator, is also available to help integrators design employee onboarding programs, improve HR processes (such as performance reviews), and make better hiring decisions. (Read about the benefits that one integration firm received after working with Insperity to improve their HR and staff training programs.)
There are even more tools and resources I could talk about – but I’ll save those for another blog post. If you have questions about any of these topics, or want to learn more about any of these resources – whether you’re an NSCA member or not – feel free to connect with me. I look forward to hearing from you! –Mike Abernathy, NSCA Director of Business Development
Image by: Stuart Miles