Q & A: Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor

Voice of Security recently caught up with Bill Taylor for a Q & A session hitting on a number of security industry topics.  Bill has a long history in the industry and is the current Vice Chairmen of the SIA (Security Industry Association)  Board of Directors.  Additionally, Bill served as President of Panasonic Systems Networks before leaving them at the end of 2011.  In this Q & A, Bill responds to issues in the security manufacturing space as well as offering insights speaking to larger segments of the security industry.

Voice of Security:  Bill, with your manufacturing background in video surveillance hardware and software what technology advancements have had the greatest impact on the video surveillance segment of the security industry?

Bill Taylor:  I believe the most significant technology advancements that have been made in the video surveillance business are related to the rapid growth and deployment of IP video.

Another way to characterize this is that video data is now captured, distributed, analyzed, and stored in digital form.  Combining digital video with the almost ubiquitous availability of high speed networks, and the ability to collect, process, and analyze digital video – will allow us to look at the data in ways we have never been able to do before, or even thought possible.

Imagine being notified of a threat potential even when no one is watching the video monitors.  Add to this better resolution, faster compression, and the ability for the end-point devices (cameras, access control, and various other sensors) to store and process more of the collected data locally, and that world of billions of smart connected devices doesn’t look so far away anymore.

Voice of Security:  You’ve held a number of positions in Executive Leadership.  We all know it takes many professional and talented staff members to make any Security Manufacturer a success.  But how does a leader go about getting that staff to actually work together to achieve success?

Bill Taylor:  More and more, the old notion of a hierarchical management structure is disappearing in favor of a fully empowered enthusiastic workforce.  I think it takes a strong sense of belonging to a team that believes they can make a difference every day in order to harness the power of a highly diverse workforce comprised of engineers, product managers, marketers, and sales folks.

This is the result of having a shared vision and knowing what one’s role is in an organization (small or large).  It then becomes the executive leadership’s primary responsibility to ensure that everyone on the team shares that vision, and understands his or her role in making the vision real.

Once the vision and mission are clear, it becomes easier for everyone to deliver on their commitments – Staff realize they don’t have to check with “the boss” every time a decision has to be made.  If the goal is clear, and everyone knows what’s expected, I think we can trust a capable workforce to accomplish its mission.

Voice of Security:  How do most security manufacturers learn what their end-user customer base (Security Directors, Investigators, Guards, and other Security Pros) want in a surveillance camera, DVR, or VMS system?  Does that process need to change, and if so, in what ways?

Bill Taylor:   The usual methods for collecting customer insights include focus groups, market surveys, and sales/marketing staff feedback.

In large end-user enterprises there are often security departments with certified security professionals who can be a valuable source of information for the manufacturer developing the “next new thing”.    However, in some cases, the end-user doesn’t really know what they need, especially if the technology that solves the customer’s problem is highly complex.  It is incumbent upon industry leaders to shine light on the technologies and services that will solve those problems and not wait for the end-user to tell them what they want.

This becomes more apparent with small and very small end-users (the branch office, a local convenience store, or even a small school district) who will not have the luxury of staffing a large security department, they may not have in-house expertise, and they may even rely on their friend and family networks to try and figure out their problems.

It’s understandable that the small business owner/operator doesn’t want to be a systems administrator or the security department – they want to focus on running their business, but with peace of mind that their facility, staff, and physical assets are protected.

Here’s where security manufactures, integrators, and service providers can provide significant guidance to these end-customers (this becomes challenging if the manufacturer goes through an indirect channel of distribution to educate the end-user, but more on this in a moment).  The industry has a responsibility to these end-customers to make this complex technology easier to interact with, derive benefit from, and scale, as their little business gets bigger.

Voice of Security:  Bill, we mentioned earlier your role as Vice Chairman of the Security Industry Association (SIA) Board of Directors.  As an industry leader what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the Security Industry today?

Bill Taylor:  Following the 9/11 tragedies, our industry got woken up, came together, and innovated new technologies and systems to help prevent it from ever happening again.

We can certainly debate the efficacy of many of these remedies, but more importantly, it feels like the “sense of urgency” we all had with respect to national security has been overshadowed by the significant economic downturns in our economy since 2008.

The focus is now on getting the sluggish US economy back on its feet, and has become paramount to other priorities.  Our industry’s challenge is to remain relevant in the midst of this turmoil – to provide significant value, even when our end-customers’ sense of “feeling threatened” is not as strong.

However, a subtler but equally devastating challenge has the potential to render our industry incompetent if not dealt with immediately.

Networking/communications/networking technology is getting much more sophisticated.  Attracting and retaining a smart and highly motivated workforce that can develop and work with that complex technology becomes the most important issue we need to solve.

Without a compelling/competitive industry story to tell students entering universities and colleges, the security industry will surely lose this potential talent base to other “glam-tech” industries, the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

I believe it is incumbent on the Security Industry Association and its members to help articulate and make exciting the value our industry brings to a technology career centered in security.

Our industry members may even need to guide the development of curriculum, and entice students to work in the industry by providing meaningful work-study cooperatives and internships early in their college experience.

Voice of Security:  What is your assessment of Industry Associations?  Do you feel they are being reactionary or proactive to events impacting the future of the Security Industry?

Bill Taylor:  An industry association ultimately needs to serve the needs of its often very diverse membership.

This process is inherently slow – involving collaboration and consensus building and sometimes requires agreeing to middle-of-the-road solutions that everyone is willing to accept –  the association needs to strike a balance between being reactive to issues that are potentially impactful to its members, and supporting their member’s interests proactively.

Too proactive and an association can appear aggressive, putting forward self-serving agendas.  Too reactive might mean missing out on important issues that move very quickly in the digital/social/mobile age.

The Security Industry Association membership is very willing to collaborate on issues – our members share the common goal of ensuring a safe and secure world.

With a strong industry association, and a shared common goal among our membership – we can become more proactive in helping guide government regulation setting, or in educating our members to be superior at their craft, or to educate the general public about the significant value our industry members bring to the table.

Voice of Security: Over the years you have had an opportunity to develop/maintain some key Integrator relationships.  From a Security Manufacturer perspective, what qualities make a Security Integrator one who stands out from all the rest?

Bill Taylor:   The foundation of a great integrator/manufacturer relationship begins with a clear understanding of the role and responsibility of each partner, and an honest representation of what each want from the partnership.  They each bring different things to the end-user party and are synergistic only when the strengths of both are combined.

I like to typecast these relationships into one of three development stages.

  • In the first stage – a “sell-to” relationship – manufacturers sell what they have to the integrators who, in turn, sell it to the end-user.  This works well if the problems and solutions are simple, and relatively easy to solve with existing technology and services.
  • The second stage – a “sell-with” relationship – is when the integrator and the manufacturer collaborate together to win the sale.  They can combine resources to devise a better solution, or provide better service coverage and financing options for the end-user.
  • The third stage – the “develop-with” relationship – is a partnership model designed around creating unique or customized solutions specifically with the end-user’s needs in mind.  This not only strengthens the relationship between the partners, but also brings the best solution to the end-user.  These types of partnerships are rare, and are the most difficult and time-consuming relationships to develop.

Voice of Security: Following up to that last question, Integrator Training is a hot topic these days—what with IP video and every Manufacturer seeming to offer their own version of “certification.”  Is there a better way forward when it comes to training?

Bill Taylor:   True strategic relationships require a mutual investment of time and money by both partners.  Working together also requires an investment by both parties in the continuing education and training of their respective staff members.

Of course, online tools can help deliver knowledge from the manufacturer to the integrator.  However, without a strategic relationship the integrator will have to choose which manufacturer it is going to invest it’s time on since it would be impractical for an integrator to learn everything from every manufacturer.  This works well if you’re the manufacturer of choice since it will ensure a measure of loyalty from the integrators who invest in your training.

Standards-based certifications, and systems based on those standards allow integrators to focus more on technology and not be reliant on a single manufacturer.  It is also more cost effective as the integrator need only get the training elements required to be considered certified.  The dilemma with this approach is that an Open-Source integrator needs to create additional value to differentiate themselves against their peers in the market.

In the “Develop-With” model the manufacturer can learn equally from the integrator as the integrator can about a specific manufacturer’s technology, and the relationship turns from being adversarial towards collaboration and mutual success.

Voice of Security: The arrangements Manufacturers set up to work with Integrators can be quite varied.  Some have their own sales staff.  Others rely heavily on Manufacturer Rep. Firms.  All seem to also be unique in their approach to end-users.  Is there a “best” approach?

Bill Taylor:     Channel models can be complicated – some companies work with integrators and end-users directly, and others use two-step distribution models, and both of these groups can also use manufacturer’s representatives to promote their products to end-users.

All of these models are valid – there is not a “one-size fit’s all” approach that will satisfy all market opportunities.

The Direct approach works well when the end-customers are large and geographically dispersed, or require highly customized solutions.

The Indirect model works best when the business model to sell direct to the end-user involves vast territory coverage to support it (i.e. the 4.5 million small and very small businesses scattered across the 9.2 million square miles of the continental United States).

Making either model work requires you to know where and how your products are used, and to have competent/quality focused partners.

If the manufacturer chooses to use independent parties to represent it, ultimately it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that the integrator/reseller/installer/rep is qualified and competent to represent them – and can deliver to the standards the end-users expect.

In either model it is important to separate fulfillment (how a solution is delivered to and end-user) from representation – it is critical that the manufacturer have as close a relationship to the end-customer as possible in order to design and development products and services that best meet the end-user’s needs.

Voice of Security: At an ASIS 2011 event you were on a panel with five other surveillance industry leaders speaking about the state of the surveillance industry and its future.

I was struck by the fact that you were the only leader on that panel to tie your work within the industry to actually keeping people safe and secure.

How much of that was Panasonic driven vs. Bill Taylor driven?

Bill Taylor:   I no longer work for Panasonic, but I would like to think that Panasonic is inherently concerned about delivering solutions to keep people and their assets safe and secure – they are most certainly focused on delivering quality products end-users have come to expect from Panasonic.

However, I think most manufacturers, including Panasonic, are primarily focused on the technologies they sell – and secondarily on delivering a proper customer experience (if at all).

This is puzzling to me since one only need look at design-for-experience focused companies such as Apple, Dyson, Herman Miller, and others to see the dramatic shift in market presence, price positions, brand strength, and share-holder value that is created when end-user experiences guide a company’s development effort.

Voice of Security:   When you take a look into the Bill Taylor “crystal ball” what may be the “next big thing” for technology in the Security Industry?

Bill Taylor:  I mentioned earlier about the continuing penetration and almost geometric growth of IP based video surveillance technology, but that the volume of data produced by all these cameras would be difficult to manage unless it can be filtered, analyzed, and delivered in a meaningful way to the people who need it – and in time to do something about what the data is indicating as well.

I believe that the next big thing for the Security Industry will be the practical application of Big Data analytics.  Big Data tools already deployed in large-scale healthcare, banking, and retail applications today, are helping create new relationships between seemingly unrelated data streams, and to tame the vast amount of data produced by these systems.

Of course the resources required to perform the processing, storage, and networking power to support a vast array of video surveillance technology are expensive and complicated but represent both a challenge and an opportunity for all of us in the industry.  This technology promises to deliver a fabulous return both to those who can deliver it affordably and reliably, and those who take advantage of it early…

Voice of Security offers our thanks to Bill Taylor for his willingness to take time from his busy schedule and offer some great insights to other security professionals.   In a day when many industry executives go about their daily work with a singular (some might say selfish) focus on purely their own needs and goals, it is refreshing to see an executive who will set aside time and effort to share their experience and insights with colleagues in the industry.  Thank you, Bill.