This is a dirty strategy that is also partly practised by other suppliers in the IT segment (Cisco gives the integrator an additional discount for a customer project who he brings first). Goal is to control the enduser. For the integrator, there is just one escape: changing supplier. This is a typical behavior of market dominators that want to control the whole value chain and do not care about ethical rights of the integrators without whom they would have never become a dominant player.
I would think having a thorough, detailed list of their known customer base would make them more attractive to a prospective buyer, especially if that buyer was someone like a Tyco/ADT. Not Tyco/ADT itself, who just bought Exacq, but maybe someone similar and has interest knowing who all the end users are.
Chesapeake & Midlantic
Makes sense. You can't truly protect the channel without ensuring that someone somewhere isn't sneaking extra cameras out the back door.
Can't the end user object to this? I mean it is THEIR information.
IPVMU Certified | 03/11/14 12:43am
How would this policy "increase the quality and timeliness of both our Warranty and Technical Support services"?
I am asking because I don't see this being mutually exclusive if they do NOT have end user details.
While the concept sounds sketchy and may be open to future abuse, looking at the form, it's nothing really top-secret they're asking for.
I've had situations with other manufacturers' systems where it's expedient for the end user to contact support directly (usually if we don't have a tech on-site at the time, or support personnel need remote access to systems), and it's usually a major production (read: drama) from the manufacturer's end - they call us, "are you sure you want us supporting your customer?", or they tell the customer HE has to have US call them, and then THEY'LL call the customer back... you know what I'm talking about.
We've looked into becoming an Avigilon partner, and in light of other recent experiences, their open policy about ACTUALLY ALLOWING end users to contact support themselves is pretty attractive for situations like this... and I can see where they would want to know who it is that's calling them for help.
The form includes blanks for the partner's name and PO number, which would also help support look up product info that the end user may not have access to - example, if generate PO#12345A for customer Bob's Car Wash, with an Avigilon server and certain cameras... then if Bob phones them up for help, they don't have to ask, "which cameras do you have, sir?", they can just look up Bob's Car Wash and the integrator now, correlate to the PO#, and KNOW what gear (at least what Avigilon gear) Bob has.
On the surface, it doesn't appear to be for anything more than prudent record-keeping. Is there a deeper hidden agenda? I'll leave that to the conspiracy theorists to work out. My only pause would be in agreement with Daniel's question: does the end user get a say in their info being shared? That said, looking at the info being requested, it's nothing that couldn't be gathered from a quick Google search if one simply knows the customer's name.
IPVMU Certified | 03/11/14 01:23pm
At my company, we dont 'require' the end user info in any way. When one of them DOES call for service, it is a simple matter of looking up a serial number to know what the system is and its history.
The 'required' part is way too much of a restriction, and is perceived as a negative in the relationship as seen in the poll results for this discussion.
I am not sure why this is surprising to people. My take on it is this:
- If you don't trust who you are in bed with...get another partner.
- I have been giving this information to my manufacturers for years, including Lenel, OnSSI and RS2. All require it to place an order. Obviously all of these are direct to dealer partners, I am not sure I would be sending my distributers a list of all of my Exacq clients...
- For most of my partners this information is used to provide myself with reports of who is near to expiring on their support or software upgrade agreements. I know Avigilon does not have any official software upgrade plans per say, but maybe they are heading that way.
- I just checked with my ISR and Avigilon has never required a form to be filled out to purchase product or licensing, so this is either new or not enforced.
"Keep your customers close and your customer's customers closer..."
From 'The Art of VAR' - Sun Tzu
I'm going to play good cop for Avigilon on this one since they are so pathetic :) Based on our past dealings with Avigilon, they were very disorganized top to bottom. The salesman was saying one thing and the credit department was telling you another. You couldn't use the same PO# twice no matter what even if it was a change order on the same project. When you did issue them a PO #, they kept changing their mind on how they wanted the PO# done. Since Avigilon is obsessed with the mega projects like every other manufacturer out there, they are figuring a national integrator like Stanley will do the initial install, screw it up like they normally do and then the end user has to bring it a new company to fix the mess. This will help their service team down the road for the mega projects for their records for what's in warranty and what is not in warranty, firmware etc. I don't have a problem when a regional sales manager brings the deal in for the integrator and Avigilon requires the end user information.
However, for the smaller deals when the integrator brings in Avigilon on their own accord, the integrator shouldn't be required to disclose the end user information. (Though some integrators post every install they do with Avigilon on Twitter so what’s the point? :) ) Avigilon may not like it when the integrator used their VMS with a couple of Hikvision mini dome cameras instead of their own micro domes to win the deal.
If there is a problem with their system, the end user calls us, not the manufacturer. That’s why the end user is paying us so we can help them with their problem. And what's to prevent the integrator making up imaginary customers or existing clients that do not have an Avigilon system? We've done that before with other companies. Is Avigilon going to waste time going through every single purchase order for every end user? My past experience with them tells me no, they will not do that. Most end users do not care if they are using Aviglion, Bosch, Axis or whomever. They just want their system to work, plain and simple. The manufacturers forget sometimes they just sell equipment.
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 01:24am
At face value i am not a fan of this idea... I am not comfortable with giving that customer information out nor should one disclose it without permission. I have a customer who just sold their business and system to another company, would we have to fill out that document with the new company as the end user?
Any competitive business has critical confidential information, and there is very little information more critical to an independent integrator than their customer lists.
During competition and selection phases, but also during the course of the work, disclosure of this sort of information can cause serious damage to a vendor.
In most industries, a confidentiality agreement is critical. Prior to even entering discussions, businesses establish non-disclosure agreement to protect the business interests of both parties. At the exploratory phase, some of these agreements preclude even acknowledging the identity of the other party.
Under several of our agreements with customers and vendors, we would simply be unable to utilize Avigilon as a supplier under the stated terms.
Does Avigilon even sign an NDA which legally binds them to protect integrator confidential information?
more often than not, the relationship, longstanding or not belongs to the integrator. By disclosing it to anyone outside the organization we run some measure of risk of that relationship be compromised. It is not that we don't trust Avigilon; we, by nature don't trust our competition. Why should our firm hand over sensitive information to a vendor when the vendor does not do the same?
Looking at the form, Avigilon seems to be requesting this information at the PO stage. This assumes the end-user has already agreed to the work being done and materials are being ordered to fulfill the job.
How much risk is there that a competitor would waltz in and jeopardize the relationship with the end-user at that point? It seems to me the likelihood of something like that happening is very small to non-existant. Why would the end-user jeopardize the relationship at that point and risk legal action that could potentially double their project cost, or worse?
Maybe I'm just naive, but I don't see much downside for the integrator here.
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 02:50pm
What is required for purchases that are done for stock items? Such as cameras that are put on the shelf for replacements or for additions to systems? Does the installer fill out their own company information then? If that is the case you can use your company information for all orders and then just receive it as inventory.
John - Are there any other details in the communication about their rationale for implementing this or is it limited to that statement?
I had an Avigilon user contact us about trying to help them find someone to service their Avigilon equipment that was not functioning or needed servicing. They wanted to switch integrators because of response times or prices. Maybe this is a way of protecting the Avigilon dealer of these types of clients.
Poll result breakdown:
- Integrators overwhelmingly oppose this: 70% to 15%
- Manufacturers are split down the middle - about 1/3rd think it's good, 1/3rd bad, 1/3rd not sure
It aligns with each party's interest. Integrators get little benefit while assuming future risk. Manufacturers potentially get significant benefits, both short and long term.
IPVMU Certified | 03/13/14 01:03pm
It's just one step closer to requiring an annual software maintenance fee. Once registered, the end user/installer cannot call in for support unless the software maintenance has been paid. This has happened in alot of the access control manufacturer's and some of the VMS companies.
Its the mandatory nature of the policy that I see as a problem. The integrator should have the ability to allow its customers to access factory direct for support for clients they feel it would benefit and who they have solid control of the account with. Other clients may be newer thus not on as solid footing &/or don't have technical expertise to even go near the system for tech support reasons. Only the integrator is in a position to make those decisions. Additionally, I worked for a company that started out as an integrator then changed to a selling through "channel partners only" mode and then back to an integrator. They absolutely would mine the database of customer informaiton you gave them when they were in channel support mode, to give as leads to thier new direct sales force who may go into your client selling on the "you can have a direct connection to the factory for all your support AND, bonus.....we can provide you with lower pricing because there is no reseller markup". Don't think that can't, won't & doesn't happen. Again - it should be a decision made by the integrator whether to share that information. I definitely will not be selling Avigilon products until/unless they reverse this policy.
I guess I still don't see the big deal as I have been required to provide this information to Lenel and OnSSI and RS2 and several others in the past in order to place a licensing order. Is it just that most of the responders to this thread are not part of a direct to dealer VAR program and as such have never heard of this before? We all know that integrators, while competative with one another, are a very tight group when it comes to some outside entity (manufacturer, distributer, etc.), messing with us [INSERT CHARLIE DANIELS SONG "IN AMERICA" HERE]. Look at the recent thread about Anixter selling direct as an example.
If Avigilon were ever to use this information in a manner inconsistant with the current business models it would be stomped on pretty hard by us integrators. That being said, if they just took the information and started selling direct we would have no real recourse at that time.
Trust is the key issue here and it seems to me that if you don't trust the people that you are partnered with you had better decide if you want to continue the relationship. There has to be some sort of trust or you will be spending all your time trying to protect your farm and not growing your crops.
I've worked for manufacturers, I've worked for integrators, and I worked for a manufacturer that was their own integrator.
This is coming to a manufacturer near you. If you are an integrator, you should work with manufacturers that will partner with you closely and who you trust. "End User Pull Through" is reality, and it's not going away. There just isn't any money in hardware any more, China has made sure of that. If you are buying a $39 camera that works as well as a $150 camera, the savings came from somewhere. (Hint: it came from the slave labor at the factory.) If you expect high quality manufacturers to stay in business, then you will have to expect them to make money. The only thing worth anything any more is knowledge. Major manufacturers have a ton of knowledge, but its damed up behind the integrator firewall. If you are an integrator, and you work with your manufacturers to help them unbottle their knowledge and get paid for it, you will both profit.
I see this information as being valuable to the manufacturer in a couple of ways.
1. This helps a national or global manufacturer understand their strong and weak markets. How much of their revenue comes from big projects vs. small? How much of their business is gov related or in the k-12 market? How much is with retail customers or with healthcare? What geographic regions need better support?
2. Having this information helps a manufacturer better market in their strong industries, and identify weak areas for improvement. This can only help an integrator partner. If Avigilon (or any manufacturer) identifies an area for improvement and spends marketing and R&D to improve their business there, their partner integrators win! The Manufacturer is spending the $ and the integrator is winning the projects.
3. The information they are asking for is not contact and purchasing information, it is name and address. This isn't that dangerous to give up at the end of the day. If it's a large account and the RSM is involved, they have that information anyway.
4. If you are an integrator, there are other integrators calling on your accounts. They will find out which products are being used, and they will try and displace you. They don't need a Manufacturer RSM to give them that info. In addition a RSM gains no value from crossing ethcical boundaries and sharing that data with other partners. It will only make his job harder once people realize he isn't trustworthy.
Understanding my territory and my customer base is central to doing my job well. There has been a lot of Manufacture bashing in this thread, but I don't think it's helpful. We are all in business to help end-users better secure their facilities and workplaces and we are all in business to take care of our families and loved ones. Why try and make it harder for those on the manufacturing side to do that?
If Avigilon was to start handing out customer information to other Installers (I hate the term Integrator, don't know why) would the previous Installer not find out and maybe stop selling Avigilon? I would think if this was their end goal, it could end up working against them, no? By pissing off their loyal installers.