Subscriber Discussion

Consultants: What Value Do Integrators Provide?

This question or topic is primarily for consultants. When it comes to system integrators, what value does the relationship provide?

As consultants, we totally depend on integrators to properly execute our designs and to make our concepts become a reality. Just as architects need builders and physicians need pharmacists, security consultants need integrators. I don't sell, install or service anything, and without an integrator to make them a reality, my design drawings are nothing more than pretty pictures.

Good integrators lead to successful projects and make me look good. Conversely, having a bad integrator on a project can make my job a nightmare. I have been fortunate to develop many relationships with quality integrators over the years to the mutual benefit of all parties.

In addition to executing my designs, my integrator friends are an invaluable source of information about what works and what doesn't, and have often steered me away from products and/or design approaches that would have been unsuccessful.

Too often, integrators see consultants as a threat and would prefer that they not be involved in projects. Rarely will an integrator suggest that a client bring in a consultant. In reality, good integrators have everything to gain and nothing to lose whan a consultant is brought in. Many of the integrators that I have worked with over the years have learned this and understand that having a consultant involved is to everyone's benefit.

I have had some bad experiences in the past that have built walls instead of doors.

From both sides of the spectrum. As an example, I have worked with consultants that did not want to take the advice or criticism from the integrators in terms of product experience. It almost seemed at the time that the consultant wanted to have ultimate superiority. To the defense of the consultant, I have also seen project managers make assumptions about product applications and muddy the waters.

I don’t want to give up on the consultant approach as I definitely see the value in the relationship from an integrators perspective. Could you recommend the best approach to building a solid relationship with a new consultant without coming across too sales(y). More specifically – how do consultants prefer to be approached and what gains their attention?

Thanks in advance.

I wrote a short article a while back called How Security Integrators Can Succeed Working With Consultants.

The method that I prefer that integrators use when contacting me is a straightforward one: tell me who you are, what your capabilities are, and what products that you represent, and ask to be considered for future projects. I am also interested in learning details about specific projects that you have completed recently (what systems you used, how they worked, etc.) to the extent that they can be disclosed without violating the client's privacy.

Once you have made initial contact, check back in periodically to remind the consultant that you are still out there and to provide an update on any changes in your capabilities ("We just opened a new branch office in Boise") or details concerning any big or unusual projects that you may have recently completed. I suggest checking back in often enough so that the consultant doesn't forget you, but not so often that you become a pest. One or twice a year is probably fine.

Where's the thread asking Intergrators what value Consultants provide?

+1 for question

also explain please

why consultants considered experts ?

I will say as an installer who has never worked with a consultant, I can see the benefits to having a good one to assist the customer is picking something they actually need, not something they just want. Maybe it's just me, but I'm good at giving a customer what they want, and sugesting what they need. But they're not paying me to tell them what they need. When I do it they see it as a sales pitch to make them spend more money.

That being said, I hear of many bad consultants, just as with installers. Good and bad everywhere you go.

As a small company that provides both roles (consulting/design & integration), I guess I don't see the need for a consultant. I think the best approach is one well rounded firm that can offer both services in one solution. Honestly, who knows more about the products? Someone who visits websites and talks to sales reps, or the guy who has to physically install it. Basically, my point is if you have the skills to integrate, yet still have the people skills to be a consultant, why not provide both services and offer a lower cost solution to the end user? When you have two firms, you have two companies looking for profits.

Many clients do indeed prefer to deal with just one firm to do both design and installation, and the vast majority of systems installed in the United States are installed without the involvement of a consultant. However, some clients, particularly on larger projects, like the checks and balances provided by using an independent consultant to design and specify the system, and a separate integration firm to provide and install it. Also, some clients are required to use a competitive bid process and using an independent security consultant can greatly facilitate this.

I see value in consultants depending on their organizational abilities. For example – if they are a network architect and are looking to expand into the security market because they receive lots of requests – I place value in their rolodex and in their overall expertise in the IT world. They do not have the security expertise but they have experience in the various new network and server technology which could develop into a back scratching type relationship. Depending on your individual capacity (whether you are a Project Manager or Salesman or Technician), you might place a different value on Consultants. As a Sales Professional in the systems integration world, I find great value in Consultants as an extension of my overall sales strategy. They are bringing opportunities to the table that I might not otherwise be aware of while I am bringing value to them in the way of project expertise or product knowledge.

My .02