Why Buy From Large Integrators?

In recent discussions, many have commented that larger integrators tends to charge more for the same products and frequently have lower caliber / skilled employees? This, of course, begs the questions: How did they, then, get that large? and Why can they stay that large?

I think this is worth discussion and I will start by throwing out 2 common justifications for buying from large integrators, despite their deficiencies:

Customers Over Large Geographic Areas

Small integrators generally can only serve small areas - a single city, state or at best region. By definition, they cannot service customers with sites across a large country (like the US) or across continents.

By contrast, large integrators typically have offices in many, if not every large city in the countries they serve. This makes it far easier for them to support installs and services for large customers.

Of course, there are limits to this. Quality can vary substantially across large integrator offices, creating problems for these multi-site end users. Also, smaller integrators often band together to offer broad geographic coverage by using partner offices to service/install remote sites (PSA is one example).

That said, large integrators tend to have an advantage for customers who want a single organization to handle everything across wide areas.

Large Single Site Projects

Airports are a classic case. While they are in a single physical place and can be reached / services by local small integrators, typically the requirements for these projects are tough (though not impossible) for a smaller integrator to meet (references of similar projects, insurance/bonding, employee certifications, etc.). By contrast, those are fairly easy for large integrators to meet, even if the local office does not have such experience, they can submit / use experience of other projects across the country.


What do you think?

What are the requirements you have to meet to be called an Integrator vs a Security Company? I believe this is where the root of the misunderstanding begins out there.

[IPVM NOTE: Moved to its own discussion: What Are The Requirements To Be A Security Integrator?

John, I agree with all of your arguments made above. I have also found that people at large corporations seem to prefer doing business with other large corporations simply because they seem like a "safer" choice to the decision maker. More times than I care to remember, I have recommended a strong local or regional integrator, and have had my decision overridden by a client who felt more comfortable with one of the big nationals. I think it may have something to do with the "Nobody ever got fired by hiring IBM" mentality that you have written about before.

The client with many locations scattered across the country poses a big challenge. I feel that neither the big nationals or the cooperatives (PSA, Security-Net) handle these types of projects particually well, but I would have to give a slight edge to the big nationals in this area.

Good feedback.

Btw, I have heard "Nobody ever got fired by hiring IBM". I have also heard "I will never do business with ADT again" from many large end users. I guess, good thing they changed their name.

The eutopia of large integrators with greater geographical coverage is the premise of consistent pricing, consistent quality controls, consistent service management. However it is a struggle to get one that can meet all those qualities and takes time to build up the relationship. Sometimes you need to wave the contract to get the big guys listening when things dont go as planned.

Opposite to large is the small integrator who can generally beat by price and may have higher skilled people, but there is risk that they are few and can easily dissappear leaving you in a whole if in the middle of a project or on a service contract.

I think the choise comes down to who you are as a buyer and what your expectations are.

Another common practice of the "big boys" is to use local smaller integrators as subs to provide the installation. This means the big boys are providing the consistancy in pricing and project management and to some degree the install quality as they typically have standards they expect from thier subs. They can also change subs if one doesn't perform. If a user has multiple properties around the country or world, this approach makes sense - one throat to choke (the big boy) with the advantage of local support from smaller companies who can be nibble and quick to respond. This is why the cooperatives like PSA, Security Integrators etc work. You basically get the same thing only in this scenario except the company providing the project managent and quality control might be one of the little guys (thus lower cost) utilizing other little guys around the country to provide the local talent and support. (again, lower cost)