Fortunately for security integrators and dealers, there is a good selection of business management software available, designed specifically for the security industry. In general, it’s tailored to the way integrators manage their sales efforts and do site walk-throughs and system designs, proposals and estimates. It assists with project management including security installations. It helps track inventory, with special integrations with security products distributors. It helps technicians in the field provide comprehensive on-site service and helps customer reps in the office be fully informed when speaking with customers. And, it makes invoicing and billing an easy task for businesses that are modeled on recurring monthly revenue. That’s just the start.

The result of having software that is well-suited for your operational workflow is better efficiency, tighter consistency and sounder performance — a win/win for your business and your customers and partners. SDM spoke with three security dealers and integrators who explain how their software of choice really helps their business.

Peak Alarm

“You can’t just pick up a normal ERP and run an alarm business, because we’ve got this thing called RMR,” says Fred Johnson, chief financial officer and vice president at Peak Alarm, Salt Lake City, Utah, ranked No. 39 on the 2022 SDM 100. “And if you don’t have a software that tracks your recurring monthly revenue … you’re not going to be able to run your business. I need to know how many customers I have, what deferred revenue I have, how much I can recognize, when to bill those customers, how to do pay-rate increases for those customers. When you get into the tens of thousands of customers, I can’t do that manually.”

Peak Alarm uses SedonaOffice software from BOLD Group, which Johnson describes as “the backbone of our business.” At Peak Alarm the software enables service personnel to work productively in the field; helps employees deliver exceptional customer service; facilitates inventory management; and provides detailed financial reporting to executives and managers, among other tasks.

Using the recently updated field service technician app — called Sedona-X Mobile — Peak Alarm’s service technicians and installers have access in the field to everything they would have in the office, including all of the details about a customer’s system. “They can add parts to a job, create an invoice for the customer, take a payment from the customer. They can look at their schedule, put in a service ticket. It’s really powerful, powerful software that Sedona offers,” Johnson describes.

New From Software Companies

Software vendors interviewed for this article shared details about what they currently offer to the security industry and what new features and functions they’ve added in the past 12 to 18 months.

Bold Group, Colorado Springs, Colo., and part of the EverCommerce organization, offers both alarm automation/monitoring software and business management software. Last April, BOLD Group launched Managely. Julie Lichty, BOLD’s senior vice president of product management and software development, describes Managely as a complete, full-scale solution intended to serve every tier of the market. A smaller dealer gets a turnkey platform to handle everything from job quotes to recurring billing. As a complete enterprise solution, Managely can help larger organizations that may be comprised of acquired businesses, by managing disparate product portfolios, multiple locations/branches, different billing models, multiple inventory locations and more. “It is a SAS-based environment hosted on Amazon Web Services, so it allows for us to do very rapid deployments for our customers and allows a lot of configurability,” Lichty says.

She emphasizes that while Managely is set up to allow customers to take advantage of migrating off of one of BOLD’s legacy products, such as Alarm Biller or SedonaOffice, they are not intending to end-of-life either of those products. “Some customers have evolved and they want to take advantage of an API-driven solution that allows a lot more flexibility for them to innovate themselves or bring on third-party products to help augment their own environment. In fact, we created a tool specifically to help our customers manage that migration so that it feels much more like a user interface change rather than a completely new ERP system deployment,” Lichty describes. A highlight of Managely is that it takes a forward-looking approach to data, identifying changes to the user’s business that can make a difference in its performance more quickly than if just examining that data from a historical perspective. Lichty says it takes the user “from descriptive to prescriptive to predictive.”

Cornerstone Billing Solutions offers life safety companies cloud-based, comprehensive account management software, as well as a suite of recurring billing and payment services. The software enables full lifecycle management of a customer, from prospecting/quoting, pushing accepted quotes into the workflow, full inventory and a tech calendar/app to manage jobs efficiently. The software also manages the billing and payments processes and accounting for both non-recurring and recurring revenue-based sales and service. “Our software is built for life-safety companies, giving them a lot of bells and whistles that they need and value. Our reporting provides very accurate and granular reporting on RMR, and other key metrics like attrition and growth,” says Scott MacDougal, owner of the software company headquartered in Lincolnshire, Ill.

Cornerstone Billing has had two major advancements. One is rolling out its mobile app for field technicians. This app allows technicians to retrieve their appointments, map the service location, do all the needed work, track/add time and parts for the job, close the ticket, invoice the ticket, take payment from the customer on the spot and more. The app can eliminate paper tickets and make field service far more efficient for both administrators and field technicians. The second big change involves Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance updates to both Cornerstone’s desktop software and its portal. The PCI authorities added several requirements, including electronic email receipt for all recurring transactions run, an online option to remove autopay authorization and several others.

simPRO Software Group provides a central hub for contractors to run their businesses. Its focus is bringing many different functions together under one umbrella, including customer relationship management (CRM), employee management (apart from human resources), leads, quotes, project management, service and maintenance, RMR management/reporting, payments and more. “We become the central hub up until the point where we do the invoicing and accounts receivable within our system and then push it over to a program like QuickBooks,” describes Ben Hedenberg, vice president of sales at simPRO, based in Broomfield, Colo. “We can do connections through our API to different software to be able to be that central point.” As a global company with a quarter-million users, simPRO has the scale and size to support its customers, Hedenberg says. It offers customer support 24 hours a day, six days a week, and on-site software implementations to help customers get up and running.

simPRO recently launched “take-offs,” a feature that gives users the ability to bring blueprints into the software platform and process job requirements. For example, it automatically recognizes symbols and device counts on a blueprint and pushes the information into a quote. Hedenberg says security integrators sometimes use a third-party company to do take-offs; they’ll do it in one system and then export it to an Excel file or a .csv file. “So they’re bouncing between all these different systems. But being able to do take-offs, then quotes and then jobs all within ours cuts down time, reduces errors and ultimately allows you to check your profit and loss on that job and your business overall directly within simPRO,” he says. “Because we are a cloud-based software, we’re continually updating it. We have new releases every two weeks and major releases about every three to four months,” he adds.

SiteOwl software provides a comprehensive system view of all security equipment from project design through installation and ongoing service management. The purpose is to improve communication and collaboration between systems integrators, subcontractors and end users. A variety of attributes can be captured at the device level at all stages including (but not limited to): IP address, serial number, installation date, warranty date, connections, coverage areas and images. Data in the SiteOwl platform can help integrators standardize their project-delivery processes, improve quality and provide detailed information to assist end users in budgeting, planning and risk management. Projects done at the same location are aggregated over time in SiteOwl’s Living Floor Plans to ensure plans are never out-of-date. “SiteOwl provides simultaneous users real-time collaboration and built-in workflows to maintain an accurate single source of truth,” describes Stephanie Mayes, vice president of sales at the San Antonio, Texas-based company.

Because the solution is hosted in the cloud, new features to SiteOwl are immediately available to all customers. In the past 12 to 18 months the company has added a plethora of new features including: additional device types, audit documentation for preventive maintenance, cable pathways, warranty and aging reports, inventory reports across the enterprise, dual-factor authentication on all applications and many others, Mayes notes.

System Surveyor is a collaborative system design and life-cycle management platform. The cloud-based SaaS application provides mobile site surveys for pre-sales to deliver professional design, accurate budget estimations and winning proposals. It automates a bill of materials for project management and operations; manages post-sales lifecycle installation and ongoing maintenance; and supports all system types including video surveillance, physical security, intrusion, access control, fire alarm, building automation, cable infrastructure and more. System Surveyor is brand-agnostic and can be used to specify products from any manufacturer and automate a bill of materials. However, a number of manufacturers have added element profiles (product lists) into the application, to further facilitate automating a bill of materials. The software has open API integration with other applications that allows for secure collaboration among integrators, end users and manufacturers, etc. “System Surveyor helps systems integrators conduct efficient, visual site surveys that allow them to turn around accurate proposals in half the time and most importantly that win them 20 percent more business,” says Maureen Carlson, vice president of growth and co-founder of the company based in Austin, Texas.

New features in System Surveyor include the ability to automate a bill of materials of accessories, which Carlson explains is a challenging area for many integrators and dealers to ensure they align their solutions with the correct mounts, brackets and other items. The company has also added multiple new manufacturers to its Manufacturer Partner Program. This allows integrators to download the System Surveyor Element Profiles and product catalogs to streamline the process.

WeSuite is a total software sales solution built for systems integrators, by systems integrators, of any size. It streamlines sales workflows from contact to contract. WeOpportunity centralizes lead creation, assignment and management. QuoteAnywhere & the Site Survey puts the power of the one-call close in hand. The built-in survey tool enables location of database devices to the digital canvas, building estimates automatically. WeEstimate provides flexible, detailed estimating of parts, labor, chargeable items, and recurring services. Add-on modules enable feature sets for automating approvals, finance/lease options, calculating commissions, advanced tax needs, quoting to multiple contractors, test and inspection sales, and government fixed-price contracts. Additional integrations include financial ERP solutions, and part pricing with PSA Security, ADI Global and Blackleaf Connect. “Getting it right in sales impacts the outcome in finance, operations and support,” says Tracy Larson, president and partner of WeSuite, based in White Plains, N.Y.

WeSuite has introduced many new features and integrations. Its newest technology platform is visible in the award-winning QuoteAnywhere 3.0 release, which features an improved user experience. In WeEstimate, the company enhanced its document editor to allow greater flexibility in presentation of pricing and to enhance scopes of work for proposals. WeSuite also introduced integration with FieldHub and Bold Group’s Managely to provide additional choices in ERP solutions. The company also deepened its integration with DocuSign and provided clients an easy way to create custom-branded email templates for use with DocuSign. This is especially useful for integrators and dealers who have multiple company names and logos. WeSuite also introduced additional part source updates with ADI Global and Blackleaf Connect, and integration with DealerAlly to enable on-the-spot application for consumer financing. It also further enhanced its public API and completed several custom financial ERP integrations.

In addition to tracking and monitoring inventory, the software facilitates all of Peak Alarm’s purchasing. One of the most beneficial features for the company is an interface with security products distributor ADI. “Sedona has an interface with ADI in which ADI pushes their pricing into Sedona, so I don’t have to have somebody manually input it. I can enter purchase orders into Sedona and it gets sent off to ADI. ADI will download their invoices and receipts to me in Sedona so it takes out the burden of all that input and output. Since we buy about 90 percent of our product through ADI, it’s wonderful,” Johnson explains. He says because of that interface, Peak Alarm’s three-person accounts payable department was able to be trimmed to just one person.

Johnson also benefits from the software indicating when a customer may be at risk of canceling. Because the business management software meshes with BOLD’s central station monitoring software, which Peak uses to automate its central station, Johnson is able to identify customers that aren’t engaging with their systems, or perhaps they’ve missed some payments. The software provides reports that identify such accounts so that someone can reach out to try to save them before they cancel.

The software also helps Johnson manage the process of setting price increases, which he says is a concern in the industry. The Sedona software tracks the date of the last price increase and sets an agenda for which services should be increased, by how often and by how much. “It makes it all very painless to me and, frankly, because of that I am able to increase my customers year after year about 5 percent. I can also make sure I cap it [because] I don’t want to have a loyalty penalty,” he describes.

Mobile App Kabo

Cornerstone Billing’s mobile app puts power in the hands of technicians by allowing them to perform many functions in the field, such as requesting directions to a site, clocking in/out, reviewing parts lists, adding photos to a customer’s file, invoicing customers and more. // IMAGE COURTESY OF CORNERSTONE BILLING

Tech Systems Inc.

Terry Rivet with Tech Systems Inc., Buford, Ga., began using System Surveyor software before his company, Securitronics, merged with Tech Systems last year. It provided the tools to do site surveys and help with design work. “We could then share that information with our subcontractors and our clients so that everybody was on a common platform of knowledge,” Rivet describes.

Since the merger, Tech Systems — a 100-percent employee-owned company ranked No. 12 on the 2022 SDM’s Top Systems Integrators Report — has seen the value of System Surveyor and is now looking at rolling it out across the company.

Rivet’s team of sales engineers usually receive floor plans of a property before doing a site visit, which they then load into the software. Using a mobile platform they walk the site while designing and laying out devices on the floor plan. This could include anything from video cameras and card access devices to intrusion alarm and gunshot detection sensors. On site the customer can provide immediate input into the design. Back at the office that information is transferred to an estimator who starts preparing an estimate while the sales engineer writes the scope of work, saving time in the quote-generation process.

“Once the quote is written, we use System Surveyor to attach drawings to that same quote that goes to the customer so it then becomes a document they can look at and remind themselves of things such as where card readers are going, where cameras are going to be and what their field-of-view is. I can invite a subcontractor to view that file online and they can see where I’ve plotted devices and they can either go to the site to complete their walk-through or they can quote the labor that’s needed to install those devices,” Rivet says.

The documents give all installation technicians the same information about the client’s site. This includes lists of equipment, maps, photos and device locations. If a customer questions anything about the installation, technicians can pull up that information right away. If installers make changes in the field, they can adjust the maps as they go along. Eventually that map becomes a service tool to know where things are, especially for technicians who’ve never been to the site, Rivet says.

“The information-sharing is key to us, end to end. I have one customer specifically who has access to our maps and they keep those maps up in their command center so that they also know where all the devices are,” he says.

Bold Group Managely

BOLD Group’s new Managely software is designed to help security professionals be more predictive about their businesses, by giving them insight into practices that, if adjusted, could lead to greater profits. // IMAGE COURTESY OF BOLD GROUP

“It has streamlined our estimating process. It saves us time, which as we all know saves money. It has allowed us to level off with the consistent information process so we can communicate between different departments and everybody knows what the end game is. I’m sharing information between a sales person, an estimator, to a project team that has to review documents before they get written up in a proposal,” Rivet describes. Using the software helps Tech Systems cut down on meeting times, questions, design challenges, and saves money when possible.

From a customer standpoint, being able to provide a customer more information today is key, Rivet notes. “They continually ask questions and the more we can share that information, the more we become a trusted advisor. The more we become a trusted advisor, the better we do with our partnership with our clients and our partnership with our employee-owners.”

How Software Vendors Address Cybersecurity

Any business software that processes confidential information about your clients can raise a cautionary flag among security integrators.

Since you’ve spent years building trust with your clients, any breach in that trust — such as a cyber incident involving your customer’s data — could cause disastrous results for the client and ruin your relationship with them.

Most business software today is cloud-based. In fact, according to Cloudwards, 94 percent of all enterprises use cloud services and 48 percent of businesses store classified and most important data on the cloud. To give perspective on the prevalence of cloud computing, by 2025 there will be more than 100 zettabytes (a zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes) of data stored in the cloud.

“Cybersecurity is important in everything that we do and using a tool like System Surveyor that is cloud-based always starts out with a concern in how that information that we use and store in their system is protected,” says Terry Rivet at Tech Systems Inc., in describing an industry concern generally about cloud-based services. He goes on to say that System Surveyor has done a nice job on cybersecurity and they’re taking additional steps to make sure that the cybersecurity platform that they’re working with continues to be improved.

“Integrators and end users want to know that our software is secure while they’re putting their customers’ projects in,” says Maureen Carlson at System Surveyor. “We can deliver at a very secure level and that’s coming up in every conversation we have.”

Here is how several of the software vendors describe some of their cybersecurity policies and practices:

System Surveyor hosts its application on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is the largest cloud-computing company in the world. When users are at a customer’s site they are on a native tablet app and do not need to sync until they’re on a protected Wi-Fi or VPN. “We offer single sign on using the SAML standard for customers that utilize our Enterprise, Corporate or Campus Complete plans,” Carlson notes. The company also is actively pursuing SOC 2 compliance in 2023 with a third-party partner. “This is a comprehensive and audited process that ensures that at every point in the company there are compliance standards,” Carlson says.

SiteOwl’s Stephanie Mayes says the security of its customers’ data is the top priority for SiteOwl and to ensure it, the company has implemented processes and policies while working towards SOC 2 certification. These include requiring two-factor authentication, regular system access reviews, intrusion and vulnerability testing, a cryptography policy that requires all data be encrypted at rest and in transit, and penetration testing. SiteOwl also is partnered with AWS for the hosting of its platform and data.

As a global company, simPRO Software Group needs to follow regulations not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Australia and the European Union. “We really have security processes in place,” explains simPRO’s Ben Hedenberg. He says the company gets third-party audited for penetration testing. It has backups of all data, and backups of its servers around the globe. “A lot of the software out there is run on individuals’ own servers, on premises. That’s really dangerous; there are a lot of people getting ransomware. We have substantial backup to make sure that their data is safe on the cloud. … Having it on the cloud is actually much safer than anything else,” Hedenberg describes. simPRO is ISO 9000 certified and the company has 13 different certifications that address its security.

“We have a cybersecurity team that is constantly looking at all of the different solutions that EverCommerce offers to the customer base and ensuring that we’re all adhering to very strict guidelines around cybersecurity,” says Julie Lichty of EverCommerce, which owns the BOLD Group of software brands including the new Managely software. There already are a huge number of cybersecurity features natively built-in to offerings hosted on AWS [like ours], she says. Being part of EverCommerce, “They give us a lot of autonomy to serve our customer base, but because it’s an enterprise organization we’re able to lean in to our cybersecurity team within EverCommerce. They are constantly doing best-in-class penetration tests and partnering with us to make sure that environments are set up to be super robust and follow all the best protocols around cybersecurity,” Lichty describes.

As opposed to using a pubic cloud, Cornerstone Billing hosts its software with a virtual private cloud company that has extremely robust security measures in place, describes Scott MacDougal at the company, including: a firewall with network-sided IDS/IPS at the perimeter; a vulnerability profile that tracks patterns and traffic signatures, blocking or routing that traffic accordingly; and a gateway for logins separated from app and data. In addition, regarding disaster recovery, if there is ever a problem with the environment, a fully functioning environment can be recreated within just 15 minutes. The software itself has a separate envelope for each database, MacDougal says.

Alliant Security

Alliant Security, Idaho Falls, Idaho, operates the bulk of its business using simPRO Enterprise. The company serves the Rocky Mountain region and focuses on a core customer group of financial institutional with up to 20 branches, as well as other commercial customers.

The security company relies on the software for managing sales, from quote-building and beyond. It also handles project management and job costing, service and maintenance. “The enterprise solution has a maintenance planner that we use to schedule all of our maintenance and inspections, preventative maintenance and contractual obligations,” says Shane Leavitt, COO/Integrator at Alliant Security.

He appreciates the software’s robust project management tools, describing that it allows Alliant to manage projects whether they’re valued at $1,000 or $200,000. “Revenue is one thing, but time frame is another. We can have projects that last a half-day to six months and simPRO manages that very well for both situations,” Leavitt says, adding that it provides what’s needed for the longer projects, such as GHANT charts and triggers, etc.

Alliant also uses the simPRO mobile app for its technicians in the field, noting that they can do everything on their phone that they could do on a PC. “It’s highly functional. It has features like technician notes and talk-to-text capabilities — everything that you think you should have in a mobile app it does. ... They can pull up the complete service ticket and have the customer sign it; we could even invoice at that point. It’s pretty seamless and has saved us a bunch of time,” Leavitt says.

Web chart

Business software, such as collaborative system design tools, enhance the overall customer experience and partnership between end users, system integrators and other vendors by streamlining site surveys, workflows, professional design and accurate budget estimations. // IMAGE COURTESY OF SYSTEM SURVEYOR

He describes the software’s reporting capabilities as “fabulous,” especially at the executive and management level. “They have a lot of reports on contracts and our service times. I really like the response time reports because we’re contractually obligated for response times. The information that it gives at each stage — from the time the ticket is created, how long did it take us to be on site, from on site to closing the job, from closing the job to billing the job, and from start to finish — that’s typical of simPRO reports. It gives you very specific drilled-in data, but in that same report you have the big picture. So not only does it apply to my service manager or the lead technician in that territory, but it applies to me as the COO when I’m trying to look at the big numbers,” Leavitt says.

Using this business management software has been essential for Alliant Security’s growth, especially since the company has gone from having all employees in the same office to now having about half of their employees in remote locations to be nearer to their customers.

“To have everything digital has been great, where we can all have one location where we do everything. All of our operations in the business are in that one system; we don’t have project management going on in spreadsheets and service in some other ticketing system. Everything is in one location all tied to the specific site, so we can get better data on that site. It’s nice to have one clear spot for the scope of work; everybody’s working off the same scope and you can put as many attachments as you need,” Leavitt explains.