SDM 2019 Systems Integrator of the Year
As one of six distinct security-related divisions of a global powerhouse, this year’s Systems Integrator of the Year draws on the history of not one, but two long-standing companies, along with a deep commitment to its employees and customers, and a strong understanding of technology to distinguish itself from the competition.
Have you ever wondered why there are three large dots above the Securitas logo? It goes back to the founding of the company by Erik Philip-Sörensen in Sweden in 1934. The dots represent the founding values of integrity, vigilance and helpfulness, and those values inform everything the company does in its “six pillars of protective services,” which are comprised of on-site guarding, mobile guarding, remote guarding, fire and safety, corporate risk management, and electronic security. Today Securitas is the world leader in protective services, with over $10 billion in annual revenue.
The last of these pillars was added in 2016 when Securitas AB finalized the purchase of Diebold’s electronic security business, which itself enjoyed a rich history in the security industry, particularly in the banking and financial sector. Diebold’s electronic security business officially began in 1947 upon the acquisition of O.B. McClintock in Minneapolis, but the company reputation was built much earlier than that with its fire-proof safes. Eventually it also became known as the standard in ATM machines. As Diebold Security, the company was named SDM’s Systems Integrator of the Year in 2011, and now, eight years later, is the 2019 Systems Integrator of the year as Securitas Electronic Security Inc. (SES).
The transition to SES brought a new energy as well as new opportunities to the company (ranked No. 3 on the 2019 SDM Top Systems Integrators Report), according to SES President and CEO Tony Byerly. “It is an honor to be part of Securitas. From the founding of the company they have always focused on security, which is the core of everything we do. They are not just security but services and we are a service-focused company.”
As the sixth pillar of protective services, SES filled an important gap for Securitas — the electronic security component — and from the beginning of the relationship it was evident the new parent company was interested in making sure SES had all the resources and support it needed to succeed.
“We certainly have a new parent and new opportunities to offer more solutions through them, but the Diebold legacy was the foundation of the security business for Securitas in North America,” Byerly says. “It really brought to life that sixth protective service and … Securitas supported building out our competency and abilities.”
To start with, that meant creating a new HR and legal portion of the new division, as those stayed with Diebold in the acquisition. But the entire process was a positive experience, Byerly recalls. “I have been through a lot of these and we have done a lot of transactions and been part of both buying and selling. Out of all of those, the acquisition of Diebold by Securitas was really a refreshing experience, because it was built around commercial synergies.”
Felix Gonzales, senior vice president strategy and business development, echoes that sentiment, adding that much of the management of SES comes from some of the most respected leaders in the security industry. “The difference with Securitas is it is a security company from top to bottom, right to left. Being part of a company where every single [division] is thinking about security really is a great feeling.”
But Securitas wasn’t just looking to rest on the laurels of its new acquisition. They sought to grow it into something more.
Ina Staris, vice president legal and general counsel says, “One of the exciting things when we spun off from Diebold was there was a great core there, but there was a goal of expanding and making the company bigger and better and the Securitas commitment to the security business moved that forward.”
In fact, just two years after acquiring Diebold, Securitas supported the acquisition by SES of Kratos Public Safety and Security Division (KPSS), which was completed in June 2018.
“The great thing about the Kratos acquisition was they had a strong reputation as a quality systems integrator in the commercial sector,” Gonzales says. “There were a lot of similarities in the businesses — hand-in-glove is a great description. They added to us in terms of infrastructure and expanded coverage.” (For more on the acquisition see “Kratos – A Hand-in-Glove Fit” on page 46.)
That was far from the only big change in 2018 and continuing in 2019: SES invested more in its organization than ever before, including expanding its state-of-the-art headquarters in Uniontown, Ohio, to include a new SES University to offer training and expanded certification of all its employees; a customer engagement center and technology evaluation lab; and the launch of a new application designed to solve a unique problem for its customers. All of these initiatives and more make up what the company calls the “SES Difference” — and it’s a difference that makes them a worthy SDM Systems Integrator of the Year.
Any successful company will tell you the core of their success is their employees, and SES is no exception. The company is dedicated to making sure its approximately 1,600 employees are well trained, given the recognition they deserve, and have a voice in the company.
“Our dedication to people starts internally,” says Kevin Engelhardt, COO. “Creating and encouraging teams of highly skilled associates fuels our service delivery. In 2019 we made significant investments in employee development [with] our state-of-the-art training center (SES University), development of the Technician Certification Program and employee appreciation programs, the establishment of SES Associated Advisory Councils, and continuation of the SES Leadership Development Program. These programs were all initiated and designed with our associates in mind. We strive to foster an environment where collaborative learning is key and professional development flourishes. Enhancing these opportunities helps ensure our associates are motivated, fulfilled and inspired to deliver the SES Difference to our clients.”
One of the things SES sought to expand with the build-out of its headquarters was enhancing the SES University. To that end, the company added specialized training rooms for field technicians, call center representatives, customer experience teams and account managers. “The style of the rooms cultivates the training it was designed for,” says Damon Kanzler, senior vice president centralized services and business operations. “For example, the field technician training room features wood-top work tables for hands-on training with our strategic technology partners. Technicians are able to experience the training through trial and error with a security panel in front of them. …We believe this hands-on style is much more beneficial and effective than simply watching a screen or listening to a presentation.”
Another new offering from SES University is the SES Technician Certification Program, which is geared specifically to field technicians and is comprised of two certification levels: SES Certified Technician and SES Master Certified Technician. “This program encourages our technicians to pursue SES-sponsored certification courses and upon appropriate completion, receive increased pay,” Engelhardt says. “The program allows our field teams to increase their professional and technical expertise as well as better service our clients in the field.”
Other training programs include monitoring center onboarding, sales onboarding, technical requirement training and policy training.
This attention to training and development helps attract talent to the company— a common challenge in the security industry today, says Pete Straka, vice president human resources. “Our Technician Certification Program is a great selling point in the recruiting process,” he says. “It’s similar to going to a junior college or a trade school. You are truly a certified technician with significant training and competency in access control, intrusion, video, etc. People can see the development. They come in as a tech and see the long-term opportunities to go into project or program management, or engineering, as they develop their skills. This program makes it much easier to break those barriers.”
It also helps with employee retention, Engelhardt says. “People talk about recruitment, but the reality is that our market continues to morph into more of an IT-centric role, so from technicians’ and project managers’ perspectives, keeping them abreast of new technologies and types of training allows them to be well rounded. We really have not ebbed and flowed with our strategy in how we invest in our associates. There is a sense of stability here and they know we won’t retract our plans. We retain our associates by that investment.”
While the certification training comes with monetary compensation, there are recognition programs for all types of employees, including peer recognition, and elite performance recognition. In summer 2019 SES also kicked off its third quarter by naming June SES Technician Appreciation Month, holding events such as luncheons and barbeques at locations around the nation, along with other internal and external announcements, “fun facts” and “tech tips” in conjunction with this new annual event.
SES describes its organizational structure as “flat,” meaning there is little hierarchy when it comes to connecting with the leadership in the organization and plenty of opportunity to have a voice, Engelhardt says. One of the ways they enhance this structure is with monthly business reviews (MBRs) with the leadership team. These in-person meetings review results and address various business topics. “A strategic decision was made to have these MBRs held at different SES local offices (of which there are now more than 30) each month, which allows the senior team the opportunity to visit and meet local team associates and leadership,” Engelhardt says. “Having this group gather for their monthly reviews at different locations allows local associates to communicate in an open forum face-to-face and allows for Q&A time and to get to know their leaders. It’s a positive way to interact with associates while fulfilling the MBR requirements.”
Another way SES sought to give employees a voice beginning in 2018 and expanded this year was by creating five associate advisory councils — one for each main area of the company business: sales, monitoring, service, back office and installation. These advisory councils provide a forum for leadership to receive feedback, which is used to make strategic business decisions. The advisory councils are made up of top-performing team members from the relevant departments who work together to identify and solve complex business problems.
SES also makes an effort to grow future leadership, Straka says. In 2018 SES launched a formal Leadership Development Program to identify high-potential associates and jump start their professional development with specialized training and mentorship.
“As a leadership team we reach out to folks who report to us, as well as help identify people showing the level of interest in developing their careers and those who have progressed to the point where they excel in their existing roles or show the ability to mentor others,” Straka says. “Those are the type of people we bring into the leadership program, and we don’t limit that to any particular roles in the organization. They can come from technicians, back office, any function. There is a new class every year.”
In everything they do — from training to recognition to advisory councils — the three core principles are always top of mind, Straka says. “It’s a common platform that ties us together with those things most important to our business. Something that we require is that everyone understands the integrity of what we do, the importance of it and how we engage internally and externally in the communities we serve to ensure everyone is of the same mindset.”
Byerly adds, “Integrity, vigilance and helpfulness — the core training is the underpinning of making sure those are always kept core to the company. That is a cultural thing across Securitas.”
SES’s commitment to its customers is where those Securitas values really help make up the “SES Difference.” As a pure play security integrator covering a variety of verticals in the commercial security space as well as a provider of monitoring services, SES considers itself a “hybrid” integration company.
“The essence of SES is our expertise in large, complex integration projects and being an expert in alarm monitoring and value-added services,” Byerly says. “Typical integrators are good at installation projects and basic services; while typical alarm monitoring companies are good at providing a variety of monitoring services and maybe small-scale integration services. SES is a hybrid integrator with expertise in large-scale complex security integration projects for airports, universities, high-rise buildings, hospitals, corporate headquarters and more. At the same time we offer a comprehensive portfolio of advanced services, from online client management portals to managed, hosted services and embedded expertise. We address security holistically and our goal is to provide an all-in-one solution for our clients.”
One of the keys to this is a level of collaboration that goes above and beyond.
In addition to the new employee learning spaces, the headquarters expansion also included a new Customer Engagement Center (CEC), which was designed to promote conversation when customers visit. The CEC includes a large contemporary display area highlighting SES’ strategic partners’ products and technology as well as SES capabilities and services. The design of the CEC matches the modern approach of the surrounding office spaces: open, high technology and encouraging daily teamwork and collaboration.
“Clients have the opportunity to touch, see and test technology prior to implementation,” Kanzler says. The CEC center features the latest technology available from the industry’s leading security technology manufacturers in access control, video, fire and life safety and integrated solutions.
Located in the same area is the expanded technology evaluation lab, where SES and its customers can come together to test and try out solutions they are considering.
“Sometimes clients come and they know they want to see specific cameras and how they perform in their specified conditions,” Byerly says. “In the evaluation lab we can set that up so they can see that and we can be unbiased. Other times we do the old Coke/Pepsi challenge where customers don’t want to know what they are looking at because they want a truly objective view of which one performs better.”
Engelhardt recalls a recent situation where a large customer was looking for a biometric solution and SES used the evaluation lab to help them determine which technologies would meet their standards. “We brought the client to the evaluation lab and scheduled manufacturers to come in and do demonstrations in the lab. We were there to give them an operational challenge and ask questions such as, ‘What is the throughput?’ ‘How do you integrate with visitor management?’ We were not trying to drive the customer in one direction or the other, but to make sure we challenged the manufacturer to make sure the product would truly meet the client’s needs.”
In addition to the evaluation lab, SES also has an Engineering Center of Excellence (CoE) located in Elmsford, N.Y. This is where the technologies and solutions SES and the customers decide to implement get engineered, prefabricated and tested before installation, complete with sample drawings, wire diagrams and wall templates to help ensure a successful installation. The CoE team helps eliminate potential hiccups on-site and establishes a more seamless process for the field operations.
“Systems prefabricated at our CoE are tested and commissioned before being sent to the field and are designed consistently across each of a client’s branches,” Engelhardt says. “This consistency allows our field technicians to focus on what they do best: install and service systems, and not wiring together parts in their own unique way.”
Another way SES helps ensure that projects go as smoothly as possible is by providing its customers with a customer program charter, a “dynamic document that defines the mutually agreed upon guiding principles for the flawless execution of the five customer touch points: account management, installation, service, monitoring and billing,” says Rob Raymond, senior vice president financial sales.
This program can range from five to 150 pages, depending on the customer’s specific needs and goals, and is used as a resource any time questions arise regarding the client’s needs or preferences.
“We ensure each client gets individualized, focused attention from the early engagement stage to the project management/implementation and ongoing service,” adds Nelson Barreto, vice president enterprise sales. “Through each step of the process and client touchpoints, we focus on the unique operations and security needs of each client. We document the client’s comprehensive program support through the SES client program charters.”
On the service end of the project, SES offers a 24-hour customer response center and its own service request portal called SecureStat, a centralized web-based software-as-a-service security management system featuring a single interface for real-time administration of security programs across an enterprise. SecureStat allows customers to view, measure and control all of their security systems, devices and information directly from the online portal, which also helps customers with compliance issues.
The latest enhancement to Secure-Stat is SES Service Messenger, which provides customers with status updates and details around both installation and service repair calls.
SES strives to provide unique offerings like these to its clients. Another example of this is its annual SES Technology Outlook report, which is debuted at the annual SES Security Symposium, a two-day event that brings together customers with industry professionals to discuss key trends and issues. “The event provides a unique forum for engagement and knowledge sharing,” Engelhardt says. “It’s designed with collaboration in mind — incorporating high-impact speakers, timely topics and discussions around the latest technology trends.” Attendees also qualify for continuation professional education (CPE) credits, he adds.
SES also offers its own integrated solutions based on specific customer needs. One of the most recent additions is Secure All-Clear, which came about to meet the unique needs of customers managing high-value or high-risk facilities, particularly in the financial and retail markets, Raymond says. “The seamless app allows a single employee opening or closing a business to trigger an ‘all safe’ notification to the SES Monitoring Center, signaling the facility is free of threat and safe to open. In a threat situation, the employee signals SOS and the monitoring center will immediately dispatch authorities. … With employee safety and compliance being a primary concern, this app eliminates old processes, manual reporting and utilizes technology to enhance facility opening efficiency, safety and reliability for all employees, in an automated and documented fashion.”
The app is a complement to the services offered through the company’s three Five Diamond 24/7 UL/ULC Certified Alarm Monitoring Centers located in Uniontown, Ballantyne, N.C., and Honolulu. The monitoring centers offer intrusion, fire, disaster recovery, hold-up, duress, critical condition, alarm verification and response, hosted and managed services and multi-location standardized solutions. “Our full spectrum monitoring solutions also include PIN management, customer exception reports, arm and disarm supervision and logging, video alarm verification, hosted and managed cloud video and hosted and managed access control,” Kanzler says.
Much has changed in the three years since transitioning from Diebold to SES, but the core values from both companies remain. Those values have led SES to solid growth, including a 22 percent increase in the company’s North American revenue from 2017 to 2018, with consideration of the KPSS acquisition.
In 2019, SES continued to expand its sales channels across several market verticals. For example, within the financial vertical, SES has been able to reach beyond the traditional banking retail branches and office buildings with major wins for data center security projects. In the commercial national accounts arena, SES was recently awarded an approximately 1,500-site takeover for alarm monitoring, remote guarding and other services. Additionally, SES has added a Strategic Markets sales channel that focuses on the healthcare, petro-chemical and transportation vertical markets and their specific industry needs. This Strategic Markets expertise came as part of the KPSS acquisition, and SES looks to continue to grow specialization in these markets.
With the KPSS acquisition thoroughly integrated into SES, the focus now is primarily organic growth, although they don’t rule out another acquisition, Gonzales says. “We are quite thoughtful and strategic about acquisitions. We purchased Kratos because it was a good fit. The clients and markets matched and there were positive stockholder benefits. If another opportunity came up we would be open to it, but we are focused more on the organic.”
Like most security integrators today, SES is also looking to increase recurring services, Byerly says. With its monitoring centers and strong culture of service, he adds they are in a good position to do just that. “One thing we have developed to help drive more services is we have now put together a services catalogue, which standardizes offerings for our recurring services. We have 75 different services that can address clients’ needs in an RMR fashion.”
Byerly adds, “Our focus is to continue to refine and have the best performance we can have, improve systems, processes, people and all the touchpoints we talk about with our clients. There are always financial targets and budgets and we focus on those. Those take into consideration long-term objectives for how we refine the business and how we evolve and continue to achieve the financial objectives, which we believe are best achieved by meeting our clients’ needs.”
To that end, the company is particularly proud of attaining the Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type 1 audit in 2018. SOC was developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to help companies get a handle on the complex, diverse security issues present in the world, while providing a framework for service providers to measure against. The reports measure how well service and solution providers protect the confidential information of their customers. SOC2 is based on the five “trust services principles” that reflect different criteria for managing customer data: security, privacy, availability, processing integrity and confidentiality.
“In today’s technology environment, achieving the SOC2 Type 1 audit … demonstrates our dedication to the security and safety of our client’s data,” says Mike Beattie, senior vice president IT and CIO.
SES also recognizes the important role social media plays in today’s business climate and is rolling out a website redesign this year to capitalize on that. “Our new website will deliver improved functionality and an updated, contemporary feel,” Gonzales says. “This form for engagement is for both existing clients and prospective clients to learn more about us and our offerings. We want the content to be engaging, informative, and more about starting a conversation about how we apply security. It’s going to be case-study-rich, content-rich and offer seamless functionality to visitors.”
SES believes in giving back, both to the security industry by example and to the community at large. Each year at GSX the company chooses a charity to support and invites visitors to their booth to participate. This year’s charity was Children of Fallen Patriots, which provides college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. They also incorporate a charitable cause into events such as their SES Sales and Leadership Summit. In addition, they have established an associate committee whose mission is to focus on positively impacting the organizations that operate close to the headquarters in Uniontown.
Byerly is pleased with how far the company has come in the past few years, and is looking forward to what comes next. “I think that one of the things that gets us excited about this [Systems Integrator of the Year] award is continuing to build best practices in our industry and continuing to build value to our clients. That comes from having a programmatic, disciplined approach. Every piece fits together and it is one big puzzle that is a beautiful picture when it is put together well.
“Where do we want the integrator community to go? Can we help create an industry standard around SOC2? We are going to step up the game around technician development with SES University and our technician certifications. We want to raise the bar of competency and professionalism. Because it is not about having words on a page or something on the wall in the office, but making and living and breathing that. That is why we call it living the SES Difference.”